I was not a Christian when a U.S. CoMission team of the Mission Society for United Methodists came to Khabarovsk, Siberia, and asked me to teach Russian. God just showed me Christ through all the people in this group. I made a commitment to Christ and I asked Rev. Jack Stevenson from the CoMission team to baptize me. Since then I have worked with this team in Khabarovsk.
Several years ago I started going to orphanages and my heart was changed. Once there, it is impossible not to help. When we give something or when we do something for children, I keep thinking what a blessing it is for them, but then I realize that I cannot bless them more than they bless me. They are so loving and so wonderful, and a lot of them are like family to me. I just want to take them all home or find homes for them.
I have two friends and roommates, American women from the Mission Society for United Methodists, who work with me in developing personal relationships with girls in the orphanages. In one we work with ten older girls who are wonderful. I feel like a proud mother, with beautiful, amazing, loving girls. We started going once every week or two to develop relationships with them. We have taken them shopping and to our house for dinner. We buy them makeup and clothes. We are also concerned about their future.
Job Skills and Self Esteem
We thought that if we could help them develop some skills, perhaps it would help them in the future. So we started a sewing project, asking the girls if they would help us sew sheets for infants in orphanages. We probably could have purchased the sheets and not spent much more, but we wanted to see how they would respond. One of the girls who expressed interest was probably the most selfish girl at the orphanage--or appeared to be the most selfish. She does not behave well, she likes to smoke, and she likes the boys. Nevertheless she said, "You do so much for us, we can at least do something for these babies." We still decided to pay her because we thought it might help her learn how to use her own money. The girls then volunteered to knit socks, so we started paying them five rubles for a sheet and ten rubles for socks. It is wonderful to take them shopping when they take their own money and not ours. Once when we took the girls shopping, the boys said it was not fair, so we arranged to take the boys, but to play computer games instead of shopping--or on top of shopping.
We started going to a baby orphanage in 1999. I am not a mother yet and I was scared because I did not know if I could pick babies up. I thought that they were going to break in my hands. We now go once a week and feed them, change them, and clean them. Each one of us is especially attached to one of the babies. I am particularly pleased because older orphans are doing things for orphaned babies. When people visit for the first time they have to prepare themselves because it is heartbreaking to see all those abandoned infants lying in their cribs. They are not even picked up when they are being fed. The workers are not bad people as I used to think. The problem is there are 30 babies and only two nurses for each 24-hour period. They just are not capable of doing more.
Quilts for Infant Orphans
We have another lady on our team who gathers women together to make quilts. Our goal now is to make a quilt for each infant orphan. Russians do not understand orphanage work--why anyone would help someone else's baby?--so it is hard to involve them in this ministry. But through quilting, women learned about the babies for the first time and now take quilts to the hospital with us. At first, some of them were upset by what they saw, but now they want to help.
Tanya Vinogradova, from Khabarovsk, Siberia, is the orphanage project coordinator for The Mission Society for United Methodists, Norcross, GA.
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© 2001 East-West Church and Ministry Report