Liepāja Church of the Cross congregation (Krusta draudze) and the people at the Diaconal Centre

Saying farewell to Mārtiņš Urdze

Don’t be afraid, I have rescued you. I have called you by name; now you belong to me. (Isaiah 43:1)

The problem with society today is that there are no longer any role models whom one might wish to emulate. Eventually one always experiences or discovers something unpleasant: selfishness, greed, deceit, envy, impudence, malevolence, hypocrisy, lust for power…

But with you, Mārtiņš, it was different. The longer and better one got to know you, the more your simplicity, sincerity, serenity, humbleness and modesty were revealed. You had time to stop and show respect to those whom others hurriedly and even gladly pass by. You knew how to see those who are in pain, those who are struggling. You had the courage to tell the truth and fight against injustice and falseness, and you encouraged others to do so as well. You were not interested in hierarchies and outwardly ostentation. You tried to lessen the boundaries between those who have power and the simple people, thus making room for listening, hearing, kindness and humanity. The main thing was to notice the “small person” and see something good in everyone.

We rarely sufficiently appreciate those who come from within our midst, and therefore it is a joy and pleasant surprise to receive the following kind words from our partners in the SEMPRE Accelerators project:

“We are all very happy to have had the opportunity to get to know Mārtiņš, the nicest person you’ll ever find on the planet. In our small world of European projects and European Union financing, I think one rarely encounters a person who cared so little about money but instead focused on change and implementing change in people’s lives. We are very sad to learn that he has left us, and we can only imagine what this means to you and your colleagues as well as the people of Liepāja who worked with him every day.”

You, your character and your work have been so highly valued by the international community in Germany, Denmark, Lithuania, Estonia and Russia. The Empowerment Handbook, which you worked so hard with others to create, will also be dedicated to you.

We are in fact still getting to know you through the many letters and telephone calls offering sympathy that we continue to receive:

[..] I learned that the pastor was coming along as well, and I was worried, because I thought that we’d have to listen to talk of God the whole way! [..] he did not impose on me any ideas regarding religion and God! He allowed me to engage actively and arrive at faith on my own terms and in my own time!”

“He wasn’t one of those ‘typical’ pastors who postulate about what and how would be CORRECT; he always suggested that one listen to oneself and trust in Christ. That is exactly how I’ll remember him – superior to everyone else precisely because being superior was never his goal, he achieved it through his goodness and sincerity! [..] he fought many battles because he stood his ground, did not give in and remained true to his church and congregation. He often had his own view of things and thought differently from other churches. What I felt with him was something I had never before felt from other pastors – he always preached love, tolerance, patience, acceptance. Instead of intimidating and frightening with verses from the Bible, he gave strength by locating specific words and phrases from the Bible and interpreting in the right way. That is a great art.”

“He is my only true friend, who accepted me as I am.”

Many have stated that, even if they only met you for a short time, they felt you left something of yourself and your sincerity with them.

You did not judge, you did not hold grudges, but you did have compassion and concern for others. I cannot express in words what we felt when we witnessed a man confined to a wheelchair weeping as you and two others carried him down the stairs from his 4th-floor apartment so that he could finally, for the first time in four years, escape those four walls to attend an event and spent time with other people. None of us who saw that man’s eyes and tears will ever be able to forget it.

As we live in our own warm, cosy dens, it is amazing how blind and deaf we are towards one another and those who live around us…

You were a genuine man of God. Thank you for what you taught us – not with a raised finger but by your example. Thank you for giving us the courage and confidence to begin changing ourselves and at the same time also the things around us.

God puts each of us in our intended place and time on this earth. What we do with the time given to us – what we fill it with, what decisions we make – that is left up to us.

You always said, “We have to move on.” As we run around living our lives, we will often have to pause and wonder what you would have done in our place. Does what we do bring joy to you? As we keep in mind your appeal –Now you are living stones that are being used to build a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5) – we say thank you to you, Mārtiņš! May our sincere thoughts and love accompany you on your bright journey towards eternity. We still need to work a while on this side of heaven and continue the work you began, but we will meet you again!

So, until we meet again, goodbye dear Mārtiņš!

Liepāja Church of the Cross congregation (Krusta draudze) and the people at the Diaconal Centre