My journey with Russian orphans started in March 1994. I was 17 and my Dad was staying in Russia for a couple of months when my Mom, sister and I flew into Moscow to spend a week together over Spring Break. We visited several orphanages, but the one I most remember was in Khotkova a town and orphanage about 60 miles north of Moscow.

We were interacting with the kids and talking about the Bibles that had been distributed to them a year prior.  In one of the classrooms a frail looking boy named Staas stood up and shared that his favorite Bible story was Jesus taking the children and holding them. Staas was 11 years old, but looked more like an eight-year-old. I couldn’t believe that this angelic looking boy would be out of the orphanage in four short years.

Fast forward to today. It’s 18 years later and I have my own family. Our oldest son, Bryce, is 11 years old – the same age as Staas was when I met him. Bryce is a great kid who has enjoyed the advantages of a secure, safe and loving home. He’s never had to wonder if his mother and father love him. He’s never had to sneak food to his room for fear that there might not be enough to eat tomorrow. He’s had the best of educational and extra-curricular activities any child could possibly want.

But when I look at this child of mine, I wonder, will he be ready in four short years to make decisions about his career? Will he be prepared to live independently on his own? Will he be equipped to make good choices every day?  I seriously doubt it! Yet, that’s what is expected of the Russian orphans we work with – and they haven’t had any of the privileges and support Bryce has had. They do not have a family or a support network to rely upon, they have no training on how to manage money, they have not experienced basic living and decision making skills like family kids have.

The last report I heard on Staas was grim, but typical for an at-risk orphan. He is 29-years-old and has been in prison for petty theft. He is an auto mechanic and has difficulty with financial management. As with many older orphans, adapting to the realities of life without proper training and modeling is almost impossible.  Orphan’s Tree never had the opportunity to work with Staas and perhaps some of our programs, dedicated staff and the Lord’s grace could have changed the direction of his life. And that’s why I’m committed to helping and working with kids who, like Staas, have huge obstacles to overcome. It’s why I dream of these kids one day having healthy families of their own who, like Bryce, will be prepared to become all that God has for them in their lives.

So that was how my journey started. What’s your story?