Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the orphans of Russia!

Children from Luga orphanage with Lena and Natasha at last year's Christmas celebration...
     The orphans of Russia wish you a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year!    
     Our children in Russia are greatly encouraged to know they have friends and family around the world who love them and care for them.
     They have asked us to send their love and a big “THANK YOU” for your prayers and donations.   You are taking the Light and Love of Jesus into their orphanage!
     Big Family Mission does not publish a regular newsletter for December.  If you would like to send a year-end gift to bless orphans in the year ahead, please click on the DONATE NOW button below to go to our donation page.
     We pray that God’s Love and Peace will abound in your life throughout the year ahead!

Ken and Dianne Dockery, Big Family Mission

Russian orphans learn about kindness from the "KIND CAT"!

Children at Jukki orphanage with "kind cat"!
(Editor’s Note:  Everyone can share the Love and Light of Jesus… even a cat!  Natasha Kirillova, leader of Help for Children in St. Petersburg, Russia, invited a “kind cat” to speak to the orphan children at Luga and Jukki about the importance of being kind.  The children loved hearing from their new “cat friend”, and so we share Natasha’s report and a few photos of the event.)

Natasha’s report:

In all projects the main theme for October was kindness. At the Grace Center graduates' and mothers’ meetings, we spoke about kindness, prayed with the children, and decided that everyone will take efforts to work on his own behavior. 

We committed, with God's help, to be kind towards one another and with our own children.

At Jukki and Luga, we invited the actor-volunteer who was a Cat, and he talked to the kids about the importance of being kind and not rude to the animals.

Children loved the idea of helping their neighbor!  We talked about two main commandments:  to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbor.  To love in this way, it is impossible without being kind.  

Please consider "adopting an orphanage" to support Natasha and Help for Children in the year ahead.  Your monthly gift of any size will be a wonderful blessing and encouragement for Natasha and the children!  Just click on the GIVE button for more information.

When we started to talk to mothers at Grace Center, all of them shared that they didn't experience much kindness towards them in their life. We discussed what will be the right answer in that case, and prayed that God will give us all possibility to forgive.

Alisa, the graduate, now lives at the shelter that belongs to the Lutheran Church. It is very small, like our Grace center, and we are very happy for her! She had hard time living at the hostel and wanted to live at Grace, but it was not possible because we have 2 mothers and 2 kids and 2 graduates already.  Now God has provided a nice place for her to live, and she is excited to visit us for the activities! Praise the Lord!

Please pray for Olesya and Nastya, two graduates who live at Grace. They are having huge behavior problems, and we are working to help them not to make mistakes.

In Jukki, we had volunteers from Kadets School in St. Petersburg.  They had fellowship with the children from Jukki and had tea together. It was a lot of fun and helps the both sides:  It is great for the deaf children at Jukki to get socialized by fellowshipping with children who hear, and it's good for the students from regular school to open their heart towards the problems of disabled children.

Thank you to everyone who partners with Big Family for making all this possible! God bless you!


Children at Luga orphanage with "kind cat"!

Amazing Grace flows from the Grace Center in St. Petersburg, Russia

Adelia is a Christian mother with four children.  She is educated as an engineer but now works as a housekeeper.  Her husband left her and the children. When she broke her leg, she had to be off work for two months. Big Family helped Grace Center provide food for Adelia and her children.

          Big Family Mission has been partnering with the Grace Center in St. Petersburg for over three years now.
     For me (Ken) it has been a big blessing and a humbling experience as we watch God’s work through Grace Center unfold.  Ask Dianne: She will tell you that I want to explain everything in a logical manner.  Yes, I want to say the Grace Center does “this, and this, and this”.  It has these goals: 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.  But, praise God!  There is nothing logical about the Amazing Grace that God provides to each of us.  And, in similar fashion, we have found that the work and love extended by the Grace Center cannot be reduced to a simple formula.

     In the time we have partnered with the Grace Center, Big Family has:
  • helped a young woman decide to keep her baby and provided clothes and furnishings as well as a temporary home for mom and baby;
  • provided food for a single mom with 4 children who couldn’t work because she broke her leg;
  • helped hold a Christmas celebration for single mothers and orphanage graduates;
  • helped an orphanage dropout decide to keep her baby and join the Center’s young mother’s program;
  • helped treat an orphan with cerebral palsy to her first-ever excursion to a supermarket; and
  • and assisted with the many other acts of grace that flow from the aptly named Grace Center.

     We thank all of you who pray and contribute to help with the work of the Grace Center.

     Please consider joining with us to share in the Amazing Grace work of the Grace Center in the year ahead!

