Katya and Gregor’s cat, Tail-wagger, who acts more like a dog.
23 June 2017
After the OCE trip had officially ended I had gone the gravitational center of Europe, doing prayer work as God’s Secret Weapon. But returning to Riga was strictly a friendship thing, I was certain. And there certainly was a friendship element to my visit to Riga after OCE.
My friends Katya and Gregor had come to stay with me in 2015. At that time they were in the process of moving to Riga from their home in Moscow. They told me to come see them in Riga sometime. So when the Baltics trip was planned, I took them up on the offer. Katya and Gregor have two daughters in their early teens, and two sons—the youngest son was born sometime after their visit to Milan, so I had never seen him except on Facebook.
If you like Uno, you’ll love Solo!
But their older son, Sasha (aged five at the time of their visit to Milan), loved to play cards, and his favorite game was my favorite game, too: Solo. Solo is like Uno, but better. So Sasha and I played cards almost continuously and despite the language barrier. I don’t speak Russian and Sasha didn’t speak English. But our love of the game transcended the language barrier.
When I arrived in Riga, Katya and Gregor met my bus and brought me back to their house where his big sisters were watching little Uri. Sasha waited until I had set my bags down before asking me to play Solo with him. We played a few hands, and something became immediately apparent: Sasha has been learning English. Instead of pointing to the color he wanted, he was saying it in English: “Blue.” As the afternoon wore on he revealed more and more English. Sasha knows all his colors and his numbers up to twenty in English. I was impressed, since he’s only seven.
I can’t solve it at all, certainly not in under two minutes!
Seeing that he had impressed me, Sasha then retrieved his Rubik’s Cube. That kid is the first person I’ve ever seen solve the Rubik’s Cube—and he did it in under two minutes. In fact, he didn’t even have to look at it much during the last 30 seconds or so.
The kite on one of its brief, ill-fated flights.
The next day Katya, Sasha, big sis Yuliya, little Uri, and I went to a beach community not far from Riga. I had brought a kite for the kids, failing to remember that the girls were young teens, and probably wouldn’t care much for a kite. But Sasha was very excited to get it up and flying. We had a good wind off the sea, but a very uncooperative kite. It was on the ground far more than in the air, though it did fly briefly.
Site of the first free church in Riga.
After lunch we returned home and Gregor told me that there were a couple of places he wanted to show me. These were places that would not interest the kids, so they stayed home with their mother. First he took me to the site of Riga’s first free (non-state-run) church. I was so moved that I prayed then and there for Latvia to return to the faith of this pioneering church.
The former concentration camp Holocaust memorial looks like a slaughterhouse chute.
Then he took me to the grounds of a former concentration camp. Gregor told me that this had been the first concentration camp to follow Hitler’s order to exterminate the Jews. I was glad to see that there was nothing left of the original camp. In its place they had erected memorials so that no one would ever forget the Holocaust. I prayed there, too, praying that nothing like that would ever happen again. I also prayed that the Latvian Jews would feel homesick for Israel and make Aliyah.
Holocaust Memorial at the former concentration camp.
I was surprised to learn that there were these other places to pray near Riga, and so grateful to Gregor and Katya, who had gotten me there to continue my work as God’s Secret Weapon. The next day I flew back to Milan. Although my time in the Baltics had been a great adventure, after over two weeks away from home, I was glad, so glad to get back. Little did I know that the cough that had started in Vilnius a few days earlier was going to cause me so much trouble. But that’s a post for another time. God is good!