Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The End....?

Many of you know that I arrived back home Sunday night so I really have no excuse (jet lag???) for why I didn't post anything sooner. So my apologies!

The second of week of camp we helped put on was not at Striki but another school in a nearby town called Blidene. This year was the second year the camp was done there so the traditions and organization was very different from Striki. Which I guess is good. It keeps you from getting too comfortable and thinking you're an expert now. We had a total of 20 kids at Blidene (compared to the 80 at Striki), which meant instead of having seven classes we only had three. That left two people on our team without classes to teach. They spent most of the day in prayer over the camp/kids and just helped the rest of us out during the day. This extra prayer was much needed because, despite having a quarter of the kids we had at Striki, discipline was much looser at Blidene. That's not to say the kids weren't good kids but they were much more eager to test boundaries with the teachers and with each other.

But, all discipline problems aside, it was a good week. The group of kids Katharine and I ended up co-teaching were all very sweet, and did their best to try to learn some new English and participate in class. We did have a pair of troublemakers, though, who liked to test our patience and resist every time we asked them to speak in English or do anything in English. However, I think God used these kids to teach me better patience and how to keep my calm during frustrating situations. Often times at home I get easily frustrated with my family so while teaching in Latvia I realized that I need to work on keeping my cool and just rolling with the punches. This leads me to the second lesson I learned, which is I need to become more flexible. I had prepared lesson plans for the camp ahead of time and printed out hundreds of sheets of paper. When I first got to Latvia I thought I was going to be able to do everything I had planned down to the very last detail. And with the first English session I taught this was clearly not the case. So for both of weeks of camp I tried to work on adjusting to the situation and being okay when I had to make concessions to my original plan.

One of the biggest things I noticed while in Latvia is the people's generosity. For many years these people had next to nothing yet they still give as much as they can (and often more). Our culture stresses giving only as much as we can handle, yet their culture teaches them to give abundantly despite whatever financial struggles they're going through. It's made me realize I need to give more freely and without remorse.

Overall going to Latvia and being immersed in their culture for two and a half weeks has really opened my eyes to a world outside of the United States. We may have many different cultures and ethnicities here in the US, but going to a new country is more enriching than I ever could have imaged.

But it wasn't only the people in Latvia who made my experience memorable, but also everyone else on the EEMN team. We did have our little conflicts but for the most part we all worked together very well. I'm so glad I got the opportunity to meet and live with these people for half a month. It really made the whole experience ten times better.

I hope to go back to Latvia in the near future but who knows what will be in store for me in the next few months. What I do know is that the lessons I learned their will stick with me for the rest of my life. Hopefully, with God's help, I'll be able to implement them in my daily life and grow from this experience.

Thank you all for your support!

Much love,


ps. For more in depth stories, things I learned or pictures contact me in person (whether by text, email, calling, Facebook or just meeting face to face) and I'll be happy to share :)

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Week in Review

Wow, what a crazy week! Even though I was exhausted at the end of each day, it was definitely worth it. The relationships I was able to build with, not just the kids, but also some of the teachers/translators made all of the stress worthwhile.

However, the week wasn't without its lows. At the end of the day on Monday I didn't think I was going to be able to communicate with the kids or that they wouldn't like me because I was boring. I was so worried that I hadn't prepared adequately enough and that I had heard God's calling wrong. Maybe I wasn't supposed to come here to teach these kids. Maybe I had completely misheard God. But I knew that these were just doubts that I put in my own head and I just had to trust that God would provide for me.

Which He did. The next day went much smoother. Granted, David and Goliath is a much easier lesson to teach than the anointment of David. :P The kids had a lot of fun writing their "giants" on the life size poster of Goliath then tearing him down at the end of the day. They were a lot more talkative and eager to participate in class. Later in the week, I even got some of them to read in English!

What surprised me the most was their openness. You wouldn't think that you would be able to get very deep with 7 year olds, but whenever we talked about an important topic they were very frank and didn't hold back. Some kids shared with my about the death of their grandpa, or that they were sad because their family was moving away from Latvia and they would be away from their friends.