 On our online donation page, you will find options for giving online (or through regular mail) using credit card, direct debit from your checking account, or personal check.  If you would like your gift to be used for ministry at the Grace Center, just note that when you give.  Thank you!

The young lady in this photo (Uliana) is near and dear to our hearts.  We first met Uliana when she was nine years old and an orphan at the Kommunar Internat School.  At age 16, Uliana became pregnant and had to drop out of the orphanage school at Jukki.  Uliana has had a faithful Big Family sponsor who has prayed much for her over the years.  The Grace Center worked with Uliana to help her decide not to have an abortion.  Now she has her baby girl Alina, and Alina’s father has married Uliana. She participates in the program for young mothers at the Grace Center.

Lena from Grace Center helps Lisa shop for baby clothing.  God’s grace flowed to Lisa through a generous gift by one of our Big Family friends.

Enjoy the joy of Russian orphans receiving gifts: and share the video!


Volunteer teams in Russia will celebrate Christmas in orphanages that are under the jurisdiction of the Russian government. 

Share the Light and Love of Jesus this Christmas.

Your gift of $20 provides a nice gift and Christmas celebration for one child: .

The amazing story of Pastor George: he had decided to end his life on the railroad track... and then...he heard the Lord speak

Recent photo of Pastor George with his wife Jyothi and their three children
(Editor’s Note:  Thank you, Marla Summers, for interviewing 
Pastor George and sharing this article about his life, 
his testimony, and his vision and mission for India.)

By Marla Summers

      Pastor George Fernandes runs a growing Christian ministry in Bangalore and surrounding areas of India.  After catching a vision to serve God and transform lives in India, he started Helping Hands India (HHI) a ministry to orphans, children camps, care for widows and the elderly, a church planting and training program, a Bible Institute, the establishment of churches, and supporting local pastors.
      Where did Pastor George catch the vision?  On the train track!
      Pastor George lost his father at an early age and was raised with his eight siblings by his mother. “In the Indian culture, losing a father is losing your future,” said Pastor George. He wanted to become a doctor, but was without financial or moral support. “I thought to end my earthly life,” said Pastor George. “I went to [the] train track to give my head to the running train and die.”
“Why do you have to die?”
      But after sitting near the track for forty minutes, no train had passed. He heard someone speaking to him saying, “Why do you have to die? What will you achieve by death?” He got up from the track and made his way to the main road. Within five minutes, a train passed the track behind him.
      After realizing that God had a purpose in his life, Pastor George pursued a degree in theology, despite much financial strain. After finishing his degree in 2001, his dream of serving Christ became a reality with the start of New Hope Children’s Home with ten Indian orphans. The orphanage now cares for sixty children, all of whom are growing spiritually, getting baptized, and attending one of the best schools in Bangalore to study English. And, three more New Hope for Children homes have been opened:  in Rajoli, near Bhadrachalam, and at Ambur.  The number of children in the four orphanages is currently 136.  But it has been far from smooth sailing.
Less than a dollar to feed 46 children
      In March of 2005, with forty-six children in his care, Pastor George had less than a dollar and only a week to gather the $125 he needed to run the ministry that month. He was in tears and on his knees before the Lord, telling the children to pray that somehow they would receive the funds. “I could not purchase anything for the children, not even vegetables or milk. We had rice for the lunch and no curry for the dinner.”
      Yet God had heard their prayers. A couple called New Hope past the regular visiting hours and wanted to drive up to the orphanage. They arrived and were impacted by Pastor George’ ministry, explaining that they had come to India on business, but they wanted to see a children’s home before they left. After phoning fifteen other orphanages to request a visit, they called Pastor George, and he was the first one to answer the phone. They presented the pastor with the equivalent of $250, double that which Pastor George had prayed for hours before.
Inspector was silent, judge commended work
      This is not the only time he has seen miracles. “Government agencies came for inspection and threatened us that they would close the girls’ children home and take away the Manipuri children,” said Pastor George. After much prayer, the inspector who had threatened them said nothing, and the judge commended their work.
      And yet another time the pastor and his family prayed to speak with the media, which tends to never say anything good about Christian orphanages. Instead, the station aired and noted that Pastor George’ ministry was the best of many children’s homes.
      Most recently, Pastor George was blessed with the $9600 in donations needed to move the girls’ orphanage to a better location. The growing number of children had no better place to go, so Pastor George sacrificed his home. About why he was willing to make such a sacrifice for his ministry, he explained the hardship that Indian girls face, such as not given a proper education and even being sold or killed.
Children know me as their “Appa” Father
      “All these children call me Appa [Father],” he says. When he heard that he was going to lose his children, he and his wife chose to, “give away our house in order to save our girls.” He said, “I brought them up for almost ten years and it is difficult to even think of losing them so I and my family sacrificed our stay. We love them. Being a semi-orphan, I know the pain.”
      At the New Hope for Children orphanages, there are still an abundance of needs. At present, they are seeking land and a building for the children in Bangalore, as well as for the home in Bhadrachelam. They are also in need of a school bus to transport children and donations to cover their school fees. Pastor George’ ministry is also regularly in need of sponsors for children, monthly costs, missionaries, the church planting training program, and youth camps.
Goals for the future… Lord willing
      Pastor George hopes Helping Hands for India and his children’s home will continue to grow. His goals:
·         To serve 300 children by 2016
·         To reach 10,000 children for Christ
·         To serve 50 elderly and young widows
·         To plant 150 churches in southern India
·         To support 120 pastors and missionaries to unreached people groups
·         To train up 100 new lay-leaders for full time ministry
      While his aims may seem enormously high, he knows that everything is possible with God. The pastor and his family have dedicated their lives to transforming hearts that may never have seen love otherwise. Pastor George put it simply: “Pray for us. Share about us. Partner with us. Come and visit us.” What a mighty God we serve!

