Missionary to Latvia!

Exciting news!! I have been invited by Bridge Builders International (http://www.bridgebuildersint.com/) to serve with them as a missionary to Latvia, serving those effected by physical disability.

God has orchestrated this entire process and His timing and plans are more than I could have ever imagined. What does this mean now? Well, in the near future (few months) I will quit my job and begin the process of support raising to shoot for being in Latvia by around June.

A brief explanation of the main roles I will have while in Latvia are:
– Teach at the University in the O&P department (part-time position)
– Facilitate and develop a disability ministry
– Provide prosthetic and orthotic services to those who do not have access to them (mobile clinic)
– help with other BBI work when needed

*I will share a more detailed ministry plan when it is finalized.

Bridge Builders International (BBI) is a small mission organization that focuses all its efforts on sharing God’s love and message to the people of Latvia. They are a very respected and recognized group within Latvia and have served formally there since 1994, following Latvian independence. Please read more about this wonderful organization on their website. It truly is a hidden gem and I believe it was God’s definite plan for me to serve with them.

I am truly excited and blessed to be a part of the BBI family and am so very excited to see how God will use me and continue to use Latvia to serve the disabled communities of Latvia.

I plan for this major change in my life to be a long-term change. All funding necessary for personal and ministry costs will come from church, friends, and business supporters. Many details are ahead that must be considered and accounted for.

I covet your prayers as I prepare for the continuation of this amazing journey God has allowed me to be part of!

Guiding my way

Much has happened since my last update. God continues to guide me and open doors as I seek His will for my life. I have made a lot of contacts with different organizations but most did not have an interest in the type of ministry and location I am feeling called to do. I havent let this discourage me because I know this is God’s plan and He will work out the details and timing. I will skip over the small details, although looking back they make this journey evident that God is very present! This journey is sooo exciting!!
I have been taking a class through Joni and Friends on Disability ministry. I have learned a lot and it has been very interesting. This class has shown me even more the importance of ministering to the disabled community and what God calls us to do. My pastor at my church in Texarkana has been very encouraging and open to the church being involved in this journey with me. He has arranged for me to speak at a WMU meeting in December to share my story. November spotlights missions at my church. Since I have not yet shared of my future plans with my company, and my boss attends my church, much of the church encouragement has had to be on the down low. I am waiting to tell my company until more details have been finalized (job security).
I continue to be in contact with the University in Riga about teaching an O&P class. My CV and certifications have been accepted and they want me to teach a class on 3D technology and share O&P fundamentals that might be different from what they know. More details to be sorted out on that front, but exciting none the less!

Later this week I have a meeting with Bridge Builders International. We will be discussing the possibility of me serving with them. I am very excited about this because so many things point to this being the organization I should serve with. Please pray for this meeting and all involved for open hearts and God’s direction. I will go into more detail about Bridge Builders later.

Next Steps: I will be going to a disability ministry conference in February, Global Access by Joni and Friends. It will be an amazing time of networking and learning from key people in this field. A PT from Latvia is praying for funding to be able to come the conference as well.

I plan to begin forming an Accountability Team from my church of people that will support me through prayer and promotion during my time of preparation and while I am on the field.

I can’t wait to see what God reveals next!!! 🙂

Exploring the Pathways


paths2

I wanted to share with you a report on my summer of investigation and seeking God’s call on my life.

I had the opportunity to meet with a few very influential people during my recent visit; Peteris Sprogis (Bishop of Baptist Union), Dr. Aivers Vetra (Dean of Rehabilitation facility at Rigas Stradins University), Kaspars Aipinis (Director of Wings for Wheels YWAM), and Eriks Svede (Director of O&P Education Program Vivari). I was able to talk with them about how I might be used to serve the Latvian people in ministry and with my O&P skills. I received mixed responses but also gained alot of information about the Latvian health system and O&P process/need in Latvia.
My first meeting was at a governmental O&P clinic, Vivari Rehabilitation Institute, where I met Eriks Svede. The purpose of this encounter was to compare O&P processes, fabrication, quality, and components. The practitioners do a good job with the materials, funding, and education they have. Eriks teaches around 20 students in O&P each year. He was very interested in forming an educational partnership where I can help train his students.

Later in the week, I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Aivers Vetra. The information he gave me was from a professional and governmental perspective. The Latvian government will pay for O&P devices for ‘anyone’ that needs one. The doctor determines who falls into the ‘need’ category based on age and functional level. Degenerative disorders (CP, MS, MD, ect) are not treated with O&P devices due to the short time of wear and ‘success’ of treatment. CAD/CAM and laser scanning is being investigated to be used by the governmental O&P labs in the future. Dr. Vetra was very interested in an educational partnership, where I would train their students and partner with their educators in CAD/CAM training and other O&P fundamentals. Current instructors of O&P are teaching what they know by experience, not by physiological principles. Dr. Vetra said the best way to contribute to O&P care in Latvia is by pursuing this educational partnership with them.

