The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought about many changes all around the world, but the ripple effects of the breakup of the USSR are most profoundly seen in the former Soviet states that are now independent and free. For some, this has brought a newfound measure of hope and freedom for a future that they can control now that they are out from under the totalitarian rule of the Soviet Empire. However, many cities and countries are still trying to find their identity and foothold in a world that has changed dramatically in the last 25 years but where they have not necessarily found the source of their hope in this new free reality.
Searching for Hope
This bleak reality is often felt in the Baltic states, and it is a reality for many in the capital city of Latvia, Riga. Riga is a city with a long history of finding itself as a target for the empire de jure of that day. The Holy Roman Empire, Commonwealth, Swedish and Russians have all desired Riga because of its harbor and economic influence in the region, and since its independence in 1991, it has seen its population drop almost 250,000 people in the last 25 years. It is a city torn between the native Latvians and a large Russian population that moved in during the period of the Soviet Empire.
Often our posts on focus cities spotlight the “features” of a city; the highlights that would attract people to want to move to the city and plant a church. During review of our feasibility study and subsequent research about the city there was a weight in our hearts was present about the reality and need for hope within this ancient city. While it is a beautiful city and one that tourists flock to because of its reasonable rates and general affordability, Riga is not one of the flashy cities of Europe.
And that is why we want to highlight the need present within this city and cry out to God to do a mighty work among the hurting and the lost. Riga is home to a sizable English-speaking population due to some international business and medical ventures, but mainly because English is taught to children starting in the 1st grade. However, there are no English-speaking church plants at all in a city of 650,000, so the opportunity is great for someone called to a ministry that will provide challenges along the way.
God as the Source of Hope
The challenge is great but the rewards are that much sweeter as we seek to take the Gospel into the city of Riga. How can you be a part of this Kingdom adventure?
- Pray. This is a city that has gone through a lot of change in the last 25 years, and coming out of a dark period of enforced atheism has led to an interest in spirituality but not necessarily Christianity. Pray that God prepares the hearts and mind of those in Riga for the heralds of the Gospel to be effective in their proclamations.
- That God would call a church planting team. The need is great for a church planting team called and equipped by God to take the Gospel into the city of Riga. While this isn’t one of the flashier cities in Europe, it is a place that desperately needs to truth to combat the lies of the evil one.
Riga, like all other great cities around the world, is ripe for an English-speaking church to take hold within its borders. We pray that God will begin even now tugging on the heartstrings of those who will take up the call to proclaim the Gospel in this city. We invite and and challenge you to do your part, ask God to give you a heart for the lost, and to see this city through His eyes.