This is Almants. He is part of a family of eleven children. They live in a rundown, ugly, former movie theatre in one of the remote areas of Riga. The building is so rotten and old that when they went in as a family to live there no one really cared. This is one of the buildings in which you really pray that the roof will not collapse while you are inside. A terrible place.
However the family stuck together. Two of the older boys developed mid-stage schizophrenia. Most of the other kids have asthma and other illnesses. Government allowance for this family is under 200 EUR per month which most of it is automatically deducted for water and electricity. There is no medical allowance at all.
They are trying hard to stay above water. Finding a job is almost impossible and whenever they arrive at a job interview they are scorned because they don’t dress like others. They try very hard to earn their living by collecting old newspapers, books and wastepaper – for 1000 kgs of wastepaper they get 40 euros. They cleaning around the old movie theatre for which the city pays them 50 euros for the area that is so huge. The photo shows you the family with the building in the back ground.
Almants is an incredibly cheerful fellow. He was given a rare opportunity. An old cycle coach spotted him on the street riding a friend’s bike. He saw this boy’s talent and invited him to train for cycle racing. The coach and Almants developed a wonderful friendship where he began to help Almants to climb the ladder in cycle racing. Almants does not have much but he loves this sport. The coach allows him to use the bike and helmet while he is in training. While Almants is at home he imagines he is riding the bike. He closes his eyes and works on his manoeuvers and turns.
He was invited to a bike racing competition which took place April 12th. Something he dreamed of for a year, but he had to acquire a bike racing outfit and helmet.
His dream is to get a nice training costume and helmet for competition. I had asked him about the bike and he simply smiled and said. “I cannot even dream about it for now”.
I want to help answer this guy’s prayer. He is fighter and I like that. He fights his way through to his dream. I took this photo with him saying that when he is famous I will show him where it all started!
Well on April 12th Almants was invited by the elderly coach to try out for the cycle event. Almants always had the passion for this but never had the opportunity or the money. The coach saw his potential and allowed him into the sport. Almants qualified for the race and then he surprised them by winning the event against all expectations. He came in first, leaving all the others way behind. He later said, “That was my dream and I asked Jesus to help me through.”
Almants and his poor family have been coming each Friday night to the Church in Riga for the Raven’s Meeting – for the poor and destitute. This is one of the best church services I ever attend. They come to worship and receive from the word of God. They also come to receive food parcels, warm clothes and blankets. The people have nothing and are desperately hungry for God and to know His son Jesus Christ more intimately. There is not much order in the exciting service as they don’t know what “church protocol” is. They sing the words on the screen led by the worship team, but some can’t read and sing anything that shows appreciation to God. They laugh and talk. They even shout out to the preacher. They’ve done that to me quite a few times. I use audio visuals and short movie clips for them rather that speak all the time. Some of the children remember a special movie clip I showed a year before and shout out for it to be shown again. The result is sheer joy in God’s presence, something that they have never known during their bitterly poor lives. I love these meetings and have seen hundreds come to the Lord – and stay with Him. It’s to these meetings that Almants and his destitute family come to worship and serve the Lord. Almants is growing in his faith and his relationship with Jesus.
In our recent mission in Latvia I was accompanied by a friend and colleague in ministry, Craig Soll from Brisbane. Craig ministered in the prison, a rehab centre for young men coming off drugs and a Raven’s meeting. God used Craig’s compassion for these needy people to release His healing power upon many needy lives. Craig visited Almants’ family in their hovel of a home and prayed and prophesied over them. He also saw the hand of God on young Almants life.
Recently a compassionate friend gave us a large sum of money to buy Almants his own racing bike, racing gear and helmet. Sasha, my manager, took Almants to a sport shop in Riga and told him to choose his gear and a bike. The young man was astounded and the look of astonishment on his face turned to joy, as he say his faith rewarded. His desire to honour Jesus in his new found sport was being rewarded. We see this young man sharing his testimony of Jesus wide and far in the bike racing sport. Please pray for Almants and his family. We want to see their wellbeing and health increase.