Wednesday, December 24, 2008


It is Christmas Eve and the hustle in preparation of family gatherings has given way to a quiet morning when all are asleep. Later today hugs will be shared with those we have not seen for some time, as well as with those we saw just this week. Our family will eat, sing, and watch as our youngest act out the Christmas story.

Every year it is different as new grand and great-grandchildren take their places in the drama. It may never win an award, but it has been done every year for as long as I can remember, and its importance to the family is reflected as each new generation of young adults assume roles in costuming, composing, and producing. Some who once “played” the baby Jesus now wrap their own babies in “swaddling cloths” as they become the celebrated child born in Bethlehem.

That story continues to serve as the platform for the ministry of Missional Church Center. We exist to assist the church in reclaiming her role in sharing that story until every neighbor and all those in the nations have opportunity to know and worship Emmanuel.

As this year closes, I have just returned from Latvia where I taught Empowering the Church for Mission with future church planters and pastors at Baltic Pastoral Institute. I invite you to pray for these students as they move from classroom preparation to starting churches in the cities of their nation. Their challenge is great in a country of 2.5 million people where less then five percent know the Christ of Christmas.

It was wonderful to return home last Sunday to Northway Church, our faith community in Dallas. More than ever before, the Northway family evidenced the practice of missional churches to “Rewrite worship every week.” This means maximum participation by those in the congregation, bringing their sacrifices of praise to God, the audience of One. It was awesome! He was glorified. I was blessed!

We are working to complete video updates from the Latvia mission. Watch for them to be posted in the days ahead. Christmas blessings of joy and peace to you and those you love.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Return from Latvia: Economy class seats need thicker seat cushions!

As an author one thinks in terms of titles and subtitles. I wanted to let you know that I arrived home from Latvia yesterday evening. And in reflecting upon waking today, I realized just how much economy class seats need thicker cushions. Title and subtitle.

In reality, our subtitle would be diverse based upon the experiences of the last dozen days. Relationships are of course the most significant part of any mission experience. More important than what we may be allowed to do, are those we come to know as friends. We now have dear friends, associates, colleagues in ministry, brothers and sisters in Christ in Latvia. I will look forward to sharing some of their stories with you in the next days.

Latvia is just now seeing the first generation to become adults whose only experience has been freedom in Latvia. They never personally knew the depth of pain associated with the occupation of their country. They are none-the-less aware of the privilege that is theirs.

On my final day in Riga, Pastor Peteris Eisans spent an hour with me describing lessons that the Latvian church learned during and immediately following the occupation. Lessons that can be shared with those of us in the west. He spoke of the importance of being able to adapt to culture shifts that take place and the church’s challenge in this regard. The wisdom and insight of this key Latvian pastoral leader will be a blessing. I am excited about getting the interview edited so that it can speak into our experience as God’s church in the west.

In our final session at Baltic Pastoral Institute, my class presented me a box of Laima chocolates as a gift. I am learning that most nations in Europe have their own chocolate company…and that it is perceived as the world’s best. After Pam and I opened the box today we think the Latvian’s may have earned the right to say theirs really is!

Being home with a hot cup of coffee and a rich piece of dark Latvian chocolate can almost make me forget just how thin economy class seat cushions really are. Almost.

Thanks to the many who have faithfully prayed during our time away. Please keep praying for our new friends in Latvia.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Missional Church Center Latvia Update 3

It’s Christmas time, and everywhere you turn in Latvia there are reminders. Notices of concerts are posted throughout the cities, decorations adorn homes and businesses. Traditional carols play in elevators and lobbies. Christmas trees light the night. In Old Town Riga, vendors are set-up for the traditional fair-like atmosphere that accompanies the Christmas season.

But, according to the Riga in Your Pocket visitors guide provided in the hotel rooms, Latvians still celebrate their pagan holidays and Christmas is celebrated with feasting, drinking and singing. Unfortunately for 95% of Latvians, Christmas is celebrated without a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. They do not know the meaning of this Holy Season.

