Tuesday, August 17 was the first day of vacation Bible school at the camp in Zelenogorsk, just outside of Saint Petersburg, Russia. We arrived at around 10:30 am to teach the little children at the camp for orphans about the Potter and the Clay. We sectioned the kids off into three groups. And, simultaneously we would hold story time, craft, memory verse and recreation, then rotate throughout the morning.
The kids seemed really receptive to hearing the Bible story. Olga, the Orphan Outreach Director in St. Petersburg, has done a great job teaching these kids. Many of them already knew the songs, Bible verses and at one point even helped us through the days of creation.
Following our formal VBS, we just PLAYED with the kids. It is truly amazing how spending a little time with a child who feels worthless can pick up their spirits. There are three kids that seem to be ‘hanging out’ with me. Nastya, Alena and Sergey. These little ones so want to feel worth. The want to be loved. They want to be important. That’s been my focus all week. Just to give extra attention to a few kids who don’t get one-on-one time with adults.
Today was an emotional day for a few in our group. They haven’t verbalized why there have been tears. I’m sure they’re processing everything.
Perhaps they’re feeling badly that these little ones have no where to turn, no one to love them, no one who cares. Perhaps they’re feeling guilty because they’re going to leave and then these kids will be right back to where they were before we came. Or, maybe they are concerned for their souls.
We got a taste of what’s it like in the orphanage when a fight broke out between two boys. These two boys were sitting in craft time when one tried to take something from the other. The other objected. The one got up, stood above him and (before we could do anything) cold cocked him right in the face. It had to hurt. That drew MY attention obviously. As I stood to get him off this unsuspecting kid, he took off. We tried to get the situation under control. The next thing we knew the ‘victim’ took off after the boy. That’s the picture of orphan life — looking out for self, because nobody’s looking out for you.
Officially, there are about 800,000 orphans in Russia. Many of these kids have been abandoned at birth, have
been taken away from parents, or both parents have died. A few of the teenage girls look so hardened by years of institutionalism. One teen, 16, has been in the system for more than 11 years. It’s heartbreaking to hear that many of them have no dreams — other than leaving the orphanage, getting an education and find a job. They can’t tell you specifically what they’d like to do. The reality is most of these kids will end up selling drugs, other organized crime, prostitution, or dead by the time their 18.
These girls listened to every one Emily’s testimony. They appeared to connect with her. Then, Katie was able to share the Gospel through chalk art — telling the girls that our sins put black marks on our lives, but God removes the marks through His blood and changes our ‘marks’ into a portrait of Jesus. They just LOVED watching her do this. Rather than being cold and inattentive, they became warm and open.
Wednesday, we’ll be doing ‘Part 2’ of our VBS with this same two groups, (Orphanage 2 and 60). More posts to follow.