ORPHANS / CHILDREN
Poverty Affects Everyone
Most children are orphans by the loss of a loved one or they become social orphans when the government takes
them away. Roma, Dennis, and Diana are social orphans. They are from a poverty-stricken family, where the
mother could no longer provide for her children. She lives with her live-in boyfriend, but we don’t know if there
was abuse in the home with the boyfriend. All we know is the children love their mother and have high praise
for her; they will not speak about the boyfriend at all. It is unknown if it was poverty or abuse or both, however,
we know that poverty affects everyone – adults and children alike. At the very least, the mother could no longer
provide for her children and social services removed the children from the home.
Roma, the oldest child, is an outgoing boy who rejoices every time he sees us coming to teach our Bible
lessons, love on the kids, and engage in fun/crafts. It is one of the highlights of his week. He attentively listens
and interacts with our staff and has done a fine job of learning the basics of the Bible. We are pleased that Roma
accepted Jesus as his Savior through our ministry. Roma is also very caring and chooses to care for his younger siblings, so they feel loved and secure. This has helped ease the pain of their situation, but it still isn’t ideal, when you cannot be with your mother. When we asked him about his dream for the future, he would like to work by the sea or to become a pilot.
The other brother, Dennis, is very intelligent. He is savvy with the computer and enjoys our Bible lessons. He has a good grasp on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The sister, Diana, is petite and has an outgoing personality. She always welcomes us with open arms, a smile, and loves to sit on either Anya or Lilya’s lap (our SCM workers). Diana is fond of dancing, drawing,
and participating with our crafts. Diana wants to become a doctor in the future, so she can help people. She loves her bothers very much and is thankful they are all together. These children are surprisingly well adjusted considering the traumatic separation from their mom. The kids love each other very much and are there for each other. Please remember all the orphans and hurting children in your prayers, and please also pray that Roma, Denis and Diana will have a bright future. I am glad to report that not everyone one of our testimonies is overwhelming and heart breaking. Yes, their situation is difficult, but they are making the most of a difficult situation. Thank you for supporting our ongoing efforts in Ukraine. Because of your help, we continue to bring the kids the love of Jesus and make at least a small impact for good. We always seek to remember James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Because of the coronavirus’ financial hit to the economy, SCM is down about $10,000 for the year. Please pray for our ministry fruit and our finances. May God’s grace and mercy be with you always!
Down, But Not Out!
Nadezhda Yakovlevna has been living in a retirement facility for several years. Prior to entering this nursing home, her life was filled with much sorrow and trouble. Nadia was born in Ural Mountain region of Russia. When she was 15 years old, her mother died, so she moved to Donetsk, Ukraine (the current war zone) and lived with her father’s family, since her parents were divorced.
When she turned 17 years old, her father had also died. All she had left in this world were her extended family in Donetsk. But the living conditions were so horrible, she left their home and moved to Kharkov, which was a huge risk because she was all alone in this world with nothing to fall back upon in an emergency.
Through the years, Nadia married twice, but both men were abusive towards her due to their alcoholism. She had two sons who died as adults (for reasons unknown to us). Then seven years ago, all of her early possessions were lost when her house burned to the ground. The government placed her in a hospital for five years, since she didn’t have any identification papers. It took five years for the Russian government to send the necessary documentation, so she could leave the hospital! Because of her age and health, the Ukrainian government sent Nadia to this nursing facility, where our ministry met her for the first time. As you can see from the photograph, she is battling a cataract in her left eye.
One of the few blessings in her life is our Bible lessons -- she loves participating and learning the various Bible teachings. Despite everything that has happened to her, Nadia has never lost hope and is full of optimism. She always prays with us and looks forward to our teachings.
If Nadia can have hope, despite everything she has had to endure, how much can we have confidence, as redeemed children of God. This Thanksgiving, I hope that you will keep your “eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its share, and sat down and the right hand of the throne of God to intercede for you” (Hebrews 12:2, my emphasis).
Thank you for everything you have done for our ministry and family. Please pray for Nadia and all those we serve in our various ministries that are not as hopeful as Nadia.
