Goodbye Lats!

January 1st (tomorrow) is the day that the official currency in Latvia will switch over to the euro. This will be the second time in history that Latvian lat will be phased out.
The Economist wrote an article "Lat it be" on the history of the lat and its last days in Latvia. A country having its own currency is a always bit charming and time will show if joining the Eurozone was a good thing for Latvia. I'm certainly not an economist and can't say if it will end up helping or hurting Latvia's economy, but I'm a bit sentimental to see the lat go!

Paldies Latiņam
by Aarzem Nieki

Ir pienācis brīdis, lai atvadītos
no drauga, kas bija ar mums.
Ja dažreiz viņš arī man nebija blakus,
tas bija liels zaudējums.

Jau lidostā pirmais, kas sagaida mani,
ir autobuss sabiedriskais.
Par piecdesmit santīmiem mājās es tikšu-
tas taču galvenais.

Konduktors saka: „Man žēl,
bet par koferi piecdesmit vēl!"

Paldies Latinjam, Latinjam...

Viss sākās ar lasi, kas šodien man varbūt
Vēl kabatā mētājās,
Un stārķis, kas draugos ar sēni un skudru,
Par dzīvi šo bēdājās..

Pat skursteņu slauķim, tam nebija laika
Laimi no jumtiem man nest,
Un Pētera baznīcā tagad ir klusi,
Jo gaili laiks līdzi vest.

Vilciens jau debesīs brauc,
Vēl pēdējam iekāpt ir ļauts..

Paldies Latinjam, Latinjam...

Kas esi tu, svešais, no kurienes nāc,
Lūk tāds ir mans jautājums,
Vai būsi tu kārtīgs un uzticams draugs,
Un paliksi vienmēr ar mums?

Kāpēc tik grūti ko jaunu ir sākt,
Kad vecais vēl derīgs mums šķiet,
Kaut zinām, ka gailim un skursteņu slauķim
Tur augšā tik labi iet?

Nāc, milda, man drīz kabatā
Tur laša vairs nav tik un tā.

Paldies Latinjam, Latinjam...


My Current Jams

There have been two albums that have been like medicine to my soul over the last two weeks. Wanted to share them with the rest of you!

1) Loud Harp - Loud Harp

Beautiful songs with simple and worshipful lyrics. Highly recommended! You can download the album for free (or leave a tip) below;

The Loud Harp guys talking about how their debut album came about;

2) Dustin Kensrue - The Water & The Blood
Dustin was the lead singer of one of my all-time favorite bands, Thrice. He recently stepped away from touring with the band to take on a position as worship pastor at Mars Hill Church in Bellevue. This is his first official solo release in the "worship" genre and each song on the album is powerful and Gospel-centered. Very highly recommended! You can stream the album for free here, or buy the album on iTunes or from Mars Hill Music here.


YouTube of the Month: December

To close out the year, I wanted to post a video that represented the last 12 months well. This clip is a compilation of different scenes from the movie "The Tree of Life," set to a song from the film, John Tavener's "Funeral Canticle." It is a visually stunning movie with a powerful story that shows much of the beauty and ugly in life. Just like the movie, 2013 was a year for us that was filled with much growth, joy, sorrow and trials. "The Tree of Life" was my favorite movie I saw this year, and thought it is not an "easy" film to watch, I highly recommend it!


Tragedy in Zolitūde

You may have already heard the news about the recent tragedy that struck Latvia this past week (BBC article here and Wikipedia article here). Last Thursday night at around six o'clock a section of the roof at a local Maxima supermarket collapsed, killing 54 people. Three of those were firemen who had rushed into the building to help the injured when a second section of the roof collapsed on them. Many children lost one or both of their parents. It is the largest single loss of life since Latvia regained its independence in 1991. Things like these are hard to make sense of. Latvia is in a state of shock and observed a three-day national grieving period.

Obviously the grieving process will take much longer; but I have been encouraged by glimpses of the hope in the midst of tragedy! The response of the Latvian people to help those affected by this event has been incredible! Within hours there were many people at the site passing out food, hot drinks, and blankets to relief workers and those waiting in the cold for loved ones who were still trapped in the building. Thousands lined up to donate blood for those who had been injured. So far, 796,156 Ls (over $1,541,000) has been donated to local charities to support and care for the families who were most affected. A sea of flowers and candles (below) covered the ground at the accident side. Non-stop news coverage of the tragedy is a norm in our information obsessed world, but the fact that Latvian news stations were broadcasting commercial-free is a refreshing slap in the face of our money-driven world.

