Former Soviet Union (MNN) — This is the fourth and final
installment of our series on the devastating situation facing youth of the
former Soviet Union.
Of the thousands of children in orphanages across Russia, 84
percent are never adopted by national or international families. Instead, they
remain in the system until they reach the age of 17 or 18 and are forced to
enter society at that point.
Growing up in this system, many kids stop forming
attachments to others at any early age because they have come to realize that these people
will come and go and never care for them as they long to be cared for.
Sixteen years ago, Ari Arfaras and a team from The Mission
Society were teaching Christian ethics and morals in Russia's public school
Working with these kids on a daily basis, Arfaras and her
team started to realize their plight and their desperate plea for attention and
a sense of belonging.
So, they began visiting the orphanages: "It wasn't just
a four times a year, let's come in and see what we can do to help, which is
great thing. But we were looking [at], 'What can we do beyond that? How can we
build relationships with the kids and with the staff that might be different than
just coming in and celebrating holidays? How can we get involved in the lives
of these kids?'' Arfaras said.
Through their regular visits, they hoped they would make an
"Our dream, our goal, was to build relationships that
would last beyond the walls of the orphanage," Arfaras said.
As the Mission Society team showed the kids how much they cared, they also
wanted to show them that their heavenly Father cared even more. However, not
long after this team began their visits, Russia passed a law separating church
and state. Since they were school teachers, they could not openly discuss
Christ unless questioned by the kids.
"Our hope was that they would see Christ living in
us, and then when we would have the opportunity to share with them who He is,
they would say, 'OK, that's what I saw.' And it would be much easier for them
to be able to believe that there's a Father in heaven who
loves them, if there are people around with skin on who [also love them]," Arfaras said.
The team also hoped their testimony and the relationships formed
would last after the kids left the orphanage, giving them a chance to openly
speak of Christ.
Arfaras said it was slow going because many kids left the orphanage,
and they never heard from them again. However, they will not give up hope for
the kids to return, maybe in a moment of deepest need.
Though Arfaras left Russia two years ago, her colleagues
continue the work today.
This October, Arfaras is excited to return to Russia for a
reunion of sorts with the kids who continue to keep in touch with The Mission
Pray for each kid this team reaches and for the
message of Christ to break through the walls they have constructed around their
hearts. Pray that they will realize the "next best thing" out there is not
that great and that Christ is the only person they will find true belonging and
Thank you for joining us for this four part series. Please
continue to pray for these youth who have great odds stacked up against
them. You can read Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3 if you missed them previously or if you would like to impact the future of these youth
through Russian Ministries, Slavic Gospel Association or The Mission Society.