Lasma Asme in Latvia. Mo Blackmon in Canada. God in his sovereignty. Together, despite obstacles and differences and questions galore, they launched a nationwide women's ministry training in Latvia.
Laurie Lind [00:00:25]: So welcome back to Entrust Equipping Leaders. I'm Laurie, and today I have some amazing guests who I love very much. Mo Blackman in Canada and Lasma Asme. Lasma, can you say your name for us, please?
Lasma Asme [00:00:42]: Lasma Asme.
Laurie Lind [00:00:45]: Okay, that's it. My Latvian is not very good, Mo’s is very good, and Lasma’s is the best … Lasma in Latvia. And we're going to hear quite a bit about your work together and your ministry in Latvia together. But beginning, it's always nice to start with a story. And I've heard, Lasma, you have quite a story about how God gave you the name for the Equipping women training in Latvia before it had even really started. Can you tell us how that all happened?
Lasma Asme [00:01:20]: Yeah, it was in 2014. I was in a church, and in that time I had three sons and little one was nine months old. And there were leader of women's ministry in Lativian Baptist Union, Livija Godina, and she was in our church, in my local church in Ventspils, and she talked in our service and I was feeding the Yanis and I didn't hear much what she told, but God some half year put in my heart two words, woman to woman. And I was home with kids, and I actually didn't know how I could serve. But I was very tired to be at home because kids were very sick all the time and I wanted to be somewhere to do something to get out of this circle, but I didn't know how. Can I be helpful and useful for God? But there were two words, woman to woman. And when Livija talked, she talked something about some training program and I didn't hear very good that part, but in end of her speech, she said this training would be something similar as woman to woman. And that was, okay, this is for me. I don't know what is it? This is for me. And so after service, I went to her and said, Livija, sorry, I didn't hear all what you said. Could you repeat something? But you said very specific two words, what is meaningful for me. And I would love to involve in this. Yes. And after some years, when I finished the training and started to minister as hub coordinator, this name, woman to woman, it is as Entrust, but in Latvia it is woman to woman. Yeah.
Laurie Lind [00:03:36]: So it's like the Lord had put that kind of a name into your heart before you ever heard Livija say that same kind of a name. And how do you say that in Latvian?
Lasma Asme: [00:03:40] Sieviete Sievietei.
Laurie Lind [00:03:44] Woman to woman? And what's the difference? The two words sound a little different. Why is that?
Lasma Asme [00:04:00]: It is one woman to another woman.
Laurie Lind [00:04:05]: How beautiful that God put that in your heart when you were a young mom with a baby and busy. I love it. Well, let's go back. Let's back up then. Somehow this happened in 2014. The two of you are colleagues and sisters in Christ now, but you grew up on two sides of an ocean. Mo in Flin Flon, Manitoba in Canada and Lasma did you grow up in Ventspils ?
Lasma Asme [00:04:38]: Yes.
Laurie Lind [00:04:39]: Let's contrast the towns you each grew up in and kind of what your early years were like, the two of you.
Mo Blackmon [00:04:46]: Yeah, I was thinking about how I grew up and how that was similar or different to Ventspils for Lasma. So I grew up in a town that was very remote, that was basically at the end of the highway, surrounded by water and rugged nature. And I thought, well, that's so interesting because in some ways Ventspils is at the end of the highway. You can't go further west in Latvia till you is surrounded by water, but, Baltic Sea compared to many lakes for me and beautiful nature. The small town I grew up in, Flin Flon, had some Christian churches, which at that time some of them were small and struggling. But around the time that I was being evangelized, there was a bit of a revival in our town. So I'm not sure how that compares with the spiritual life in Ventspils. I grew up completely outside the church. I was a latchkey kid, kind of on my own since I was about 13, taking care of myself and my dad. Just the two of us lived together as my parents’ marriage broke down at that time. So I was quite a keener. I was looking for affirmation at school and at the swimming pool. I just got involved there and I was a quiet leader and organizer in my family and school and at the swimming pool from early on. How about you, Lasma?
Laurie Lind [00:06:16]: One quick question. Mo, you said you were quite a keener. I think that might be a Canadian slang term. What does that mean?
Mo Blackmon [00:06:24]: That’s right. It is just wanting to do the best. I got good grades. I always signed up to volunteer for things. I was a teacher's pet.
Laurie Lind [00:06:36]: There we go. Sometimes Canadian English and US English have some differences. So how about Lasma, what was childhood like for you?
