My family and a team of six others from our home church recently returned from several weeks spent in Latvia. During our time there we served at a local church's Kids' Camp. Here is an introduction to Karaosta and Light of the Gospel church.
I quickly walk a dusty crumbling sidewalk and try to belong.
I don't fit in here. I am a walking juxtaposition.
It's apparent in the way I speak crumpled language and in the clothes I wear and even in the kind of reusable bag I carry.
One look at me and you know I'm different; people in Karaosta don't dress the same way; they speak Russian and they don't shop at the grocery store of the bag I'm carrying; they can't afford it so they shop at other places in the city where people get more for less.
In Karaosta there is a lot of one thing: less.
Less money. Less opportunity. Less.
And yet there is enough; it's just not apparent while looking around.
The first time I set foot in Karaosta I felt the heaviness of physical not-enough-food or necessity kind of poverty. I felt the coldness of soviet-block style appartments lining the streets in various forms of disarray. I felt the weight of the crumbling bricks from crumbling buildings as we sat on the bus.
And yet it was more than that; I felt weight of spiritual darkness -- almost an air of hopelessness and an attitude of it is what it is.
It's nothing fancy. In fact, it looks like most of the other buildings in Karosta.
But it was also so different. The moment I stood on the concrete stoop of Light of the Gospel, a Russian christian church in Karaosta, a warm, glowy feeling of light and hope washed over me.
I felt the warmth of the Holy Spirit well up around my physical body and the voice of God whisper, I go everywhere and everywhere I go there is enough.
Enough hope. Enough love. Enough light.
Though there is little physical beauty in the architecture of the church building, there is enough of God's beauty filling the space. There is enough of God overflowing beautiful in the lives of the people at the church.
And amid all of the less in Karaosta, we find Enough.
The people at Light of the Gospel, they may not have much according to material American standards, but they have enough because they know the richness they have in Christ.
They may have poverty of the physical in many ways surrounding them but they do not have a poverty of spirit.
This is why Light of the Gospel is such an important community within Karaosta. As one of our team members pointed out, in Karaosta, like many impoverished neighborhoods, a poverty of spirit, a hopelessness often accompanies poverty of the flesh.
Light of the Gospel not only seeks to meet the physical needs of the people in the community through the support of HIM and other efforts like the church's community garden but it also meets the spiritual needs of the community by showing others they can have a relationship with God, by helping others see through their lives that God is enough to fill the hurting, the dying, the broken parts of our lives and hearts.
During Kids' Camp we saw the body of Christ through LotG and HIM meet the physical needs of the children of Karaosta who were attending the camp. And in meeting their physical needs, God made a way to meet their deepest need: by showing them first hand his love is enough to fill the empty.
Maša, one of the camp coordinators for LotG, said many parents send their kids to camp simply because they know they'll eat at least two times per day. And this is true. The kitchen volunteers, four beautiful-hearted ladies, spent all day every day in the kitchen preparing food from the church's garden and one of their own personal gardens. All day. Just to make sure the kids were fed. It brought tears to my eyes to see them at 9 a.m. daily already peeling away at the potatoes and cooking so children could be fed, nourished both physically and spiritually.
When we as the body of Christ come together to meet the physical needs of people who are in need, we don't just have the opportunity and blessing to feed their physical bodies. We have the opportunity to feed their souls.
Support of LotG and HIM means that 14-year-old Artur's ate two meals a day that week. It also means that one day we'll break bread with him in eternity because during camp he came into a relationship with Jesus.
There is less in Karaosta. But there, too, is enough. God was right when he spoke to me that first time I visited Light of the Gospel. He goes everywhere. And he is very apparently there, and He is very apparently enough. With God there always is enough, and LOTG has a whole lot of God flowing through its veins.
It's a juxtaposition -- just like me walking down the streets of Karosta -- something isn't the same. LotG is such a drastic difference between the rest of the area because of the hope of God. Because in its people there is a spirit of enough; in its people rests the spirit of God.
You can be a part of bringing light and be the body of Christ by financially supporting and prayerfully supporting Light of the Gospel through HIM. Learn more at http://www.him4kids.org.