     You can learn more about the ministries of Pastor George… and learn how you can partner with him here:  Pastor George, New Hope for Children orphanages, and Helping Hands India.

Pastor George preaching at a dedication ceremony

Immediate need for water storage tower at Rajoli orphanage home, India

Water for the children's home at Rajoli, India, is pumped from a well.  The electric power is unreliable, leaving periods of time when there is no water available.  In photo above, Rajoli children learn how to garden using some of the precious water.

Water storage tower project for Rajoli:

  • Allow storage of water for the orphanage;
  • Make water available around the clock;
  • Needed for health and safety of the children at New Hope for Children orphanage in Rajoli;
  • Total cost of project: $540 (U.S. dollars).

Click of GIVE to donate for this project.  On our secure online donation page, you can give using credit card, debit card, checking account, or donate by mail using a paper check.  Donations are processed through Big Family Mission in the USA, a volunteer mission society outreach to orphans.  100% of donations will go to India to support this project.  (Please note "water" under comments when you donate.)


Come with us to visit Tolmachevo orphanage in Russia

  Please come with us and go for a visit to the orphanage at Tolmachevo, Russia!  Nadya Stagneev and her team from the New Generation Church in Gatchina gave the older children a lesson in pizza cooking.
   In a warm friendly atmosphere children helped make the dough, and then cooked pizza.  Children who live in orphanages run by the Russian government rarely have the opportunity to participate in simple household chores or to do any cooking. 
   Nadya writes:  “Our fellowship was very nice.  Children  shared about their school.  There was a lot of fun and laughter.
   “Our team played on the moon walk, read, and colored books with the younger children.
   “When the pizza was ready, we sat around the table and, just like in a big family, had tea-time. Children are very open for communication.
    “We had a guest from Latvia as a part of the team, and she played violin.  Children listened attentively.
   “At the end, we gave children different little gifts.
   “Thank you for making it possible for our teams in Russia to take the Light and Love of Jesus into orphanages!  Please enjoy photos from our visit!”

    You can join the blessings of being the Light and Love of Jesus for Russian Orphans!  Join up and partner with one of our ministry teams here:  Join and partner with Russian orphan ministry!

You can donate to help our teams in Russia visit God's special children in orphanages run by the Russian government.  You can donate online or through the mail.  Just click on the GIVE button for more information.

The Orphanage: A Brief History and the Life of a Young Girl Caught in It

"The horrific asylums of the past should have died years ago"
                 by Marla Summers

The orphanage is a residential institution claiming devotion to the care of abandoned children. Yet for June Elwin, now 72, the institution she grew up in marked her childhood with pain and despair. “It was not a home. It was not an orphanage. It was hell,” she said in a November 2012 interview with CNN correspondent Anna Maria. The horrific asylums of the past should have died years ago; yet they didn’t, leaving people like June forever haunted by their memory.

