Getting Santa and Pavels Kaupere to slow down long enough for a photo was next to impossible. Upon entering the lobby of Arena Riga, the young couple bounced from hugging fellow Festival counselors to “high fiving” friends from church.
Working side by side at the Festival of Hope, Santa and Pavels radiated the love of Christ in a genuine and tangible way to those who came forward and asked for prayer. It’s a love they say was forged in the furnace of adversity.
When Pavels was 18, doctors discovered a large tumor on his brain. “It was too late for surgery because the tumor was so huge,” Pavels recalls. “And the place where it was located was difficult to do surgery because the most important nerves go through there. No one was brave enough to do the surgery.”
His family finally found one surgeon—the best in the Baltics—who said he would try. When asked about the chance of survival, the doctor told Pavels’ parents, “I don’t give a single percent that this guy is going to live. I can just try.”
That moment changed his life forever. Although Pavels initially accepted Christ at the age of 8, he grew up living a double life. “I was one person in the church and a different person in my neighborhood. Even when I was 10 at a Christian camp, I was touched by the Holy Spirit and I experienced His love. I started writing Christian poems after that. But I still was living a double life.”
The day before his brain surgery, Pavels reflected on his life and where he might spend eternity. “I realized I was going to hell,” he says. “I was very upset with that. I was scared, because I went to church and knew that it was possible to go to heaven, but I was going to hell. When you can get the best but you are getting the worst, it really upsets you.”
Pavels starting crying and confessing to God. “The Holy Spirit filled the room and I just said, ‘God, give me another chance.’ I experienced real repentance then because I gave my life entirely to God. I had nothing left. I could just give it all to Him or die.”
When his parents came to visit him before the surgery, Pavels looked his mom in the eyes and said, “Well, God forgave me so if I die, I am now going to heaven.” He was ready to die.
The surgery took 10 hours then Pavels lapsed into a coma for three days. “It took me a year to learn to walk, to eat, to go to the bathroom again and start life all over,” he recalls. “You know, I was 18 years old and I had to start my life all over.”
After his recovery, Pavels dedicated his life 100 percent to God. “I went to Moscow and I gave one year to God by ministering there and then afterward I got back here to Latvia to study in Bible school for another year. Now I’m working too because I have a wife.”
Huddling close together during the interview, Pavels and his wife, Santa, displayed a remarkable tenderness and devotion to one another. Even now, tears filled Santa’s eyes while she listened to her husband describe his surgery and miraculous healing.
She did not know Pavels during his illness, nor did she know Christ. “I was a non-Christian and then one girl who was a coordinator in a Christian camp asked me to be a counselor in the group. I was older than these girls and maybe smart in my school, but I didn’t know anything about God.”
Santa prayed, “Oh, God, please help me to read this Bible lesson because I don’t know anything.” That week she received Jesus as her Savior. Her friend then took her to church–the very same church that Pavels had started to attend. “He had just come back from Moscow. We both were doing ministry for one year, working with youth in our church, working with teenagers. After this one year of ministry, we got married.”
In recent months, the two channeled their energy and excitement into working with the Franklin Graham Festival of Hope in Riga. As leaders of the youth group in their church, they organized a street evangelization outreach. “That has been the best evangelization for the history of our church,” says Pavels, “especially the youth evangelization because it was raining. It was bad weather. Not many people were out there but it was great. I can’t even express that in words.”
The couple also served as counselors during the Children’s Festival on Oct. 23. At another event, Pavels—who goes by MC Paul professionally—rapped and gave glory to God. “We were trying to participate fully, even if it interfered with having our own ministries at the church,” says Pavels. Santa, who works at a pizzeria, handed out fliers for the Festival with each order.
Their efforts bore fruit. Among the many people they each counseled, one young lady shared with Santa that until the Festival, she wasn’t even sure that God existed. “I was so surprised that something was in her heart and she just came forward. She said she has a lot of questions and I explained to her where in the Bible she can read.”
Next year, the girl will be studying in Riga, so Santa plans to keep in touch. “I was trying to find girls my age because I can keep in contact with them. We were also talking about their hobbies and about what are they doing. I’m not just a counselor who’s giving someone a book but I’m also a person who can be her friend and her sister in Christ forever.”
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FEATURED VIDEO: See more of Pavels and Santa as they interact with youth in their home, and watch “MC Paul” as he raps! Scroll up and look on the middle left section of this page.