Russian Adoptions–“The Law of Infamy” Video

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You have heard by now that Russia has banned Americans from adopting anymore children from their orphanages. Not everyone in Russia sees this as a unified good decision. This short video made by a Russian person, shows that the few in their Duma have lost sight of the problem and how it’s now a political pawn game with the children being the pawns. Please pray for these children as Our Lord has NOT forgotten them.

Shared by Le Ann Dakake, director of Orphan Hosting at NHFC

It is encouraging to know there are still people in Russia who disagree with this decision.  Please pray for these children and the government over them!  They truly need God in a very big way!

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The Cathedral of Christ the Savior – Favorite Story of Russia

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This is one of my absolute favorite stories of the Russian spirit and God’s working with these people.  I first heard this about this fascinating piece of history a lecture from a Russian scholar in 2006.  From then it has always remained near to my heart, reminding me of the way God is working in Eastern Europe.

I first wrote this in 2010 when I was planning a second trip to Russia, as I recounted the story in great anticipation of visiting this country that summer.

Originally written May 16, 2010

Храм Христа Спасителя
Khram Khrista Spasitelya
The Cathedral of Christ the Savior

Russia is a country of contrast. Spotted with many dark times in its history and yet a fortress of artistic creativity, innovative intelligence, and a rich soul. The beauty of its prideful strength and yet mournful hardships beckons me to reach a richer understanding of the country and its people.

The legacy of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior is an emblem of the essence of Russia’s beckoning spirit. This breathtaking cathedral was commissioned to be constructed in 1812, in honor of Christ the Saviour "to signify Our gratitude to Divine Providence for saving Russia from the doom that overshadowed Her" and as a memorial to the sacrifices of the Russian people. Construction lasted more than 3 decades, from the time the cornerstone was laid in 1832, until the time the majestic cathedral emerged from is scaffolding in 1860. It stood above the Moskva River, the tallest Eastern Orthodox church for more than 70 years, representing Christ’s saving grace to the people of Moscow.

All of that changed in 1931 when the Soviets came to power. Completely intolerant to any representation of Christianity, Stalin’s minister ordered the Cathedral to be demolished. The Cathedral of Christ the Savior was demolished with dynamite, reduced to a pile of rubble to make way for the Palace of the Soviets. “This monument was to rise in modernistic, buttressed tiers to support a gigantic statue of Lenin perched on top of a dome with his arm raised in the air.”

After several years of failed attempts at construction, the Soviets concluded it could not be done. Instead, they created Moskva Pool, the world’s largest open air swimming pool. This pool stood from 1958 until 1995, and was often used for Christian Baptisms! The Soviets adamantly attempted to remove Christ from their city, God was still at work and used what they had intended for harm, for good. He had a purpose in the midst of the hardship and called them out of darkness.

Since 2000, the reconstructed Cathedral of Christ the Savior stands to declare God’s redemption to those who were once in darkness and continues to beckon the lost, broken, and hurting people to His saving grace.

Fact/Historical Source – Cathedral of Christ the Saviour Article

Cathedral of Christ the SaviorI love to reflect on this story.  The Soviets tried to do all they could to remove religion from their state.  They failed to convert it into a palace for their anti-religion.  So they thought a swimming pool would make a decent, non-religious substitute.  And yet the Christians there were able to use it for Baptisms.   That is so like God to work in such mysterious ways!  They tried to keep God out, but God’s people stood strong!

Although time has passed, Soviets are gone, Russian are still under religious oppression.  Please pray for the believers in Russia and that God would continue to work in spite of all their challenges!

As the Scriptures say,“I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor,and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”
Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him,“The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.”
And,“He is the stone that makes people stumble,the rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
“Once you had no identity as a people;now you are God’s people.Once you received no mercy;now you have received God’s mercy.”