The orphanage has its roots in ancient documents such as the Code of Hammurabi and the Codex Justinian. Markedly different from the modern period, ancient adoption practices put emphasis on the political and economic interests of the adopter, rather than on the child. Aristocracy took advantage of adoption as a legal tool to strengthen ties between wealthy families and create male heirs to the throne. In fact, many of Rome’s emperors were adopted sons.
Child abandonment levels rose with the fall of the Roman Empire, and the Church found itself responsible for many of the foundlings. In order to protect these orphans, the clergy found it necessary to limit the selling and rearing of the abandoned children. The Church developed a system of oblation, in which children became dedicated and reared within monasteries. This marked an important shift toward institutionalization and the establishment of the orphanage.  
When welfare workers dumped June Elwin in the Home for Colored Children in 1942 when she was barely two years old, they had no idea what sort of hell she would have to endure over the next eleven years. The orphans at the institution were in charge of managing the family farm and were often held down and severely beaten when they failed to complete their tasks. Even the youngest were often forced into hard labor. They often went without food, sometimes even eating the pigs’ slop to fill their hungry stomachs. June was first raped by a staff member when she was ten. By the time she had left the orphanage, she had suffered countless sexual abuse by the institution workers, male and female alike.
The concept of institutional care slowly gained acceptance, leading to the development of formal rules regarding how to place children into families. Under the direction of social welfare activists, orphanages began to promote adoptions based on sentiment rather than work; children were placed out under agreements to provide care for them as family members instead of under contracts of apprenticeship The growth of this model is believed to have contributed to the enactment of the first modern adoption law in 1851 by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The Progressive movement of the early 1900s swept across the nation in an effort to do away with the orphanage system that was becoming more overcrowded every year. Anti-institutional forces gathered momentum and adoption became more family-focused and the media began projecting a more positive view of orphanages. From 1945 to 1974, the “baby scoop era” saw rapid growth and acceptance of adoption as a means to build a family. In this environment, adoption became an acceptable solution for both unwed mothers and infertile couples.
Yet for children such as June Elwin, the horrific system of asylums and institutions had all but vanished, it was merely pushed out of sight. Though the first complaint was made against the Home for Colored Children in 1998, only recently were the 38 complaints looked into and a case built against the institution, which is still in operation today, though claiming that conditions have changed since half a century ago. Describing the relief that she felt after hearing their case was progressing, June said in the CNN interview that she “couldn’t believe that at last they were looking at us.” But for orphans and children living in institutions across the U.S. and the world alike, it may be years before justice sets them free.




India's Orphaned Dalits

"India is home to more orphans than anywhere else in the world, thousands and thousands of Dalits that are forever deemed untouchable by humanity."

                                                      by Marla Summers

About the Caste System

Hinduism is a religion encompassing over one billion followers and a menagerie of traditions and beliefs. The religion claims no single founder, yet is woven together by a series of religious books known as The Vedas. Hinduism is often referred to as the oldest human religion, with its origin estimated to have been around 3000 B.C. Centered upon the concept of reincarnation, Hinduism emphasizes a good lifestyle in order to advance to a better status in the next life. This is the backbone of the caste system and the chain that links approximately 167 million people in India in the lowest economic level. These are the Dalits.

India's caste system assigns individuals a certain hierarchical status according to Hindu beliefs. Traditionally, there are four principal castes and one category of people who fall outside the caste system: the Dalits. As members of the lowest rank of Indian society, Dalits face discrimination at almost every level: from access to education and medical facilities to restrictions on where they can live and what jobs they can have. Dalits have been oppressed, culturally subjugated, and politically marginalized.  The principals of untouchability and “purity and pollution” dictate what Dalits are and are not allowed to do; where they are and are not allowed to live, go, or sit; who they can and cannot give water to, eat with, or marry; extending into the minutia of all aspects of daily life. 

Within the Dalit community, there are many divisions into sub-castes. Dalits are divided into leather workers, street sweepers, cobblers, agricultural workers, and manual "scavengers". The latter group, considered the lowest of the low and officially estimated at one million, traditionally are responsible for digging village graves, disposing of dead animals, and cleaning human excreta. Approximately three-quarters of the Dalit workforce are in the agricultural sector of the economy. A majority of the country’s forty million people who are bonded laborers are Dalits. These jobs rarely provide enough income for Dalits to feed their families or to send their children to school. As a result, many Dalits are impoverished, uneducated, and illiterate.

India's Orphans

Generation after generation are born into Dalit families in India, now making up over 15% of the total population. These children are locked into the social caste and will be forced to take up the same menial jobs as their parents, without any hope of moving out of the untouchable villages. They are unable to receive education and are doomed to the same fate as the many generations before them. It is very common that parents abandon their children as one less mouth to feed, after which most of the  orphans will stay on the streets all their lives and at best be taken into dilapidated orphanages. Once they grow too old for the orphanages, they return to their impoverished villages and crowded streets, often falling back into their traditional jobs or working as prostitutes.

