By Chuck Kelley
JURMALA, Latvia – “These past three days have changed my life!” This is what a young pastor told me as he left the hotel where 150 pastors and lay leaders had invested three days in prayer, worship and fellowship. His life was not the only one changed. For many, this represented a remarkable breakthrough as they communed for the first time with those from other denominations.
Several words come to mind that describe this nationwide Prayer Summit: Deep. Wide. Acceptance. Networking. Infrastructure.
Deep and Wide
An evangelical coalition developed in Latvia two years ago at the pre-Hope ’99 Prayer Summit. This year’s Summit built on that foundation. Gatis Lidums, BBI/Partners’ Vice Director said this, “Someone has said that all theology is practical by definition, because getting to know God on the first name basis is very practical for the person involved. This is exactly what can be said about the pastor’s prayer retreat. So different and so diverse were the pastors and church leaders present, yet they were so practical. It wasn’t about them; it was about God and God’s will for the church of Latvia regardless of the denominational lines.”
This was made evident by passionate and prolonged prayer for one another’s denominations. What a joy it was to hear Russian Baptists energetically pray for Latvian Lutherans. I’m sure it made the Father smile.
Each session began with wonderful worship led by a variety of worship leaders and teams. The contrast between the various styles was strong, yet beautiful. My personal favorite musical highlight was when a ten minute period of silence was ended by Simona Talberga playing “Amazing Grace” on her violin acapella. It was heavenly.
The predominantly Latvian planning team invited several Russians to preach and lead worship in the Russian language. Afterwards, several Latvians told me how much they enjoyed the Russian sermon. It was equally profound when the Russian worship leader, Andrei Sisenis from Liepaja, used prepared Latvian language overheads for some of the songs he led. Such ethnic respect was invisible several years ago.
We are eyewitnesses to the birth and the development of a movement that will deeply touch the nation of Latvia. All of the ministries represented sensed a need for the establishment of small groups, multi denominational prayer initiatives, effective youth ministry and strategic church planting. Perhaps the most important outcome of this Prayer Summit will be ongoing networks of ministry specialists who are given to encouraging and equipping the Latvian/Russian Church of Latvia toward greater health.
One tangible example is that Glenn Livingston, an American missionary/prayer mobilizer in Budapest, will return to Latvia in May to conduct in-depth prayer mobilization seminars in every major region of Latvia. He was invited by the leaders of various denominations from each region.
Participating in the summit were three bishops and one archbishop, representing Latvian Baptist, Lutherans and Pentecostals and Russian Pentecostals. Each of their hearts were touched and they are eager to be involved in future joint efforts that will build a healthy church in Latvia. This involves more than special major evangelistic campaigns and requires an infrastructure that specializes in communication, vision cultivation, mobilization, and international partnerships and alliances.
This is exactly what the Lord has called our Latvian branch, “Partners” to provide. Never has this calling been more evident than the last day of the summit when Partners Director, Almers Ludviks, spoke about the future. He said that many in Europe want to build relationships and partnerships with Latvians. He was referring to the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) which consists 28 member national alliance. The EEA has approached Almers and asked if Partners would be willing to help assume the role of the national alliance for Latvia thus representing Latvia in Europe and paving the way for the programs and resources of the EEA to be applied to Latvia. When Almers shared this possibility with those at the summit, he was met was considerable enthusiasm.
More Prayer Summits in the Future?
Many participants were asked if they would be interested in participating in a prayer summit annually. Without exception, they answered affirmatively. Some even said that they wanted to do this monthly. BBI and Partners believes that the Lord would have us to continue to make future prayer summits possible.
Of course, apart from the financial support of many, the prayer summit would not have been possible. Several churches and individuals provided scholarships so that Latvian and Russian participants could attend.
Special thanks are in order for the crucial role that Dr. Sam Tillery of Foothills Community Church in Santa Rosa, CA played in mobilizing his congregation and a fellowship of other churches in the Santa Rosa area who supported the summit with much prayer and generous gifts.