Smiltene Sabbath

Saturday, January 24, 2009
Smiltene, Latvia
It's beautiful outside. A few days ago they had a big snowfall and the ground is fully covered with white. Temperature is just below freezing.
We are looking forward to our second Sabbath on this trip and this time it will be in the Smiltene Baptist Church with Pastor Robert Schultz. Most of the Church has been keeping the 7th Sabbath Day. One thing that masks this is that most calendars in Europe show Sunday as the seventh day of the week.  
In addition, the Church has kept the entire cycle of Holy Days in the past year. In the December issue of the United News two of the members of the Church wrote an article about keeping the Feast this past year. You can see it at
This trip has sure been one for lively music on the Sabbath for praise and worship of God! Last weekend it was Ukraine; this weekend the Latvian's were no less than enthusiastic in their praise of God through singing.  
Services which are at the Union Baptist Church which is about ¾ mile away. The building is more than 100 years old. People arrived close to starting time at 10 am.   There were more than 20 people in attendance with children. A disabled man was carried in by two men and placed in a chair.
The musicians up front were Elita on the keyboard, Zeidonis on the bass guitar and Anari was vocalist and percussionist. This combo blended and played well together and led the group to wholehearted praise and singing.   
The church just bought a projector and the words to the songs were projected on the screen.  
From the time that I've interacted with Sabbatarians in Eastern Europe starting in 1991, I've been impressed with many of their practices. When we first talked to their leaders at that time they told us that they wanted to learn from us.....many administrative and organizational things. But, they also said that they hoped that we could learn from them. There IS a lot to learn. The dedication, unspoiledness and less materialistic manner is refreshing and inspiring.  
They sang five songs at the beginning of services. This lasted almost half an hour. I was not familiar with any of the songs. They were all Latvian.
Following the music, Robert Schultz gave a 20 minute message about repentance. Then I was asked to give a sermon. Earlier Robert asked that I would say something about the Sabbath, even if my subject was quite different. My sermon was about my favorite subject: The Kingdom of God. I did open with Hebrews 4 and talked about the Sabbath, the Rest that is to be kept by and entered into by the Church. I transitioned from that to the Rest being symbolic of the Promised Land for the Israelites and the Kingdom of God for Christians. Robert translated my sermon.  
I found all the elements of our service to be included in their service. Long and short message and about five songs. Services lasted from 10 until noon. Children were sent off to Bible School just before my sermon.
We walked around the church after the service and visited the children's area where they have Bible School. The Church also operates a soup kitchen twice a week, lunch on Tuesday and Thursday's for the elderly. The purpose is not only to provide food, but to be an occasion for fellowshipping as the elderly do get very lonely. They also sing and read / study the Bible. This service is handled by one of the ladies in the Church who loves doing it. Robert Schultz showed me a Baptist newsletter that said that there were 80 Baptist churches in Latvia and that only four had soup kitchens and that theirs was one of them.  
I walked home since we had a crowded vehicle.
The Schultz's always invite the church brethren to come to their home for a potluck after services. Present with children were Antra, Dace, and Anari with their children. We had a wonderful lunch and fellowship for several hours in the Schultz's hospitable and comfortable home. We were sorry that Ineta, Ivita and Zeidonis could not make it for different reasons.
About sunset, which was at 4:15 PM one by one everyone left. Anari has to work a 24 hour security shift. Also a load of wood for heating was delivered to the Schultz's home after the Sabbath.
In the evening we played different games that included more chess, a European card game called Ligretto that lends itself to lots of movement and interaction.  
Robert and I talked about the Feast of Tabernacles in Estonia for his church and ours this coming fall. We will be holding a transfer-in Feast in Estonia this fall. We discussed some of the preparation work and commitment needed now to make it possible for as many as possible of the Latvians to come. It looks like there may be a good dozen or more that will come.  

The day ended up with more games...with me learning, of all things, the finer points of Texas Hold 'Em right here in Latvia!
Tomorrow by bus to Estonia.
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