Five thousand years after Hinduism was born, billions and billions of Dalits have lived in conditions unimaginable, untouched by society in the belief that their poverty is a punishment from their previous life. Yet while Hinduism has no single founder to be blamed for this horrible human enslavement, we can be blamed for not stopping it. India is home to more orphans than anywhere else in the world, thousands and thousands of Dalits that are forever deemed untouchable by humanity. They are forever unloved and forgotten, even despite movements in favor of human rights. And while they are physically poor, they are also far poorer spiritually. Very few of them will ever even meet a Christian, much less hear and accept the gospel. The worst part is not that Dalit orphans have to live in those conditions; it is that they have to die in them.

You can help rescue orphan children by giving them new hope.  Click here to read about New Hope for Children orphanages.

Do you want to change the world? Sponsor a child!

If you sponsor a child now... or have ever thought about sponsoring a child... you may have wondered:  Am I really helping?  Am I really changing anything?.

New research by an economist and his team show measurable impact from child sponsorship programs.  So, if you want to change the world... consider sponsoring a child!

In all six countries studied, research demonstrated that sponsorship results in better educational outcomes for children. Overall, sponsorship makes children 27 to 40 percent more likely to complete secondary school, and 50 to 80 percent more likely to complete a university education.

How do child sponsorship programs impact the children and how do such programs impact the economy of their countries?

You can read about the comprehensive research and the results in this article on Christianity Today:  Want to Change the World?  Sponsor a Child.

You can sponsor a child at one of the New Hope for Children Orphanages in India for $29/month.  100% of your monthly gift goes to India to provide food, clothing, education, and a loving Christian environment for one of the 137 children in four orphanages.  Click here to meet some of the children at New Hope Orphanages.

Sweat shirts travel around the world, get lost, and then FOUND!

 In our ministry to orphans, God takes us down some unexpected roads, and we get to meet some very special people who have a heart for children.
   Several weeks ago, Big Family Mission received this email from the Quebe Sisters Band:
    We were recently in St Petersburg and accidentally left a large box of new clothes - sizes 3-5 - for children ages 3-6 at a hotel. Approx. 50 items. If there is an area orphanage in need, and if someone could pick it up from the hotel storage area we would like to donate it. These are brand new clothes we purchased here in Texas and brought with us on the trip. Please let me know! It is at a hotel right near the Hermitage Museum.”
   We sometimes get “strange” emails out of the blue, and many times they are not “real people” with legitimate concerns or questions.  I (Ken) must admit I had never heard of the Quebe Sisters Band, so of course, the first thing I did was Google them.  I quickly learned that, indeed, there is such a band, and they are very talented fiddlers and vocalists… and I love their music!
   We got the name of the hotel, and Natasha Kirillova picked up the box of sweatshirts later that week.  Then, when her team visited the Nikolsky orphanage, the shirts were distributed to some very happy children who had to try on their new shirts right away (see photo above).
   The Quebe Sisters Band was traveling in Russia on a U.S. Embassy/Library of Congress tour.  They hope to return to Russia someday, and we are hopeful that they can present a concert for some of the children.  (Natasha also likes their music!)  You will find them here: .

"Final Bell" for Russian orphans: where will I go, what will I do?

After fun on the playground, children posed for this photo

(Note: each year at time for "final bell" in Russian schools, I remember Katia. "Help for Children" is now helping graduates from Luga orphanage who go to St. Petersburg for technical school.)

The Final Bell

The “final bell”: a bittersweet day for Russian orphans

The “final bell”. “Final bell” is how Russians label their last day of school and graduation day. The final bell often rings in somber, worrisome tones for the orphans of Russia. Most of us think of graduation as a joyous occasion: the beginning of a journey into the future to live out childhood dreams.

For orphans, the final bell begins the world’s most cruel surprise party. Orphans have lived all or most of their lives in an institution: following strict schedules, making no decisions, being told what to do and how to do it, learning no life skills. Then…final bell. They graduate and are thrown into the world, like birds who are set free but have never learned to fly. Easy prey for the villains of the world. Nine out of 10 face a future of drugs, alcohol, prison, prostitution, or suicide.

I will never forget that day on a muddy playground in northeast Russia, three weeks before final bell. We were visiting one of the internat orphanage schools where our Russian church team has been ministering to children for several years. We enjoyed a lunch of soup and bread with the children, and migrated outside to the still-recovering-from-winter playground. It was a bright and warm spring day, a rarity for early May in this part of Russia. Skies cloudless. Gentle breeze. Coat-quickly-coming-off weather. Within minutes, the playground was alive with running, laughing, tagging, yelling, and games. Children showing off on the one piece of antiquated playground equipment. A soccer ball being kicked back and forth on the gray-brown field.

