Central Asia (MNN) — The word "orphan" often comes with the connotation of a young child, maybe five or six, who has outlived her parents or even been abandoned by them. The picture of a 16-year-old girl doing construction is hardly the image any of us would conjure up when someone told us an orphan was in need.
But orphans do grow up, and as they begin to age out of the orphanage system, life gets more and more complicated.
A missionary with The Mission Society, "Cassie," volunteers at an orphanage with teenage orphans in a Central Asian nation. The scene is heartbreaking.
Cassie says as orphans begin to age out of the system at 16 or 17, the choice is usually made for them to go to a vocational school. Because of their social status, they often get last choice for what kind of a vocational school they attend.
As a result, 16-year-old girls who want to cut hair can end up plastering walls instead. After being overlooked their whole lives, they're placed in professions they have no interest in–a grim outlook for the rest of their lives.
"It really puts their self-esteem down a lot," says Cassie. "So they wind up dropping out of school and falling into prostitution, and drugs, and gangs. And then they're left vulnerable to trafficking. It's just a bad cycle."
Cassie is trying to help break that cycle. She has already welcomed three orphan graduates into her home. The young ladies live with Cassie off and on, coming to her for advice, accompanying her to church, and bringing their friends by to be cared for as well. The girls call Cassie their mom.
It's an amazing testimony of hospitality. These young ladies, who remember being abandoned by their parents as children, are slowly turning their lives over to Christ as they're introduced to more and more of His character. Still, Cassie has bigger plans in store.
"I will be returning to Central Asia in a few months, and it's my hope to start life skills training for these older children–help them learn how to budget their money, to run a household, how to be a good friend, and, most importantly, how to be able to forgive all the things that have been done to them in their lives."
There are plenty of teens who need this training. The orphanage at which Cassie volunteers has 250 children. It's only one of hundreds of orphanages in the nation.
As Cassie plans and continues her outreach to these teens, she says there is one vital need: "There's a need for prayer. You could give so much to these kids, but what they really need more than anything is Jesus. They need to understand how much He loves them."
Pray with Cassie for these orphans to realize they have not been forgotten by everyone, but are precious to the King. Pray also for adoption, which currently cannot be done internationally but can happen within the country. Pray for willing families to open their homes to older orphans and even sibling groups.
The needs are great across Central Asia, and the Lord is using Cassie and other missionaries to meet them. To learn more about the work of The Mission Society's missionaries, click here.