LCMS Supports Life Together Projects in Latvia

Wed, Oct 19, 2011

Latvia, News

This is the third post in a three-part series sharing different projects the LCMS has helped fund in Latvia. 

ELCL Luther Academy

This is the entrance to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL) Luther Academy. It is here that pastors and lay people are trained for ministry in Latvia.

One hundred and fifty pastors serve in 300 congregations within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL). Even as the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) uses Life Together to demonstrate fellowship within its own synod, the emphasis of Life Together also embodies working in a global Lutheran fellowship. It has a role to illustrate how the church lives and works together to proclaim the Gospel. First Corinthians 1:9 says, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” With the ELCL, the LCMS has supported projects in Latvia to sustain the fellowship and life within the Latvian Lutheran church.

Luther Academy

Rev. Janis Vanags, archbishop of the ELCL, calls Luther Academy “the apple of our eye.”  Prior to the academy opening in 1997, all theology training was through Riga University, but the ELCL found that they couldn’t use graduates from the university as pastors within the Lutheran church. Dr. Guntis Kalme, professor at the academy, recounts going to the archbishop, asking what they should do about this problem. Dr. Kalme recollected, “The archbishop said, ‘Guntis, you do this.’ So in 1997, we started basically with nothing, only with great trust in the Lord and the Missouri Synod, and you really helped us a lot.”

Since that time, more than 80 percent of the ELCL clergy have been trained at the academy, which boasts a Department of Theology, a Department of Church Workers and a Department of Church Organists. The academy is awaiting accreditation from the state, which would allow the academy to bestow a Bachelor of Theology degree, as well as allow graduates to teach Christianity in schools as teachers.

Rev. Vanags concluded, “Without support from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, we couldn’t manage to do many things, first of all Luther Academy itself. It was not only financial support, it was support with theological knowledge and expertise.”

Mazerbe Retreat Center

With 150 pastors serving 300 congregations, pastors within the ELCL often face difficult challenges and a lot of work. Rev. Vanags said, “There is a burning need where a pastor can go to have a retreat, to have a pastor and spiritual care.” The retreat center has provided times of renewal for pastors and for their wives. The ELCL Pastoral Care Commission will be working to provide four different conferences: a pastors’ wives retreat; a couples retreat for pastors and their wives; a retreat for retired pastors, their wives, and widows and a spiritual-growth retreat for pastors. The retreat center is also open to individuals and families to rest in the beautiful surroundings.

LCMS Central Illinois District and LCMS Indiana District

These two districts have been very helpful to the work in Latvia, donating time, talents and treasures to further the message of the Gospel. Rev. Vanags recently took a moment to express special thanks for these two districts. With the Central Illinois District, “we have a warm relationship. It’s not just an official relationship; it’s really very personal and very friendly. Indiana has greatly supported our work, especially the work in Ireland where our chaplain is working.”

Prayers for Latvia

Rev. Vanags asks the LCMS to pray for Latvian Lutherans in four areas. Pray that:

  • “God will strengthen us in our faith to Him and in close love and fellowship among ourselves,
  • Luther Academy will become accredited and overcome practical and financial struggles,
  • people who do not know Christ will be reached by the work of the ELCL; and
  • fellowship and strengthening the good and fruitful links between the Lutheran church in Latvia and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.”
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