Ērgļi, Latvia, 9th September 2023
Text: Dan Roth
Photos: Katie Roth

In May of 2022, the war in Ukraine was in its early days.  BBI was providing a wide range of support for refugees.  No one knew how long the war would last or how long refugees would be living in Latvia or how the war would affect our lives in the coming months.  At Eagle’s Wings, we decided it would be prudent to plant potatoes so we would have something practical to share with the Ukrainians living in Latvia just in case the war continued and the coming winter was bleak.

BBI International Associate, Dan Roth, and Director of Ukrainian Ministry, Slavik Maiboroda.

We had never planted a field of potatoes before so didn’t really know what we were doing.  We decided that one hectare (2.5 acres) would be a good start.  Little did we know how much work it would be to harvest one hectare of potatoes.  We had hoped that the Ukrainians receiving the potatoes could come to help harvest them but only one family came.  Everyone else had to be at work or home looking after their children.  It took us days to pick those potatoes and we swore we’d never do it again!

Looking towards the potato field gives an idea of its size.

However, the potatoes were a big blessing to many families last year so when spring came around, we decided to revisit the idea of planting potatoes.  First, we decided to plant half as many as last year, as a hectare had proved to be more than we could manage.  Then we thought about the reasons the Ukrainians couldn’t come and help last year.  Part of the problem was many of them lived too far to come to Ergli, work all day and make it home that evening.  Another problem was they didn’t have someone at home to look after their children.  We decided that a solution to these problems was to create a weekend retreat we called “Potato Camp”.

Everyone arrived on Saturday morning by public transport bus from Rīga, which is free for Ukrainians. We enjoyed breakfast together in the lodge before getting ready to work.

Organising the team.

It was great to see the collaboration between older and younger potato pickers. Children, youth and adults worked together and there was a lot of chatter and laughter in the process.

The potato camp was very successful. Together, we were able to harvest all the potatoes in about 5 hours. We picked up 92 sacks of potatoes from the field and transported them to the barn.

After all the hard work there was lunch, followed by hot showers and lots of relaxing, conversation and fun well into the night.  Nighttime activities included a lamb and potato BBQ and sauna.

Boating and guitar playing in the evening light.
Heating the sauna.

Early the next morning, some went out and gathered wild mushrooms in the woods and mid-afternoon, everyone got on the bus and headed home.

In the days following the camp, Slavik and Liuba delivered the potatoes to Ukrainians all around Latvia, first to those who had come to help and then to those we know whose health or age did not permit them to come to Potato Camp.

Faith, fellowship and fun. That is Eagle’s Wings motto and this weekend once again we saw the Lord use those three elements to gladden hearts and draw people both to Himself and to each other.  His ways are higher than our ways.  We could never have seen this coming 20 years ago as we  developed the camp and farm.  In the midst of the darkness of war, Eagle’s Wings is a shining light of hope.

Dan Roth

BBI associate Dan Roth is active in the ministry of Eagle’s Wings and Madona Baptist Church. He also oversees the work on the farm at Eagle’s Wings. He is passionate about discipleship and mentoring and Ukrainian relief ministry. Dan loves farming and spending time with his family.

Katie Roth

Katie grew up in London, England but has lived in Latvia since 1999 and became a Latvian citizen in 2019. She used to be a teacher, but for the past ten years, has worked as a music and play therapist in her local school. She has always enjoyed writing, but recently has also started taking photographs of local events and combining text and pictures to share online.