After an arrival delay of 24 hours resulting from missing my connection in Atlanta, I arrived in Moscow at 11 am local time on Monday and rushed to Vladimir just in time to join the board meeting of our ministry partner Nadezhda (meaning ‘hope’ in the Russian language). The meeting went well and I then tried to work to get some sleep leading in to Tuesday.
Prior to joining the team at HopeChest I had admired the long-term nature of the commitment their partners make when engaging an orphanage. The focus of the model is to redeem the orphan through holistic, relational and long-term relationships.
Today I had the opportunity to see impact of this approach in vivid color as I visited Lukhtonovo orphanage in Vladimir region. Over 10 years ago Concord Church of Pennsylvania visited the region to consider working with a number of different orphanages. Of all the potential orphanages, Lukhtonovo was considered the least likely candidate because it was focused on ‘special needs’ children and was considered just generally ‘dark’. Staff shared that after the visits, the orphanage for Concord was clear and they began what has been a long and productive relationship with Lukhtonovo.
It is located about 40 minutes outside of Vladimir City in a small village where the largest building and only real jobs is centered around the orphanage. We first met with the orphanage director, Ludmila. It was the right place to start.
Despite many health challenges, Ludmila had dedicated 50 years to the children of Lukhtonovo. It took only a short time to realize that she is no ordinary lady. I am fairly certain that if she would have applied herself to business that she would have been wealthy, rather she chose a tireless commitment that has lead to great riches. In sharing her history running the orphanage she recounted winters with insufficient heat, a lack of suitable water, no funds for shoes or clothing. While the provision of basic needs has improved over the years, Ludmila shifted her entrepreneurial spirit to programming like none other that I have seen. This orphanage of 67 children is a profoundly productive place.
They have what I would estimate to be a 10 acre farm that is planted, tended and harvested by the kids.
There are 40 pigs in the ‘slop house’.
While the kids do not get credit (because they are special needs), they have extracurricular computer and sewing classes.
I could continue the list, such as the museum whose curator is an 8th grade student and will be registered as an official Russian Museum this summer.
Much of this could not have been done were it not for the engagement of Concord. They have assisted in renovating some of the facility, purchased transportation and built a cold storage facility for the vegetables which they eat all winter. However, when Ludmila speaks of the people of Concord church, she does not relate the provision of resources. She speaks deeply about the impact that the long term relationships have had on the children.
Being designated as ‘special needs’ limits the opportunities that these children will have. Ludmila’s face radiates when she shares the number of children who they have been successful moving off the ‘special needs’ program and speaks with great satisfaction about the college graduates, police officers and teachers that were products of Lukhtonovo.
1 Samuel 3 share that the young Samuel ‘let none of his words fall to the ground’. Concord has been faithful, persistent and generous in caring for the orphans of Lukhtonovo and the blessings are evident.