“We see that if we give children in need the whole world, but their soul will not be saved, it will not do any good for them.” …Natasha Kirillova
By Marla Summers, Big Family Mission Volunteer
Help for Children operates in the St. Petersburg area of Russia with the goal of preventing social orphan hood, while nurturing the mothers and children already affected by it. A social orphan is defined as a child who has at least one living parent, but is forced to live in an institution because the parent or parents have lost or given up their right to care for the child. This epidemic is largely fueled by the alcoholism and drug abuse.
|Girls at Jukki Orphanage Home
Since its beginnings in 1994, Grace Center, located in St. Petersburg, has been reaching young Russian mothers with a success rate of 96% of prevented abandonment of children among its focus group, graduates from government-run orphanages.
Grace Center provides an apartment in which up to four families (mother and child or children) can stay without expense. According to Natasha Kirillova, Help for Children ministry leader, each mother living at Grace Center “gets the knowledge of life in the family, learns to take care of her child, and gets encouragement in how to overcome the future difficulties.”
Train up young mothers and introduce them to God
The facility is partially supported by the local church, Novodevichj Covenant. The vision of Grace Center is to train up these young women and introduce them to a relationship with God, where, as said by Natasha, they will “learn to ask for strength and help when we are not near.” All graduates of Grace Center are have successfully begun their work and studies, equipping them and their children for a brighter future.
|Uliana with her daughter
Along with working to meet the physical needs of mothers such as Uliana, Grace Center provides women with the tools they need to raise their children to be grounded in the gospel. As well as offering personal counseling to pregnant mothers, joint meetings are held to support families and graduates of the Grace program. While each family has a very individual “plan of assistance” says Natasha, they also attend seminars together with topics ranging from child development to motherhood. The families are regularly visited, for according to Natasha, this helps the ministry to get a look into their lives and “attract sponsors for the material support of the family, if necessary.”
Reaching out to orphans in government-run orphanages
Lessons of family values and Christian morality are not limited to the ministry at Grace. Through Natasha Kirillova, Help for Children also reaches out to children living in government-run orphanages at Luga, Jukki, Gatchina, and Tomlachevo. While Grace Center assists mothers and prevents their children from ending up at such orphanages, a huge focus of Big Family Mission is reaching children that have already entered the system. Lessons are given during visits with the children on topics selected monthly such as “Purity”, “Kindness”, and “What Is a Family?”, lessons which fall upon the eager ears of orphans who need to hear them the most.
|Luga children during visit to ostrich farm
“When it was time for the children to go back to their orphanage,” said Natasha, “they said, ‘Thank you for arranging this day for us. It’s so boring for us to stay at the orphanage!”
The volunteers who had continually sacrificed their time for the children promised they would return, knowing that their efforts were truly bringing joy to these young lives.
Providing a refuge during the critical summer months
|Girls learning how to cook at Bolshevo
Along with the children, the mothers from Grace Center also enjoy the stay at Bolshevo. The women who are unable to stay the full three months are able to keep working and be able to provide their children with economical and supervised summer camp. The ones that do stay are blessed with personal and group counseling along with practical lessons such as cooking. Those who desire can also go through the course of smoking rehabilitation. The ministry of Help for Children has allowed the children and mothers alike to be able to “experience the light and love of Christ in these summer camps,” according to Natasha.
Finding themselves by serving others
|Luga children and volunteers at church camp
Through the years of the partnership between Help for Children and Big Family Mission, the ultimate focus of the ministry is the saving of souls. Each project has the goal of bringing individual hearts closer to the Lord. At Help for Children, the full weight of this responsibility is felt and volunteers strive to plant “seeds of faith” in the hearts and lives of the children and orphanage graduates. As the few Christians that their focus group will likely ever encounter, this ministry is at the forefront of the mission for Russia and approaches the orphan situation in a unique way.
This beautiful ministry built through sacrifice, dedication, and generous sponsorship all boils down to one clear mission. Natasha put it this way: “We see that if we give children in need the whole world, but their soul will not be saved, it will not do any good for them.”
How can you help Natasha and her team? Learn more here: Help for Children.