I was blessed with the opportunity to work with Orphans Tree during my winter break between semesters. During my time in their three ministry centers in Vladimir, Ivanova, and Kostroma I was able to witness true servant leadership from the staff in all regions. The heart they have for the grads and kids they work with is truly humbling and I was honored to be a part of their work for 12 days during my stay. The grads I talked to were extremely grateful for the opportunities they had through Orphans Tree and the skills they had been taught throughout their time there. What was even more encouraging were the grads who themselves became involved in the local programs to mentor incoming grads and kids in the centers in true disciplship. I'm hopeful to one day continue working with Orphans Tree and would encourage anyone who has the opportunity in the future to participate in the program yourself.
My last trip to Russia with Orphan's tree was amazing. I was able to see God move in the three different ministry centers we visited. He moved, in part, because of the time, effort, and hard work that Orphan's Tree staff put into our visit. In each ministry center we were able to meet Orphan Grads with unique stories and challenges, they all were inspiring. The Grads were all very thankful for all the work that Orphan's tree is doing to journey alongside them as they learn life skills and meet physical needs. Orphan's Tree is a great organization doing amazing things.
I just recently returned to the US from Russia. I cannot even begin to describe the immense gratitude I have towards Orphan's Tree for the truly amazing trip. I got to experience the most wonderful people in three very unique but equally inspiring regions. In each region the orphan graduate inspired me with their life stories through their hard work, determination to have better lives and their joy in the families they have created with their care givers, visitors and friends. I know my life has been changed for the better based on the people I have met and I truly hope to have the opportunity to travel with Orphan's Tree in the future. My heart hurts for the graduates in Russia who are looking for love and friendships with the people around them and the work Orphan's Tree is providing some help for their cause.
I recently returned home after my ninth trip to Russia. My first trip was in November of 2008. This latest trip was during the first week of October 2016. So many things have come and gone in my life in the last 8 years, however I am so grateful that my desire to continue to develop the relationships I have with the people of Russia continues to grow. During my last trip I was thrilled to be reunited with so many people whom I have come to know and love as though they were my biological family members. This is a phenomenon that I have never known until these people entered my life. When I was in Russia in January 2016, I was given the joyous news that a young man and woman whom I had met on my very first trip were going to become parents! These two amazing "kids" who are now in their early twenties were embarking on the journey of parenthood...when all they have ever been known as was "orphans".
Baby Daniil was born in early September, a healthy baby boy. When I arrived in Ivanovo I could not wait to see his sweet face and embrace his mom and dad and share with them in their joy. A brand new family! The cycle breaking in front of my eyes. All of our prayers, hopes and dreams for them as young people growing up with a daily struggle of not knowing a family of their own had been answered.
I am completely humbled to share that I was asked to become Daniil's Godmother and be present with them for his baptism while we were in Ivanovo. I wish I had the ability to describe what that meant and means to me. This isn't an honor that I ever could have imagined or even dreamed of in my life. Only God could have orchestrated my steps into this place in time. And I am so grateful that He did.
I am so grateful for Orphan's Tree and the opportunities that it provides for Graduates in Russia to dream their biggest dreams, learn what they have been told they would never know and grow into thriving, active participants in their communities and families. I am thankful to be part of this story of change and hope in Russia and to know what it means to be used by God to watch His hope come alive in hearts and lives.
The Russian people are the most warm, generous, laughter-filled and genuine people that I've ever known. The opportunity we have to learn from each other about what it means to live life to its fullest potential is only possible when we say, "Yes. I want to go. I want to be a vessel. I want to be used by God.".
Thank you Orphan's Tree for allowing all of us the opportunity to be vessels.
I first traveled to Russia in 2008. Since then I have made a total of 7 trips, 6 of them under the banner of Orphan's Tree. Working with Orphan's Tree is one of the greatest joys of my life. The heart of this organization is pouring into the amazing people of Russia and supporting them emotionally, physically and spiritually. I have great confidence in Orphan's Tree and our ability to collectively as volunteers, staff and nationals provide hope, joy, peace and laughter to the lives of our brothers and sisters in Russia.
I recently took a trip to the three regions that Orphan's Tree works in to get an overview of who they are and what they do. Coming from the US and having worked with several other similar organizations, what I was most impressed with was the quality of the staff at each of the locations that we visited. You could just tell that the staff truly cares for the young adults that they work with and also truly love what they do. It is also quite evident to me that as OT has grown and expanded, it has been important to them that everything be done with excellence. So I was very impressed with everything that I saw and can definitely say they are a great non-profit!
