This is the second post in a three-part series sharing different projects the LCMS has helped fund in Latvia.
- LCMS Supports Witness Projects in Latvia
- LCMS Supports Mercy Projects in Latvia
- LCMS Supports Life Together Projects in Latvia
The Diakonija Center Mobile Soup Kitchen program feeds the hungry in Riga and other surrounding areas.
“The need for help right now is very big,” explained Rev. Janis Vanags, archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL). Through God’s grace and love, we are called to serve God’s church and creation in mercy. Rev. Vanags shared that Latvia has gone through the same economic troubles as the rest of the world and he shared how The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has supported various mercy ministries in Latvia.
More than 100 people, mostly women, attended three conferences organized by the LCMS. The conferences provided the theological foundation for the mercy work that was already taking place in Latvia. “The majority of participants were women already involved in diaconal (mercy) work . . . responsible for feeding people, helping the poor with various needs and requests,” LCMS First Vice- President Rev. Herbert Mueller, keynote speaker at the conferences, shared in the Summer 2011 edition of Caring. “We were helping them understand the theological framework for what they’re doing.” More than 100 pastors and lay people took part in the conferences, which Vanags called “very informative, motivating and empowering.”
ELCL Youth Center and “Hand in Hand” Day Center for Children and Families
These centers are vital to providing care for street children, crisis care for women and children and a place for teens find community. The Youth Center offers guitar lessons, drum lessons, movie nights, worship concerts and ways for youth to volunteer their time. Gints Graudins, project manager of the youth center, shared, “Most are really curious about what is happening here. We offer prayer times … and there are youth that start to ask questions. We talk about God.”
Ilze Nagle, director of Hand and Hand, believes that the center is vital for children and families because “they can learn something. For the first time in their life … some of them are introduced to God and about Christianity.”
The Diakonija Center Mobile Soup Kitchen
The Mobile Soup Kitchen operates year round, every weekday at 12 p.m. Inga Locika, project director for the kitchen, estimates that more than 200 portions of soup and bread are distributed daily. The kitchen serves food to the homeless population of Riga, but also to many other people who are in financial difficulties. Locika has seen parents, who will leave their children at home to come collect food for them; ex-prisoners, who are having difficulty finding a job and even two men who were very thankful for the food because “they would not need to go and steal today.”
Workers of the Diakonija Center start conversations with the people who come to the kitchen striving to learn more about their situations. Through this, the workers are also able to share God’s love with them.
Locika explains the mobility of the soup kitchen is very helpful. When urgent situations present themselves, the workers are able to go and help in locations other than their normal serving locations. “It’s good to be mobile and come to the places where it’s needed.”