•Pray for the Gospel to reach the younger generation before they follow in the footsteps of their atheistic ancestors.
•Pray for despair and suicide to melt away before the hope of the Living God.
•Pray for renewal and revival among lethargic churches filled with nominal believers.
•Pray for the work of LCMS missionaries and partner churches to bring the Gospel to all areas of the country.
The beginnings of Christianity in Latvia go back to the end of the 12th century, but during the German military occupation of World War II and communist control from 1944 to 1991, oppression of the church was severe. Many Latvians fled, forming churches in exile. Many also abandoned the faith. Religious freedom returned in 1988, but many rural areas are still without Gospel proclamation, and great needs remain for training leaders, both clergy and lay, and for publishing Christian literature.
Home to the world’s fourth highest suicide rate, Latvia paints a landscape of hopelessness across a backdrop of beautiful natural scenery and strong and centered family life. The hope and optimism of emerging from Soviet rule were met with the emptiness and equally bleak colors of many social problems. Alcohol, drugs, a rapidly growing sex trade, and high abortion rates rushed to fill the void of the moral vacuum left by their new found freedom. Latvians desperately need healing and light as they continue to stumble along in the darkness.
The burst of religious activity Latvians experienced when they finally gained freedom as an independent nation in the 1990s has since died out and been replaced with nominalism. The rural population lacks consistent access to the Christian church. It is crucial to reach the youth of the nation before they adopt the spiritual apathy or the atheism of their forefathers. More workers are desperately needed to advance the Gospel.
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod started working with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL) in 1995. Altar and pulpit fellowship with the ELCL was formally declared by resolution at the 2001 LCMS Synod Convention. Since that time, the LCMS and the ELCL have developed a very positive working relationship through Orphan Grain Train; the Lutheran Heritage Foundation; Lutheran Hour Ministries; Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo.; and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.
The Latvian post-Soviet culture is changing rapidly. There is a huge generation gap between the older generation brought up under the Soviet system and the young people of today who are influenced by western thought with its secular and materialistic influence. The challenge for the church is to discover ways to connect the Gospel to these different cultures. Jesus Lutheran Church and Old Gertrude Lutheran congregations in Riga are leading the way connecting with youth and young adults through youth and small group ministries.
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Rev. Dr. John and Melinda Bombaro serve the Lord through The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) as missionaries in Latvia, based in Riga. John serves as assistant to the regional director of the Eurasia region in the area of theological education. In this role, he works to plant an English-speaking congregation in Riga. He teaches Lutheran theology and mentors seminary students in a Bachelor of Divinity program at Riga Luther Academy (the Latvian Ev. Luth. Church’s seminary). Before serving in Latvia, John was the senior pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, San Diego, Calif.
Melinda worked at an investment company and a biotechnology company before becoming a missionary. John and Melinda enjoy family games, camping, hiking, cycling, bonfires, football and reading, all with their four beautiful children.
Pray for the Bombaros as they serve in Latvia. Ask God to strengthen them as they adjust to the language and culture of this region. Ask God to give Melinda opportunities to connect with women, particularly mothers with school-aged children, and share the Gospel with them. Pray the Bombaro family is given wisdom and boldness as they proclaim and present Christ as Lord and Savior. Pray also for a return to true biblical Christianity within the region. Pray that they may have a significant role in helping with this return and with inspiring seminarians and pastors to do the same in their spheres of influence.
Learn about the LCMS missionaries and the work of the LCMS in Latvia.