By Ronne Rock
Buckner Marketing Director
They say Russia only gets 40 days of sunshine a year. I think they’re wrong.
My husband and I journeyed to St. Petersburg, Russia, as part of a Shoes for Orphan Souls mission team. Each day was filled with beauty, pain, and hope as we visited orphanages to minister to the children there. But one day in particular stands out in my mind.
We traveled to Volkhov, a small village two and a half hours by bus from St. Petersburg. Volkhov was at one time the capital of Russia, as it was a small but powerful town centuries ago. Sailing, hunting and fishing were the primary industries, along with defense through a sophisticated fortress set up along the banks of the Volkhov River.
Built in the 12th century, the Ladoga Fortress is situated on a hill overlooking the river. Inside, protected, is a beautiful Russian Orthodox temple. While much of the outer wall of the fortress has been compromised, the two towers and main structure remain intact. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine the soldiers defending their land in what was deemed an impenetrable structur. Thwarted by the river on one side, enemies had no choice but to try to gain access to the entrance on the other. Soldiers posted at the top of the fortress could see anyone who might be preparing to attack and would launch an assault.
The fortress was strong enough to withstand attack and with it soldiers won many battles. But it was not strong enough to withstand indifference. The remote location of Volkhov led to its demise as other, more cosmopolitan locations began to be built in the country. What’s left is a very impoverished community with families struggling to survive - and the remains of that fortress.
But Volkhov does have two beautiful bright spots - Rodnichok, a shelter for school-aged children, and Nadezda, an orphanage. Both facilities are home to some of the most intelligent and eager children I met during my time in the country. These kids are wise beyond their years. They understand fully their situation, and their first question to us as we were introduced was, “Will you be back at Christmas, or maybe next summer?” I prayed that my answer could be “yes.”
We spent much time talking to the children in our group (my husband Brad and I were on the “Green” team), and after having Bible study and craft time a special treat for them was speaking to my good friend Tasasha, who lives in Dallas, Texas. Several of the kids asked us to take pictures of them, and they even took our camera and posed so we would have lots of photos to choose from. They want a home, a family. They’ve heard about the United States and have seen a select few friends be adopted. Unfortunately, most of these children still have family somewhere – family that doesn’t come to visit much, family that doesn’t stay around. There are close to 1 million children living in Russian orphanages, yet less than 20 percent are truly “orphans.” The reasons are myriad, but the impact on the child is the same.
I still weep when I reflect on that day and the children we had the honor to meet in that small remote village in Russia. Those weathermen are wrong. There is sunshine every day in the faces of the orphans – just waiting to light up someone’s life.
Buckner is now accepting story submissions for Buckner eNews Now and the Buckner Web site from people who have participated on mission trips or local volunteering.
Send your story in a Microsoft Word document to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, city and state in the subject line along with the title of your submissions. Stories should be no longer than 1200 words. (ex. Your Perspective – John Doe, Houston, TX)
Send any photos as jpegs. We can accept anything up to 10 MB in one email.
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