By Olga Haimi (center, in photo at left), Sunday school secretary, the Congregation of Koltushi, Leningrad Oblast
For many years in our congregation, we have given our Sunday school children (and sometimes also youth) the gift of an Advent calendar. Last year, we even made one with our own hands. That experience brought so much joy to the children, the adults, and the Sunday school teachers, that we wanted to do it again this year. We had planned the design of the calendar and began to prepare. Frankly, it takes a lot of hard work, time, and people to do it, but it’s worth it. To our great regret, this year it was all complicated by the pandemic. Our team of Sunday school teachers and assistants could not get together as some got sick and others had to be under quarantine, and so we were unable to prepare the calendar. More than that, we even had to call off the First-Sunday-in-Advent family celebration. We only announced the divine service and decided to give children who would come to church readymade calendars. Only 4 children out of 40 came.
I really love our congregation. To me, the church in Koltushi is home and the congregation is family. I first came to the Sunday school 30 years ago. I had the best Sunday school teacher, Lempi Laukkonen. Her faith and love for our Lord created such an amazing atmosphere that it made you want to come to the church again and again. And whenever someone got sick and couldn’t come to church, we took it as a tragedy. On Sunday, our children & youth group would even write a letter or a short note to the sick person and passed it to them through someone who lived nearby in order to cheer them up and make them happy and let them know we stand together and we are concerned — “get well soon and come back!”
During the worship service of the 1st Sunday in Advent, I sat thinking why SO many children didn’t show up, because I had hoped we’d have more in attendance. I knew some of the kids stayed home under quarantine because their parents had gotten sick. Others didn’t come because there were many sick people around and they made the decision to stay home. One family with four children had to self-isolate as we found out later. Some of the children got sick themselves. Our dear children could not come to church because of their own or other people’s sickness. So by the end of the worship service I knew: if they were unable to come to the church, the church will come to them—“in order to cheer them up and make them happy and let them know we stand together and we are concerned — ‘get well soon and come back!’”
I don’t really know who felt the happiest about those trips to the homes: the children, the Sunday school teachers or the parents! One thing I know for sure is that it was a real joy in the Lord! A family joy: we stand together and the Lord is with us!
Photo credits: VK page of Irina Makkonen, diaconal worker, the Congregation of Koltushi