Lasma Asme [00:06:47]: Ventspils is yes, port city by Baltic Sea. And in 1980s it was very the place where nobody wanted to come because there were many port companies and the air was very toxic and always very like, gray. And my dad said that when I was some two years old, in summer, all leaves from trees fell down because of this air. It was not so nice place to be. But in 20 years, Ventspils become as very tidy and very oriented to families, quite silent. We have some 30,000 people in Ventspils, but it is quite silent place. A nice place to be and to live. And there are woods and river and sea and yeah, I really love my city and we have some also Christian churches and they all were in all those years, but yeah, I was also that kind of person, what Mo said, it is very similar with us. Yes. Our city is more like, how to say, place where come all from Latvia to rest. It is like resort and something like this. Yes.
Mo Blackmon [00:08:48]: I was just thinking, when you grew up there, you were growing up in the Soviet times in Ventspils.
Lasma Asme [00:08:55]: Yes, but I really don't know that. I was too small. Yeah. I was born in 1985, so I was quite small, too.
Laurie Lind [00:09:12]: Yes. So you were just a young child when the Soviet Union sort of came apart and Latvia became an independent country. You were still just maybe, what, five or six years old, maybe?
Lasma Asme [00:09:26]: Yeah, when I was six years, then Latvia went free from Soviet so I don't remember very many things from Soviet times.
Laurie Lind [00:09:38]: Sure. And Mo, you being in northern Canada, I mean, northern Manitoba, you were way far north. I think you've talked about most of your life had to do with snow and ice. Most of the fun things you did? Or even your ways of travel, is that right?
Mo Blackmon [00:09:57]: Yeah, I mean, I drove a Skidoo before I learned to drive a car. I drove a Skidoo as well as I rode my bike in the summertime and yeah, loved ice fishing and being on the lakes in the summer and winter.
Lasme Asme [00:10:12]: When I was small, we had more difference from summer to spring and autumn and winter. All was very specific. But now we have more similar all those seasons. We don't have very hot summer and very cold and long winter. What was in my childhood when you knew that snow would be three months at least? Yes. Now you never know. There can be years when snow is one week.
Laurie Lind [00:10:50]: A lot of things have changed. But let's go on to the two of you. After all this, growing up in these various far away parts from each other, when and how did you two first meet each other?
Mo Blackmon [00:11:03]: I'm pretty sure it was in 2014 at the very first training. Very first training offered in Latvia. And Lasma was there. She was a participant.
Laurie Lind [00:11:15]: So what training was that? Who was leading it and where was it held within Latvia?
Mo Blackmon [00:11:21]: Well, that was the very first training, and I was helping. I was working together with Livija, the head of the women's ministry that Lasma mentioned earlier. She and I organized it and Sherry and Corrie facilitated it.
Lasma Asme [00:11:40]: Yeah, it was in a fall in 2014, and it occurred in Latvian Baptist Union house in center of Riga.
Laurie Lind [00:11:50]: Well, how did this come about in the first place? Suddenly there's a training happening in 2014 in Riga.
Mo Blackmon [00:11:55]: That's a much longer good story. But I had been involved, I had taken Entrust training courses myself, first one back in 2002. And then many years went by and I took another course that was offered in Latvia called Walking with Christ which is an amazing discipleship training. And then I was involved with some women offering that Walking with Christ discipleship course in southeast Latvia in the place where I was living called Latgale, that part of Latvia. And I loved it. And then the Lord brought me back to Canada together with my husband. Long story short, I ended up joining Entrust as staff and seeing the depth and breadth of all the training we offered and then I started to long that we could offer this in Latvia. So in 2012 and 13 I met with Livija and the Board of Women's Ministry and cast the vision for this training of what could be possible in Latvia.
Laurie Lind [00:13:06]: Now, when you say Livija was part of the Board of Women's Ministry, what board are we talking about there?
Mo Blackmon [00:13:14]: It was the board of the Latvian Baptist church nationwide. So cast the vision for a couple of years for this training and they prayed and considered it and then said yes, let's try it and see how this works. So then we were able to offer the first training in fall of 2014 and in the beginning this training was offered in English and so that meant only those who had a pretty good working knowledge of English could take the training, resulting in generally younger women taking the training which was also a gift from God.
Laurie Lind [00:13:59]: When you had started thinking about that concept of woman to woman, you hadn't even heard about this training at all yet, is that right?
Lasma Asme [00:14:09]: No, I really didn't know and my English also wasn't very good, but I had this concept so deep in my heart that I know I needed to be here that I thought oh, I will try and when I took first time this book in my hands and, “Facilitation? What is that?” I didn't hear this word. I make exam in English and I don't know this word. Yeah, step by step but I didn't know anything about this, about Entrust or this training or modules or something like that.
Laurie Lind [00:14:54]: That word, “facilitation,” of course that's not one you learn for your state exam in English anywhere in the world. Probably that whole concept, which is very core to what Entrust is all about, facilitated learning rather than teacher student models … how did you feel about that? How did that fit into your understanding of how women or how people learn?