Dasha Dreams of a Doll
The photo above is Dasha, a 16-year-old, mentally disabled girl that we serve throughout the year. She has lived in a disabled children’s facility for many years now. We met Dasha about three years ago, when we expanded our outreach to include orphans and disabled children. She is very shy girl, but she always greets us with a smile and a hug. Dasha has been diagnosed with a mental disability, but she is very loving, kind, and has a phenomenal memory for names, people and animals; she remembers details with amazing clarity. Dasha does have adoptive parents, but they only visit her in this facility on occasion. She loves our Bible classes, enjoys our craft time, and loves to learn as much as she can about Jesus.
Dasha is the type of child that has an open spirit to our loving God. I believe there is a special place in God’s heart for kids like Dasha.
Because of her disability, Dasha doesn’t have any specific plans or goals for the future, she might not even understand what the concept of the future means. When asked about her future dreams, she answered: “I dream about having a doll.” Dasha is a sweet girl and such children always touch your heart. She is very gentle, kind and transparent, with a beautiful smile! There isn’t much we can do to help Dasha’s future, except share the love of Christ, educate her on how much God loves her, and give her a sense of value and self-worth. Please pray the Dasha will be able to have a stable and wonderful life, despite her disability. I am encouraging our director to buy Dasha a doll this Christmas!
Sasha’s Prayer Is Not to Be Rejected
Sasha (to the left) is a very outgoing and polite boy. He is 14-years-old and he is a student in the ninth grade. Even though he is still very young, he has already experienced betrayal by those closest to him. His parents abandoned him and sent him to an orphanage (for reasons we are unaware of), his foster parents rejected him after he was adopted, and now he is trying to bond with a new foster family, but he is obviously nervous.
In spite of all this personal rejection, Sasha remains positive and continues to see the best in everyone. His dream for the future is to study diligently at school and become a chef, so he can feed the hungry and the poor. Sasha loves to learn his Bible and he is a good participating in our classes. We have taught him how to pray to God and have a close relationship with Jesus. He now prays that he will not be sent back to the orphanage and this new foster family will keep him. So far, God has answered his prayer – his new foster family is enjoying Sasha very much and bonding well. Sasha conveyed to us that he loves his new foster family! Please pray for this wonderful young man and that our loving Savior will now place him on a wonderful journey the rest of his life. Pray for his emotional protection and that God will guide him every day.
Friends, when we are introduced to kids like Sasha and Dasha, it really puts into perspective why this ministry exists – to give the hope of Christ through our love, efforts, and biblical teaching. But more than this, it really makes me appreciate how much God has blessed us too. While we thank God for family, friends, employment, etc., children like Dasha dream about having a doll and Sasha prays just to not be rejected. As we reflect upon Christ’s birth and why he came to earth, we can also be thankful that Christ receives us and doesn’t reject us. Here are two Scriptures to give you comfort this Christmas:
Isaiah 49:15, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
SHOES, BUT NO HOME
One of the children who has blossomed in his Christian faith is Maksim, who we reported on a few years ago. At the time we met him, he was a disturbed child. He grew up in a large and very poor family, where his parents attempted to provide for their children, but they could not afford the most basic necessities, like food and clothes. Because of the stress of their living situation, Maksim’s parents became violent, so Maksim ran away from home barefoot at 11 years old. Eventually, the police found him and he was deported to the orphanage where we met him in 2017. Over the past two years, our Ukrainian team has invested in him, loved him, listened to him, prayed for him, and tried to bless him every time we visited the orphanage. Maksim invited Jesus into his heart during our Christmas program in 2017.
Maksim remains at the orphanage, while his other siblings live at home with the family. He now has shoes, but longs to be reunited with his family. His family situation has improved, but the parents gave birth to a new child and there is no room for him at home due to their limited space (the family has nine children). I cannot imagine what this must do to his emotional state and feeling of abandonment.
Nevertheless, when we see him, he is joyful, enjoys our visits, and receives personalized attention from us. He is always active in our Bible discussions, participates in making crafts, plays games, and helps out with the other kids. He looks much more adjusted than when we first met him two years ago.
