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The Last Day — Great Memories

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Loriane and little girl

Team member Loraine and little girl from Orphanage 2.

What an incredibly awesome trip we’ve had. 29 people with varied backgrounds, ages and gifts. 29 people with one goal — to reach out to needy kids — kids that are considered orphans. Kids marginalized by society. Kids who are loved by God. Kids who need to be loved by Christians.

We traveled half way around the world to share that love. It’s a love that we can recognize because we’ve been loved by someone as spiritual orphans — slaves really. “But God show his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.

As slaves He’s chosen us, bought us, instructs us perfectly, and also calls us ‘friends.’

As we tried to become ‘Jesus’ to these kids we were both loved and hated. While we wanted all the kids

Little boy

What will you do to help?

toparticipate and join us in our activities, the reality was not all did. A few rejected what we had to offer them. Some of us went to them, ‘twisted the arm’ (so to speak) and encouraged them to join us. Some, we actually carried to the VBS, games and crafts.

Isn’t this the picture of what Christ did for us? John 6:44a, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Romans 9:15, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then, it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”

Elya and Chelsea

Elya with team member Chelsea.

As Christians, that’s so humbling. While we were here to serve all of the kids we visited. Not all came. Not all of them heard. Not all of them experienced our love, even though all of them had the same opportunity.

While this trip has been full of miracles (and I mean that), it’s also been a trip full of tears. Seeing young people with no hope at such a young age (humanly speaking) seems unfair. The lack of trust of people is ominous. Their desire to control all situations seems selfish. Their understanding of love isn’t real love.

All of it points to a point that needs Jesus. Apart from Him there is no love. Apart from Him there is not hope. Apart from Him we’re just shifting sands blown by the winds with no direction.

But, I’m comforted by the words of Jesus when he says in John 14:18&19 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”

If you’ve ever considered going on a trip to reach out to orphans, please consider joining an Orphan Outreach trip. There are many to choose from each year. Click here for information.

We’re all orphans, so why shouldn’t we help?

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Today was a day I’ve been looking forward to since I we first planned on coming back to this region last winter. Why? Well, today we were starting to visit orphanages where I had developed a few relationships with the children. Those relationship developed in a few short days. I was hopeful that at least one or two of the children I had met were either still at the orphanage, or they had either been adopted or reclaimed by their family.

What I was about to discover was a bit overwhelming.

We got up at about 7. We had to have breakfast and be ready for the bus ride to Zelenegorsk, Russia. That’s where we’re staging the rest of our visits. The rest of the orphanages we’re visiting are out a camps near the Gulf of Finland.

It was about a 90 minute ride. We drove straight to the camp where orphanage 46 children were attending camp. As we arrived, I started seeing kids that I didn’t expect to see today. We’re were planning to see kids at orphanage #2 on Wednesday.

Greg and Sveta

Greg Yoder and Sveta. We met last year at summer camp. Sveta has two brothers, but hasn't seen either for over a year.

However, first I saw Sveta. She was at #2 last year, but the kids move a lot, so I figured they must have moved her. Then Chelsea about got hugged to death by a young lady she had befriended last year, Elya. She’s now 15. Then Sasha and her brother. All of these kids from #2. I kept asking about the two kids, Nastya and Eleena, who I had taken an interest last year. Nastya, because that’s my daughter’s name. And, Eleena because she wasn’t liked by very many kids.

But, all the kids were telling me that Eleena had been adopted by a family in the United States and Nastya was gone. Nobody knew where she was.

So, in the morning, we spent time playing games with the little ones. I had two little girls, Sasha (11) and Sveta (9) around me most of the morning. We played games, heard stories, sang and just had fun.

We left for lunch. Since we came right to to camp, we decided to check into the hotel, eat lunch, then head back to the camp. Everything went smoothy. And, we arrived back at camp with many children anxious to get started with more fun.

Since we have such a large group, we have to travel in shifts because our bus isn’t large enough to take everyone. Since I was on the first bus, we basically kept the kids busy until the others join us. However, while I was playing with some of the kids, I see Sveta walking into the play area with this very blonde, very fair skinned little girl. I did a double take. It was Nastya.

Greg and Nastya

This is Nastya. She's visited regularly by her parents, but they've lost their parental rights, but won't let them be adopted.

