Humanitarian Aid to Russian Orphans and Children in Need

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June 2009

As we approach our ten year anniversary of Treasures of the Heart, we had an amazing adventure in Russia.  The weather was tailor made for this trip, each day we had outstanding blue skies.

As always, the luggage was our first battle.  Most of the team took the opportunity to visit Normandy and Paris for 6 days while on our way to Russia.  We did not find out until after the tickets were book, the flight from Paris to Moscow would not be honored as an international flight.  The weight allowance for international travel is 2 bags at 50 lbs each for a total of 100 lbs per team member.  One bag belongs to the mission while the other is a personal bag.  The domestic allowance drops to 44 lbs per team member. 

This was a ministry bag killer.  We approached the airlines and after going up the chain of command, they allowed us 97 "free" pounds of luggage.

We had to rethink what was important for the ministry.  We had purchased a "ton" of teaching instruments and a European keyboard, 2 "tons" of donated instruments, a baby doll for each orphan girl, and a back pack for each boy.  We were already over weight and we had not shopped for the sick kids in the hospital.

It was heart-breaking, but the sick kids had to be dropped from the luggage.  The quality of the gifts had flung the door open for us to minister to the kids and parents.  We are allowed floor by floor, room by room access to the kids and their parents.  We could not show up with cheap Russian toys, therefore we would have to get creative.

Donna and I shared a suitcase and Stephanie and Richard packed together.  By doing this, we had an additional 88 pounds.  But we were still overweight. 

We had two team members who would be in transit, their luggage should be checked all the way through from Houston to Moscow, but wait, Air France an Lufthansa do not play well together, so no, they would have to collect their luggage in Paris and recheck in for the next flight.  It seemed we were blocked everywhere we turned.

We arrived 8 hours early at Charles de Galle airport to meet the girls flight and to plan our battle strategy.  Of course, they came in at Terminal 1 and we were departing from Terminal 2.  Does not sound like a big deal, but T1 and T2 are "miles" apart.  The team babysat the mounds of luggage while Stephanie, Donna, and I went to meet the girl's flight.

The team was united at T2, we prayed for God's provision, and girthed our loins to make our assault on the counter clerk at Lufthansa.  Donna found a supervision looking person and "innocently" asked where our group could check in.  He looked around and found us an "angel" at the last counter.  There were no other agents around, it was as if she was waiting for us.

Fast forward to Vladimir....

Day One:

Shopping and Home Visits:  The home visits are always a highlight.  We have used several avenues to select which homes to visit, churches and other ministries have made our arrangements in the past.  This time we just asked Lena to find us homes.  Her selections will become important later in our trip.

The teams split into 3 groups:

  1. A single mom and grandmother where the toddler was recovering from cancer.
  2. A single mom who had just lost her arm to a blood clot.
  3. A family with four children and a VERY ill infant.  She had spent 4 out of her 5 short months in the hospital.

The morning of the home visits, each team was given rubles to purchase whatever the Lord lays on their hearts to take to the homes.  Everything from staples, treats, cleaning supplies, and toys.  Each team found they were at the right family for the right time. 

Dr. Tanya Goldbeck, Jennifer Bohrer, Jordan White, and Alyssa Schuldt visited the child with cancer. The girls played with the toddler while Tanya shared her gift of counseling with the mom and grandmother.  The grandmother lost a very good job because of all the time it took to care for the sick child.  She was helped them with the unrealized grief they were both burying.

Angela Pickering, Mary Ann, Laurie, and Sue Harris visited the mom who had just lost her arm.  Three of the team just experienced great lose in their lives which they could help this mom.  In doing so, she excepted Christ!  Yuriy Shagin has been visiting this lady and he said she has never been this open. 

Bud and Barbara Liming, Joseph York, and Richard Blackstone visited the family with 5 kids. They were able to be grandparents and big brothers to a family in pain for their baby.  For a short time, their thoughts were redirected to the other children.  Sadly, the baby passed away one week after their visit. 

This ministry is always such a reality check for our teams and for the families visited.  Our team can see the hardships of being a Russian family (most live in one bedroom apartments) and the families get to see, yes, even "rich Americans" have everyday trials, lose, deaths and disappointments.  When they learn Christians live with a peace only God can give, they are open to the Good News.

Day Two:

Barskoe Gorodische and 3 days of Vacation Bible School:   

Seasons... Solomon told us about these.  Ecclesiastes 3:1  To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven...

