Russia (MNN) — Fallout over the "tit for tat" adoption ban in Russia continues.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., joined with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., to sponsor a non-binding Senate resolution, unanimously approved last week. It condemned the new Russian law banning U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children and called on President Vladimir Putin and the Russian leadership to reconsider the measure on humanitarian grounds.
The Russian prohibition is widely believed to be retaliation for the Magnitsky Act, which imposes U.S. travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia. It was named for Sergei L. Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was arrested after attempting to expose government tax fraud. Amid allegations that he didn't get proper medical care, he died in prison in 2009. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law last month.
Estimates from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) show that there are some 740,000 children living in Russia without parental care. It also cited data from the Russian Ministry of Science and Education affirming that 110,000 children live in state institutions in Russia. They're not the only ones affected by the ban.
Joel Griffith with the
Slavic Gospel Association says, "There were a number of American families, actually, that were in the middle of adopting Russian children and basically, it just slammed the brakes on those adoptions." The outcry has been ongoing from advocacy groups, too. "It's got a lot of politicians concerned that this is going to have a long term chill on U.S.-Russia relations. It's just a really tragic situation."
Griffith notes, "We did have a move by the Russian government that was announced earlier that they were going to transition into a foster home program. That's certainly going to take a lot of time if they head in that direction, and we don't how much progress they're going to make on it."
There are also questions about how an already over-taxed child welfare system will respond to tens of thousands more children. "Obviously, with adoption from Americans being shut down, it still leaves us with an enormous number of children that are going to need outreach and ministry of some type and this is really probably the only way that they're going to hear the Gospel."
This makes the SGA-sponsored Orphans Reborn* ministry all the more vital. Griffith explains, "SGA is involved in a ministry known as ‘Orphans Reborn.' That is primarily a program that is intended for Russian children that are in Russian orphanages…. We can help local churches be able to get into these children's homes and minister the love of Christ to these children."
More specifically, several state-run orphanages are allowing local missionaries and church workers to come in and share Christ's love with their children. These faithful church workers are loving, nurturing, discipling, and teaching these precious children about the love of God and the hope of the Gospel.
Over the last 11 years, church workers have been resourced with the tools they need as they visit orphans and develop relationships with the kids. They give the children Bibles, provide emergency food and clothing, and disciple those who choose to follow the Lord.
Even better, it's not just the church workers who are involved. The program is filled with volunteers who are concerned about the spiritual well-being of orphans and orphan graduates. Many who are involved with Orphans Reborn are hosting small Bible studies in which the Bible is taught alongside important life skills for orphan graduates.
Each $60 gift makes it possible for a trained Orphans Reborn worker to reach one of these precious children with the Gospel for an entire year, plus a special outreach at Christmas. This outreach of both discipleship and evangelism is conducted every month throughout the year, even in the harshest winter storms, and usually they are able to minister to these children on a weekly basis.
Is there recourse on the ban? Child advocacy groups haven't said. Churches can't say. "Russian churches, by and large, try to avoid involvement in politics. They really try to focus on their ministries because if churches get too involved in political matters, then that makes them targets."
So what can be done? Griffith reflects on the possibilities. "Prayer is the number one option, but we would also advocate certainly for governments to raise their voices in concern and remember that the children are at the center of this. The children have the needs."
*Orphans Reborn is connected with local churches throughout Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Belarus and Armenia. Please see the Orphans Reborn section of SGA's Web site to find out more about how you can help!