I traveled to three regions throughout Russia alongside of Orphan's Tree several weeks ago. Orphan's Tree is as good as non-profit organizations get. Their philosophy of ministry is one that other NPOs should look to for counsel. Their labor is effective, visible, and tangible. This quickly became apparent with each orphan "graduate" I interacted with that used the ministry centers as a place of respite. Russia is a better place because of Orphan's Tree.
I am a Registered Nurse and traveled with Orphans Tree to Russia this summer. The positive impact on the lives of young adults who are leaving orphanages to attend technical training schools is evident. The Orphans Tree ministry centers teach important life skills that facilitate the transition to life in a new location. The young adults learn about budgeting, local transportation, healthy and economical meal preparation and healthy lifestyle choices. In addition the ministry centers provide an ongoing community, and source of emotional support that encourages and enables students become successful adults. This organization provides a life changing experience for the young adults who attend the ministry centers as well as the participants who serve. I plan on supporting and serving with Orphans Tree in the future.
Orphans tree is doing consistent, "boots on the ground", work with older orphans in Russia. Their committment to relationships, as well as meeting physical needs is refreshing. George Steiner has been investing his time in this population for over two decades. The heart of this ministry is clear, and easy to support.
I have 25 years in the non-profit, Christian sector, 6 years of which were in the international relief and development work. When I was invited to join a team going to Russia with Orphans Tree, my expectations were low because I know the difficulty in reaching across cultures and making a true difference. What I experienced, however, was an authentic relationship with Russians who were already "doing the work". Our role was to assist them, offer what talents we have, and support their work. This was very different than some mission trips that go with their own agenda or (worse) give you busy work to make you feel good. When it was time to go, I knew that the older orphans had a support system, if they choose to use it. I knew they had people who genuinely cared for them and would act as "family", should they want that. All this speaks to the idea of Hope. -- Specifically, the orphans arrived from their various orphanages across the region one afternoon, a week before their tech school started. Many were sad, scared, disoriented, and mostly untrusting. By the end of our time, they had learned how to use a bus, how to shop and cook a meal, how to budget their monthly stipend, how to get to the Orphans Tree dacha, and how to practice safety. We laughed a lot, ate a lot, and learned to communicate. "Trust" is something that they may learn over their lifetime, and I know how to pray for them now that I'm home. -- The ministry center where we met offered regular dental care as well as after-school opportunities. There was even a fledgling start-up of a mentor's program that linked older orphans in the tech schools with the new students just arriving. What impressed me was the depth of the Orphans Tree ministry in its short lifetime and the promise of growth because of its indigenous nature. -- Personally, I found the Russian people to be warm and extremely gracious. If we were ever uncomfortable, it was only because we were served multiple-course meals and we had no more belt holes to loosen. I loved listening to their personal stories spanning the last 50 years, all of which were humbling and difficult. I'm extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than me. -- I would include some photos but I'm a lousy photographer.
I was expecting difficulties. I was expecting cultural barriers aside from basic language barriers. I was expecting obstacles and hurdles. Maybe I am pessimistic and do not know it. I have always fashioned myself as a glass is half full type of person. I suppose reality is somewhere in the middle and it floats on an imaginary line a little closer to one end on some days and a littler closer to the other on differing days. Either way I was blown away by the tremendous effort by Orphan's tree. I went on a vision trip to three regions of Russia. I visited ministry centers, homes that orphan graduates can visit on weekends, and much more. Everywhere I went barriers where already taken down before I even arrived. People where excited I was there. People anticipated and looked forward to teaching sessions with young mothers, young adults being trained as mentors, basic life skill classes, and so much more. It was an amazing experience. I have never felt more safe, not even in my home town of just over 2000 people or in a town I recently lived with a population of 250. I always had an interpreter to make sure there was no language barriers, and I was well prepared before the trip so I had no cultural barriers or unexpected unpleasant surprises. I give Orphan's Tree the highest rating not just because they are excellent at what they do, but because they care so much more than any organization I have been blessed to participate with. Every part of the trip was well worth the time and every dollar spent accomplished it's task of helping orphans and orphan graduates. If you get the chance, go on a trip, take a leap of faith, dive in, and I believe you will never be the same! I know I am changed forever!
P.S. I really enjoyed leading teaching sessions with recent orphan graduates as well as young mothers