We sat with a group of the older children on a broken-down bench at one side of the playground. As we watched the amazing show of energy and life, I wanted to freeze-frame the afternoon. It was like a patch of timeless joy in lives headed to an almost certain dead-end. I wanted to keep these children from ever having to hear the final bell.

“Final bell…it’s only three weeks away,” I thought to myself. “I wonder if any of the children sitting with us are graduating.”

I turned and asked: “Are any of you graduating this year?”

Katia smiled and then raised her hand: “Yes….”

“Congratulations Katia! Where will you be living when you leave the school?” (I knew that many of the children who graduate from this internat have to move at least three hours away.)

Katia’s smile melted. She looked down, staring at the stubble of spring grass pushing up through the patch of mud between her feet. Silence. She continued to stare at the ground. The children who sat with us waited politely. Quietness. We waited. And waited.

Finally Katia had to answer: “I don’t know….”

At that point, I should have been wise enough to change the subject, but I really wanted to know what she would be studying in vo-tech school, which is supposed to be the next grade for internat graduates.

So I asked, “What will you be doing when you graduate?”

Katia continued to stare into the ground… arms folded… bent over in a stomach-ache-kind-of position. Her entire posture and countenance said that she wanted to cry, but she held back the tears with the toughness she had acquired from her lifetime within the gray walls of the orphanage.

Again, a long wait until she decided on her answer that came slowly in an apologetic voice: “I don’t know.”

I held back the tears that I wanted to shed with Katia. Quickly, we changed the subject back to the playground, the impromptu soccer match, the beauty of the day, and the excitement and joy of being together and sharing our love with the children that we had grown to know and love.

Unfortunately, Katia’s dilemma is normal. The majority of orphans who graduate from the internat schools of Russia have no hopes and dreams for their future. If there is anything worse than living in an orphanage, it’s living in an internat orphanage. Children whose parents have any kind of social problem are likely to end up in the internat school, where they are routinely diagnosed as slow learners and children with problems. Based on our ministry to children in the internat orphanages, these schools are full of beautiful, talented, kind, and smart children who will never have a chance to develop what God has placed within them. Those who go on to vocation school often have to relocate to a far away community. They usually give up after a month of two in strange and lonely surroundings. They drop out, somehow get back to their town and familiar faces, and try to find their way in an unfamiliar world. Many will live on the streets; some find shelter with other children their age. Most will somehow find enough money for cheap vodka or grain alcohol. They seek temporary solace in the arms of another. Babies are conceived. Babies are born and are given up to the orphanage baby houses. The vicious cycle continues.

When we first started working with Russian orphans, we thought what orphans need is clothing, showers, computers, games, fruit, and ice cream. Time and experience has taught us the only solid answer for orphans is to get them into families. We still minister to children where they are in the orphanages, but we focus on encouraging foster homes, transitional homes, and adoption.

Much prayer is needed. Only God can make the changes necessary to set the orphanage children of Russia into families.

When we think about Katia, we rejoice in knowing that, through our faithful volunteers at the church nearby, she has heard the good news of Jesus Christ. Not just once but on many occasions. Someday the real final bell will sound for Katia and all of us. We pray that on that day Katia will finally know where she is going and what she will be doing: living forever in God’s big family.

Ken Dockery, co-founder, Big Family Mission 

Russian orphans ask: What are these things called “Valentines”?

Several families in the USA and other countries volunteered to send valentines to the children at orphanages in Russia and India.
Mail going to Russia often takes longer than it is supposed to, but finally the valentines reached their destination!
Natasha and “Help for Children” distributed the cards to children at Jukki and Luga orphanages.  The valentines created a lot of excitement among the children!
   Natasha writes: “We want to thank everyone who has spent time and sent Valentines to our children in Jukki and Luga! It usually takes long time for the envelopes to arrive to us from U.S., so we have just been able to bring the Valentines to the children - they were arriving every other day! 
   “Although the day of 14 of February was long ago, it is never too late to say the good words to the children in need, to let them know that they are loved and not forgotten!
    “I didn't expect that those cards will cause such interest of children! It was so special for them to receive the Valentines.  They were sharing, showing each other the cards, I have translated them all. We do not have such cards in Russia. We had made a game with the sets of such Valentines (they went in boxes with cartoons heroes).
   “Every child was taking a card and we said that the words that are written there are just for him personally - such words as "loved", “you are the best friend", "I am missing you" encouraged every child, and such words as “you are cool", "funny", and “fashionable" brought a lot of laughter.
   “Our children had such fun sharing and playing that game, they asked us to distribute the cards with the wishes again and again! Thank you, everyone, who brought a lot of laughter and love into the orphanage!”

