Tarzier Memoirs

Part III Two Decades of Freedom



Robert served in the Latvian army from 1919 to 1922. During that time, Karlis was killed; Latvia embarked on a war of liberation from Russia, a peace treaty promising to respect Latvia’s borders in perpetuity was signed by Russia; brothers Osvalds and Janis came back to Latvia; Robert, Peteris, and Jule sold the family farm and burned Karlis’ letters and poems, in expectation of imminent Armageddon; Peteris and Jule, along with 2500 other Baptists, emigrated to Brazil, while Robert was sentenced to serve another year in the army to prevent him from leaving the country. As this story begins, Robert has been released from military service but finds himself rootless and forlorn--MT

I sat on the steps of the Lidere Baptist Church on a poignantly beautiful summer day that belied the heaviness in my heart. Tall grass now swayed in the breeze where the congregation had worn a path to file into the chapel for services. The birthplace of the Revival was now empty and forsaken, no, I felt empty and forsaken. Alone on the steps on the church, I cried my pent-up grief—for our former way of life, for my brother and my mother, and above all for the loss of my father. Psalm 137 spoke to my heavy heart: By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

About ancient Israel it was said, they had mocked the messengers of God, and despised His Word, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people “till there was no remedy.” Had we also sinned in this manner, that the glory of God was removed from us? One thing was clear to me then, or has become clear as I write sixty years later—the mass departure of thousands of the Revival people brought irreparable harm to the Gospel efforts in Vidzeme. The Revivalists left ashes, in my heart and countless others, in the wake of their mass exodus to Brazil.

In Daugavpils I had enjoyed unusual freedom of movement, even though, technically speaking, I was under arrest. It was really a time of training in God’s special school. I was free to attend whatever church services I wished. So I was given the opportunity to give witness, both in church and outside of it. Services in those days were conducted in both Latvian and Russian. Following my release from military service in 1922, I was commissioned to proselytize—that is, to be traveling minister—for the Daugavpils Baptist Church. I traveled to Rezekne and Tilzha, where I met Oswald Blumit, pastor of the Tilzha Baptist Church. I spent several weeks in Tilzha, during which time Oswald and I became good friends. I mention Oswald because, twenty-four years later, he would be the sole friendly face to welcome us to the New World.

The Daugavpils church gave me a farewell love offering which took care of my needs for some time. Also, I had managed to build up a generous surplus in the army depot, and I left with underwear and clothing for years to come. A love offering paid for the train tickets. Food and shelter were provided for me by Revival people wherever I held meetings. My first trip took me from Daugavpils to Rezekne in central Latgalia, then Tilzha in the northwest, then various parts of Vidzeme. After several months of this travel I arrived back in Riga, where I boarded with a widow, a strong believer nicknamed Yourka Maam. Too old for the long sea voyage to Brazil and a new life in the jungle, she stayed behind, prayed for the colonists, and, as it happened, took care of me.


Back to Contents page