God’s work in Russian orphanages

By July 3, 2008

Russia (MNN) — Even though American families adopt about 5,000 Russian
children every year, 700,000 Russian orphans still remain. They are required to
leave the orphanages at the age of 16 or 17 years old. After they leave, 10 percent of them commit
suicide, 30 percent commit crime, and 40 percent are unemployed and
homeless. 

God has called one missionary couple–whom we shall call the
Petersons because they minister in an area where Protestant Christian witness
is not welcome–to help some of these children. 
For their first five years of ministry, these missionaries sent by The
Mission Society
struggled with the apathy and hopelessness of the orphans.  

"We've changed our mission statement every month for the
last five years," the Petersons said. They had planned to equip the orphans with skills to help them survive,
but "the only thing the kids wanted to do was to drink vodka and play computer
games."

Sue Fuller ministers to orphans in another Russian
city. 

"They're indifferent about anything that would take just a
little more effort on their part – like studying, or even going with you to
look at different technical schools," she explained. "You get so tired of
pushing them, because you don't want to push them into something that they
don't want to do. But the thing that requires the very least from them is
usually what they'll do on their own, because they feel so hopeless."

Despite the challenges, the Petersons believe they have
finally found the right strategy for their mission field, and they are
beginning to see results. 

"The Scriptures say that Jesus only did what He saw His
Father doing – present tense – not what He saw His Father doing on the first
day of the month and then didn't do for the rest of the month," Mr. Peterson
explains. "Moment by moment, Jesus did
what His Father was doing, and that has become, essentially, our entire
ministry model."

Because orphanage life is so communal, orphans do not think
of themselves as individuals.  They
attach themselves to leaders among their peers, who sometimes develop gangs
strong enough to control entire orphanage. 
When one of these leaders becomes a Christian, he or she can have a
profound influence on the other orphans. 

When Kolya lived in the orphanage, he was exactly this kind
of leader. He terrorized the orphanage,
including all the teachers, so much that everyone backs away from him when he
returns to the orphanage. Now, Mr.
Peterson said, he has become a Christian.

"Kolya walks in and just says, ‘I'm going to do a Bible
study,' and the other kids all choose to come. He commands respect, not just
because of his past inside the orphanage, but also because he's made it on the
outside. Because he's made it on the outside, Kolya is able to come back in and
say, ‘Here's the way: it's Jesus,' and he has authority to do that."

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