“Only a life lived for others is worth living.”
– Albert Einstein
In Russia, many children in this vast and complex country are “social orphans.” While some have lost parents due to death, many have been orphaned because of alcohol abuse, economic, or other social factors. In many areas of Russian society, orphans are stigmatized and the word “orphan” is often synonymous with “worthless.”
In 1995 my wife Kathy and I started going on short-term mission trips to Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and the Philippines through Capo Beach Church (CBC). In 2005 we were afforded an opportunity to sponsor a child in Russia, and better yet, travel to spend some time with these children. We fell in love with the country and their people. We have continued to travel to Russia with CBC every year since.
On my first visit to Russia, I was walking to have lunch at our first orphanage and I was feeling way out of my element. I was asking God for guidance when a little girl shyly came up beside me and took my hand, looking up at me with such a longing of acceptance that it shook me to my core. It’s hard to explain the innocence of these children in the midst of some pretty tough surroundings. During our visits, we are able to bring a few days of joy, laughter, and love to them. They find out that there are people out there, around the world, who really do care about them, especially when we keep coming back to see them year after year.
The second child Kathy and I sponsored in Russia was in 2006. Lyuba was a gangly 10-year-old who melted our hearts with her personality and quick sense of humor. Thirteen years later…she has graduated University; is married to a great guy, Sasha; and is blessed to have two beautiful children, Nastya and Barbara. My wife and I have a bond with Lyuba that feels like family.
In 2012, Kathy and I moved from California to Idaho. Kathy was diagnosed with MS, and we found that she did better in that climate. Unfortunately, the MS would not allow Kathy to travel on these visits to Russia anymore. I continued to go every year, meeting up with the church team in Moscow. The joy I get from these visits cannot be put into words.
This February the team that I normally travel with was not visiting Russia, and I decided to find another way to visit our friends overseas. In conversations with George Shuffer, he mentioned that Nastya (whom we’ve known for 15 years), was discipling at two orphanages that were in need of sponsorship. I mentioned this to a friend who said that he knew of a church in Lewiston that might be interested in developing a relationship with an orphanage in Russia. Well, I got the ball rolling, getting information on Ostrovskoye Orphanage. After giving the information to the church, they requested a couple of months to think about it.
I really wanted this to go through. Patience isn’t one of my virtues. I belong to a Christian Motorcycle Association (CMA) (a national and international group here in Orofino, Idaho), and our chapter is comprised of about 10 families. I brought up what was transpiring with the church in Lewiston and had a thought of members from our little CMA chapter supporting a little orphanage in Russia if the church thing fell through. Everyone seemed to be on board.
Toward the end of April I was informed that the church in Lewiston felt this was not a good fit at this time. OK……now what?
God kept telling me: YOU can do it.
Me: No, I can’t.
God: YES YOU CAN!!!!
Well, one week later I signed a partnership agreement with Children’s HopeChest to sustain sponsorship for 15 children at Ostrovskoye Orphanage and to visit every year. I found sponsors for all the children. A few families through CMA, my daughter Lori, My mother-in-law Dolly and Kathy (three generations engaged with this one orphanage), and other friends from Idaho, Las Vegas, and California.
God is good.
I will be traveling to Russia at the end of August 2019 to visit …..can’t wait!!!!
“JUST DO IT”
Your community can make a tangible and monumental impact in a community overseas – no matter what your community looks like! Do you have a group of friends who share the same passion for building relationships and alleviating poverty?
Do you belong to a knitting club, an art studio, a softball team, or a motorcycle group? HopeChest’s versatile model provides all of the tools you need to empower your community to be engaged in long-term holistic care for vulnerable children. Learn more about getting your community involved, here > > https://www.hopechest.org/our-approach/