Lasma Asme [00:15:21]: I didn't have any spiritual education and that also was one point what I really wanted. I wanted something to learn and grow spiritually. But that concept was new for me to learn through relationships because everywhere where you were in school or some seminars or conferences always was this teacher and learner method. So it was very new for me.
Laurie Lind [00:15:57]: And new for everyone in Latvia, I would guess, right? I mean, did you think this will never work here or yes, I can see how it could work ? Or, what were your thoughts about that concept?
Lasma Asme [00:16:11]: I'm leading a small group and once we just talked about school and some teachers and I was surprised that everybody have some trauma from some teachers especially sports, music or swimming teacher something said somehow so it is very specific. Maybe not now, our new generations but in time when I learned and previous learn there were very specific way as we learned when you are nothing, you know nothing and teacher is all and they can impact you very strictly.
Mo Blackmon [00:17:04]: There was another interesting hesitation when I was first casting the vision for the training that the leader of women's ministry at that time, she thought it might go too slowly because we focus on training leaders. And one training module basically covers six months with all the preparation that the women do ahead of time on their own. And then we come together for six long days, and then we do a lot of follow up. And she thought, that's too slow. We need more training, more quickly. But I reminded her that this had worked well in Eastern Europe and in Russia and other parts of the world for 40 years and it really was a method that worked well to train the leaders first, who would then become more mature and healthy and able to disciple others. And so she trusted that, okay, let's try this. And it really has turned out that way in Latvia.
Laurie Lind [00:18:15]: Either of you can really speak to this. What is the religious culture of Latvia and then what is sort of the culture among women who are Christians, however you might describe those things.
Lasma Asme [00:18:28]: We have like other data, many Christians because they sometimes were baptized in Lutheran church, but really they don't have relationships with Jesus. So mostly part from those statistic datas just are numbers and not believers. But there are Lutherans and Catholic churches and Methodist church and Baptist churches. So there are Christians but the part of them also are just children baptized or people who are coming to church once in a year or twice in a year. But my circle I would say the woman who I know and that is mostly in Baptist churches but also in different congregations, they are very active, they want to involve, they want to serve, they want to do something to somewhere belong. It is also very important thing, they want to belong somewhere and to grow somewhere. But I would say mostly don't have spiritual education. I don't know is it correct words in English, but it is like very rare part something learned about God's word or spiritual things, very rare. We don't have, like, the very much Christian schools or something like that.
Laurie Lind [00:20:09]: I'm also curious if Latvian women form real trusting relationships, or is it hard for them to form such relationships? Is it a relational culture amongst the women in particular?
Mo Blackmon [00:20:22]: I guess in my experience, Latvians are a little more reserved than we would be in Canada and a lot more reserved than our American counterparts. And so it might take time, it might take years for people to trust one another enough to open up very deeply. But then when people do trust you, then the relationship can go very deep and meaningful from the heart. So that is something I really love and value about the Latvian culture, just the ability to have deep, meaningful relationships and just to go back to the training. That's one of many reasons why I feel addicted to offering this type of leadership training. Because just the way that God shows up in our midst, he allows people to open up and to trust really quickly, unusually quickly, women that meet each other for three days, after three days. And I hear this year after year in our first module that we offer, that they say, “I can't believe I'm sharing this. I can't believe I'm telling you this and trusting you when I've known you three days.” But that's the beauty of Jesus in our midst and a real humble, trusting atmosphere that develops. One other thing I've seen, both in Latvia and in Canada, in the ministry here, is that we as facilitators when we offer the courses, we try and be vulnerable and open ourselves. We're on the same level at the foot of the cross. And so we try and share very honestly about our own pains and struggles and failures and things that we're still learning. And I think that that can kind of prepare the ground for deeper sharing and that I don't need to be ashamed of the things that I don't have perfect and the things I'm really struggling with. It shows that we're here to learn and we're all here to learn and grow. And there's no shame in making mistakes. That's how we grow.
Laurie Lind [00:22:52]: And that would be different than what, Lasma, you were saying how people had these traumatic stories about teachers of music or sports, that when the teacher knows everything and assumes the student knows nothing and the teacher is the authority, that can cause some pain sometimes, whereas this approach, the leader really comes in as a co-learner. Same level. I don't have all the answers. I'm not smarter than you are. You said that there hasn't been a lot of what you called spiritual education for maybe anyone, women or men in Latvia, I don't know, but just both of you, what you were dreaming of. Lasma, you had a thought before you ever met Mo and started this training. And Mo, you had this thought of you wanted to bring this kind of training. What would you say was the need that existed that you felt was there that this vision could meet in some way?
