Jelgava, LATVIA. There was unusual happening in Jelgava prison — volleyball match between teams of prisoners and their guests — Christians from the capital of Latvia, Riga. Initiative to make this tourney came from a prisoner (believer) E. Belevichs. He shared his idea with prison chaplain Rihards Krievinsh. Krievinsh asked prison administration about possibility to make sports event in the prison, and as they knew R. Krievinsh very well, they agreed. Then chaplain asked Adventist pastor Dzintars Geide to organize youth team from the churches in Riga. Soon youth with a pastor and chaplain visited prison. This was really good tourney — there were many participants and many aficionados. Match was in high spirits — youth (who lost this game) and prisoners (both team and aficionados) were satisfied. This match was seen by almost all prisoners. There was possibility to talk to prisoners before and after the match. This was the first precedent of sports games between prisoners and Christians in the history of Jelgava prison and in the history of all prisons in Latvia. There has been nothing like that before. There is a new idea to show video of this match on the big screen for prisoners.
Pastor Dzintars Geide, who represented guest team, and watching game from aside, was positively impressed by the number of attendees and their reaction, by aficionados’ enthusiastic support for both teams. In his discussion with the administration of the prison after the match, pastor Geide observed that administration is looking at this match as very effective event, and there is idea to continue such matches in future on the regular basis. This tourney is to be continued.
“This kind of ministry positively influences image of Adventist Church in the local society, and youth attitude towards ministry,” after the game said Chaplain Rihards Krievinsh. “This is a part of voluntary ministry in the prisons; sports games and similar activities are another way to reach those who can’t be reached otherwise, who have no interest in religion or in the Bible truths. This way we can establish good friendly relationships. Prisoners have expressed their deepest interest to participate in new matches, if such will be organized. This is also experience for youth to think about the new ways of witnessing about their faith, how to reach people where they are. There is nothing in our way to hinder this type of ministry, as prison administration is very positively oriented. Maybe because they know me very well. If someone else would come up with this idea, maybe they would think much longer, I don’t know. There are very positive opinions about this event. Currently we plan to do something similar, other type of sports events, but definitely it will be a team game.”
These days were very important in many prisons in Latvia — 10 prisoners gave their hearts to Jesus Christ by being baptized. In Parlielupe prison in Riga 6 prisoners were baptized, four of whom were members of Christian Unity. Baptism was done by the Baltic Union Conference Secretary pastor Andrejs Arinsh and prison chaplain Rihards Krievinsh. There was another breathtaking event in Jelgava prison when Laimonis Dagis, 25 years old prisoner who is sentenced to lifetime imprisonment, was baptized. Laimonis Dagis has experienced very surprising and even supernatural answers of God to his questions about Him. Once he experienced handcuff being unlocked by invisible hand when he asked God to show him that God is there and is real. He has decided to live his life together with God, and prison administration is gratified seeing positive changes in this person.
There were another 3 baptisms in Jelgava prison the same day. For each person taking baptism it was very important day. And such it is for each of us, as we make our choices for God. To help prisoners to make positive choices, Chaplain Rihards Krievinsh has started another campaign collecting donations for Bible distribution in Latvia prisons — “One Bible in each hut”. He’s already got money for 272 Bibles, and hopes that soon he will have money to buy another 40 Bibles, which will be almost enough to satisfy current needs for the Bibles in Latvia prisons.