Maksim’s desire is to become a carpenter and be able to provide for himself, as well as, to find a local church to attend and have fellowship with other believers. Please pray for this boy to remain close with Jesus and that he will have a better future, because it doesn’t look like he is going to be invited home any time soon.
In America, we can get so caught up in buying presents, enjoying friends and family, and participating in holiday festivities. For Maksim, all he wants is to go back to his family and enjoy everyone’s company. That isn’t the case, so he hopes that he can be self-sufficient and join a local church at some future date. If you are willing, please pray for Maksim and all the children who can’t go home this Christmas.
This season, it is our hope that you will enjoy our Savior, your family, and your church community. Here is a
Scripture to encourage you: “When the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman … and he sent him
to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children”
(Galatians 4:4,5 NLT).
In our last prayer letter, I was very discouraged because the government was not allowing us to help orphans transition out of the orphanage and into public life. After discussing the situation with our Board of Directors, staff in Ukraine, and a couple of denominational leaders in Kharkov, we decided to pivot away from helping orphans after they graduate from the governmental facilities. Instead of trying to save children as they come out of the orphanages, we are now working to upstart or partner with as many “kid’s clubs,” as our budget allows. Our focus will be to serve and educate children with the gospel message in several communities that are attempting to reach children from secular families, whose children don’t attend church and come from challenging home lives.
We decided to partner with the Baptists, Pentecostals, and non-denominational churches in giving Christian education, supplies, monthly food packages and clothing to the neediest families. The aim is to keep some of these children from ever entering the orphanage in the future. We are also going to engage in a pilot program to counsel parents in one location and see the positive results from this interaction too. We are doing this because in Ukraine, if families cannot provide the basic necessities for their children, the government will take them away and place them in orphanages. The aim is not only to introduce children to Jesus, but also to invest in families before it is too late.
We have partnered with the Pentecostals with 4 kid’s clubs, Baptist with one kid’s club (but with half of our budget in this one location because of our extensive work here), two kid’s clubs with non-denominational churches, and I have tasked my Ukraine director to find two more locations, most likely with Baptist Churches.
We are still working in our orphanage and disabled children’s locations (as you can see in the photo above) – that has not changed. But due to Covid-19 lockdowns, we thought it prudent to focus heavily on these kid’s clubs, so we can continue our efforts unhindered, since the government continues to block access to the kids, based on covid variants, etc.
Here is one testimony from a few months ago from one of our employees who heads up four kid’s clubs with the Pentecostals (we encouraged them to begin two in 2020 and now we are up to four in this town about an hour from Kharkov):
“In March we continued to work with children in the kid’s clubs. We were warned that lockdown could start again as more people are getting sick; that’s why we did our best to minister to the children as much as we could. Many materials were purchased to make the lessons better and more understandable.
The children from one large family came to the kid’s club and we have built great relationships with them. A few days ago, their mom called us crying and asked for food because she had nothing left in the home to feed her children. It’s hard to hear these stories, but unfortunately such cases happen here in Ukraine. We worked with this family because the parents are alcoholics and have not taken care of these innocent children. In the future we plan to restore a couple more kid’s clubs (which are now functioning at the time I am writing this prayer letter). We are not sure that everything will work out, so we ask you for your prayers.”
In the short testimony above, the denomination paid for the food and supplies, where we pay for the salary of our employee, but this is changing for all locations beginning this month or next month. I am pleased to announce that our employee, Nikolai, who wrote this testimonial is now heading up and four very active kid’s clubs and using volunteers from a local Christian college to help out with these groups.
Three more kid’s clubs are launching this month or have already launched and we are in the process of seeking out two more Baptist churches to begin kid’s clubs too, as I stated above. If you would like to make a specific donation to kid’s clubs that goes above and beyond your normal giving (since the budget is set for 2021), please designate it on the check and we will use this money for additional resources for needy families – specifically more monthly food packages, clothing, and other emergency needs.
WHEN ARE WE RETURNING BACK TO THE CELEBRATION?
One day the mother with five children came to our ministry. We quickly discovered that social services directed them to us because the father was mistreating the children. The mother, named Elena, who divorced her husband, brought her children to us for physical and emotional help. But the mother was very concerned after learning that we are a Christian organization. She was afraid that we were some sort of weird religious cult, since she comes from an atheistic background.