All that to say, Latvia needs your prayers! 54 lives were lost, dozens are still in the hospital, and hundreds more were affected that day. We had a girl from our local Rīga Fusion ministry who was working at the store when the roof collapsed. By the grace of God she made it out safely, but she has barely slept since it happened. You could pray for her and the many others who have been affected as they return to a new "normal" life.


YouTube of the Month: Movember Edition

Since this is a special month for us as men, I thought I would post a tribute to one of man's finest features. Enjoy!


Pope Francis

I've been reading quite a bit about this man. I'm not saying he's perfect or I agree with everything he says, but you gotta love the compassion and humility he displays.

It looks a little bit like Jesus!


YouTube of the Month: November

This guys is unbelievable! I discovered him a few weeks ago on YouTube and thought I would share one of his best...



How did I end up here? Playing basketball again?
So far our team has played pretty well this season (4-0). I don't know how its possible, but I seem to be getting in worse shape with every game. If you're interested at all, you can follow our games and stats on the Mārupes novada basketbola līga homepage. Search for our team "T/K Spice" or "the team with an incredibly slow bearded American."


October Update

To read our latest email update, click here!
You can also view our previous updates here and subscribe to future updates here.


YouTube of the Month: October

I made the mistake of joining a men's basketball league and we had our first game last night. It wasn't pretty and I'm definitely the "my bad" guy.


Nicholas James Fletcher

I'm typing this post in my living room with a huge lump in my chest. It's October 4th. A day I have been dreading for months. Fletch is sitting across the room and checking in for his flights back to the states. We got back a few minutes ago from breakfast at his favorite pancake place right around the corner. We ate, talked, laughed, reminisced, as I fought back tears. I'm so thankful for his friendship! I love this guy and because of that I'm gonna hate saying "goodbye" to him!
When Fletch and I went through Missionary Training International in 2007, they informed us that by becoming missionaries we were getting into the business of saying "goodbyes." At the time I didn't realize how true that statement was and how painful it would be. And that eventually I would need to say "goodbye" to the guy who I had begun this missionary journey with.

On November 15th, 2007 Fletch and I said "goodbye" to our families together in Sky Harbor Airport. Up until that day I had never cried so much in my life. We boarded a flight bound for Latvia. And that began our crazy Latvian journey.

Now six years later, we are sitting in my living room and waiting for a friend to pick us up and take us to the airport. Life has come full circle and today I need to say "goodbye" to Fletch as he boards a flight bound for Sky Harbor Airport. Didn't think it would end up like this.

I believe God is leading Fletch in this next step of his life and because of that I have peace. However it still sucks saying "goodbye" to such a close friend! Few people on this planet have seen me at my worst. Fletch has. He has been next to me at some of the lowest points of my life and he still loves me. I see Jesus in that. I don't know many people who have a friend (outside of their spouse) like that. And for that I am grateful! That is what makes saying "goodbye" to him so hard. As my teammate Donna said, today feels like an end of an era in Latvia. Fletch will no longer live here, but God used him to leave a mark on this country. And I am sure that the next places where God leads Him will be just as blessed as we have been in Latvia.
God has blessed me by allowing me to "grow up" over the last six years with this guy by my side. He became family and saying "goodbye" to family is never easy. We went through a lot of great times and a lot of hard times and I'm blessed to have seen God's faithfulness through it all! I'm holding onto that for our futures now on different continents.
Fletch loves selflessly and in that He reflects Jesus. He is a servant at heart and in that He imitates Jesus. Fletch works hard and does everything with 100% effort. I have learned a lot from him and am thankful to have been part of his life.
Thank you, Fletch! You ran well. You blessed this country. You are loved. Keep going!

PS-Come visit us sometime! :)



The theme for this year's fall conference was "Radiate." 230+ youth workers from Central and Eastern Europe gathered in Czech to spend four and a half days focusing on God as a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29). Throughout Scripture and church history we can see that as God's people draw nearer to Him they are more able to clearly reflect His glory and "heat" to others. When we draw closer to Him we also find true freedom in His presence (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).

