Nearly five years ago, the Lord allowed us to begin an orphanage ministry outside of the capitol city of Ukraine. That experience was life-changing in numerous ways. We were able to raise money for a van, specifically to be used for bringing those orphans nearly an hour away to church. We saw many of them saved, and even took a handful of them to teen camp and saw the Lord do a mighty work in their lives.
We are now living in southern Ukraine, in the Crimean peninsula. There are orphanages all over this country, but specifically in our city of Simferopol we have found one for children from the ages of three to eighteen. Currently, this orphanage houses 33 children.
TEENS AT THE ORPHANAGE
Before I go further, I need to define to you what the term "orphan" means in Ukraine. We Americans think of an orphan as a child who has lost both of his parents to death. In Ukraine, an orphan could be a child who has lost his parents, but many times the "orphans" here do indeed have a parent, maybe even both parents living. When a parent has been deemed unfit to care for his child and there is no one else in the family who can fulfill the parent's role, the child is then sent to an orphanage to be reared by the government. Due to the unbelievably high rate of alcoholism in Ukraine, countless children have been left to the streets, found by police, and placed in these orphanages. Outside of Kiev, we met an entire family of four children who were found in a dilapidated shack out in a field. The parents were unconsciously drunk and the children were looking for food and shelter. The youngest child was two or three years old at the time and the oldest was only nine or ten years old. Sometimes friends or family members will report abuse and investigations will lead the police to find the children being locked in rat-infested basements. So, though many would not consider our Ukrainian "orphans" to be true orphans, many times their lives have been just as scarred as one who has lost both parents.
Last year, a young lady by the name of Nelya moved 12 hours south to our ministry, wanting the Lord to use her in full-time Christian service. One of the things we had been praying about was starting back up a ministry to the orphanage here in Simferopol. In the past Simferopol Baptist Church had ministered to the orphanage, but this ministry ceased for lack of workers. It has been Pastor Bob's desire for quite some time to get this ministry started back up. We felt excited that the Lord was sending Nelya to us especially for this purpose. She is an extremely talented young lady with an incredibly tender heart, and she has basically been in church all of her life and wanted the Lord to use her in a special way. Nelya began visiting the orphanage on a weekly basis, opening the door to our church to begin a full-time ministry there once again. While we were on a five-month furlough last year, Nelya continued going into the orphanage, doing what we could not do due to being away.
NELYA, IN THE ORPHANAGE, TEACHING SOME OF THE SMALLER CHILDREN
When we returned to Ukraine in January, we began renting taxis on a weekly basis to start bringing the orphans to church. We began only with those ages 11 and older, knowing they would need to be trained how to sit properly in a church setting. In the last three months, the Lord has been blessing in spectacular ways, and we have already seen four of them saved. One 11-year-old boy, Victor, who was saved three weeks ago, had been contemplating suicide before his salvation.
The Lord has truly given the dear people of Simferopol Baptist Church a heart for their country's orphans. The joy of this ministry has been to see many of our own church people start attending our "Bible clubs" at the orphanage. Many people have brought bags of clothes to give to them, and several times we have sent our rented taxis away from church and back to the orphanage full of happy children with arms full of goodies. On Easter Sunday, we had an "egg decorating contest," and all of the eggs and candy that were brought in were separated into 33 baskets and given to the orphans for Easter. All of this was done by our church people.
Unfortunately, the money that the government has alloted for their orphanages gets sifted through so many hands, that very little actually ever gets to the director to buy food, clothing, school supplies, bathroom products, and other items for the children. At the present, the orphanage director shared with us that she is only receiving 40 dollars a month per child from the government. This divides into just more than a dollar a day to take care of each child. As a mother of three children myself and knowing the economy here in Ukraine, I would guess it would take closer to five dollars a day to properly take care of these children (and this would be without any "extras"). It breaks my heart to see the scandal that is taking place here, but this is reality all throughout this country.
The orphanage director seldom asks us for help, but on a few occasions she has desperately asked if there is any way our church could help with shoes, clothes, and even laundry detergent for the children. In addition to this, we have helped with some school supplies and even scraps of material for the young ladies who are learning to sew. We have a personal policy never to give money to the orphanage, though we do use what we can from our own pockets from time to time to go out and buy what they need.
A man in our church by the name of Yuri is the director of all of our "Second Hand" (thrift) stores in Simferopol. He has generously offered to let the orphans go into one of his stores and choose some needed clothing. So, for more than a month now, David has been picking up the orphans and taking them, three or four at a time to the thrift store to choose a few needed items. David always comes homes with stories of giddy, giggling girls (and sometimes boys) and their excitement at their "new" clothes.
More than anything, the greatest gap we need to fill in these children's lives is their need of salvation and spiritual guidance. But, we also want to help with their earthly needs as well. I am reminded of the verses in Matthew 25 where Jesus says, "For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not...... Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me."
How I wish I could just adopt all of these children and take care of their every need! But, if you add the 33 in the orphange to my 3, a household of 36 children just would NOT work out! So, please pray for us to have wisdom in how to help these children... that the Lord would provide finances and wisdom in how to help, and that God would direct our every step in leading these children to salvation and training them how to serve Him.
ORPHAN TEENS FILLING OUR FRONT TWO ROWS AT CHURCH
ORPHAN TEENS LOOKING AT A CHRISTIAN MAGAZINE THAT WAS HANDED OUT IN CHURCH