I want to thank you for your support during these wonderfully rich days of ministry here. God has been so good to us and your partnership has meant much. Now I ask you to continue to pray for the students who are now completing their year of intense training at Baltic Pastoral Institute. As their year of study concludes, they will be going to pastor churches and start new churches in the days ahead.

It was my privilege to ride along with the Bishop of the Evangelical Union to a little community near the Estonian border, where one of the students was installed as pastor and licensed to the Gospel ministry. As he and his wife knelt while hands were laid on them and prayers asked God’s blessing, I was deeply moved. This young couple represents the future of what our Father will do in Latvia. In rural villages and metropolitan centers, the spiritual needs are great. But our God is a great God. The faith of Pastor and Mrs. Valter Mitans is great faith. God is beginning a new work in Latvia. His churches have committed to begin one hundred new churches across Latvia in the next eight years. For this country it is a giant sized vision. And it is the best Christmas gift they could ever give to the people of Latvia.

If you will commit to remember Latvian Christians during this Holy Season, please let us know by placing a comment below. Your prayers will encourage the hearts of your brothers and sisters here in Latvia.

See Milfred Minatrea's video updates from Latvia at

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Missional Church Center Latvia Update 2

Thank you to the many who are praying during the time we are ministering in Latvia with future church planters and existing church pastors at Baltic Pastoral Institute. It is amazing how much “at home” one can become in a just a few days.

After seven sessions, students in the classes have become more than students. I am learning to appreciate their individual gifts and passions. Andres Prieditis invited me to lunch next Monday saying, “I want to discuss what we might do to help our older churches engage in mission. When communists ruled, some churches survived by isolating themselves from the world. Now, they have to learn again how to focus beyond themselves.”

Young entrepreneur, Janis Gravitis, is in the class as well. His businesses display Kingdom values in a half dozen countries of Europe and Asia. He has developed Christian-value-driven table games that are popular with youth in several nations. He asks, “How can churches more effectively prepare Christians to serve God in their vocations?”

As I said when speaking at a donor banquet last evening, “I thought I would be spending time with young adults who would be used by God to impact Latvia in the next decades. After experiencing the quality and commitment of these dedicated students, I now believe I am investing in those through whom God will touch not just Latvia, but the world.”

To learn a little more about what God is allowing us to be a part of in these days, please see our latest video update. Then stop and breathe a prayer for your Christian brothers and sisters here in Latvia. By their assessment, only two percent the countries’ citizens are followers of Jesus. Their mission task is massive. But our God majors in using a radical minority who are sold out to Him.

I am grateful for your prayers and the many encouraging words you have sent. Please leave a comment below so that others can know that you are praying. Share the blog with another praying friend as well.

See Milfred Minatrea's video updates from Latvia at

Monday, December 8, 2008

Missional Church Center Latvia Update

See Milfred Minatrea's video updates from Latvia at We are working out the technical glitches as we go.

After a good rest, I awakened this morning to find every building below my hotel window covered with frost. The appearance was totally white. In the cold and early of Sunday morning few people were moving about. Then I heard, that portion of the carol, “sleep in heavenly peace,” playing in the hotel as I went down to breakfast. It was a quiet confirmation of the Father’s presence.

Did I say breakfast? I had forgotten the bounty of the European hotel breakfast buffet that is included in the room rate. I enjoyed people watching as I ate breakfast and drank coffee. So many young adults were in the hotel restaurant and on the streets of this metropolitan center as well.

One of the students from the Empowering the Church for Mission class that I will be leading during the next ten days picked me up for worship. Martins is also a youth leader at Matthew’s Church of Riga where I worshiped. This is one of the largest evangelical churches in a nation of 2.5 million people. Pastor Peteris Eisans and I had opportunity to spend a few minutes talking. Matthews Church was the first in Latvia to seek to move beyond traditional internal focus seeking to become intentionally focused on reaching out to those who are not part of the church through incarnational ministries.

