Russia (MNN) — There are thousands of organizations around the world dedicated to meeting the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of orphans.
But for those who never receive help as a child, what happens when they grow up?
That’s one question Children’s HopeChest is addressing regarding vulnerable young people in Russia. It provides a variety of services for orphanage “graduates”–mostly ages 16-20–who struggle adjusting to real life.
“For the young people that we’re working with, it seems like either they think of family as something that is unachievable or undesirable because of their negative associations,” says David, a Children’s HopeChest staff member involved in ministry to Russia, “or, for those who do have families…unfortunately their perception of what family looks like is based upon their own imagination, the poor examples they’ve seen around them, or what they see on TV or in the movies.
“We’re trying to present to young people in various forms the concept of family–a very positive, healthy concept of family.”
According to the Russia Ministry of Education, 60% of orphanage “graduates” are unemployed or not in school, while 50% use drugs and abuse alcohol. 60% fall into prostitution just to survive, and 15% take their own lives.
The good news? Through its Ministry Center, Family Center, Independent Living Program, and a Young Mother’s Program, Children’s HopeChest is making a difference.
“In the 20 years that we’ve been in the region where we’re working, those statistics are dramatically lower,” David says. “Crime and prostitution: that’s down to 6% in our region. Addiction is down to 10%. And those who abandon their own children (these are orphans who eventually have their own children): Russia-wide, that number is 30%; but in the region where we’ve been working for 20 years with our Family Programs, that number is 1%.”
Not only are these programs curbing such depressing statistics, but they’re also bringing spiritual healing. Children’s HopeChest works to develop relationships with those who have graduated from the orphanage and share Christ when the graduates show interest. Many are skeptical at first, but over time their hearts soften.
“This young man that I’ve been working with since he was age 16: he, in the early years…was just taking what he could get. There wasn’t any mutuality or reciprocal actions in our relationship,” David says. “But five years into the relationship, he began to see and believe that, “Yes, this guy really does care; he really does love me. He’s not going to go away.’
“Then, over time, he began to express gratitude, express desire for friendship, open up more, be more honest and truthful with me, and…eventually came to the Lord, and allowed the Lord to do an amazing wok in his life.”