Russian Flag


Today got started a bit later than usual….

Since most Russians stay up all night to celebrate New Year’s, the orphanage was fairly quiet until about noon.  We took that opportunity to get a head-start on the kids’ and staff members’ gift bags that we will be handing out in a few days.  At noon, we threw two back to back staff parties in order to thank the caretakers for their continued efforts in the lives of the children.  PictureOver tea and cakes, the team was greatly moved by stories of staff members, one of whom has been working with the kids for 38 years, who talked about the rewards and challenges of their jobs.  They told us that an Orthodox Priest had come to the orphanage and told them that the greatest reward for orphanage caretakers is in heaven, we couldn’t agree more!  We were very glad that we could at the very least make some kind of gesture to show how much we appreciate the difficult work that these ladies do on a regular basis.  We were also glad that they had enough rapport with us that they could be so open.

In the afternoon, we hauled tables and chairs out of the cafeteria in order to do gifts and crafts with the kids simultaneously.  It was a big hit, we had kids and teens spilling out into the hallway to play “Jenga” or “Kerplunk”.  After dinner, we did our evening program which included Jiawen sharing his personal story.  The parts about his service in the Singapore Navy had the kids deeply interested, partly because boys here in Russia have compulsory military service.

Following the evening program, we broke up into small groups for older boys and girls.  The men stayed in the crafts room with the boys and the women went to the psychologist’s office with the girls.  The purpose of our meetings was to discuss career options with them.  We went around the room, and the kids shared their personal goals, or at least their interests.  PictureThe Americans shared their own professional journeys, including what we have learned from our mistakes and what we wished we had known at their age.  The older kids were quite engaged, asking us questions and wanting to know why we made the decisions that we did.  In Russia, teenagers need to make a career decision at a young age.

Most striking to me personally was a boy that walked up to me after the conversation and wanted to talk further.  He was planning on becoming a gardener, largely because other circumstances precluded him from becoming a cook.  I told him that my grandfather had been in a similar profession and he jumped at the opportunity to learn more about that career.  He seemed eager to find joy and virtue in this profession, even though it was largely a backup for him. 

Please continue to keep the kids and team in your thoughts and prayers as our camp progresses.