The scary reality is that we can serve God without a passionate love for Him. If this is true, we won't radiate anything of significance. But we cannot have a passionate love for God without service/good deeds! That will be a natural overflow of our abiding in Him (John 15). During the conference we spent a lot of time reading through the Gospel of John and the first few chapters of Acts. The Gospel is such Good News!

I'm also thankful that Anna was able to go with me this year! This made conference much more enjoyable for me :) and it was a special time for our marriage. I have been asking God to solidify the things that He wants us to take away from conference.

Here is our group from Latvia!
Follow these links if you would like to download the workbook and talks.



We had a great time in France! It was a blessing staying with Anna's cousin Ieva and for Tim & Lauren to join us and travel together. Here are a few highlights from our trip;


Something I Noticed

It was an interesting and full summer for The Latvian Brookses. God did some pretty amazing things and He taught me a lot. But there was one particularly small (but very important) trend that I noticed this summer...
When a group of people who are following Jesus pray, work, and focus on the same thing >>> God brings lots of fruit!
Hmmm... Don't know how I never caught onto that before. Pretty simple.

Does that have any application in our daily life? In our families? In our churches?

Who are we following? Who are walking with? And what are we focused on?



I've been a fan of this man for awhile. He used to come to spoken word nights at Biola and I remembered him to be an extremely skilled poet with an obvious love for Jesus and heart for social justice. Here's a glimpse;
He has has recently been popping up as a guest at different conferences and was featured in an interview on iamsecond.com. He also happens to make good music. You can download his last two albums for free here and if you like it, leave him a tip! His latest album "Excellent" is some of the best new music I've heard in a long time.



At the end of every summer we (JV staff + interns) take a few days to pause and reflect on what God has done that summer. This is a healthy "rhythm" of life and always a good time of fellowship as we share how we saw God at work. We also eat a ton and get to sleep in a bit! Can't beat that. Here are a few of the people who I got to serve with this summer (minus a few who had to go back early)...

God loves Latvija! Grateful for how He continues to send His people from all over the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Thank you Jesus!


My Current Jam(s)

A friend of mine told me about Lowercase Noises a few months ago and I've been playing his stuff all summer long. Beautiful ambient music, and for the next few days you can get all his albums for free! Of course, if you like his music you can also spend some $.
Check it out at lowercasenoises.com


YouTube of the Month: August

Don't agree with everything here, but nonetheless a moving short film about sacrificial love.


"The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brennan Manning

I just finished reading this book and would say it is a must read!

Brennan Manning emphasizes the need for the Christian church to return to the basic Gospel that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus. If in fact we are all "ragamuffins" in need of a gracious Savior, the playing field is level and that should free us to be gracious with others. Manning often parallels experiences from his own life where he has faltered with those of the early disciples who at times weren't the picture of perfect faithfulness. But the Good News for us all is that Jesus always welcomes us back! He always holds up His end of the deal, even when we don't.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book;
"Do you really accept the message that God is head over heels in love with you? I believe that this question is at the core of our ability to mature and grow spiritually. If in our hearts we really don't believe that God loves us as we are, if we are still tainted by the lie that we can do something to make God love us more, we are rejecting the message of the cross."
A refreshing read!



Well, I have strep throat again. :( This is the third time I've had it in the past 12 months. Is that even normal??? How do I avoid getting it?


Viesīte English Camp

A truly amazing camp! I hope to have time this week to write down more of my thoughts and stories of what God did in camp. But in the meantime, this slideshow will have to do...


YouTube of the Month: June

I recently visited the Latvian occupation museum with some friends who were visiting us. Though I have been many times, the museum was a sobering reminder of the many tragedies this part of the world has experienced. Our generation tends to take freedom for granted and this video is another healthy reminder of the sacrifices people have made to maintain the freedoms we take for granted today.


