The month of January was specially important for the Sundayschool branch of the ELCL. More than 200 guests attended the meeting and the final presentation of the competition which involved different projects under the title "My birthday gift for Jesus". Most of them were accompanied by parents and Sundayschool teachers. Practically all the participants in the competition came who could afford the expenses.
It seems Christmas was rather long ago, but 366 entries (one for every day of the year) created by the children were on exhibition on January 31 at the ELCL Youth Center on Marstalu Street 10. The children were welcome at the door by the dog Riko, their familiar friend from the fairytale world.
The youth group that praises the Lord from Jesus parish had prepared an unforgettable joyous experience with songs and a singalong. The youth performance was truly excellent and provided some relaxation for the applause reddened hands during awards ceremonies. Everybody who attended the festivities received appreciation and promotion gifts. The teachers also received recognition diplomas from the employees of the Sundayschool department. It is a pitty that not all the invited could attend because travel expenses and lack of transportation prevented the people from distant areas to come to Riga.
The leader of the Sundayschool department Ilze Gulbe addressed the public with great pleasure and remarked that this was already the third year that children were invited to prepare their special gift for Jesus' birthday at Christmas. Every year the number of participants and projects increases. The children still surprise the organizers with their flights of fancy, the variety in sizes and colors and materials of the objects submitted.
Last year the Estonian religious children's books author Lia Kaljuste was the inspiration for this competition. She released her book called A Christmas Story for Advent. Thus commenced the project My Christmas Gift for Jesus. Lia still is active in the Estonian Lutheran Church and her books inspired also the previous two competitions. This year Lia accepted the invitation to come for a visit and participate in the festivities.
"I have been a sundayschool teacher for 35 years and there was a time when it was illegal", says Lia. At that time they were making Christmas calendars out of matchboxes and other household materials. A number of Christmas stories have been gathered in two volumes. Just recently the author celebrated the appearance of her third book which tells about a family's joys and sadness as viewed through catechism.
Lia stated that in her opinion there could be many more Lutheran communities and Sundayschools. There are 165 parishes and about 70% have also school facilities. The collaboration between Latvian and Estonian Lutheran churches is very successful, according to Lia.
"I am quite pleased about the beginnings of our joint ventures. It seems they started with a letter. I am happy about the development of the idea which began with a story and now has turned into a creative competition for children. In Estonia we just have a new book for Advent. In Latvia you have turned it into a very creative project that takes time and effort to complete and at the end you have wonderful festivities. I am very happy that I was invited and could come to Latvia. I will take your example home with me and see whether we can turn it into a competition like yours. It will give the children more time to think about it during the joyous Advent season." Thus summarizes the teacher and author Lia Kaljuste from Estonia.
Photo: Christian books author Lia Kaljuste and pastor Ivars Jēkabsons who is a member of the ELCL Sundayschool commission.
The photo was obtained from the Sundayschool publicity materials.
Translation: Zaija Malda Kēlere