“My vision is that there would be a meeting point...”
Major Else Andersson reflects on her experience and achievements during the existence of the renewed
Salvation Army, ministering to people of Latvia with special needs. - From Latvian War Cry by Dace Akermane
(Photo: Major Else Adersson receiving Three Star order from the President of Latvia. V. Vike-Freiberga, November 2003)
What are your brightest memories from your work, ministering to the people of Latvia?
The goal of all our work has been and still is to take care of the person holistically, providing spiritual, material and practical help, as well as stressing that all people are equally valuable. Among the most significant memories is the meeting in 1998, when about 25 deaf and blind, visually handicapped young people were enrolled as Salvation Army soldiers. I also enjoyed watching the deaf young people sing a song with music. The meeting in1999, when10 junior soldiers were enrolled. We always treasured the special Bible moments in various camps, putting Jesus, God’s love and care in the centre.
I remember it was a challenge to give deaf young people the possibility to achieve a European Computer Licence, to show that deaf people in Latvia can achieve as much as deaf people in Sweden. It has always been moving to see severely handicapped young people take their first stumbling steps and to hear a word from someone who never talked before.
What other challenges did you have to face?
There were lots of them. We have tried to change people’s attitudes and to support and help the staff via knowledge transmission. We have attempted to influence the authorities, to increase people’s self-confidence, showing them God’s love and care. We tried to give spiritual, material and practical help.
Cooperation with authorities and organizations in Sweden as well as in Latvia has enabled the implementation of big social responsibilities. Not only a great number of humanitarian aid shipments but also huge transmissions of knowledge.
Please, tell an example, when within the framework of this work, a person’s life has been changed.
During a visit at the School for Deaf people in Riga 1993 I met Sergejs Versinins, 17 years old. He had two handicaps. Besides being deaf he was also limping. He did not want to live. He did not have any relatives. Sergejs later came with the deaf children to Sweden for summer camp. At Huddinge Hospital he received a hearing aid. Every summer after that for eleven years he came to spend the summer in Sweden and have fellowship with deaf Swedes.
Sergejs became a Salvation Army soldier at a camp in Latvia in 1998 and he married a school mate Baiba. His life was totally changed. He says: ”Jesus is my best friend, he is wonderful, because he is always with me every day. I have been taught about the Salvation Army and what their work is really about. I want especially to help children who are poor and have problems. I want to lead others to believe in God.”
What dreams has God put in your heart for this work in the future?
The love of God is revealed to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus calls us to go out and make all people his disciples. This means that I as a Christian and a fellow creature have a great responsibility. Out mission is still to proclaim the Gospel about Jesus Christ and without discrimination meet human needs in his name.
My dream and my prayer regard visiting programs. There are names and addresses on many hundreds of young people who have attended our camps. They live all over Latvia. My wish today is that they would be visited by someone from the Salvation Army, who can help them to grow in their faith and show them God’s love. My vision for the future is that there would be a meeting point, a place where handicapped people could listen to the Gospel about Jesus Christ and get a personal faith in Him.