Friday, July 11, 2014


It took me less than 15 minutes to find a Latvian best friend.

His name is Kristofers, he's 13, and he lives in a flat about a kilometer from the English Camp we're running here in Latvia. He's skinny, blond, has green eyes, and is one of the most polite teenagers I've met in my entire life.

Photo credit: Nick Luttrull
He speaks three languages; Latvian, English and a bit of German. He had the choice to study German or Russian in school, and he picked German because his siblings both studied it. Speaking of siblings, he has a 20-year-old brother and a 17-year-old sister. The family has a cat and a dog, but Kristofers likes the cat more.

I don't know what cemented the friendship more, his love of Game of Thrones (a bit graphic for a 13-year-old, right?), his love of Breaking Bad, or how after I called myself fat, he said, "You give yourself too hard of time, you are not fat, you are typical American, big-boned."

All he wanted to know was about America. He asked me how much money I made a year, and he asked me if I'd ever been to Disneyland. He asked me about my wife, my kids, and my pets. He said Big Pimpin' was adorable. He asked to see the pictures on my phone. He was in awe of the Christmas lights on my house.

He was my partner in all the games, and during craft time, and during the singing time, where we had to be shushed by the "adults" because we were talking too much.

He told me that he thought everyone in the U.S. had an iPad and iPhone, and how if you had one of those here, you were considered rich. He talked about McDonalds a lot. He likes KFC. He told me he's never tried a taco or nachos and didn't even know what they were, which was the saddest thing in the world to me.

During the song "Jesus Loves Me," as we were doing the hand motions, he looked at me and made the sign for Jesus, which is touching your fingers to the palm of each hand. As he made the sign, he said, "Why is this for Jesus?" Then before I could answer, he said, "Oh! Because he was crucified!" Then he looked at me and said, "Not everyone knows that sign, but lots of people know who Jesus is."

He was insanely jealous of my Flappy Bird score. He's read The Hunger Games and is on the last book. He claimed to have learned English from watching Cartoon Network. We discussed the killing of Oberyn Martell in great detail, grimacing over the disgusting parts. He tried to get me to tell him if The Mountain lives or dies, and I refused.

Photo credit: Nick Luttrull
He loves hockey, but from what I gather, he doesn't play much. He talked about a couple of Latvians winning a gold medal in the Olympics a few years back. He asked more questions about America than I can even remember, and asked if I missed my wife and kids. He was incredulous about the fact that I've been away from my family for four days, but also said he was happy we came back.

He laughed as I struggled to pronounce Latvian words. When we asked where we could find the best Latvian food at, he laughed and said, "My house." Then he walked us to a bistro, which was good, and cheap, which I need, because I'm running out of Euros in a hurry.

He got me with "high-five, down low, too slow," because I am too trusting of a person. His mom is an accountant. He couldn't explain what his dad does in English, but I got that he's the boss of something. I made the mistake of asking if they had microwaves in Latvia, and for that I earned his sarcasm: "No, we have nothing here, we're very undeveloped."

 His definition of a soul: "It's what makes you good or bad. It's what makes you who you are."

He showed me a Latvian tick, which apparently will kill you if it gets in your skin. He explained that you have to get a vaccination every year here in case one of them bites you. He kept asking if the weather was too cold, and I kept telling him it was glorious (it was about 65 degrees this morning).

We packed a lot of conversation and laughs into that three hours. He said he'll be back tomorrow, and he's going to come hang out at our basketball game tonight as well.

Here's the truth: I'm not good at jumping up on a street corner and telling the world about Jesus. I use this blog (occasionally) and I try to use my actions, but that doesn't always work. I don't know that I'll ever be an evangelist or a apologist that loudly and unabashedly shares Christ's love for me from the rooftops.

But I'm good at relationships. I'm good at making people laugh. I'm good at sharing my experiences with you so maybe you can use them as a guide to making your own experiences.

So today, I did what I'm good at. And the payoff is that I've got a Latvian best friend named Kristofers, who might come back to camp to see me, but who will ultimately walk away with a deeper understand of Jesus Christ, who lots of people know, and who took that thing that makes me who I am and turned it into something that's His, something that can help make a difference.

Photo credit: Nick Luttrull