Three different worship services are held each Sunday with the last being a contemporary worship that is reaching a younger population. Pastor Eisans spoke of the significance of being part of a learning community with about 40 other pastors from Eastern Europe who focus on starting new churches. We briefly spoke about disciple-making in the church, lamenting that it appears churches around the world struggle with this central imperative. Later in the week, I hope we get to spend a little more time on this important subject.

Throughout the morning, I tried to capture some video to allow you to experience with me some of what God is doing here in Latvia. Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Latvia and for those young adults who are responding to God’s call to start new churches in this gracious nation.

I appreciate so many of you who have committed to pray for me while I am here in Latvia. Your intercession and support mean more than I know how to express. Thank you and until the next post…keep serving, sharing and praying!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Urgent Call to Prayer - December 6

Today I received word from India that there is credible evidence that in the “…highly charged atmosphere of Orissa and the crucible of Kandhamal in particular…this Christmas could become a “Good Friday” for the Christians there…a bloodbath” in which many Christians may be killed. Terrorists have given the state government notice that if their demands are not met concerning resolution of the killing of a Hindu cleric and his associates, they will shut down the state on Christmas day.

We have been praying for brothers and sisters in Orissa, where more than 125 Christians have been murdered and where homes and churches of Christians have been destroyed. Now the climate of terror for these brothers and sisters escalates in this season.

I am inviting those whom God leads to join this Saturday, December 6, in a day of prayer and fasting for fellow believers in India. On that day, a strategic meeting will take place in Orissa that will seek resolution to this urgent situation. Without going into detail, requiring lengthy explanation of the sources of unrest between various socio-political and religious groups, my friends indicate that this meeting may well prove a “final opportunity” for resolve before even greater terror befalls Christians of Orissa and Kandhamal during this Holy Season.

Please join other brothers and sisters in intercession for God’s purposes to be realized and His name to be glorified in this situation. Ask God to grant peace to our fellow believers…not as the world gives…but that of the Prince of Peace, His shalom.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Missional Church Center Interview w/ Andrew Hill

Recently I spent some time with Andrew Hill, youth pastor at Grace Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. Having served in that leadership role for seven years, Andrew has seen children grow to youth, graduate and go on to college. Grace Church is located in a very affluent area south of Atlanta and since being started over 30 years ago, has had a history of significant missionary support. More than 35% of the church budget has been invested in international mission ministry.

While the church celebrated its international involvement, over a period of years it grew less engaged with people in its own community. This realization led church leaders to rethink the reason for which Grace exists. Ultimately congregational elders became convinced that their church must experience a culture shift with regard to their community involvement.

Hill shared how church leaders came to realize that the ongoing resource for international mission would be diminished if the church failed to reach people in its own community. Yet, growth for growth sake was not an acceptable focus. Instead, Grace Church sought to become as active locally as it was globally. While some feared funds would be diverted from the important task of international mission, leaders sought to ensure the church’s continued engagement with nations beyond, while enhancing their own relevant impact at home.

Today, the emphasis toward a truly missional focus, both locally and globally has moved beyond the elders to garner the support of a larger segment of the congregation. Now youth ministries tend to look less like good times and entertainment, and more like mission as calendared youth events express the compassion of Christ for those who live near Grace Church. Youth activities tend to center more around doing life together while serving others.

Speaking of how disciples are being made among those in his youth group, Hill stipulated that the most effective disciple-making is not taking place in formal structures or typical discipleship classes. Rather, youth are growing as followers of Christ as they relate to adult “mentors” who join youth as sponsors in youth mission experiences. In Hill’s words, disciple making happens more when youth just hang-out with adults who are passionate followers of Christ. It is in those contexts that lives are being transformed and authentic disciples are maturing.