We were very concerned that this family would not last very long because of how concerned the mother was about us being a Christian organization. After a few conversations with the mother, she admitted, “I personally do not believe in God, but my children should hear about God from someone.” When she expressed more of an open spirit, we knew that we had an opportunity to show her that we are faithful Christians trying our very best to convey the love of Christ to her and her children.
As time went by, the mother began listening to our Bible stories, learned about our Christian beliefs, values, and has discovered many biblical truths – so much so, that she became an active participant in our discussions and asked many questions every week. Things changed so dramatically that her attitude went from being antagonistic towards us to becoming that family’s weekly highlight. They are now coming with a spirit of joy, expectation and excitement. The children keep asking their mom, “When are we going to the next celebration?” They have not accepted Jesus into their hearts yet, so please pray that God will continue to heal them emotionally and spiritually, and that they will accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior very soon.
Please continue to pray for our ministry team as they serve so many children in our kid’s clubs, disabled children’s centers and in the orphanage we serve. The kid’s clubs and disabled children’s centers are operating well, but the government is giving us difficulties with being able to serve the orphans (because we are Christian). Please also pray that the doors will remain open for us here too, since we have worked at the orphanage for many years. Your intercessory prayer is very important to us, because Christmas will be here soon and this is the time when we ask the children to accept Jesus as their personal Savior (at Christmas and Easter). We need to remember that “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 5:6). This battle is real and we battle against it continually within any of our touchpoints with the government.
This Christmas, I am reminded that we are ready for God to make all things new within this fallen world. Revelation 21:1-5 states, “I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ 5 He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”
As we await Putin and Russia to decide if their 100,000+ troops at the Ukrainian border is just an act of saber rattling or truly an offensive move, we all look forward to the time, when Christ rules this earth and the nations will no longer prepare for war (Isaiah 2:4). We look forward to Jesus’ second advent and making all things new. Maranatha, come Lord Jesus!
In this letter, I would like to share with you how children in Ukraine truly need God’s intervention, because there is no quick solution to their circumstance. Here are four brief testimonies of children we serve in one of our kid’s clubs:
WHAT WILL THEIR CHRISTMAS BE LIKE THIS YEAR?
“Hi, my name is Julia. I am 15 years old and I live with my mom and four other siblings. My dad doesn’t live with me anymore, because he used to beat me and my brothers for no good reason. My mom couldn’t put up with the constant mental and physical beatings too, so she eventually left him. I am the oldest child in the family; my youngest brother is only one year old, so my mom can’t work because she has to provide for him. I can tell you that the kid’s club is a wonderful escape for me – thank you SCM.”
“Hello, my name is Vlad and I am 14 years old. About nine years ago, when I was only 5 years old, my mother was put in prison for murdering my father in self-defense. My younger sister and I have lived with my grandmother for a few years, but now we are back with our mother, who was released from prison. Because our mom works so much, she hardly even sees my sister and I. Thank you for this kid’s club, it helps us to escape from our difficult situation.”
“My name is Darina and I am 12 years old. I have four siblings and I am the oldest child. My parents can’t seem to find stable jobs, so it is difficult for them to provide for us and I doubt we will have much of a Christmas this year. I want to thank SCM and Living Hope Baptist Church for helping us with food and clothes. We really like coming to these kid’s clubs too. Thank you very much.”
Hello, we are Anya and Katya, we are 11 and 10 years old. There are a total of 7 kids in our family, but two of our older siblings are already grown up. There are five of us still at home. I am sad to say that my brother has brain cancer and he has had a few surgeries and still needs more. My family doesn’t have the money to pay for all of his needs and we are so sad about this. My dad can’t work full time either, which makes it even harder. We know that our dad is doing his best, but we don’t get much time with our parents because of my brother’s needs. We are so thankful for this kid’s club because we learn about God and feel loved and appreciated. Thank you.”
Heartbreaking stories like these are why the kid’s clubs were created. We are trying our best to partner with our Ukrainian counterparts in an effort to save these children from being placed in orphanages.