1 Peter 2:6-10 (NLT)

Reflections from Everyday Things–For the love of potatoes!–An orphan’s potential

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“Please no more potatoes!” we all pleaded in jest.  It was summer 2010, I was on a missions trip to work with orphans in Estonia.   Our team of 3 Americans and 2 Russian interpreters had our fill of potatoes after being Bread & potatoes!with the orphans for only one week at their summer camp.  I wish I could say we ate them in a wide variety of recipes (think shrimp from Forrest Gump: ‘There’s shrimp kebabs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo, pan fried, deep fried, stir fried…’) but we were not that lucky.  When the orphanage workers served potatoes, they were usually peeled and boiled… I got excited if we could have them with ‘sous’ or ‘smetana’ (syrupy ketchup or sour cream).  Yes, I know Rule #1 of any missions trip is to not complain about anything,  we would just joke about the potatoes… but we kinda meant it too. Winking smile

After spending the first part of our trip at the kids’ summer camp, we returned with them to spend some time with them at their orphanage in town.  I was so excited to be welcomed into their home.  We got a tour of the building, I was very impressed by how blessed the kids are.  Some had their own So many potatoes!bedroom and others shared with one other child their same age.  It was really special to see they had a place to call their own, which is a rarity for most orphans.  The kitchen was kept locked up any time that meals were not being served, so we didn’t get to see it until a little later.  The kitchen was… a kitchen, and I was curious to see what was in the cellar.  I went down a few steps and just started to laugh.  Even more potatoes!!!

Our first full day in the orphanage, our team was asked to cook breakfast, lunch, andLearning how to peel a potato dinner because the cook was taking the day off.  Of course, we said yes, we were there to serve and it was a small orphanage.  How hard could it be to cook for 30 kids? Let me tell you, we were in the kitchen all day!  I guess that explains why being a cook is a full time job. C: For dinner, we were told each person should have 3 of the small potatoes.  It became my job to count, wash, and peel 100 potatoes!  That day I learned how to peel potatoes and felt like I mastered it within a couple hours.  Our potato creationOur translators encouraged us to get creative with the potatoes this time around.  So instead of letting them boil, they came up with the idea of baking them, sliced, with meat, mayo, and cheese on top.   Yes, weird combination, you’ve got to improvise in these kinds of situations.  We were so proud of our creation and many of the kids loved it!

Our time in Estonia quickly came to a close, and we made our way to St. Petersburg, Russia, for the last few days of the trip.  One day while we were there, we spent the entire day, literally since before it opened until after it closed, at The State Hermitage Museum.  One of the largest and oldest museums in the world, housed in 6 historic buildings along the Neva River, the main one being the Winter Palace. Potatoes on Yellow Paper. By Renato GuttusoThere are millions of fascinating things there, but there is one that particularly caught my attention.  As soon as I saw it, I told the others “Oh my goodness, guess what this is!” as I covered up the title of the painting.  They looked at it for a while, made some guesses, and then realized “Oh! It’s potatoes!!!” We had a good laugh.  The painting is “Potatoes on Yellow Paper” by Italian artist Renato Guttuso.  We thought we had left the potatoes in Estonia, but they followed us to Russia.   It was fun to joke, but something the painting stuck with me.  So much so that I purchased a canvas print of it at the Hermitage gift shop and now have it framed and hanging in my apartment. 

Potatoes, potatoes. Who really cares about potatoes?  They are so plain and tasteless.  They are very cheap and seem to be in never-ending supply.  No one really seems to seek them out, crave them, or favor them.  And to top it all off, they seem to be the filthiest things in the grocery store, the skin nearly hidden by the caked-on dirt. 

And in all of that, I see a metaphor.  This painting not only reminded me of my time in Estonia, but came to represent it.  They are the orphans in Eastern Europe that my heart breaks for.  There seems to be no way to really know how many orphans there are because the problem is so prolific.  The children are housed in institutions, nameless and faceless statistics.  They are neglected by their families and communities.  They have dirty, messy lives that people would much rather not know about any of the gritty details of their reality.

But now, when I look at this painting, I see much more.  Potatoes may be plain, but they are nutritious and sustaining.  There are societies around the world that thrive with the potato as their main staple.  They are actually very versatile. I can’t think of another vegetable that is used in so many different ways.  Potatoes are very hardy and can withstand a variety of harsh climates and conditions.

I see hope.  What a beautiful representation of these children.  They may be plain, drowning in anonymity, and seem to have nothing to offer… but there is so much more there.  They have so much potential and talent.  They have dreams and could be used by God in so many different ways.   They have had to weather very difficult circumstances, but their spirits are not broken.  They are resilient, they can still have a future.

Who will meet these children where they are and embrace them in all their dirt and pain?  Who will validate them and help them to see that they are unique individuals?  Who will help them discover their talents and help them find their place in the world?  Who will tell them that they are so dearly loved? Who will share with them about their Heavenly Father who has a purpose and a plan for their lives?

Pray for these children and ask God to send believers to lead them to Him.