Mo Blackmon [00:23:58]: Well, one thing that I heard again and again both in Latvia when I lived there about 20 years as well as everywhere else I've lived is if I'm leading a Bible study or sharing a devotional from God's word, other people might say oh, that was so good but I could never do that. And I thought, “Yes you can! Yes you can! And God made you to serve him and he gave you gifts and skills and abilities and you were made to do this not just the leaders, but everyone.” That was a real longing and hunger in me to see every woman, every person really set free to be who they are in Christ and to offer their gifts and service so other people can also get to know Jesus and grow spiritually.
Lasma Asme [00:24:59]: Yeah, I just have this gap that my heart is for woman but I didn't understand in what way is it? I'm a mom, maybe for something for moms, maybe. I'm a wife, maybe somehow support wives, new wives or yeah, I really didn't know what is this. And actually in that period I was very dry in my relationship with Jesus. I didn't read the Bible, I couldn't understand when I can do that, I don't have time. I have three kids and my husband was very busy in church and in work. I just wanted do something, but really didn't know what. And I would say that Entrust training, FRL in 2014, ,for me was again coming to Jesus, my coming back, my coming back to Jesus because I loved so much that God's word. I started to love the God's word from zero and when I prepared in summer to this training, I read Walking with Christ and I took it as my silent time. What I didn't had so long time and it was just a breath, give me more, give me more. That is so refreshing for me. So I started to think that maybe it is not support for moms, maybe it is not for wives but my starting point need to be God's word and I think that is a core thing for all Entrust models. Also in my local church the woman's serve to the Lord do very many good things like yeah, many beautiful things but in some point I felt that where is Jesus and, do we need Him? This is just good works. Yes, but it could do also without very close relationship with Jesus. So I think my very deep thirst were for him, for relationships with him. And I think that was a beautiful way how to start up some ministries and some things what we did with women, but start with in basic. Start with relationship with him, time with him, God's word and prayer, because actually, I was really afraid that that training would be some American program and what is only for them in those churches and those big churches. And that wouldn't be about God's Word, but more about some methods and something like that. And I was so happy that after first weekend I just came back and I started a Bible group with woman and just, okay, I can use all this. So nice that it is not something which you can do after four years or no, you can do that after some days and that was very nice for me.
Laurie Lind [00:28:37]: I mean, that's a good thing to mention because it's like so Mo said, Livija wanted something that went faster and Mo, you're saying actually the whole process takes several years, but you didn't need several years before you could begin to use some of what you had learned.
Lasme Asme [00:28:54]: Yeah, after this first weekend on Thursday, I just came to my small group and said, okay, I will use some things what I learned in previous weekend. So that was very encouraging.
Laurie Lind [00:29:06]: So how do we fit that together? Like you can apply something very quickly and you can use it even wherever you are at the same time. Like Mo said, the whole Entrust thinking, the process is quite long. How do we kind of put those two thoughts together in what this training system is all about?
Mo Blackmon [00:29:26]: Well, we offer four different modules that actually build on one another so that women are learning how to facilitate a small group where women can interact with God and with each other. And so those principles are ready to put into place right away, like Lasma did after a few days with her small group. And then we typically give the women take a year now and put all those principles into practice. So then they do that. And then if they're able to, if their season of life allows them to study again, then then we look at deeper issues of the heart and what it means to live a holy life and to root your identity in Jesus and looking deeper into our hearts and the life story to see where God has been active. That's the second module. And then we right away take another year to put that into practice and to sort out things in your life and see where God is and help other women figure out how to really root their identity and what the Bible says about them and on and on. The third course is how to study the Bible from the Bible. Each module offers different skills to put into practice, but continues to build on offering women practice in doing these things and facilitating a Bible study, and in learning from Scripture and talking with other women about hard things and how to sort that out and then how to build a team eventually. So all the skills are available right away, but the whole process of four different modules offered over at least four years can give just a super in-depth ,wide training in all kinds of ways to minister in your church and community.
Lasma Asme [00:31:25]: I would say that yes, you receive the skills or knowledge is what you can already to use. But it is very helpful that you have like a year or half a year when you can reflect things, try things. And look in your local church or place or whenever you are using that you can a little bit reflect on them to understand them and try maybe differently what works better? But if I receive this faster, I think I would be so full with information, with things that in one point I couldn't understand. Okay, what can I use from this? This is so rich and I want to think about more about those things. So I think the way one course in a year, it's very, very good.
Todd Randall [00:32:25]: Lasma Asme of Latvia and Mo Blackmon of Canada watching God bring together a women's equipping ministry that's spreading across Latvia and even beyond. Something only God could do. Join us next time for another story and more lessons from Lasma and Mo. And please be sure to subscribe to and share this podcast with people like you, who want to grow deep in Christ and joyfully walk with others into maturity in him.