God is working in Russia.
— Rey Diaz · Saturday, March 5, 2022 —
A few weeks ago, I met a young woman who is part of our aging out program in Russia. She’s now married with two kids and one on the way. I asked her how long she had known the staff that serves her and the rest of orphans who have aged out of traditional care.
She smiled and said, “Since the 5th grade.”
When she was in the orphanage, her favorite day was Wednesday because she knew the staff would come to spend time with them and share God’s love as well. Now she meets with our staff in Russia twice a week.
Here is the kicker—it takes 2-1/2 half hours on public transportation for her to get to the program. That’s five hours a day, twice a week. And she doesn’t come alone. She brings her children with her. Plus, she works a full-time job, so this is a major commitment on her part.
So why does she do it?
It’s the same reason the prodigal son comes back to the father’s love. The same reason our older kids come back to visit from college. The same reason my daughter begs me to wake her up no matter how late it is after I return from a work trip.
We were created to be loved. We long to be loved.
As Curt Thompson states, “We are born looking for someone who is looking for us… and we never stop looking.”
For this young woman, who doesn't have a relationship with biological family, our staff is her family. When our young adults face challenges, it’s our team they call. When they are struggling, it’s our staff’s shoulders that catch their tears.
As I visited our Russian program, I saw students learning how to cook, how to chop vegetables, how to properly sit at a table, and how to budget for their groceries. It reminded me about Rob Kenney, who launched a how-to YouTube channel to help those without dads. Rob Kenney has become a father figure to over 2 million subscribers, thanks to his YouTube channel "Dad, How Do I?” —change a tire, put on a tie, or patch a hole. There are so many practical, common-sense basics that children growing up without loving family miss. The students who grew up in the orphanage lack some of the basic life skills. And they lack a safety net when they face challenges and difficulties. This program is a lifeline for these children as they age out. Loving these students means walking alongside them through everyday life.
As Fyodor Dostoevsky said in The Brothers Karamazov, “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams.”
Rembrandt’s famous painting, which we saw in St. Petersburg, captures the moment of the full embrace of love. It’s mesmerizing. And yet, it’s just a small moment in time. What happened after the party? The next day? The next week? The next year? I imagine the father took his son under his wing, full of love and affection, and then taught him how to learn from his mistakes.
Our team in Russia has opened up their arms in love to accept and welcome these children. And then they take them by the hand and walk alongside them as they navigate through their world.
Kids have ups and down. They walk away from God and the program and then find their way back. Just like the prodigal son. Our staff remains the constant—a light shining on a hill showing the way home.
Their love is unconditional. Never fluctuating.
Jesus, who came not to be served, but to serve, is working miracle after miracle in Russia. And the staff in Russia has been serving the orphaned and the vulnerable consistently, constantly, and continually.
Bryan Larson, the chair of the board of Orphan Outreach, said it best.
“I just want to be wherever God is working. And God is working in Russia.”