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Belarus and Russia (June 2010)

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The book “One Thing You Can’t Do in Heaven,” by Mark Cahill, recently had me rethinking the reason for my existence on this earth. Within the pages of this book, the author reminds us that we won’t be able to tell anyone about God when we’re in heaven. We won’t be able to repent, or to change the course of our lives. The book also asks us to think about the way in which we view the thousands of people on earth who die each day… and forces us to reevaluate our feelings towards those who don’t know Christ. Finally, Cahill asks to consider whether or not we will one day regret the decisions we made to share or not to share the Gospel with others.

We spent a month and a half on the mission field this past summer. And while seven weeks might be more than a week, more than one day, or two hours, it is still so little. Forty young people from Maine, New Hampshire, Virginia, and various other states joined together to work, play, cry, and pray. And yet so few answered the call. Seven camps in Belarus, seven camps in Russia. And yet it is still not enough. So little when compared with the overwhelming need; when compared with the millions who live and die each day in need of a Savior.

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In Belarus five camps, each lasting about three to four weeks, took place on the grounds of “приютах” (pri-you-tah). These are holding grounds for children who are awaiting a decision regarding their fate. From there they will either be sent back home, into foster care, or to an orphanage. The work done in these places is often harder and more complex than the work that we do in typical orphanages. The children there often have just recently been taken away from their parents (their parents have lost their parental rights. To this day, the majority of Belarussian orphans are social orphans). However negligent these parents might be, the separation between parent and child is still traumatic. Other children wind up in these half-way homes repeatedly, and the stress is often too much for them. All of these children are in need of love and care, and it is vital that they are given the chance to hear of the One who loves them more than anyone on this earth ever could.

Besides the work done in the “приютах,” we also had a chance to once more organize two tent camps. The majority of the children in these two camps were foster care children, and it was encouraging to know that they would be returning to their foster homes with a new sense of hope and purpose.

After Belarus one group traveled to the Voronezh region in Russia, where they were able to host two day-camps in villages. Each camp lasted about a week. During this same time frame another group traveled to Tobolsk in the Tyumenck region. In Tobolsk, the first camp took place in the local church, with 70-80 children in attendance daily. Many of the young people there who helped us had once been campers themselves! Today they are becoming sincere Christians who care for others. Following this camp we were able to have one more camp in a “приют” in Tobolsk, and also met with children in Saleme, Uvate, and Gornopravensk.

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Remembering our summer trip, and thinking about Cahill’s book, I’ve come to realize that whoever crosses the path of one of these children—whoever spends time with one of these little ones—becomes partially responsible for that child’s fate and future. Let us remember that there will be no orphans to care for in heaven. There will be no tears for us to wipe. There will be no chance to witness to a child starved for love… because by then, it will be too late. So while we live our lives in the light of heaven and what is to come, let us not forget or ignore what God has called us to do here… today… now.

-Anatoly Kushnar

(all photos by Vitaliy Glotov)

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