Winter is coming
It’s hard to believe that winter is coming and a new year is just around the corner, but we have had an exciting summer and fall here in Latvia. The past months included our first graduation at the Women’s Center, many connections in the café, a big transition within our staff, and some important preparations for Freedom 61’s future.
In September, we celebrated a wonderful milestone as our first group of women completed the program at our Women’s Center. We gathered together with many people from the community who have been a part of the women’s journey and spent an evening worshipping as the women reflected back on the last months and the incredible transformation God has brought in their lives. As we stood in the center’s activity room, listening as the women shared glimpses of their stories and what God has done in their lives, we were left reflecting yet again on God’s faithfulness the last years. What seemed like such a large dream just a few years ago has become a reality as women living at the center have encountered God’s love and seen real transformation as they take steps towards a new future for themselves.
As we shared in the last newsletter, the café has entered a new season as well as for the first time we do not have any full-time Freedom 61 staff at the café each week. In this transition, we have seen the local volunteers step up in amazing ways as they have been leading the outreach evenings and continuing to build relationships with the women working on the streets each week.
Every summer, we host a special BBQ at the café and this year, the women living at the center led the way in planning and hosting the evening. It was a beautiful sight to see the excitement and ideas from the women at the center as they planned for, prepared, and served the women still working in Riga. With delicious food, fun games, a silly photo booth, and some wonderful conversations, the women were able to demonstrate and share about how God had worked in their own lives and encourage other women, many who knew them from before, how this could happen for them as well.
Just as the café and center have experienced different seasons and growth, we have also been walking through a season of transition in our staff the past months. Lysette Klop, who started Freedom 61, returned to Holland in February for a sabbatical and season to seek the Lord for what was next. During that time, God showed her that a new season was unfolding that would include moving away from Latvia, so this fall, she officially moved back to Holland. While she is missed, she is still staying involved in Freedom 61 and the work here in Latvia will continue. Our other full-time staff have taken on new areas of leadership within the ministry and the transition has gone smoothly, leaving us with continued expectation for what God has in store for the future of Freedom61.
As all of these exciting milestones and transitions have been unfolding in the ministry, we have been so amazed to see God’s continued faithfulness, both as we reflect on what has happened and as we prepare for what is ahead. In the last seven years, we have grown from prayer walks seeking God’s heart for women in Latvia to starting a café, engaging in awareness and prevention, reaching out to, and opening a center for women. We have expanded at the center from focusing solely on women on the streets to also connecting to women from addictions, prison, abuse, and other chaotic lifestyles. We have been grateful to have been able to develop partnerships with other organizations and to be involved with projects cooperating with police, government, social workers, and other entities in Latvia. God has expanded our reach beyond what we would have initially dreamed and we are so grateful for the many doors that have opened.
With the many expansions we have experienced as a ministry and the many women we believe God has for us to continue to invest in for many years to come, we have been taking the past few months to very intentionally pray and consider how to become increasingly sustainable as a ministry and to position ourselves to be able to continue to reach out in the variety of ways God is leading us. After the women from the center graduated and as we prayerfully considered what God had in store for the ministry ahead, we felt it was necessary to take a season to continue to walk with the women we have been investing so deeply in and also make some changes and preparations for what is to come.
Currently, we are a small team of three full-time staff members, which when partnered with our great local volunteers can accomplish a lot, but also does leave us stretched quite thin and not able to engage in all aspects of the ministry as fully as we would like. In order to be able to invest in women at the level required when they move in to the center, we need to see more people joining the team. In this season of preparation, we also have been positioning ourselves to be able to continue to grow to reach out to and impact women in new ways, which again requires having more hands on deck. We would ask that you would join us in praying for those who God would have to join our team to continue to invest in and expand the ways we can impact women here in Latvia. As we reflect back on all that God has done in the last years, we are trusting his provision and guidance as we prepare and look forward to all that is still to come.
Pray with us:
For new staff that would join alongside what is happening in Riga and at the Women’s Center.
For the women who graduated from the center as they continue their next steps.
For our volunteers who continue to pour out so much each week as they invest in women.
For the women on the streets to see and grasp the hope and love available to them in Jesus.