A Tale of Two Awards

The recent media frenzy over a child being sent back to Russia only serves to remind me of what abandonment can do to an orphan (or anyone, for that matter) and how simple opportunities, patience and love can change a life. Isaac was the first orphan that George Steiner met in the Vladimir Region of Russia. Little Isaac, 6 years old at the time, ran out of the building and showed the guests to the Director’s office. Already then he was eager to help. Many years have passed since then and today my heart is overwhelmed with pride in this young man. As his American adoptive mother Sharon told me, the road was very bumpy as I’m sure only those who've adopted children would fully understand. Today, though, Sharon and all who know him have every reason to be very proud and happy for Isaac. As a student at the BMCC in New York, last year he initiated and organized the first UNICEF chapter at his college and a fundraiser that generated over $1200. When Haiti was hit with the earthquake a few months ago, Isaac raised over $4400 for Haiti and spent his spring break volunteering with clean up operations (you can easily recognize him in the picture). He has just been awarded with the “Presidential Volunteer Service Award” from UNICEF and he well deserves it!

Way to go, Isaac!

Viktor grew up in an orphanage in Russia and his opportunities opened up when he got involved in the programs of the Ministry Center in Ivanovo. Encouraged by support he found there and empowered by the trainings he participated in at the Ministry Center, Viktor had a heart to share his knowledge with kids at the orphanages. He teamed up with his brother Ruslan and a few others to lead Life Skills trainings at orphanages and tech schools. A few months ago the Russian Ministry of Economic Development announced a National Award for Volunteerism and we applied on behalf of Viktor and his brother Ruslan. I’m so pleased to say that the brothers have won the Award – and they also well deserve it!

Way to go, Viktor and Ruslan!

Way back in 1994 when the needs of Russia's orphans were first put on our hearts, a lofty dream struck us from the very start. The dream was that one day these wonderful kids would grow up strong and healthy, knowing the love of Christ, and so much so that they would come back and volunteer to help their fellow orphans. Over these years, as the hard but always satisfying work has continued, and as we've come to see this dream repeatedly come true, it's become more and more clear to me that what we had was a glimpse of the fact that it is, in the end, these very orphans, and possibly only them, who are uniquely qualified to truly understand, empathize with, and in the most meaningful ways reach out to their younger brothers and sisters still growing up in orphanages, or for anyone in such profound need, as it is only they who've been through the same. Indeed, if one must become like a child to receive the kingdom of God and whatever we do unto the "least of these" we do unto Christ, who else should be more ready for truly giving their lives to true religion, pure and undefiled in the sight of God?  An opportunity is what it takes to do it.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Out of hardship for these kids, perhaps here is our age of wisdom, if we only believe and are not taken by incredulity.