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"Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." (1 John 4:11-12 NIV)
One experience that we always look forward to on our trips to Magadan, Russia is when we visit the Dom Rebyonka - House of Baby. This institution provides care for infants until they are approximately 3 years old. Such places are common in most cities throughout the former Soviet Union. A mother who does not want to keep her baby simply drops the child off at this home. Counselors work with the mother and/or father to determine if they want to later come back for the child.
At the facility in Magadan, there are currently 65 children and not one of them is wanted by their parents. None of them are true orphans. Several of them are free for adoption. Most of these are perfectly healthy whereas some of the kids might have some physical or mental challenge. The arduous adoption process discourages many people from making the effort to adopt these kids. Those who are not adopted before age three, are sent to live in a more permanent Orphans' Home in a community about an hour's drive from the city of Magadan. They are rarely adopted from this institution, and many of these children grow up to enter the world of work and parenthood having only known life in an institution.
None of the children in this temporary home are without living parents. These kids were brought to this place by their own parents who gave up their parental rights. The parents apparently love their hedonistic life style more than their own flesh and blood. They persist in doing evil while drunk on alcohol and drugs. In this home, one 3-year-old may have a 6-month-old sibling from the same mother but a different father. The biggest heartbreak for God must be the knowledge of unwanted, unneeded and unloved children!
Nothing I say here is intended as a criticism of this particular system. Yes, it is flawed - but so is our own system where unwanted children are often simply dropped off at a parking lot, hospital door, church door, police or Sheriff's office. In some rare cases in our country, unwanted children who are fortunate enough grow up in a "home" sponsored by Christians who give them a near-family experience. One such institution is the Christian Home and Bible School in Mt. Dora. Sadly, many unwanted children in America live out their entire childhood being bounced from one foster home to another. They never know how long they will be there and are often transferred to another foster care situation because they have been "bad."
A regular part of our mission work is to provide aid to this home and two others that are located in the Magadan Region. You may recall reading one of my previous articles where I told about a young couple who had travelled to Magadan for the purpose of adopting one child. When they arrived, the director of the home pointed out a sibling and this couple from Tennessee took home two adorable kids instead of one. We got to be with these children when we visited a church in Tennessee. On this most recent trip to Russia, while we were following the Director of Dom Rebyonka around, we noticed a collage of pictures on a stair well that showed those same two kids with their new Tennessee families. What a pleasant surprise!
The children in this institution are divided up into six or seven different groups. One such group is for invalid children. When we were visiting the children in this section, we were struck by the harsh reality that most of these children seldom had visitors from the outside. When we held them in our arms or spoke with them, their pleading eyes would not leave us. They are literally starving for affection and kindness.
Ekaterina is a strikingly beautiful little three year old girl in this invalid group. From her waist up you do not notice anything at all different about her appearance. Katya was born without the normal use of her legs. Nowadays, she scoots around the floor very speedily and is able to skillfully climb to wherever she chooses. We noticed that when we entered the room, she apparently assumed that we would not want to have contact with her, and scooted over to a corner so that she could watch us talk to the other children. Galina was not satisfied to leave this room until she got to hold her and talk with this very special child of God.
Our primary mission focus is with the Magadan Church of Christ which I helped to establish in 1994. One of our dear sisters in Christ works at the Children's Home as a caregiver. When we spoke with her about our experiences with the children on this visit, Valentina immediately asked if we had spent any time with Katya. She said that every day when she visits with the children in this section, Katya puts her arms around her neck and looks straight into her eyes and says, "Valya, let's love each other!" And they will just squeeze each other tightly while Valentina sings to her and they cuddle. When she tries to explain to Katya that she must go help other children, she just holds on tighter and says, "Valya, let's love each other all day!"
This experience brought back painful memories for Galina and I when we "fell in love" with 2-year-old Elena, a beautiful little girl who was rejected by her own parents simply because she was born with two fingers joined together at birth. We investigated how we might adopt this precious girl, only to learn that you must go through a long process of adoption and you are not allowed to choose a child. First, you must be approved as adoptive parents, and then the agencies will make a match for you. We later learned that our dear little girl had been sent to live in a house for invalids the rest of her life.
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27 NIV)
You are invited to attend the services of the Church of Christ which meets at the corner of 3rd and E Streets. Please write to me with any questions or comments at P.O. Box 186, Cedar Key, FL 32625 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you may also request to receive the daily WORD OF THE DAY by e-mail. Please visit our web site at www.cedarkeychurchofchrist.com. This Sunday night at 6:30, I will make a presentation with pictures about our most recent mission trip to Magadan. Everyone is welcome!