Sadly, the war in Ukraine continues relentlessly.  After nearly two full years of war, there is no end in sight.  By the grace of God and the generous support of many friends, BBI continues to minister to multitudes of displaced refugees in numerous ways.  During the Christmas season, we have teams returning to refugee centers we visit often throughout Latvia.  Our Christmas program brings people together in celebration.  Typically we enjoy carolling, the Christmas story, food baskets, games, handcrafts and presents.  

Arriving at the library in Preiļi for a Christmas event. Photo: Anna Roth

A great deal of effort went into the 300 food boxes that were prepared for the refugees.  Considerations included the festive nature of the items chosen, the size, which had to be just right to fit tightly in the box, and of course, the parameters of the budget. The following photographs show the process of putting together the boxes, which we did with a team of Ukrainian volunteers in the lodge at Eagle’s Wings.

Constructing boxes and adding stickers with a Christmas Bible verse and the BBI logo. Photo: Anna Roth
Anna Roth adds a sticker to a gift box. Photo: Katie Roth
Katie, Anna, and Esther Roth packing food boxes. Photo: Slavik Maiboroda

House-to-house carolling at Christmas is a familiar, strong tradition among Ukrainians.  For refugees living in Latvia, it was a reminder of home and the meaning of the Christmas story.  Frequently, those we visited joined in the singing with tears in their eyes.

House to house carolling in an apartment block in Riga. Photo: Slavik Maiboroda
A man and his dog enjoy the carollers through the window. Photo: Slavik Maiboroda

During each outreach event, the children enjoy an hour of crafts, making decorations for their Christmas trees. Liuba’s attention and concern for each child draws out their innate creativity, resulting in beautiful works of art.

Angels and freshly painted balls ready for the tree. Photo: Slavik Maiboroda

16-year-old Alexander retold the Christmas story with a PowerPoint presentation preceded by a game of Charades to test the audience’s knowledge of the Christmas story. Volunteers from the audience were given the name of a character from the story which they acted out for everyone else to guess, with much hilarity and laughter.

Can you guess what part of the Christmas story is being acted out here? Photo: Anna Roth
Which animal at the stable scene is depicted by this young actress? Photo: Anna Roth

Traditionally, children recite a Christmas poem or sing a song before receiving their presents. For some, this is a chance to show off their talents, but for others, it can be a bit of an ordeal. With encouragement, however, they all make their contribution to the entertainment and happily explore their gifts.

Slavik and Liuba make personal contact with each child as they give out Christmas gifts. Photo: Anna Roth

Festive times always involve eating together. As Slavik and Liuba’s team traveled around Latvia, an essential part of each celebration was the sharing of food prepared by the Ukrainians in each place they visited.

A delicious feast was prepared by the Ukrainian community at each venue. Photo: Anna Roth

The horrors of war are a shock to the normal routine of daily life.  Forced out of one’s comfort zone, the things that truly matter in life are easier to see.  This Christmas Ukrainians have been coming together as a hurting community of fellow citizens displaced in a foreign land.  Not so unlike the Christ child, born in a stable away from home and then fleeing persecution to a foreign land.  May the light of the gospel shine brightly in these dark days!  Thank you to all who made these Christmas celebrations possible with your gifts to the Ukrainian Relief Fund at BBI.

Christmas event at Vaivari Rehabilitation Center in Jurmala, Latvia. Photo: Slavik Maiboroda

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.

Anna Roth

Growing up in three distinct cultures – rural Latvia, a farming community in the high desert of Central Oregon and the historic city of Bath, UK – has given me a unique worldview and capacity to appreciate the essence of each place and person I encounter.

I know and love people from all walks of life, with vastly differing political convictions, interests, talents and backgrounds. Whether creating a life story book for a Latvian young person who grew up in the care system, photographing a dusty cattle drive in the Oregon desert or collaborating with a model on a fashion shoot at an English beach, I make a connection with each subject based on deep respect for who they are.

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.