18 Dec 2007
It is the first day of school and children are all dressed up and carrying beautiful bouquets of flowers for their teachers. Parents and grandparents proudly join in trying to capture the excitement.
Most of these families make their home in a high-rise apartment complex in Ufa Ö some are new Ö others are old. A wide variety of single-family homes are Clustered along the White River and away from the high-rise apartments. A number of of these houses are large enough to include the extended family.
However, there are those for whom life is much different. There is no caring family; Ö no place to feel safe. They might find a place to sleep down the alleyways, behind the graffiti walls, next to the discarded alcohol bottles or, Ö perhaps, Ö in the decaying wood frame buildings scattered throughout the city. It is in these neglected and out of the way places that The Forgotten Ones live a precarious life. Most are teenagers without a family who cares. Furthermore, they are faced with scorn and persecution by government officials. These are the street kids of Ufa.
No one really knows how many of these kids there are, exactly where they live or how they survive but for some, Ö the fortunate ones, Ö there is a place of refuge Ö there are people who care.
Listen to Natalya as she tells of showing Christian love to those who have been forgotten by others.
(Interview in Russian Ė text has been corrected for English narration, which will be done in different voice.)
(fade to Natalya and Female Voice)
We minister to the kids in a variety of ways. When we get a young person off the streets, itís important that he or she become a normal, full-value member of society.
First, we feed them, Ö clothe them, Ö and get them shoes. After taking care of those needs, we are able to give attention to their documentation including identification cards and medical records. In addition, school attendance needs to be arranged. What's more, for those who live on the streets, we help them find a place to live. Sometimes we bring them home with us.
Most of these adolescents have a family, if you can call it that. The daddy may be in prison or dead or the momma is an alcoholic. There arenít a lot who are truly without parents, but their parents really arenít taking care of them. We take it upon ourselves to care for such kids.
Five times a week we get together with the kids at the Good News Baptist Church; Ö give them food and clothes and take them on field trips into nature. Every year we take them to a summer camp where they work and also hear the good news of Christ.
We canít be satisfied saying that weíve fed them and that then they donít have any other needs. Itís only the beginning. Itís a long road to get a child to the place of becoming a fully contributing citizen.
Every youngster responds in a different way. There are some who break out in tears when you help them. They accept the help with such joy and love that itís really neat. Others are used to constantly getting things and they donít value what is given. A third type of child sees that we have clothes and things and they try to show up and steal when weíre not around. During the four years weíve been ministering to the street kids, overall they have been wonderful. Many of them pass a point in which they are able to go back to their families and back to school. We try to help get them set up with jobs to earn a living.
When it comes to the Gospel, Bible stories that they hear are no more than just stories because some of the kids donít know how to read. It is very important to show God to them by modeling the Christian life by your deeds.
When 10, 15, or 20 of the young people started showing up in the worship services at the church, it was very difficult in the beginning because they didnít smell good or had been trying out alcohol or drugs. They werenít able to behave themselves Ö interfering with the worship times, fighting during the prayer time Ö not understanding what was going on during worship.
I am thankful to God that Pastor Zhuk allowed this ministry to develop. In a way, the church became unified because of this ministry and each began to find a way to serve. The grandmas starting knitting warm socks and caps for the kids. People started bringing casserole dishes made of potatoes. Their own clothes were also given. Several of our women even wanted to take care of some of the kids in their homes, but I couldnít allow this because most were not ready for re-integration into family life.
Here at the church building, a child can come and find love, care and forgiveness. The government does not give any care, forgiveness, or mercy. This is very painful. I understand that the only person who can be occupied with these children is the one who has God in their soul. Only God will fully allow us to be involved with such as these and fully take care of their needs.
Some kids have stolen many things from this church and, unfortunately, those kids are now in prison. You understand that itís not just that they cause pain; itís painful to see their lives. What they are doing is the consequence of their sin. We donít have the right to judge them about this, because no one cared for them and warned them not to do such things.
This ministry needs lots of people Ö a team of ten people minimum. We really do need help. I thank those who have been supporting us in different ways such as when a church sends us hats and mufflers for the kids, or people remember us in prayer or give financially. Most of all, we need you to support us and lift up our arms and hands. Speaking realistically, we are tired. This is one battle in the war we are in; itís not a war against flesh and blood, but against sin and the devil.
Even as Aaron and Hur held up the arms of Moses in battle, God can use you to prop up those involved in this battle for the lives of the forgotten ones of Ufa. Will you help them?
Would you pray that God would show the beauty of Jesus and His love to these young people? Could it be that God is calling you to personally spread the sweet aroma of Godís love and spend time with the forgotten ones of Ufa? Are you willing to go?
Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ö Ephesians 5:2
PRAY that these ďforgotten onesĒ will experience the Fragrance of Beauty given by Jesus.
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