Many of us are beginning to feel some relief as things are calming down after several months of lockdown. We came to St. Petersburg in August 2019. We joined an existing church in our fellowship (based in the Caucasus) called HOPE and soon began working in different spheres of the church life. We started leading marriage courses, preparing young couples for marriage using the MCNet materials.
At the end of June, the lead pastor and Valera started leadership training for home group leaders, because there were no home groups in the church before. Each Monday we also mentor a couple via Zoom and they will be joining us in St. Petersburg in August. Twice a week we are also mentoring two families who are leading church plants in Nizhniy Novgorod and Yaroslavl and every Wednesday we are mentoring three families locally, who are going to lead three home groups in different areas of the city.
There are so many family needs in the city that we are serving many non-Christian families of orphans (once child orphans who have now become adults themselves). One of the reasons why the number of orphans is increasing is because of the high pregnancy rate of young girls between the ages of 16-19. Since they do not have a good role model or support network many of them just abandon their children. Sadly, then their children become the next generation of orphans and the cycle repeats.
This led us to launch our own single mother’s program. As we observed orphan graduates we realized that they have no idea how to raise, care, love, nurture their children. In order to break the orphan cycle, we need to provide further support and training to assure the success of these families. The ages of these mothers have been anywhere from 18 to 30 years old and the ages of the children between 1 month and 16 years old.
Along this journey it is a privilege to first introduce them to Jesus. Second, we want to provide help to them in various social justice and legal issues, medical care, developmental areas, emotional support and counseling, spiritual growth, employment, and teaching them life, social and professional skills. To further compound their situation, these mothers are constantly facing abuse from their boyfriends, lack of housing, huge utility debt, and constant threat of eviction by the government.
As you can imagine, the challenges often seem endless. Some of these mothers also have children with different medical and developmental issues. Due to a lack of knowledge and support many are forced to relinquish their parental rights because they simply cannot care for, or raise their children. At the moment, we are serving 33 mothers and close to 80 children.
The following is the story of one of these orphans.
We received a phone call from the government office with the plea to help an orphan, Kristina. When I first visited Kristina, I saw a lost, single, 20-year-old mother with a newborn baby, who lived in a tiny dormitory room of 7 sq meters (75 Sq ft), sitting in the corner like a frightened animal, not open for any form of human contact.
We were able to immediately help with several of Kristina’s problems, such as food, clothing, and getting documents for the mother and her newborn baby. However, the most pressing problem was Kristina’s addiction, something that began when she was just 12 years old. It was at that time what she had been raped by her foster father, after which she was sent back to the orphanage, only to be abandoned again; rejected twice in her life.
The government repeatedly would visit Kristina and threaten to take her son away because of her addiction. We initially found a crisis center on the edge of the city that we were able to convince her to go to. This was a huge answer to prayer! Since then we have seen God begin to work in Kristina’s heart. We weekly called Kristina and she would say, “I love being here, I do not mind living by these rules and I even read the Bible and pray daily.”
She has spent 8 month there has just come back this week. We saw a completely different person, someone who had beautifully changed. Kristina now has a happy heart, the desire to live, and she now sees her son with different eyes and is filled with hope and faith. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but this is an amazing start and we are thankful to have had a small part in her life.
In such tough times, especially when millions of people around the world have lost their jobs, you have faithfully and sacrificially stood beside us. We are forever grateful to each of you. We deeply value you. Thank you for all that you have done and are doing to impact our lives and many other people.