23 February | Riga, Latvia [Vineta Kraulina with tedNEWS)
During January, a group of Latvian youth visited a small Indian village – to share Christ. On their 31 January return to Riga, they headed straight to the Latvian media centre to record a round table interview with Communication director, Vineta Kraulina for broadcast on a national Christian radio station. Exclusively for tedNEWS they happily provided a further interview in English. Here is their story.
Today we are very happy to meet in our studio, missionaries who have come straight to the studio from the airport, at the end of a long series of flights from India following their first mission trip. I am very happy to introduce, Alberts Trucis, Oskars Imaks, Agnese Visnevska, Jana Jansone, Ieva Truce, and Edgars Kalsnavs. Hello!
Can you tell me what are your most important impressions, things which you remember from your mission trip? What was your most exciting experience?
For me it was a very special experience, that in one sense – the villagers almost see you like Jesus, because we went there to a small village called Ammapetar in the Telanga state, Khamman district (about 200 kms east of the city of Hyderabad). And when we arrived there at midnight, so many people turned out to see our arrival. They made us feel so honoured, guiding us everywhere, having prepared their homes where we can sleep. It was very special. When we would walk into the street, everybody came out of from their homes, out from their courtyards and they would call out ‘hello’ in their own language, placing their hands into a prayer position – as a greeting custom. They were so thankful we were there.
When we went to preach and share the good news of the gospel in churches in surrounding villages, and when we would make visits in homes, everyone was so ready to receive us and willing that we pray for them. They have this real faith that the prayer we prayed would do everything that’s needed. For me, I felt it was special to be a representative of Jesus.
How many Indian villages did you preach in?
We preached in Ammapetar and four surrounding villages, over a total of eight days.
What was the results of your preaching and evangelistic meetings in these churches?
While we were there, we witnessed nineteen people baptized. We were able to share experiences from each of our villages of how people attended the meetings, and how prayers we prayed had been answered. For example, some people attended the meeting drunk – but really wanted to find Jesus. Night after night they came listening to the Word and reacting to it.
There was one special story about the power of prayer, when one couple who had been married for just three months, started experiencing some demonic attacks in their family after the husband had visited a place where some Hindu rituals took place. Not able to exactly describe what he has experienced since, he says that there are times when he is not able to control himself, has anger, and is self-absorbed. And if it happens when he is riding a bike – he just falls down which has become an everyday experience, even happening several times a day.
When he came to the evangelistic meetings, he asked us to pray for him together with his wife. We prayed for him, with a consultation and discussion about the seriousness of his experience. After that they were so thankful and joyful because they experienced answered prayer for the rest of the time we were with them. We believe that God will continue to guide them to grow in their faith and eventually get baptised.
For me, a special experience was to see how God can touch people’s hearts through me. I was thrilled to witness people saying ‘yes’ to Jesus, how they want to follow Him into baptism and to take this step of faith.
When I think about this experience, I was thinking a lot that I can now understand the biblical books of Kings and Judges much, much better. This is because the people we ministered to are surrounded by real idolatry. They even bring some of it into the church – and I can understand it, because you cannot simply pull people out of their culture of things they know. Even when they become a Christian, some fall back into old ways.
This is how I began to understand better those books. What is it about the power of those idols when you are surrounded by them, and your culture has been surrounded by them for generations? Never again will the stories from Kings and Judges feel so distant and strange. Those books are alive even today.
I clearly saw that the both the pastors and the members need guidance growing as Christians in the context of their surrounding culture. Even though we were preaching in churches to the members, who brought their friends with them, I feel that they need much support so God can do great things through them. I have really been thinking a lot about this on reflection since our trip came to an end.
Can I ask you; did you fall in love with India?
Yes – definitely!
I really enjoyed eating my food with hands.
I would say I fell in love with Indian food. Because I don’t think there was actually a day when the menu was repeated. Each meal consisted of rice and chapati, but everything else was different with a delightful hostess, and many others who were involved in the preparation and serving of the food. I could see and feel the love and care they were sharing.
I fell in love with Indian costumes and dresses, because their clothes are really modest with very feminine dresses which I think is really nice.
And as for their weddings – it is so beautiful – the wedding costumes! But I also want to also say something about the results of these meetings. The big result, I think was really a change in our lives and how we discover what God can continue to do through us. And also, that the people we met there, we have new contacts – new friends actually, having met really nice people.
I never thought I would have such a friendship with some of the people I met in India, nor ever really be able to understand the people of that country. I also think that what amazed me is that everywhere I saw people thirsting for something more, and it is the same everywhere – it is Jesus! It seems to me that everywhere people experience the same problems, and everywhere they need God’s help. We can help with that, helping men and women stand for the truth about God, inspire them and be inspired.
It was very refreshing to feel the spirituality of that country. We have already mentioned the many idols, but in the people we met, we saw that they are really seeking guidance from above to truly set them on a course where they have questions to discover more. What we do know is that their minds are not closed.
The children stole my heart! In general I loved seeing the children run around the village, and with their open hearts and minds. It was interesting to see how they reacted to the idea of praying we shared with them. Actually, I can understand why miracles probably happen more in India, not because they are different people, or while we are there we become more spiritual people, or pray more powerful prayers than we do in Latvia, because we are just the same people. But what is different is the faith of people – and how they respond to God’s presence and guidance. They know that God is real, that God is powerful, and they respond to it. And they really do believe that God can heal, God can help, where sometimes we doubt.
In Europe we doubt a lot, and we are not sure because we are used to being dependent upon ourselves, upon our finances, upon our friends and family, which is great as they are wonderful blessings to us. But the only thing our friends in these Indian villages can often rely on is God. So they have a much bigger faith – and that’s I think something we should learn from.
Would you like to go back to India sometime?
Yes, I hope God blesses us to be able to go back.
Yes, I definitely feel that everybody should experience something like this. I want my life to have a foreign mission trip experience like this every year! Because it refreshes your faith, and of course strengthens the mission of the church world-wide.
The have invited us back. I remember so many people saying, “make sure you come back next year – we need you.” I responded by asking them to pray about it, and God will provide a way for me to return. The blessings of this experience goes both ways – and that’s the most beautiful part about it.
I would like to add to what Indiana and Albert have shared – being there really changes the perception of outreach and really changes the perspective of how we look at life, how we look at living in different conditions, with people living in different conditions from what we live in Europe. And with that also comes the belief and the faith that there is someone higher, someone who cares for them and loves them. And that’s I think why the people we met are so open to hearing the Good News about the message of Jesus.
To add to Albert’s message, I would say it is very important for everyone to at least for one year, for a week, go to India, lead out in meetings, meet these people, talk with them, live with them, and experience how God leads you.
[Photos: Agris Janisauskis]