To all who mourn in Israel,
      he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
   a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
      festive praise instead of despair.
   In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
      that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
Isaiah 61:3 (NLT)

Russia in the News–Abortion Limits & Safe Haven Laws

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Two articles were published in the last 24 hours about some serious issues that have a huge effect on the orphan population in Russia. 

According to a United Nations survey in 2004, Russia had the world’s highest abortion rate: 53.7 per 100 women.

There is very little stigma or restrictions on abortions across Russia.  This commonplace practice in their culture actually brings the number of orphans down, which may be good to some people… but not to me.  It just tells you how many hundreds of thousands of children are unwanted.  

In 2009, the Health Ministry recorded a total of nearly 1.3 million abortions.  Imagine if just half of those had been born… where would they be now?  Orphanages would be my first guess. 

So, what’s the real problem here?  For me, I see a nation that’s broken and can barely care for themselves let alone millions of unborn and abandoned children.  The orphans aren’t the problem, they’re the victims. 

In the short-run, I can see that limiting abortions and establishing safe havens for unwanted children may increase the orphan population.  But looking beyond that, I can see these possible improvements have great potential to start reaching into the heart of the orphan crisis in Russia.

“Russia plans ‘child abandonment’ network to fight abortions”
via RiaNovosti
http://en.rian.ru/russia/20110530/164317370.html 

“Russia’s church, lawmakers want to limit abortion”
via: USA Today/AP
http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2011-05-31-russia-abortion-01_ST_N.htm

“Priceless”–Book Review

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  • 1.2 million children are trafficked every year; this is in addition to the millions already held captive by trafficking
  • The average age of a trafficked victim is 14 years old
  • By 2010 Sex Trafficking will be the #1 crime worldwide

We have all heard the statistics – sex trafficking is an enormous issue.  In recent years, the severity of this reality has slowly come out of the darkness and into the public eye.  I have even been in Eastern Europe and met some of the most vulnerable girls to this great crime.  I have know all this and yet was never truly impacted by the horror of this world… until I read Priceless by Tom Davis.

Amazon.comThis fiction novel follows the story of an American photojournalist who is visiting Russia on assignment.  He unexpectedly becomes involved in rescuing innocent young girls from the trap of a band of cruel predators.  It is his life he ends up risking in order to save these girls from a life of objectification, despair, and hopelessness.

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time!  I could not put it down.  I have been quoting the statistics for years – “90% of the children who graduate from Russian orphanages face a future of drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, prison, or suicide” – but this book brought the reality of prostitution alive in a new way.  Although this is a fictional story, I know this is a very close resemblance of life for thousands of young girls across Russia and the CIS.  Tom Davis artfully weaves reminders throughout the book that this is a lethal spiritual battle driving this industry.  It left me frightened and disturbed, while still making my passion and burden for these girls grow.   To pray for them, advocate for them, connect them with forever families or some place that will protect them from the dangers that await them right outside the orphanage door.

For more info visit:
SheIsPriceless.com

 

“Priceless” Trailer via YouTube.com

“Infinitely More”–Book Review

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What an incredible read! …especially for those with a heart for Russia, orphans, & life testimonies of God’s love and plans for the ‘least of these.’ 

Infinitely More is “The amazing true story of one Russian orphan’s search for meaning and purpose and the God who relentlessly pursued him” by Alex Krutov. 

I have known Alex for about 2 years and was in awe of his story since I first heard it through the bits and pieces he told me… but nothing compared to being able to read it in full in this book.

It begins at his birth and tells how he found in a dumpster, abandoned by his mother at only 3 days old and takes you on his journey of some bright days and many dark times in a maze of the Russian orphanage system.  Despite his periods of abandonment, isolation, neglect, failed adoption, living on the streets, and questioning the value of his life… it is evident that God was pursuing him.  He had a plan for Alex.  He ordained events and brought people to him at just the right time.  God’s hand in Alex’s life lifted him out of a hopeless and lonely life to one of great promise and anointing as he now ministers to orphaned children who come from that same dark place. 

What an incredible example of the way God loves, pursues, and can use anyone. He is able to do infinitely more than we can imagine!

Infinitely More is available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle versions: http://amzn.com/0982635346

For more information about Alex Krutov’s transition home ministry to orphanage graduates in Russia visit: http://www.theharborspb.org/

Though my father and mother forsake me,
The Lord will receive me.
Psalm 27:10

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