Selah’s Missionary Mom
Jonathan, Deborah and Laura Bourbeau serving in Latvia with Greater Europe Mission
Joining you lovely ladies at Selah last January was such a blessing! Being a first-time mom on the mission field where there is no such thing as a mom’s group was … well, challenging! So much to learn, navigating life in two countries… there are a lot of moments of feeling overwhelmed. I found our times together at Selah very helpful and the Lord proved himself to be truly sufficient in the nitty grittiness of being a mother!
In January, I will once again be with you, but at present I am in Latvia. I would like to tell you the story of how we ended up there and would treasure your prayers on this journey.
“Our churches are flooding with people seeking God… but we don’t have people who can teach them Bible. No one has come to help us.” These words were spoken in 1991 by a Latvian college student. That very year Latvia had gained its freedom from the Soviet Union and for the first time in 50 years, Latvians were free to study the Bible. At this time, both Jonathan and I were enrolled at Prairie Bible College and asking the Lord how He would like to use our lives for His Kingdom. These words, spoken by the Latvian student, became our “Macedonian call”. Similarly to Paul in Acts 16:9, we understood that God was asking us to come to Latvia and help. Upon our graduation in 1993, we applied with Greater Europe Mission to do one year of mission work in Latvia. During my first week there I wrote to God in my journal: “Please, don’t call me here long-term.” I feared this place where everything was so different. Today, twenty-four years later, we are still with Greater Europe Mission, spending two thirds of the year in Latvia, and one third in Steinbach. What happened?
Our first years in Latvia were filled with opportunities to teach the Word, both in the local churches and on college campuses. Both Christians and non-Christians were eager to come to seminars, join small groups and meet one-on-one for discipleship. We experienced great dichotomy in this small nation. Here was a people, highly educated and masters at creating beauty, yet lacking basic leadership skills, having been denied the opportunity to take initiatives and influence their own environment. They were broken by deceit, mass alcoholism, an eighty percent divorce rate and abortion being used as the standard birth control. Yet they were hungry to know God and willing to dare to trust anew. Our hearts were filled with God’s love for the Latvians and they became as dear to us as though they were our own children. Now my journal entries were thanking God for the joy of being able to join Him in His work in Latvia. We continued to serve for many years as leaders in two church plants, one in the capital of Riga, and the other in the town of Grobina on the west coast. Invitations to speak on romance and marriage were also frequent during this season – a topic that had apparently not existed during the Soviet days. 🙂 This led to countrywide seminars and retreats.
In 2013, after twenty years of mission work in Latvia, Jonathan and I entered a new season. The Latvian believers in whom we had invested were now in top positions of leadership in the national church. They were involved in the Latvian training institutions, a church planting movement, student and youth movements, and an orphan alliance working towards the goal of emptying orphanages. In our personal lives , we had recently walked through a difficult burnout and the Lord was using this pain to open up new levels of our understanding of His grace and healing. It was also at this time that I became pregnant with our daughter, Laura, now three years old. After spending so many years without children, God was now giving us the opportunity to become parents. It was amazing, incredible… and scary. The next year Laura Olivia Ann was born in Steinbach. What a powerful gift of love!
What did God have for us now? After much prayer, the Lord led us to return to Latvia with the vision of supporting the young Latvian leaders who are standing without the support of an older generation of Christian leaders that they can draw from. We now minister through coaching, mentoring and spiritual formation – Jonathan at present more so, as I am spending most of my time with Laura. Both of us also minister through prayer counseling which includes elements similar to what we find in the Set Free conference. The present plan is to return to Steinbach for a few months each year, in the future allowing for Laura to attend a local school and then finish out the year in Latvia through home schooling. During our time in Canada, ministry in Latvia is continued via the internet.
I would love to have you join us in prayer that God would empower this generation of Latvian believers to be able to deeply impact the next generation for His glory in the Latvian church (Ephesians 3:14-21). As I write this, I also think of the Latvian Christian moms and my desire to support them, keenly aware of the lack of any local mom’s groups. I did have a chance to start a play group in our church a couple years ago. Both Christian and non-Christian moms came and I was so blessed to see them start to pray for each other.
I would also treasure your prayers for the strengthening of our family to be able to live our lives in two countries, and for our daughter Laura to experience God’s protection and provision as she integrates into the Latvian world of relationships and learns to speak Latvian. This next request may sound kind of silly, but at some point when Laura is the right age, I would love for her to have a chance to have a pet, perhaps a guinea pig. If you are so inclined, pray that God would provide people who would want to share a pet with us, taking it while we are overseas.
I look forward to seeing you again.