Sharing With One Another


Eastern European Summit for Children At Risk Conference

Nov 10 -14, 2006


January 2007  -  Ann


Back in November ?06 we sent out a Broadcast Email asking for prayer for an upcoming conference Robert and I and two of our staff from Voronezh were going to be attending.  At the time we sensed it was going to be life changing.  And it was.



Ann thought we must've taken a wrong turn and ended up in Narnia. Ann thought we must've taken a wrong turn and ended up in Narnia.

This conference, held in Moscow and Vladimir, was hosted by Children?s Hope Chest who has been in the ministry of post-orphanage care for 12 years.  Attending the conference:

            200 people, representing

            15 different countries, with

            90 different organizations

All coming together with the same purpose of networking and learning together and from each other how better to do this thing called ?post orphanage transition ministry.?


For us it was such a concrete example of visibly seeing the Body of Christ at work helping to fulfill God?s command in James 1:27 ? ?of pure religion ? caring for orphans in their distress?.


There were several keynote speakers, some with more credentials than others behind their names.  There were several presentations and round table discussions.  And there was lots of discussion and sharing of ideas and encouragement in small groups when ever there were breaks in the official program.  It was amazing and refueling to be around a group of like-minded people who have had their hearts broken like we have by the plight of the orphans, especially those that are leaving the institutions and facing the world unprepared and ill-equipped.


Nobody in this group claims ?sainthood? because they work with orphans.  We all know that it has nothing to do with us but everything to do with Him who gave us the eyes to see and the ears to hear and the hearts to seek for solutions.  And coming together for a few days to encourage one another and share success and failure stories was incredibly amazing.


Ron Braun, who was one of the founders of the Co-Mission for Children At Risk, gave the history of this group which Robert and I have been a part of since it?s inception in 2000.  We have gained so much from our affiliation with this group.


Ron shared a beautiful analogy of fishing with a net and how you can catch so much more fish with a net than with a single line.  He pointed out that each knot in the net is equally important.  Co-mission has worked hard at building a strong net.


When we look at the statistics that the UN predicts: that by the year 2010 there will be 143 million orphans worldwide!  We realize the importance of a strong net and all of us doing our job and the first one is making sure we are tied to one another.


Katherine Miles with VIVA Network is helping with that tying together.  VIVA Network is working on a directory of people working with children at risk worldwide. They estimate that there are 25,000 different Christian groups working with orphans and their desire is to help in the networking of those groups and to help get additional aid and resources. 


Scott Werntz, with Spoken For Ministries is a personal friend and man we greatly respect and have learned from.  He and his Russian staff in Penza, Russia have developed a program of discipleship and mentoring ? the goal being to build relationships that last a lifetime, through the good and hard times of life.  Scott?s main points were: 1) this is a life time commitment;  2) not an easy job;  3) we may not see the results.


Dr. Susan Hillis is physically a small petite woman, mother of 10 (8 of them adopted from Russia!) but a powerhouse of energy and zeal for the Lord and the plight of the Russian orphan.  Susan works for the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and is specifically assigned to Russia.  She daily deals with the growing epidemic of AIDS and all kinds of other overwhelming diseases and their fast growing statistics in Russia.  It has been reported that Russia has the fastest growing rate of HIV/AIDS in the world and of course our young people, especially those with no families or moral compass, are prime targets.


Peter and Masha Oswalt, a precious young couple who we have gotten to know over the last five years, minister with kids from one of the toughest trade schools in Voronezh.  They spoke bluntly of the life of hell these kids experience once they graduate from the orphanages and are thrown into a technical school.  The Oswalts work with the kids that have no advocates, who end up at the worst trade schools because there?s no place else for them to go.


They described the dorms as places of massive boredom and boredom is one of the most dangerous things for a kid.  This is where gang activity begins and it goes from bad to worse.  In the trade schools life for the orphan is wide open.  They are answerable to no one.  They are on their own (many of them far away from the orphanages and support system they grew up in) and they receive a state stipend of 200 rubles a month.  (approximately $6.00)  They also receive a seasonal stipend but usually they get so indebted to the gang that they never have money.  They live a linear existence ? going somewhere but no idea where.  Most of the time the full consequences of their actions fall on them alone and they have no advocates, so many of them end up in prison.


Peter?s challenge to us was that until our theology becomes reality in our own lives, (I think it?s what Brennan Manning calls ?His present risen-ness?) we really don?t have much to offer them.  You can?t give what you don?t have.  We all need not only salvation but healing and deliverance so that we can effectively minister.  It was a sobering and yet encouraging message.


George Steiner, founder of Children?s Hope Chest and one of the driving forces behind this conference is a quiet, unassuming man, an engineer by profession.  But he shared about his experience in March of 1994 when he spent a night wrestling with God about beginning Children?s Hope Chest to help meet the growing need of kids that were being released from the orphanages and falling through the cracks.  These kids were not transitioning into society but, instead, were becoming statistics of crime, prostitution and suicide.


Stats are a hard thing to really know for sure but the ones that keep showing up in regard to what happens to a Russian orphan the first year he/she leaves the orphanage:

       10% suicide

       20% crime

       40% homeless

George felt, as we all do in this ministry, overwhelmed at the need and not equipped to be able to meet it.  But God promised He would bring others to fill in the gap and George testified that 12 years later he continues to see that happening.  At this conference 200 others, to be exact!


What struck me in this whole conference was that George and others are filling in the gaps for those of us who are smaller in number and resources and experience.  God is truly about building an army of people to minister to His kids.  This is His work, not ours.  And it a great privilege to be in the yoke with so many others whose hearts have been broken and then knitted together to serve Jesus and the children He has called us to.


Just wanted to pass that on . . .