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During National Lutheran Schools Week, January 26-29, an estimated 20,000 students at nearly 200 Lutheran schools across North America joined Lutheran Hour Ministries for the organization's fourth Online Mission Trip. Students had an opportunity to learn about and support the Gospel outreach of LHM's ministry center in the Baltic nation of Latvia.

Online Mission Trip 2015 was hosted by LHM's Chris Myers and Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia Rev. Peter Kirby, who interacted live daily via streamed internet video with LHM—Latvia Director Artis Purins in Latvia's capital city, Riga. Artis introduced participants to the geography and people of Latvia, as well as to the ways in which Lutheran Hour Ministries reaches out with the Gospel to a country where the Christian faith was repressed for generations under communist rule.

Artis describes three ways in which Lutheran Hour Ministries works in Latvia:

"We have a radio program that raises awareness of the Christian faith, Christian values and Christian community. We also reach out to people who are not active in a congregation—with the hope of bringing them closer to God. And, once we have connected with people, we provide them resources that help them develop a growing relationship with God."

In recent years, the breakdown of the family has been a serious concern in Latvia. One of LHM—Latvia's distinctive outreach programs brings families together for events that combine fun activities with Christian messages. "One of our important goals is to build authentic relationships with people—to become friends," says Artis. "And we have discovered that one of the best ways to make friends is simply to have fun together." LHM—Latvia's Family Sports Days are designed especially for economically disadvantaged families and feature gifts of clothing and sports equipment.

Other highlights of the trip included virtual visits to Latvia's Gauja National Park, Technographic Open-air Museum, and the Lutheran Cathedral in Riga, as well as up-close looks at LHM ministry events: a vacation Bible school, a gymnastics workshop for street children and a hip-hop dance class for youth, all held at churches around Latvia.

After four years of Online Mission Trips, LHM's Polly Gregali is enthused by the response of schools across North America. "Not only was overall participation sustained this year," says Gregali, who developed the program as Manager of International Ministries Partnerships, "but we also had 33 schools participating for the first time and 25 schools that were on their fourth trip! Students' day-to-day response was amazing, too—they chatted in hundreds of questions and comments."

The 2015 Online Mission Trip concludes the round of virtual mission experiences that LHM began in 2012 with its Online Mission Trip to Paraguay. Thanks to students, teachers, principals and everyone at Lutheran schools across the U.S. and Canada for embracing and supporting Online Mission Trips and LHM's international outreach through participation, prayer and chapel offerings. Please continue to pray for the work of LHM's international ministry centers.

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