It seems that every time Treasures went to Barskoe Gorodische, we felt as though we had finished our work. Seasons come and seasons go.  As of our Christmas trip of 2007, we were quite sure our job was done, but the opportunity came for us to put the icing on the cake with a water filtration system .  Their dirty, rusty water was something which troubled us from the beginning.  The system is now up and running, providing clean water for washing clothes, bathing, drinking, and cooking.

We were constantly seeking God for when He was through at BG.  We have been praying for signs and the discernment to recognize them. Having been our life for the last 10 years, it is like letting go of our child.  And, in a sense, that is exactly what has happened.

Having  been in constant communication with the BG director for 6 months, concerning this mission's projects, plans were moving right along.  We spoke with her at 5:00 on Sunday afternoon to confirm the final details for Monday.  Imagine our surprise when we arrived the next morning for a 3 day VBS and only 4 children were there. 

Two kids needed hernia surgery, and had been taken to the hospital.  Then, by the best explanation we could get, over the weekend there was a mass exodus of the remaining kids.  We still do not understand why they left, nor could the director explain, because she was not there over the weekend.  Perhaps the families thought it was something contagious.  We never really figured out that one.

But, by anyone's standards, this should be considered a sign. 

Stephanie, Donna, and I joined hands and prayed for wisdom.  We did not want to act in haste, but we all immediately knew the season at Barskoe Gorodische had ended.  We loaded the musical instruments and gifts, along with the team, back in the vans and continued to Suzdal, where we had a picnic lunch on the bank of the river, as we sang, "Our God is an Awesome God" and enjoyed the view of the  beautiful onion domed churches.  We found the peace of God in the middle of the storm of disappointment as we enjoyed the beautiful countryside.

Our Russian friends told us they had never seen any team react with such a spirit of peace, in such circumstances.

Day Three

OK, God, now what?

We now had a load of musical instruments, baby dolls, backpacks, salvation beads, toys, and yo-yos out the ears.  Where do they go now?  Yuriy, one of our Russian friends, Lena's husband, in fact, has been wanting us to visit an orphanage in Murom, the fartherest point of the Vladimir region, about 2 hours from the city of Vladimir.  We called the director and learned the kids had just left for summer camp, but he would wait for us to arrive.  Oh, can you guess?  They have an award winning music program using 12 year old instruments purchased from flea markets and such. 

The director called and one of the buses had broken down on the way to camp.  He asked if we could give him a couple of hours.  Yes, it gave us a chance to stop at the internaat (school for orphans) in Murom and have a short time to minister to the kids.  Tanya spoke about their potential and Angela lead them in a time of worship.  Back on the bus!!

When we arrived at the orphanage and showed the director all the professional grade instruments, and special teaching instruments Angela Pickering, our TOTH musical consultant, had helped us select, he was speechless. He was particularly excited to see the violins and guitar, as they had no stringed instruments.   Being of Armenian descent, he immediately grabbed the tambourine, placed it between his knees, and started playing.  He was thrilled.  Holding it up and pointing to the skin, he said he had never seen such quality. 

While he may have been impressed by the quality and number of instruments, we are impressed by God's guidance of our footsteps to the right places.

Day Four

Vladimir Children's Hospital

Bam!  Did you hear that?  The Orthodox church slammed the door in our face, we were told we could have the homeless and the orphans, but the prisons were theirs.  Undaunted we called the Vladimir Children's Hospital and asked if we could come visit.  It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  We are on our SECOND Christian administrator who loves Treasures.  They have allowed us complete permission to give Bibles, share Jesus, and pray for the kids and parents.  There is no way to express how rare an opportunity this is in a state run hospital in the heartland of Russia.

We were scheduled to visit the hospital on Friday, but on the way back from Murom the administrator called, "Could we come Wednesday instead of Friday?"  On Friday we were going empty handed, but now we had super toys for the young ones, watches and jewelry for the older kids.  Each child was given a Bible along with their toy.

We were invited into a 5 bed ward where a 15 year old girl's head was completely bandaged.  She had received an electrical burn to the side of her face.  Tanya was able to share with her as she smiled through the bandage.  We visited and prayed for each child and told them about the truth in the Bible they were given.

Day Five

Women and Children's Crisis Center

They spent the day with a room full of professional women as they taught hands on techniques to reach the child who has suffered neglect and abuse.  Tanya had written a booklet and we had it professional translated and printed into Russian.  We purchased the center a DVD player and instruments for each child to make music.   Angela provided the center with classical music to help open the minds of the troubled kids so they could hear the message..

