A Good Holiday to Celebrate…
Russians like to celebrate. Between state, local and church holidays, pretty much every day of the year is some kind of a special day. Some are more known in the West, such as International Women’s Day (March 8 ) and The Day of the Defender of Motherland (February 23) but many - even Russians don’t care to remember, such as the Day of Steelworker or the Day of Fisherman. This year one more holiday was added to the list - the Day of Family, Love and Fidelity, celebrated on July 8 – well worth celebrating indeed considering the challenges the institution of marriage has been facing in Russia, not unlike the rest of Western civilization.
In fact, the Russian Orthodox Church has celebrated this day for centuries as it’s directly related to the Russian Saints Peter and Fevronia of Murom (Vladimir Region) whose story goes back to the 13th century. Though not martyrs, these saints are sometimes called Russian Valentines for their exemplary faithfulness in marriage. If you’re curious enough about their story, you’re welcome to read it here. (Like everything in marriage it will require a lot of patience and perseverance :). The legend has it that they died on the same day, July 8 – hence the day for the feast.
For orphans who don’t have any family traditions or even a positive example of family, making their own families is very challenging and the rates of divorce, domestic violence and child abandonment in orphan families is very high. Since 2008 we’ve been running a program of support to Young Families, which includes lots of counseling, material assistance in times of crisis and, of course, fun activities for parents and their children. There are 18 families and 27 kids currently in our program, and we’re proud to say that we’ve seen remarkable results of an effort to be good families, despite their hard circumstances.
“In February 2011 we became a family of six after having twin-girls. To tell you the truth, we really count on the support from this program, as life is really hard for us now. The money that my husband Misha makes is far not enough. We are thankful to receive any kind of help. When Misha is at work, I stay at home with the kids alone and I don’t even have anyone I can simply talk to. When the program counselor Tatyana visits me I know I can share everything with her – my sorrows, tears, she would always give me good advice and encourage me”
“I often have a hard time understanding my wife and I may get angry and lose my temper. Then I talk to our social worker and she helps me understand my feelings and gives me valuable advice that helps us in our marriage”
“I’m thankful for the trainings that teach us about our children’s development and parenting skills. My son Artyom had some developmental and behavioral problems. He didn’t know how to play with the other kids, wouldn’t share his toys with them. In the course of one year the program counselor helped him learn to communicate with the other kids and to be good to them. She also gave me a lot of advice how to help Artyom in the future. Soon Artyom started to speak and was ready to go to the kindergarten. I realized that I had made a lot of mistakes in his upbringing. Thanks to the experienced staff I learned to understand my son”
“Being a participant of the Young Families program means a lot to me. I saw a lot of hard times during several years after I left my orphanage. Now I receive regular help and advice through this program on many important life questions, get financial support at difficult times and most importantly I know that I have true friends in this ministry. We have two little kids but this doesn’t stop me from coming to the Ministry Center because there is a kids’ room there and always someone to take care of my children while I attend our meetings, work out in the gym room or see our caseworker”
“We both grew up at the orphanage and have no family life experience. We don’t know how to properly parent our children. We always have many questions how to take good care of the kids, how to be good spouses. We’re deeply thankful for this program”.
And I’m deeply thankful to all of you who help us support this program and help families of Russian orphans grow stronger.
Ah, there's nothing like a good reason to celebrate! Sometimes, though, there are little things that when considered more closely, amount to much deeper reasons to celebrate, for they are nothing less than small steps on the way to a better future with many, many more reasons to pause and appreciate what true love, patience, faithfulness, and perseverence can bring.
Happy Day of Family, Love and Fidelity, my friends, and you, too, Peter and Fevronia of Murom!