This was in response to a message from Donnie. I've put it on here at his suggestion that others be able to see it as well.
I've been in Latvia as a teacher in an English-speaking international school for a few years. Before that, we were two years in Morocco teaching as well. I'm originally from Arkansas, but spent several years in Indiana where I went to university and also in France where I studied and worked for a few years as well. Having a non-denominational/charismatic/AoG-type church background, it was when I was in France that I first began learning about the Oneness of God and returned to the states to be baptized in Jesus' name and become a part of a UPC church in Indiana. Further research brought me to the concept of plural oversight and home meetings, GloriousChurch publications and Bro. Huston. I am a student of the Word and of church history/doctrine, although I have not had formal Bible-school training. I am particularly concerned about the traditions of men being held above the teachings of the Word of God.
Married (to an American) with soon-to-be three children, and working full-time doesn't leave much additional time, currently for ministering outside our home. This past week, I actually "ran into" Bro. William Turner who is a UPCI missionary overseer for the Eastern Europe region and have learned that Mark Shutes, UPCI missionary to a few countries actually lives near us and is having meetings in his home, too. I'll be getting together with him soon to get to know him and what ministries he is involved in here. At this point, I have very little of interest to report. My family's time here is undetermined, however, my current work contract will end following next year, and we must make a decision before then, if and where to go.
As far as Latvia goes, it's not one of the most friendly and warm places to live, but it has its good points, too. It's a very green country, full of forests, lakes, rivers and wild beaches. Its climate is milder than one would think. The winters tend to be similar to those in the midwest USA, although much darker, given the latitude, and the summers are not as warm, although they're brighter and intense. Latvia is between Estonia to the north and Lithuania to the south. To the east is Russia. Latvia's capital, Riga (pop. 1 million) is a relatively beautiful city and was one of the most populated and most advanced cities in the Soviet Union. Industry has since declined and services have replaced some of the manufacturing jobs. Latvia shares many of the same problems of other Eastern European countries: low-birth rates, high alcoholism, unemployment and relative poverty of many people, people wanting to emigrate to more western countries. Integration of the EU has brought some stability to the region, and it is generally pro-US and anti communist; many hard feelings toward Russia and the former Soviet Union exist and play an important role in local politics and certain aspects of everyday life. Still, the Latvian coast remains a very attractive place for wealthy Russians. Religiously, most Latvians have a Lutheran background, but there is also a high population of ethnic Russians who tend to be Orthodox. Also, Latvians are also quite attached to their pagan traditions. Although many people wouldn't elevate them to a level of religious belief, nevertheless, superstitions abound and paganism plays an important part in the local life of Latvia.