With no other option, I made the best of the situation. I wandered the streets of Old Riga for hours on end. I wandered through shops and visiting historic landmarks. I took pictures of statues.
Instead of serving the Lord in missions, I was a tourist. The only adventures I had involved shopping. Most stores opened at ten in the morning and would close by six. The challenge was to figure out the currency without being too conspicuously foreign. It didn’t work. Fortunately, most people were patient. I don’t believe any took advantage of me, not that I would’ve known the difference.
When I wasn’t seeing the city, I spent time in the Baptist Union Building. On the top floor was the first Christian radio station in Latvia. I went up and asked for tour. The secretary gave me a short tour, but I got the distinct impression folks didn’t really want me there.
I wandered over to meet the President of the Youth Association. I figured it was a reasonable plan considering I was in the country to work with youth. It turned out to be more difficult that I thought. John’s Day, Latvia’s national holiday, was the following week. The entire youth office was busy arranging a Christian youth camp in celebration of the holiday.
At this point I got the distinct impression I was in the way. I was more like dead weight and a nuisance than anything else. To add to my growing self-pity, I was went to a youth rally the following Saturday night. Afterwards there was an informal café. Again, I tried to speak with the President of the Youth Association. Again, I was brushed aside. It took nearly two hours, but I finally found some people who would spend the time to talk.
I tried not to take things personally. In their defence, my timing was not very good. Then again, it seemed like they’d already adopted a ‘busy ministry’ mentality. So many North American Christians believe that an effective minister is a busy minister. There’s an expectation that ministers must meet and plan and organize and preach and do a thousand other things just to be effective. A lot of minister buy into that mentality, too.
Jesus didn’t act this way. Many times it is recorded that Jesus took the time to minister to individuals. Remember Nicodemus, the woman at the well and the man born blind. In the case of the sick woman (Mark 5:25-34), Jesus ministered to her in the middle of a demanding crowd. Jesus discipled twelve, not twelve thousand.
It’s not that large youth groups are bad. The minister’s main priority is to disciple others that they might disciple others. Ministers cannot be effective if they’re tired and worn out. The image of the ‘weary minister’ seems to be a banner of honour. I disagreed.