And seeing them really get into the music David Michael Carillo played during the music rotation was also very cool to see. By the end of the week they had all the lyrics and movements to the songs memorized.

God truly showed Himself in the lives of these kids. Not only did He guide the team as we taught these kids, but through them He also taught us more about ourselves.

This week was truly a success and I'm so excited for tomorrow when we do it all over again in Blidene.

On Saturday, we were able to go to Riga and visit the Occupation Museum and the old KGB building. It was very insightful to learn about Latvia's difficult history. Learning the background of the country gave me a greater appreciation for it and a better understanding of where these people are coming from. It was also very heartbreaking to learn about all the things these people had to suffer through. And the fact that they gained their independence barely a generation ago boggles my mind. The woman at the gift shop there even shared some memories from her childhood during the Soviet occupation and of family and friends who were deported.

The KBG building was also very insightful, but somewhat disturbing. It was weird to think that people had been tortured and executed there. As interesting as the tour was, I was eager to get out of there. A lot of bad vibes were coming from the place and I felt sort of heavy and gross the whole time we were there.

After that, we were able to walk around Old Riga. Old Riga is very beautiful and rich with history. There are many old, beautiful churches and buildings. Nothing like downtown Indy! The city was also so lively and full of people.

Today (Sunday) we went to another traditional Latvian service in another beautiful church. The service was beautiful even if I understood approximately two words in the whole service. Experiencing the church services here has been a really eye opening experience and is so different from the churches we have at home. Even the most traditional church in America would pale in comparison to a service here. I felt like I was at the abbey in the Sound of Music! Which isn't necessarily bad, but definitely different.

So that's all for now, folks. Again thank you all so much for the support. And please continue to pray for the kids, the team, the teachers and the translators! Although money was necessary to get us over to Latvia, prayer might be even more important. Without it, God may not have moved in the ways He has since we've been here.

Much love,


Monday, June 27, 2016

An Overdue Update

Many of you are eager for a blog update, I know, but it was honestly the hardest thing to get all my thoughts together in one place. So, anyway, here it goes.... 

On Saturday we took a bus to the Baltic Sea which was about an hour and a half away. On the way, we stopped at a castle which was built in 1264. I'm pretty sure that's way older than literally everything in America so that's super cool. We didn't have enough time to tour the inside so we looked around outside and at the courtyard inside. Hopefully we will get to see another castle in Lativa because I would definitely be interested in touring the whole thing. 

Then it was on to the Baltic Sea! The sea itself was beautiful. There weren't many seashells (just rocks) and the sand was a little rough but the landscape was gorgeous. And yes, I did go in the water. And no, it wasn't as cold as you're imagining it was. Unfortunately I was under the same assumption as you and thought the water was going to be absolute death so I didn't bring my swimsuit. I really should've though! The water felt great in the unusual 85° heat. 

Before we went home we stopped at Europe's widest waterfall which is 817 feet across. Several of the team, myself included, walked across the whole thing. It was somewhat of a near death experience but I discovered I am a fast walker even on slippery rocks with a decently strong current. So basically I am going to start working on my power walking skills and the next time you see me I will be a power walking athlete in the 2020 Olympics. 

On Sunday we were able to attend a somewhat traditional Latvian Lutheran church service. It was very similar to services we have in the US but was in Latvian (obviously) and communion was slightly different (they fed you the wine and the bread). At one point during the service, the pastor began speaking in English and asked Pastor Mark to say a few words about what we were doing in Latvia. You should've seen the way all of our faces lit up when the pastor began to speak English. Finally! Something we could easily understand! All jokes aside, the service was very nice and a different experience from what I am used to. 