My final meeting was with Kaspars Aipinis, director of Wings for Wheels YWAM. He does with physical therapy what I want to do with O&P. He was very encouraging and explained to me the need for O&P work as I had envisioned. He explained that it is true ‘everyone’ that needs an O&P device gets one but he knows many people that needs a device and was not in the ‘need’ category(CP, MS, ect) that could greatly benefit from an orthotic support/brace. Other issues are the need for adjustments to current devices that are not included in governmental patient care. Breakage, poor fit, and need for adjustments are all common needs that he sees with all of the people he works with. Many of these factors limit the wear time and effectiveness of the devices that are provided. In essence, I would be able to fill in the areas that the government does not provide (adjustments, repairs, re-makes due to breakage and poor fit, provide devices for those government will not). Also, advocacy and activities for the disabled community would be a primary focus. Many people that are not given an opportunity for orthotic supports/braces, are not given an opportunity for a more independent life. He was very encouraging and excited to see how we could partner in the future.

Peteris Sprogis was very encouraging and supportive of the opportunities and options. He expressed interest in me serving in a new church plant and help create other church plants in the future. I also had the chance to visit GANIBAS, the campsite he is in the process of completing. He gave me a tour of the campsite and told of the current impact the camps are having on young people as well as future plans. Currently the camps that are being held are leadership camps for young Christians and pastoral students. It was very exciting to hear of how God is working through this campsite.

I feel these connections that have been made and opportunities presented are from God and part of His plan for me. The possibility of holding a teaching position at the university as well as the many opportunities to serve the disable are all key opportunities to share His message and love. Although my O&P skills might be used is a larger scale in Africa or Middle East, I believe God is calling me to minister to the disabled people of Europe.

Following this trip to Latvia, I went to a medical missions conference hosted by the International Mission Board. I was able to meet many missionaries and hear their stories of how God is moving all over the world. Alot of information was gained but also a lot of questions were presented. There are about 15 different routes possible to go as a missionary under the IMB umbrella, each with different requirements and requisites. I will continue to pray about which course to take, with IMB or other sending agency. One of the main differences, from what I could tell, is being self/church funded versus funded by IMB/sending agency.

There are many other sending agencies, I currently have the most info on IMB.
 Please join me in praying for God’s plan to be revealed during this seeking.

Summer of Seeking

I will return back to Latvia this summer, June 24-July4. While I am there I plan to meet up with several people that I have met in the past years, make new connections, and enjoy the wonderful country of Latvia.

I have scheduled to meet with the Bishop to discuss healthcare in Latvia and the surrounding region as well has how my call to missions might fit into ministering to the Latvian people. I also plan to meet with an O&P practitioner and tour his prosthetic clinic. It is a government clinic so I hope to get many of my questions answered. I also hope to meet up with the staff of Wings for Wheels, a division of YWAM that ministers to the disabled people of Latvia.

I served as a intern in an orphanage in 2007 in Latvia. I still try to keep in touch with some of the kids I met during that time. I am planning to meet up with 2 of the girls I met that summer at the orphanages.

My home church in Athens, TX will be in Latvia during the same time I will be there. The will be in a different part of Latvia, but I hope to make it over to see them and help in any way that I can.

I have alot of plans during my time there that I hope can help solidify my calling into missions. Although I love Latvia and feel a call there, I am fully open to anywhere God sends me. I pray that all of my plans don’t get in the way of His plans. Please join me in praying for clarity, connections, opportunities, and information while I am in Latvia this summer.

Later in July, I will be going to MedAdvance, a medical mission conference to discuss with IMB missionaries my calling and where I might can be used in their organization. More info on that to come later….

 

 

On a side note, A main priority in seeking O&P mission work in eastern Europe is to ensure that I do not interfere with the local O&P practices. I would be there to work along side of them and be a resource to them, not competition. If in any way my ministry were to take away financial resources from the locals, I am doing it the wrong way.

Update

God is continuing to work as I make contacts and investigate using O&P in missions. I have made a very encouraging connection with the International Mission Board. The Baptist Global Response is a branch of the IMB that has many medical missionaries and medical ministries. They were very encouraging and willing to consider the idea of an O&P ministry. They said many times they will create a ministry for the skills of a missionary. I also connected with the missionary in charge of the eastern Europe region for them and she too was very encouraging. They have invited me to MedAdvance (a medical missions conference) in July, where I will get to meet with both of them and discuss further plans and possibilities!

I have also made several contacts (some I know from the past and some from names provided by friends) in Latvia. I know the lead Bishop for the Baptist church and he is doing some investigating for me. I plan to meet with him this summer when I return to Latvia. I have been in contact with the leaders of Wings for Wheels in Latvia and they are also researching possibilities for me to serve.
It is exciting to see things start to develop.
I will be traveling back to Latvia in late June. Some for vacation, but also to meet with some of the people I have connected with.
Please continue to pray for God’s plan in this calling in my life!!

God’s timing

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I am continuing to seek God in this plan for my life and pray that His opportunities arise. I have had a few leads on opportunities but still need to clarify what His plan will look like. I know that God expects me to do some of the work and research into how He will best use me and my talents, but I pray that I wont run ahead of His timing and will for my life. I know that when it is in His time and plan, everything will fall into place, if I am willing to go.

Beautiful Gate

I love the story in Acts 3 when The lame man was healed at the gate of the temple through God’s power.

“Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple.  When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money. Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them. ”   – Acts 3:1-8

I hope my ministry to someday reflect this story. Through the power of God, and the use of prosthetics and orthotics, I hope to help the lame walk again and rejoice the Lord because of it. I pray that, like Paul, I will have the courage to use the opportunities God provides to share His message and speak up for Christ.