Tanya gave them teaching kits with all the tools she uses in her practice.  As a lay person, parent, and grandparent I was amazed at how a child can be lead into sharing their hurts with 3 stones, a balloon, or a musical instrument.  After 10 years of watching hardened directors glare at us, it was so exciting to watch the ladies taking part in each fun activity. 

Later the director told us the Russian way is to sit for 4 hours in a seminar and listen to someone drone on and on.  They were never given handouts or tools.  The ladies had the time of their lives. At the end the entire team joined and I had the privilege to pray over the knowledge given and received that day.  Again, God has given us favor to walk into a government origination and pray in the name of Jesus.  Many seeds were planted that day, inside and outside of the building.

One of the highlights was the tea Mary Ann, Laurie, and Barbara prepared for the ladies.  Our ladies made cream cheese sandwiches, they all wanted the recipe. Susan White made sugar cookies in the shape of hearts.  She decorated them in Russian with the words from Tanya's lessons, Peace, Order, Trust, Healing, Purpose, and Happiness.  She wrapped them in cellophane and tied a ribbon around each one.  They were beautiful and a treasure to the ladies, I am quite sure they will never be eaten.

Jordan White loving hand carried the cookies her mom crafted from Beaumont through Paris onto Moscow to the center in Vladimir.  She loves to tell the story how she was searched at each security checkpoint, 3 times!  We told her she did look shifty!

Ministry was going on all over the building in one form or another.  Tanya and Angela were teaching, Stephanie, Sue, Richard, Alyssa, Jordan, and Jennifer shared their life experiences with 2 abused women.  The ladies were moved to tears as they listened to the stories.  As I said earlier, about the home visits, it touches the Russians hearts to know Americans have the same disappointments.  The testimony comes in the peace we have obtained through Jesus Christ.  The group prayed for the two ladies as the director joined. 

Bud and Joseph spent their day showing God's love by weeding and planting the front entry of the center.  As the team completed their time with the ladies, they joined Bud and Joseph in the garden.  It was beautiful and an improvement to the weeds and stones they replaced.

Day 6

The team divided

Since we visited the hospital on Wednesday our Friday was a free day.  Seven of the team spent the day with Vitaly and that night boarded a train for a 4 day holiday in St Petersburg.

Comfort, Keeping Kids Homee.  Comfort is a legally recognized charity in Russia. 

The official news agency of Russia has reported that some 90 percent of children in orphanages are not true orphans as they do have living parents. Due to poor conditions, inadequate nutrition and insufficient emotional care, many of these children are underdeveloped mentally and physically. The older the child and the longer he/she is in the system, the greater the emotional and, often, physical problems become.

Keeping Kids Home is working to keep Russian children out of the system. The program was created with the thought that the most difficult time for a parent financially is when a child is under 6 years of age. Also, this is the period when the parent is most likely to become desperate enough to abandon the child to an orphanage. This seems to be confirmed by previous statistics, which indicate that a major cause of poverty is lack of childcare for children under 1.5 years.

In three years of working with needy families, no family in the Program has ever abandoned their child to an orphanage. In addition, six mothers have made decisions not to abort their babies.

What could be a better match for Treasures than Comfort?  If we can provide the means to stop the abandonment of children, then the chance of reaching their souls is increased.  Now the rest of the story, the three home visits were with Comfort families.  I have no doubt the mom who lost her arm will now be a soul winner for her family!!

These are the steps:

  1. The single parent (there are also single men raising their children alone) must go to the Crisis Center and register.
  2. The Crisis Center investigates the family.
  3. They will help find a housing and a job for the parent.
  4. The family must have at least one child under the age of 6 years.  They receive $30 for the first child.  If they have more than one child under 6, the cost is increased 7% for each child.
  5. Food is purchased quarterly to receive discount for bunk shopping.
  6. Once a year they are given cleaning supplies.
  7. At the end of the year, they are given clothing.

Treasures has taken a step of faith and asked Yuiry to find 10 families we can take into our hearts.  We believe God has been directing our steps to this moment in time. 

We are building a website for Comfort at this time.  Yuiry is an outstanding statistician to back up his program.  They have been recognized by the Illinois Congressman John Dennis "Denny" Hastert and the Congress of the United States.  The word "Ytecheneye" means Comfort. 

Without you none of this would be possible!  We want to thank each and everyone of you who helped transport us to Houston, prayed for the team, sponsored team members, bought dolls, yoyos, cars, jewelry, Bibles, and donated instruments.  Because of you lives were touched halfway around the world. 


Stephanie, Donna, and Howard