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Orphan Care Movement Boldly Grows in Latvia
by Ronne Rock
Posted on Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Orphan Outreach has served in Latvia for a number of years, and most of the support has come in the way of mission teams and sponsorships working with their in-country NGO. The ministry efforts have been fruitful, and yet for Dace Rence and other Latvian nationals, something has been missing. “We’ve been trying to meet children in their need, to minister to them, to share the Gospel, but most of all, what we’ve always wanted was to get the local church involved.”

That is happening now, as a result of years of dedicated prayer and the conviction of a group of passionate leaders.

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Dace says. “We appreciate what the United States has done in providing care and doing so much work, but it is also important for the Latvian church to take ownership of caring for needs of the orphans, to stand in the gap for them and to serve them. So a couple of years ago, some of us who shared the same passion for orphans came together with the same idea – and so the Latvian Alliance for Orphans was born.”

The alliance has one goal, one purpose, one mission – to serve orphans and vulnerable children.

As the group of orphan care leaders met and prayed two years ago, another group was meeting – a local church Bible study group led by Kaspars Pr?sis. “We didn’t know God was putting together people from across Latvia – we just knew we felt it important to do something for orphans. We weren’t sure exactly what to do, but we started an organization in our church. A month later, I received a call from one of the leaders of the Orphan Alliance asking if we wanted to be part. I was so excited to know that God was working not only in our small group but in our country.”

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The first focus of the alliance was Orphan Sunday. Kaspar is still amazed at the response. “I was so surprised that first year how well it all worked out – how many churches were involved, and how much media attention it received. Not only religious media but secular media too. There were so many stories raising awareness about adoption and foster care.” Seminars were designed to instruct churches on how to start orphan care ministries, government officials partnered with orphan care organizations to provide instruction on foster care and adoption, and an orphan care conference was held.

What started first in the capital city of Riga has now spread across the country with the help of the Orphan Alliance. Dace shares, “We’re a small country, and you know sometimes it can be bad, but in an initiative like this, it’s really our privilege and it is just awesome because all the officials – starting from pastors to bishops to even the president are one or two calls away.

“We’ve had their approval and their acceptance and their signatures and blessings – from main church leaders from all denominations. They’ve all joined and signed an agreement saying that ‘yes, we support this initiative,’ and then they’ve informed their churches and their church members that this is something that we all approve.”

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Orphan Sunday has been celebrated in Latvia for two years, and Dace says the hope is now to include the special November day on official church calendars across denominations. “The first year we did the main celebration at a Baptist Church. Last year, we approached a Lutheran Church. They took ownership, and did not expect us to tell them how to do it. They came with their own ideas, their own program for the day, and they did more than we could ever imagine,” she reflects. “They said, ‘We don’t want this to be just about adults talking about orphans – we want this to be a special day for kids,’ so they opened their church doors and invited children from many orphanages and did a Kids Festival.” Dace says the hope is that the Catholic Church will be the site of the main celebration later this year.

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When it comes to the future of the Orphan Alliance in Latvia, Kaspars says the key is coming alongside local churches. For some, it’s still about education. But for those Latvian churches that have shown a desire to care for orphans and vulnerable children, he says there is opportunity to build wrap-around care. “We want to see support groups for families who have said, ‘yes’ to orphan care, to adoption, to foster care.” He says training is essential, so that churches are well equipped to stay the course.

Almost everyone on the Latvian Orphan Alliance leadership team has adopted, fostered, or served as legal guardian for a child. Like Kaspars, Dace sees training as essential for families wanting to become family. “We want to equip them with knowledge and best practices, and we want to walk with them through the journey.

‘My dream is that every orphanage would be adopted by a church, with their presence but with prayer support as well – so that every child would have somebody praying for him or her.”

As for how the Church in the United States can continue to support its Latvian sister in the cause of orphans, Dace says the most important thing is prayer. “It is spiritual warfare, and children need that spiritual support. Even if you’re far away, you can do so much just by praying for the children, for the staff is serving these children daily, for the people in politics who are making decisions for these children. Please pray for the foster parents and adoptive parents who are so often tired and at times ready to give up.” She pauses, and then smiles. “And Google us to find out where Latvia is. Be our ambassadors and come visit us. Once you come, you’ll fall in love not only with our country but with our children. Come visit, be their American friend. Provide support for our orphan graduates to help them launch into adulthood. Come to Latvia."


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