We have been visiting and sponsoring kids in the Vladimir Region in Russia since 2004. In early 2016, we began planning a trip to visit their orphanage, and I couldn’t shake the idea that we should conduct a leadership camp for our graduates. We’ve seen some wonderful young people flourish over the years and our heart’s desire is that they would help other orphans succeed and learn to live independently and successfully.
Through my training with the John Maxwell team as a coach, speaker, and trainer, I realized more than ever how important it was to train new leaders. I spoke to Laura Fisher of Children’s HopeChest about this new venture in my life over lunch early in 2016 and how I would like to share what I was learning in Russia. Much to my excitement, she told me about a group in another region that had started a leadership group and were reaching out to other orphans and in their community. We dreamed of joining these more seasoned leaders with emerging leaders in our region through a two-day seminar when we visited in August.
Our team began planning here while collaborating with the team in Vladimir. By August, we were ready! We had put together the seminar and all arrangements were made for the participants. A bus brought the team from Kostroma and a generous donor funded their stay at a local hostel. God provided every detail, down to the books we gave the participants.
We started out on Friday night with pizza, an icebreaker, and some leadership exercises. On Saturday, we talked about eight specific leadership laws and how putting these into practice could impact every area of our lives. We shared our vision for putting together the leadership seminar and that our dream and prayer was to equip them to equip others, particularly those who were orphans. We also managed to squeeze in a Russian tea party — always a good thing for a break!
The group participated in engaging and interactive discussions and seemed to respond positively. They were a lively group and not at all shy about expressing their ideas. Many said that the information was interesting and useful and something they could apply to their lives. We loved hearing that they had enjoyed the discussions and sharing their own opinions.
In September of 2016, under the guidance of the local staff, a group of young people (one of the leaders had attended our seminar) began reaching out and visiting the orphanage in Kameshkevo where we have visited so many years. Natasha M., the Vladimir Region Sponsorship Coordinator, explained, “We have started doing something new in September. Once a month we take a group of volunteers who are Kameshkovo orphanage graduates to the orphanage so that they can participate in the Life Skills session and share their experience of independent living with the children there. It has been going very successfully. We are very proud of our volunteers. This is very beneficial both for the grads, because they learn to contribute back, and for the kids, because they know the grads well, they trust them and listen to them and their advice very attentively.”
I thank the Lord for the vision He gave to us and for the many people who supported it to bring together this Leadership Seminar and for the fruit that we are already seeing from it. For us, this is an answer to prayer and a source of great joy to see young people we love so much giving back to others.