Monthly Archives: March 2008

a late winter blast…

I think Latvia gave up ‘winter’ for Lent, because ever since Easter morning the snow and the temperatures have continued falling.
We actually thought we had missed winter this year – or, rather, that it had missed us. I shaved my chin and had my hair cut about two weeks ago thinking Spring was just around the corner. As the snow piles up outside our window and on the street I think I should have waited another week or so before the Spring shearing. Oh well, I have a nice hat and a scarf…

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Happy Easter – Priecigus Lieldienas

Priecigus Lieldienas! Happy Easter! This morning a group of twenty youth and adults from Fairview UMC in Tennessee and the youth from Riga’s two Methodist Churches boarded a bus for Jurmula. We traveled out to the coast of the Baltic Sea for a sunrise service on the beach. When we arrived in Jurmula there was a light dusting of snow. However I (Court) was completely amazed and surprised to see the whole beach covered in snow. Although it makes sense if it is snowing on the road than it would also be snow on the beach – but somehow the presence of snow just brought more attention to God’s glory. The group huddled together in a circle surrounding the cross made from beach candles for a Service of Light. As we sang, prayed, and read scripture – I noticed a great peace and warmth on this Easter Sunday. The restoration brought by the empty tomb became real and tangible to me there on the beach standing in the snow. We talked about the light of Christ – how we receive it and are told to share it with one another. Through out this week I have been strengthened by the witness of the youth – both American and Latvian. They are Christ’s light in the world.

May the joy, hope and peace of Jesus’ resurrection be tangible in your life today.

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Was that in Latvian?

Kind of indicative of my (Dan’s) day and week so far – I heard this phrase in Latvian language class today. I had asked, in Latvian, what a certain word meant that I had heard many people use. The teacher looked a be in a befuddled manner and replied, “Is that Latvian?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “I mean is that a Latvian word your saying?” Again, I said, “Yes.” After two more attempts at the word she said, “Oh, do you mean…?” (which was only a fraction of a sound off of what I had said). I said, “Yes…”
So that was my little joke that helped me laugh through the day and all that is has been… Even when we try our best or even do our best, people are going to look befuddled – and make us wonder “What am I doing? Should I even be here? Maybe I should just do something else….

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A Tribute…


I (dan) received some sad news on Saturday. My Uncle Joe (my grandma’s youngest brother – by 17 years, and to my knowledge her only surviving sibling) passed away. I didn’t spend a lot of time with him, yet the time we did spend was memorable. The dry cleaning shop we would visit on summer vacations off the boardwalk in Atlantic City – the Italian food – the gold chains… I just wanted to say that Uncle Joe D’Amico will be missed.

The photo shows me, Uncle Joe, Uncle Flav (my mom’s brother), and Auntie Alice (Joe’s wife).

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some of our recent work…

As I said in an earlier post, this past weekend we attended (and helped to host) a Diaconal Conference for the Northern European United Methodist Churches. [Diaconal work encompasses the work of the Deacon, which in the UMC most often means working to feed the hungry, visit the sick and imprisoned, assist the poor, etc… for an example look in the Bible in Acts chapter 6 when the church chose seven people to look after the needs of the brothers and sisters.] At the end of this meeting we drafted a statement that the Bishop’s office will send to all the churches under his jurisdiction, and ask that it be read to those congregations. I thought I would post it here as well…

Humility, Mercy, and Justice: a call for holistic ministry in every community

Poverty affects all of our communities, whether we encounter a poverty of physical resources or a poverty of tenuous connections.

We, representatives from the Nordic and Baltic area of the United Methodist Church and its institutions, gathered in Latvia in March 2008 to share from our stories – our joys and our challenges – in ministry, specifically in the areas related to children and vulnerable families.

We acknowledge that poverty results from scarcity – whether a lack of physical resources, a lack of spiritual formation, or a lack of emotional nurture – and this poverty affects all of our communities.

We believe that our rich Biblical heritage and our Wesleyan theological and spiritual tradition challenge our lives, congregations, and ministries to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly (cf. Micah 6:8) among the children and the vulnerable both within our immediate milieux and throughout the entire world.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds us that the Kingdom of God is open to all persons, including the child, the outcast, the enemy, and the vulnerable.

We encourage Acts of Piety (celebrating the sacraments and participating in the life of worship) and Acts of Mercy (meeting immediate and tangible physical, spiritual, and emotional needs), yet we also acknowledge that these two remain incomplete without Acts of Justice (cf. James 2:14-17).

In our Wesleyan tradition, salvation involves the work of reconciling humanity’s broken relationship with God, and salvation in Wesleyan tradition also means that those who engage in Acts of Piety, Acts of Mercy, and Acts of Justice participate in God’s holy and salvific work of healing the world.

To this end, we would want to challenge our Methodist brothers and sisters, as individuals and as congregations, to engage in dialogue (Christian conferencing) around our Social Principles in order to see the children and vulnerable anew and to hear a fresh challenge of engaging the unjust social structures that adversely affect the children and vulnerable throughout God’s creation.

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Joy in a Purple Bus

I have ridden on a variety of buses over the past 10 years. In Europe, travel by Coach (i.e. a really nice bus) is a popular way for groups to get around or see sights, etc. I stepped into one this past weekend and thought I had landed in Barney’s playhouse. The entire bus had a purple motif – from the voilet seats to the deep purple upholstered walls – everything had a purple hue. A bit of a shock at first, but I got used to it…after all, it was just another bus.

This past weekend we attended (and helped to host) a Diaconal Conference for the Northern European United Methodist Churches. [Diaconal work encompasses the work of the Deacon, which in the UMC most often means working to feed the hungry, visit the sick and imprisoned, assist the poor, etc… for an example look in the Bible in Acts chapter 6 when the church chose seven people to look after the needs of the brothers and sisters.] On Friday we took a group of 50 people to see one of the Hope Center buildings. [The Hope Center is a home for vulnerable single girls (literally, as they are usually around 15 years-old when they arrive) who want to keep their babies, yet they have no support network. Most of the girls got pregnant while in an orphanage or by being ravaged on the street…]

We took the girls and their babies with us to the other Hope Center building – on board the ‘normal’ purple bus. One girl stepped onto the bus with her baby and her eyes grew as wide as saucers. “Wow – this is soo pretty. This is sooo cool.” This was also the nicest bus on which she had ever traveled.

I started to think about how many things I take for granted – a been there, seen that, done that mentality. I’m thankful that I took time to marvel at the double rainbow later in the day, along with the burning sunset ringed by rain clouds… I need to take time to wonder and marvel every day – even to see joy in a purple bus.

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