   Our thanks to everyone who took the time to send a valentine to an orphan in Russia or India to let that child know that they are special and are very much loved by their heavenly Father!  We introduced this project on Facebook… so if you have not found and liked “Big Family Mission” on Facebook, we are here:

   Learn how you can help Natasha and her team minister to Russian orphans here:  Adopt a Russian Orphanage.

Meet 11 Russian orphans who want to learn more about Jesus Christ!

This summer, 11 orphans from Luga Orphanage (about four hours south of St. Petersburg) will have the opportunity to spend two weeks at a summer church camp at New Generation Church in Gatchina. 

These fun-filled weeks will encourage the kids to take their relationship with God to a whole new level. According to Natasha Kirillova, head of the Help for Children ministry in St. Petersburg, the orphans at Luga are already expressing a personal interest in getting to know God. They continue to ask a lot of questions about Christianity, and some have begun to read the Bible regularly and to pray.
If sending orphans to a summer camp sounds easy enough, think again. There are new regulations that often make paperwork a time-consuming challenge, and then there is the challenge of funding.
In order to attend summer camp in Gatchina, these precious children need to find sponsors to cover their expenses. "Children are looking forward for that opportunity," says Natasha, "and will be happy and grateful to every sponsor."
The cost for each child to spend two weeks at the Christian camp is about $200. These gifts are considered as more than simply generous donations. They are investments, both in the lives of the Russian orphans and in the kingdom of God.

Meet all of the 11 children who are hoping to go to the summer church camp here:  Summer church camp.

If you prefer to read about the children in Russian language, please click here:  Summer church camp (Russian version).

To make a donation to help these children attend summer church camp, just click on the GIVE button to go to our secure donation page.

You may donate online using credit or debit card or direct deduction from checking... or contribute via mail.

Three day symposium: child welfare, adoption, orphan care

Just three more days to register without a late registration fee...
The 37th Annual Child Welfare Symposium, conducted by the Joint Council on International Children's Services will be held in New York City on May 20-22, 2013 at The Conference Center, 130 E. 59th Street, NY, NY 10022.
Every year, the Symposium brings together 200 professionals in the area of child welfare, adoption, and orphan care for three days of information gathering, idea sharing, and networking. 
All those with an interest in ensuring that children live, grow, and flourish in a permanent, safe, and loving family are invited to attend.
Workshops at the 2012 Symposium covered topics such as post-adoption nutrition, the future of international adoption, and the changing media landscape with regard to permanency solutions for children. This year, workshops will discuss the needs of children in Haiti, India, Ethiopia and China, as well as financial organizational empowerment, medical and nutritional issues, orphan care issues, and intercountry curricula. More information on these workshops can be found here.
Last year, speakers included Rita Soronen, Executive Director of the Dave Thomas Foundation, Kathleen Strottman, Executive Director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and Ambassador Susan Jacob from the U.S. Department of State. 
A complete list of 2013 speakers is available on our Speakers page.This year's Symposium has new speakers and new sessions covering topics such as financial organizational empowerment, orphan care, and intercountry adoption. 
The Symposium will also feature country caucus discussions on the needs of children without family care specifically in Haiti, India, Ethiopia, and China.

Top 10 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew

Live Webinar sponsored by Joint Council on International Children's Services and Adoption Learning Partners

May 14, 2013
7:00PM Central 
Q&A: 8:00PM

Adopted people and adoptive parents don’t always look at adoption the same way. Many of the issues adoptees struggle with may be difficult for parents to understand and come to terms with. And it’s ever changing. A parent’s and a child’s adoption experiences change over time, based on life events, ability to understand the circumstances, and new facts as they become available or are discovered.

Understanding your child’s feelings about adoption is essential, so how do you gain some insight?

We’ve gathered a panel of adopted people, to discuss:
  • What they wish their parents had known
  • Their feelings about loss, shame and anger and their love for their parents
  • What feelings they shared with their parents and what they kept to themselves 
For more information and to register, visit Adoption Learning Partners website here.  

Adopting from India: adoption process is different from many countries

We often get questions about adopting from India.  Marla Summers has researched such adoptions, and offers these insights and resources...
By Marla Summers

 No one ever said that doing hard things comes naturally, much less easily. But in some way that’s why we attempt what everyone else deems confusing and challenging. Something in us make us fly to the other side of the globe and navigate foreign regulations and brave a culture so different than our own. Something that makes those long months of waiting so worth it. Something that goes beyond the physical, stretching us farther than our highest dreams. The journey? Adoption.

Why India?