The RĪGA Internship (ending)

The picture below signifies the end of the first round of The RĪGA Internship. :(
(from left to right: Kurts, Beāte, Krista, Krišjānis, Liene & Baiba)

I'm proud of each of these guys for following through on their commitment to follow Jesus! We met 19 times over the past four months to study and practice obeying Jesus' call to make disciples where He has placed us. I made mistakes, learned a ton, was encouraged by each person in the group and look forward to how God will continue to use them to glorify Himself! Each "graduate" received a Rīga Shirt, a certificate of completion, a framed picture of our group and a graduation hat! My hope is that these things will act as reminders of what God did over our time together and our call to continue following Jesus and making disciples. Soli Deo gloria!


re: welp... we're moving

welp, we moved! and God provided an even better apartment than we expected. heres a tour of our new place...

our entryway



living room/kitchen
guest room/office
now that youve seen it, youre welcome to visit us at any time! :)


youtube of the month: may

my mom posted this on my facebook wall awhile back and it still makes me laugh so hard i cry every time i watch it...


welp... we're moving

because of less than ideal circumstances, we need to change apartments in the next two weeks. we are praying and trusting that God has something good in store for us!


mel & amy ellenwood

heres a short video about a family who is a blessing to our entire jv team.

im really proud to serve alongside people like the ellenwoods!


youtube of the month: april

i have rarely ever seen a video with a "christian" message that was done as well as this one. a fitting video in light of what we celebrated just a few days ago. thank you Jesus!


erasing hell

finally got around to reading this book by francis chan & preston sprinkle.

a sobering and challenging read. definitely worth your time!


re: tēva sirds

if youre interested in watching the videos from our recent conference on the fatherhood of God, you can watch all six sessions here! you can also download and fill in the workbook in latvian and english.


thats usually my reaction when a group i like gives away free music. and usually they will give away a song, or if you're lucky, a free album. which is very generous! but rarely will you ever find a group who gives all (11) of their albums away for free. now i present to you page cxvi...

"Exciting news!!! PageCXVI and The Autumn Film are still celebrating 7 years of music by giving away their entire discography from both their projects Page CXVI and The Autumn Film*. Noisetrade has partnered with them for our March Jubilee Giveaway! They are thrilled and honored to work with an outstanding team of people who care deeply about music. If you have not already downloaded their 74 song, 11 album, 2 band giveaway please visit their giveaway on Noisetrade now!




youtube of the month: march

the amount of creativity and talent that is required to make something like this is incredible!


tēva sirds

we are having a youth conference in rīga on march 1st-2nd and dave patty, the president of josiah venture, is our guest speaker! the teaching will focus on God's heart for His children. He is a perfect Heavenly Father!

if you're in the area you should come! for more info, check out www.tevasirds.lv


covenant love

on saturday i will have the opportunity to share a few thoughts about sex with my friend's youth group. (pray for me!) im certainly no expert on the topic, but as i have been thinking about it over the past week the word "covenant" kept coming to mind. sex, and Jesus later expanded that any sexual activity, was originally designed to be enjoyed and experienced in a covenant relationship between a man and woman. the word "marriage" has gotten a bad name in todays culture, but the Bible clearly shows us that God is about covenant love. He desires a people who faithfully commit themselves to loving and following Him. in this grandiose "marriage" between God and His people, we see that God always fills the role of a loving and faithful "husband" (best displayed in Jesus) and mankind consistently plays the role of an unfaithful "wife."

as followers of Jesus, our marriages are supposed to "say" something about our God. our marriage covenant should display a Godly love to the watching world. we choose to love our spouse because we have a Savior who loved us first. we choose to humble ourselves and serve because Jesus did it best. we forgive because we have been forgiven through Christ... etc. when our marriages function this way we can create small and beautiful pictures of God's covenant with His Bride, His people. rarely does this type of love comes easily in human relationships and most of the time it requires lots of work. it takes sacrifice. and that is when the covenant is most crucial! this is the type of relationship where God intended sex to be experienced. despite what the culture says about sex and marriage, sex is best experienced in a covenant relationship! it is no mistake that this is also the type of loving environment where babies (the result of the sex act) grow into healthy adults.

i saw this video this morning and thought it fit the topic well. listen to these three spiritual jedis share some of their marital wisdom...


The RĪGA Internship

the thought behind the internship is that a group of laypeople who live or work in rīga would come together weekly over a period of time to study the life and ministry of Jesus in a tight community... with the idea in mind that they will focus their time and energy on making disciples where God has placed them. my hope is that discipleship will begin happening more consistently in the churches of rīga and that more people will respond to Jesus' call. to read more about the internship you can click here.

now id like to introduce you to the group...
from left to right: kurts, krišjānis, krista, liene, beāte, baiba & džo

please pray for us over the next six months!