When she saw me, her eyes got really big and ran and gave me a big huge hug. She called me ‘Grug’. I asked her why she was there. Long story short, there were several different orphanages at this camp. There’s was just one. So, not only did I get to see almost all the kids I had hoped to see, we got more than one orphanage at one camp. That means all the more ministry.

The interesting thing about many of these kids, they can’t be adopted. Nastya is just on example. Her mom and dad have had their rights terminated. However, they won’t give up their rights so their kids can be adopted. So, rather than shape up, they continue living the way they do and don’t care about their kids. Nastya’s mom and dad come by regularly. However, they have no desire to get her and her brothers back.

Following our first day at the camp here, we went back and ate dinner, then wrapped up our day with devotions on the beach at the Gulf of Finland.

We didn’t see anyone come to Christ today, but there were seeds planted, friendships rekindled and progress made.

It also made me realize that when you look at it, we’re all orphans. We’re all fatherless, apart for Christ. But, because He loves the unlovely He sent his son Jesus to die for us. As he reaches down and selects us as his ‘slaves’, we become His. He selects us, purchases us, tells us what to do perfectly and makes us His heir. And, not only is he our master, but He calls us friend. What a great place to be.

Keep praying for the team.

You can see more photos of the trip by clicking here.

Click here for today’s video.

Day One & Two — travel day to Russia

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What a day. I didn’t get packed until after midnight. Not unusual. Woke up in plenty of time to finish. While finishing, I realized I forgot to grab the money for the 30 extra bags. So, I did that and still made it to the airport in plenty of time. But, when I arrived, I realized I left the team folder back in my office with all the flight numbers, names of team members, and releases from the organization we’re representing. However, due to a GREAT office manager, she delivered it to me in plenty of time and we’re good.

I needed some spending money, so I went to the ATM machine. Not sure if I couldn’t remember my passport or there was an error, but I couldn’t access my account. It said I didn’t know my password. And, it locked me out. So, I’m traveling to Russia with less than $20. 🙁 I guess I’m on a ‘serious’ budget. I do have credit cards, but I’d rather pay with cash.

The flight left on time, but we were short five team members. They were driving to Chicago to catch the flight from there. Unfortunately, one of the teams members forgot her passport in Grand Rapids. That’s at least a 3 hour drive. We needed a miracle.

One of our team members was able to convince the United Airlines ticket agent to convince an American crew member flying from Grand Rapids to Chicago — to carry the passport with them to Chicago. Last check — they agreed and we’re waiting to see if it arrives on that American flight.

I’ll write more as I’m able. Our flight to Germany leaves at 3:40 (central time).

(Written Saturday)

Everyone MADE it!  Can you believe it?  The pilot on American Airlines was the first off the plane in Chicago. Chelsea was waiting for him. She saw

Silly team members.

Katie and Molly are a little tired after a long frlight from Chicago to Frankfurt.

him and said, “Is that…?”  He said, “Yep.”  Handed it to her and she took off running. She had just 10 minutes to get from L6 to the Terminal 1 to check in. SHE DID IT. Thank you all for praying.

We were on-time to Frankfurt, Germany. Everyone was tired. But, that part of the trip was uneventful. The last leg took off on-time and we arrived on-time (actually about 5 minutes) early in St. Petersburg, Russia.

We all got to our hotel rooms by about 3:00pm and we all showered napped and had dinner at the hotel. It was a buffet style dinner. It was good.

Tonight, we’ll rest. Get up at 7:30ish. Eat breakfast. Then head out at around 9:00am to begin the heart of our trip in Russia.

Heading to Russia

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In less than 24 hours a team of 30 from Mission Network News, WCSG and WAY-FM will be heading to St. Petersburg, Russia.

Greg Yoder with Nastya in 2010.

Greg Yoder with Nastya in 2010 trip.

Our goal is to just love orphaned kids in the region. We’ll be loving them with physical love and affection, but also spiritual love. We’ll be holding vacation Bible school with at least four groups from different orphanages. And, we’ll be worshiping God through it all.

I, personally, am excited about returning as this is the homeland of my youngest daughter. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the kids we met last year and seeing if God will open additional doors to share Christ with those who need a father so desperately.

Pray for God’s protection, wisdom and guidance as we travel there.