According to UNICEF, India is home to over 55 million orphans, making up almost half of its total child population. India stands first in the world for the number of orphaned children, as well as those affected by HIV, both rates being expected to double in the next five years. The unimaginable challenges these children face is compounded by the stigma associated with the disease, marking them as a class of untouchables according to the caste system still present today. Many children are also abandoned by their parents due to the extreme poverty made no easier by feeding yet another mouth. 

India is a member of the Hague Adoption Convention, requiring its children to meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption. The Government of India requires that the child must have placement attempted with a family in India before the child is eligible for international adoption or fostering. Around 4,000 Indian orphans found their way into stable homes in the U.S. the past decade, a number that is expected to decline in the next few years. And that’s bad news for the growing numbers of abandoned children who call the streets of India their home.

Guidelines for Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs)

The Government of India allows a child to be given in adoption under the following circumstances:
- To an individual irrespective of his or her marital status
- To a childless couple
- To a couple with at least two years of stable marital relationship 
- There may be no more than three children already in the home

More specifically, there is additional eligibility criteria for PAPs as outlined by the government to ensure the well-being and stability of the child's new family. The legal age of the PAP(s) is between 25 and 50 years, give or take five years depending on the age of the child and the circumstances. Couples in live-in relationships are not eligible to adopt a child, and the Indian Government does not knowingly place children with homosexual couples. The PAP(s) should have sufficient financial resources to raise the child, especially if he or she has special needs. Also, neither PAP should have a physical or mental condition that would prevent them from taking care of the child. 

Beginning the Adoption Procedure

1. Choose an adoption service provider
2. Apply to be found eligible to adopt
3. Be matched with a child
4. Apply for the child to be found eligible for adoption
5. Adopt child (or gain legal custody) in India
6. Bring  the child to the US and acclimate to the culture and language                                                                                                               In total, the approximate cost of the adoption ranges from $13,000-$16,000 + travel + Indian visa + the cost of finalizing the adoption. PAPs must register with a single Hague-accredited adoption agency, located nearest to their place of residence if possible. All foreign adoptions from India go through the CARA authorized agency referred to as the Authorized Foreign Adoption Agency (AFAA) and follow the guidelines at the CARA website, After you have submitted your dossier, the waiting time will probably run over a year for a girl and probably longer for a boy, depending on availability. PAPs with Indian descent or those seeking to adopt special needs children are given priority in the adoptions.

Special Needs Children

For the purposes of adoption, the "special needs" banner extends to children in the following categories: 
- Children having visible or serious medical conditions, mental or physical
- Older children
- Siblings
- Extremely low birth weight children (as certified by a Government Medical Officer)

It is the role of the Specialized Adoption Agency to make efforts to prepare the special needs child for adoption, especially in the category of emotional preparation. The PAP(s) will receive detailed medical data and orientation sessions to help them to understand the child's needs and make an educated decision. It is advised that the older children are counseled and begin the bonding process as soon as possible, as well as learning English early on, if applicable.  Special needs children are often a better fit for older and experienced parents and those who have the skills, patience, and experience to be better equipped to parent such a child. 

Finalizing the Adoption

After the referral has been received, there will be a second wait of 4-6 months before the PAP(s) receives the legal documents required to travel to India to pick  up the child. There is a fair degree of differing on travel requirements, depending on the Indian child welfare institution your agency is connected with. The PAP(s) will be obligated to spend anywhere from 3-5 days to 5-6 weeks in the Indian state visiting the child or the institution. According to the Indian Government, the minimum adoption age for the child ranges from two to four years, depending on the state and agency. 

The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in India generally includes the following three parties.

- Adoption Authority
The Central Adoption Resource Agency is the official national agency that oversees international adoptions in India.

- The Court
The court will normally require, at a minimum the “No Objection Certificate” (NOC), a birth certificate or affidavit of birth, and evidence of abandonment to grant the custody order.

- Role of Adoption Agencies
In addition, all recognized adoption agencies (or placement agencies) in India are local and must be registered with their Indian state Voluntary Coordinating Agency (VCA). Placement agencies do not provide national coverage, so PAPs must determine the Indian state from which they propose to adopt. The Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA), established in 1990, licenses all the VCAs and all Indian placement agencies.


Whether adoption has been something long on your heart or it is an option you have only just considered recently, there has never been a better time to give a child a second chance. The legal process may seem daunting, but the best journeys are never the easy ones. And you too will come to admire the struggling street children of India and the parents that work tirelessly to call them their own.

 “The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.” - Mother Teresa


Contact Information

Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA)
Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
West Block VIII, Wing II
2nd Floor, R. K. Peram
New Delhi - 110 066
Tel: 91-011 618-0194

Embassy of India, Washington, D.C.
2107 Massachusetts Ave, N. W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Phone: (202) 939-7000