Good morning from the Black Sea!
My name is Deneen Turner. Yuri Yakovlyev and I began our work in orphanages 23 years ago and continue to this day through the ministry God entrusted us with, HopeHouse International, Inc.
I want to thank Brandon Dragan for pouring his heart out in our blogs. Brandon has begun every blog by expressing our appreciation to our Prayer Partners. We have over 600 prayer partners who have committed to pray for us this trip. There is no doubt that without prayer; we have no power. And no doubt, we have seen God’s power at work.
For me this has been a difficult week. Even after 23 years of working with orphans here in Ukraine, I still agonize over what happens to these kids when they leave the orphanage.
FYI: Human Rights Agency statistics show that upon leaving the orphanage, 70% are homeless, 20% are in prison and 10% have committed suicide BEFORE the age of 21. Now added to that statistics is the horrifying fact that Odessa, Ukraine is the world’s largest human trafficking port in the world, selling teenagers as slaves . . . 50% of them are orphans. In many cases, the orphanage directors are the ones who sell these children by the age of 15. In order to counter this statistic and offer the hope of adoption to these children, Yuri and I co-founded HopeHouse International in 1999 (you can read more about that on our website).
I struggle emotionally when we leave these children each day because I know that their future resembles these statistics if they are not adopted into a family. However, Artyum the former orphan Brandon mentioned in yesterday’s blog who is now married and living in Ukraine, awaked my heart to a fresh and new reality, of which its foundation is the POWER of PRAYER.
Artyum gave his testimony to our group this morning. He told us of how he learned about Christ’s love from a group that came to his orphanage when he was young. He began to read the bible they gave him. And I’m reminded that God promises us that “His word will never return void.”
I listened yesterday as Artyum told those teenagers that they were extraordinary young adults and that they DID have choices when they left the orphanage. They could go to trade school or University. The city pays for them to go. The problem, as evidenced yesterday, is that most of them did not believe in themselves enough to even dream of any kind of future. Artyum poured words of affirmation into them like noone could except someone who had lived in their shoes. He began to ask one by one what their interests were. One teenager answered, “I love cars!” to which Artym suggested that he could be a professional driver or go to vocational school and become a mechanic. Another teenage girl answered, “I love to cook!” to which Artyum praised her and encouraged her to go to school to become a chef. He asked these questions of others and their faces lit up with a bashful, but nonetheless, a “hope” for their future that they may never have thought about before.
Then Artyum, in all of his wisdom, asked each of them to make a pact with him that they would each write their dreams down on a sheet of paper and keep that paper . . . never let it go. He asked them to promise that they would look at their sheet of paper every day and make the kind of choices that would help them reach their dreams.
When Artyum was speaking, I thought to myself, “How did he turn out so well given his circumstances . . . so confident, so intentional, so driven to make a better life for himself and his family.” Then it was as if the Lord whispered to me, “Because someone was praying for him.”
Some may ask, “Do these missions trips make a difference? Is the difference just for a day?” Well, based on Artyum’s life, and although he was not adopted, someone cared enough to come to his orphanage, tell him about Christ, give him a bible, and then remember to pray for him.
When people PRAY for the Artyums, the Svetas, the Sashas, the Pashas, the Yuri’s, the Igors, etc., that is what makes the difference . . . not just for a day, but for a lifetime and for eternity.
So thank you again for praying for us, but please also remember to pray for the orphans whose lives we touch.