Today was the first day of camp and nothing could've prepared me for it. I thought I had made enough worksheets, planned enough activities, gone over my lesson plans enough times, but, in the end, God does what He does. It was very hard to gage who really didn't understand anything and who was just pretending like they couldn't understand. They're all good kids though. They definitely seemed eager to be there even though I may have been a somewhat boring teacher at first. But I know it really isn't me speaking anyways but God speaking through me. I am only His  servant here to do His will. I'm confident that whatever plans God has for these students at Striki school he will get done using all of us here as the Latvian EEMN team. 

So, although things may seem rough now, God will provide as He always does.  

Much love, 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Latvia: Day One

Whew! We all made it in one piece to Latvia. The journey was definitely very long with 24+ hours of traveling and little to no sleep. But we're finally at Saint Gregor's Christian Mission Center and have settled into our rooms. I'm so thankful that God got us safely through no less than four flights and that he also brought this incredible group of people together from all over the US. I'm excited to get to know everyone on our team and all of the students/teachers/translators in Latvia! Grateful is not a strong enough word to describe how I feel about God providing a way for me to take this trip. 

As I write this it is 5:30 in the afternoon in Latvia and I am doing my darnedest to stay awake so my body can get adjusted to the local time zone. Let me just say that trying not to fall asleep when you haven't slept for 24 hours is one of the most exhausting things ever. And trying to form coherent thoughts is also struggle so bare with me folks. 

Our flight from New York to Moscow was the longest I'd ever flown in a plane and the first time I'd ever flown over seas. And I'm not really eager to do it again. I thought family road trips were bad but transatlantic flights are almost ten times worse. But I made it and nothing overly terrible happened so I guess it was fine. 

Anyways, when we arrived in Latvia I finally got a stamp on my passport (!!!) then we met up with the instructor of Striki school and took a bus to lunch. Lunch was at the place called Lodi in a mall close to the airport. It was a sort of MCL cafeteria type thing but it was waayyy better. Nothing beats sausage, potatoes, and 10 different types of salad all with dill in them. I can already tell that I will definitely be eating well in Latvia. :) 

One of the things that struck me the most (especially when we were in Moscow) was how barely anybody was speaking English anymore. I've become so accustomed to English being the major language spoken pretty much everywhere I've forgotten "Oh yeah, people in Russia actually speak Russian not English". It's definitely different being surrounded by more non-English speakers than English speakers but it is a good reminder for me that we are not the only language in the world. 

Although Latvia doesn't strike me as much different from the US thus far, I'm eager to explore the differences between the two. I can't wait to see how God will move in the lives of the kids we're going to teach and the lives of this team as well. And, as always, thank you all for everything you've contributed (money, prayer, supplies) that made this trip possible for me and the rest of the team. Continue to pray for the whole team and that this will be an opportunity for God's presence to grow here. 

Much love,


p.s. I apologize for any grammatical errors I've made. Fixing grammar mistakes with no brainpower is a very difficult to do. 

Monday, June 13, 2016


Welcome! If you've found this blog I'm assuming you know me either by my parents, church, school, or youth group so there's really no point in introducing myself. ;)

As many of you know (well, hopefully you know if you're reading this blog post) I will be traveling to Latvia in T-minus eight days. While in Latvia I will be teaching English via the Bible to children in grades 1-3.

This is a very exciting opportunity for anyone, but especially for a 16 year old girl such as myself. Really, how many teenage girls do you know who are able to travel outside of the country to do God's kingdom work? Not many, I would guess!

But this wouldn't have been possible without the help of everyone who contributed to my trip, whether financially or spiritually through prayer. So thank you all so very much! God is truly good to fill my life with so many generous people. :)

Even though my trip has been paid for, prayer is still needed! Not just for myself but for the other 10 people who will be going to Latvia as well. This is a big time in all of our lives so there's not really such a thing as too many people praying for us.

Anyway, the point of the blog is to keep curious people, such as yourself, up to date on what's going in Latvia. I will do my best to update as often as I can and take pictures when I remember. :)

Again, thank you all so much for your support! May God bless you!

Much love,

Olivia M.