Next Gen Leaders: Edgars’ Story
Amy Nickerson | August 2014
Edgars Deksnis comes from a Baptist family in Latvia. When he fully committed his life to following Christ at the age of 20, God began giving Edgars leadership opportunities at church and youth group. Today, he and his wife Anete, and their newborn baby, live in Riga where they serve with Fusion, JV’s music ministry, and have recently started a church plant.
Q: What was your relationship with God like growing up?
A: Honestly, I knew there was a God since my birth. My parents always took me to church. I come from a Baptist background. Of course, when I was a child it was easier. When I became a teenager I started saying, “No, thank you.”
But I saw that there were certain situations where I needed to go to church because my father believed it was the most important thing, at least on Sundays.
Still, I didn’t really get excited about going to church. It was more of a social club, but I didn’t really like the people there. It wasn’t for me.
I knew about God from childhood, but because I went to church I thought I was a Christian. I didn’t see any problem with me just living life and being a good person and then going to heaven.
Q: When did that relationship start to become more serious?
A: In 2005, when I was 20, there was an American team that came to do a summer Bible school program for people in my area. They needed help with translating so I became one of the team members. Every day I was hearing stories about God and Jesus, and it came to the point where I was thinking, “This is something new for me. I haven’t heard this.” Or maybe I had heard it before, but hadn’t really been listening.
Through talking with the leaders there, I realized I had a problem. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I liked to party and then on Sunday I needed to be this soft guy. It was a double-identity problem.
That was the crucial point. God showed me the way He could change my life. I saw that I didn’t need to be ashamed of what I was doing on Sunday and that I could live as a Christian the rest of the week too.
Q: How did you get connected with Josiah Venture and what role did JV play in your life?
A: After that decision, in 2006, my pastor asked me if I would consider being a youth leader in the church, and I said yes. Then after a while, Josiah Venture told me they were doing a school of leaders to train young leaders from churches, and they invited me to come. So, those were the first steps for building up youth ministry and the first time I got to meet people with JV in Latvia.
The most significant role JV played was that they encouraged me in leadership. At that time, I was ready to follow Jesus wherever He was going to lead me, but I honestly didn’t know how that would be. I saw that God was challenging me to be a leader, not just someone who loved Jesus, but someone who would lead others in different ways. I think that was how JV impacted me the most. There has been a lot of growth in my leadership because of the organization.
Q: How did you personally get involved with JV?
A: In 2008, I got to know Kelly Hargan, the Josiah Venture country leader in Latvia. We started meeting regularly to talk about youth in Latvia and my vision and JV’s vision for Latvia. It was a big blessing to meet with him and be able to talk about what I was doing in the church.
He got to know me and my ministry as a youth pastor in Riga. Then one day he said that a Fusion group, part of JV’s music ministry, was coming from the Czech Republic, and he asked if I would be willing to host them. I said okay. Afterwards, JV asked if I would consider Fusion to be a good tool to reach Latvian youth. I said for sure. And then they asked if I would be willing to do the first Fusion camp in 2009.
That fall, after camp, I officially joined JV.
Q: What is your role on the team now?
A: We started Fusion in 2009, and after that my main role was to lead the local Fusion. In 2010 we did two Fusion camps. In the same year, another Fusion project started, and Kelly asked me to lead the Fusion movement in all of Latvia.
We got to the point where there were more and more Fusion choirs in the country, and in 2011 we saw that in our local Fusion there were 10 or more people who had said they wanted to follow Jesus. We saw that our ministry needs to be about how to invest in these young people’s lives and then support and encourage them as they walk with Christ.
One of the key things for JV is that we want to see young people impact and change society through the local church. If young people don’t find their home in the local church then it doesn’t make sense. It goes against our vision.
We realized we needed to start something new so that the youth from Fusion would be more connected to the church. So in October 2011, we started a church plant. Now, I’m focused on building up this local church to be a healthy home for students.
My main role right now with JV is working with Advance in Latvia, to discover this unknown road of planting this church in Riga with the help of local young people, to equip and train them not only to make them believers in Jesus’ message, but to make them followers of Jesus Christ. Disciple-making is one of our key values and we can already see the fruit.
I’m also serving on the JV Latvia board.
Q: What excites you most about JV’s vision and what God is doing in Latvia?
A: I think the best thing is that JV focuses on young people. In Latvia, older people still remember the time of the Soviet Union and are maybe afraid to dream or take risks in certain ways. The young people, who were born into a free country, haven’t experienced the Soviet Union times and now youth have much more freedom than in the past to do whatever they want.
That gets me excited because I do believe that young people are not our future, but they are our today, our present. My heart is for the young people and seeing their lives changed and how they impact others.
As Edgars and the rest of the JV Latvia team work to raise up more next generation leaders in churches, please pray that God will give people the passion and willingness to dream big about His kingdom and take bold steps to follow Christ.