New Children Center Consecrated In Latvia
June 28, 2003. Zilaiskalns, LATVIA. In co–operation between the Seventh–day Adventist Valmiera church, Adventist charity organization “Pardaugava” and the local rural district government, new Children Rehabilitaton Center was opened and consecrated in Zilaiskalns.
Co–operation between the Seventh–day Adventist church and the local government started in September 2002, when some Adventists who lived in Zilaiskalns started program for local children who were often left unattended by their parents for the whole day. Lidija Mitrofanova opened her home for the street children, and children had classes and also a meal. Soon her 2–room apartment became too small for 20 children, and local government noticed fruits of her voluntary ministry. While having no funds and resources, rural district government found possibility to give separate apartment for children’s needs. With the help of many private donations and hard work of the Adventist charity organization “Pardaugava” apartment was renovated and on Sabbath, June 28, it was opened and consecrated for children ministry.
There were many children, their parents and people from all over Latvia gathered in the opening ceremony. Church representatives expressed their gratitude to the local government chairwoman Vija Nesterenkova for allocating premises for this Center.
In consecrating premises for children ministry Andrejs Arinsh, Global Mission and Youth departments director of the Baltic Union Conference, said: “Our Father in Heaven, we look at you and we look at the needs here in this village, and we ask your presence and your blessings. We ask that your love and humbleness would reign here, so that this project could prosper and could bring blessing to these children and their families, to be of benefit for this village and our country.”
Addressing all who were present, Vija Nesterenkova, a chairwoman of local village government, said: “This is my conviction that church gives only good to our children, therefore I supported the idea about establishment of such children rehabilitation center. If there were some parents in the beginning who were suspicious what happens in this Center, isn’t Adventists some kind of a sect, now they all have been convinced that in this Center children are taught what they have to know — that they have to respect their parents and all older people, that they shouldn’t steel or do harm to others. Here children learn basic things about God and this world.”
“Any society is only as strong as its next generation. Generation of children is the future of any society. We as a worldwide Seventh–day Adventist church, we put great store working with children. We as the worldwide church estimate over 7 million Seventh–day Adventist young people under the age of 30. All the different countries work in different ways with children, but we make sure we take care of them. But unique thing that we see here today is that Adventist church is co–operating with the local government in this village in caring for children. It’s inspiring to see what they are doing, it’s very good indeed,” said Paul Tompkins, Youth and Family Department director of the Trans–European Division.
“I came here and expected to see many people, but not as many as I found,” said Adventist Valmiera church pastor Vilnis Latgalis. “I expected to see many children, but not as many as I see now!”
Zilaiskalns is a small village with approximately 900 inhabitants near Valmiera city in northern–east part of Latvia. Only about one hundred of villagers work in the local saw–mill. Currently village has two enterprises –– sawmill and peat extraction enterprise, where in 1980–ies worked 350 villagers. After its recognition as insolvent by the court in October 2002, many people lost their jobs and sources of income. Village is also unique with its population: half of the villagers are Latvians; the other half is made up of about 13 different nationalities. When Latvia got its independence in the beginning of 1990–ies, about 50 families moved back to Russia and Byelorussia, and by changing of attitude towards official state language, many Russian–speaking families sent their children to Latvian schools in Valmiera, and thus in the 1996 local government had to close local elementary school, where only 38 children were left in 9 classes. Now primary school is reopened and because teachers are mainly students from the teachers’ training colleges, their style of teaching is on the very high level and school is over–packed. Local government had to open additional class in the nearby standing kindergarten, but because of the financial difficulties school cannot be moved to the next–standing 3–floor school building, which has been empty since 1996. All that is influencing life of village children. Now rehabilitation center gather 30 children, even some teenagers are coming. In the new premises Children Center will provide 4 lessons weekly and will provide one free of charge meal daily. For some children that is only warm food for the whole day. Children Center will also help to provide support for children from the socially disadvantageous families who (until now) were sent to the Crisis Center in Valmiera.
Baltic Union Conference Communication Director