The realities of life for a Russian orphan are staggeringly bleak, and the number of abandoned children has skyrocketed over the last decade or so, for a complex mixture of reasons. Russia doesn't look after their abandoned children the way we in America are used to, by placing them in pre-screened, healthy, family homes. They still make use of large orphanages where dozens or even hundreds of children all live under the care of a few employees responsible for their oversight. Providing for the day-to-day physical needs of these children is tough enough; meeting their emotional needs is often simply not in the picture. This can have disastrous consequences. Of the roughly 700,000 orphans in the Russian system, sadly, only 10-20% will end up with any sort of a successfully life after they leave the orphanage at around 16-18 years old. A staggering 80-90% of them will fall victim to things like drug abuse, prostitution, prison, or suicide within the first three years of leaving the orphanage. There appears to be little hope for these children who seem to have started out life with the deck stacked horribly against them. But as you can read about in this article, some of God's people have heard the cries of these children and are stepping in to try to make a difference. Through their efforts, they are attempting to share love with these hurting children and mentor them through the challenges of their young lives. Although it remains to be seen what the long term results of their investment will be, certainly their willingness to do what they can to try to solve an obvious problem brings honor to God and is to be lauded.
We recently discussed Attachment Theory in class. It deals with how infants up to around 18-24 months old develop and learn from relationships with their primary caregiver- usually their mother. Babies seem to learn from healthy interaction with mom that they are safe and they can explore their world and function and grow. Ideas such as "I am worthy of love" and "important people in my life are trustworthy" seem to be solidified by mothers consistently meeting the babies' basic physical and emotional needs. But when the basic needs of a baby are not consistently met, the person usually responds to life through either anxiety or avoidance. They will tend to cling to anyone who provides the slightest bit of stability for them or they will hide behind emotional walls so they won't be hurt by people. Either of these are unhealthy and can lead to relational disaster. Unfortunately, the orphans from Russia seem to overwhelmingly live out this negative aspect of attachment.
I was somewhat familiar with the plight of Russian orphans prior to our recent class discussion and couldn't avoid relating what we were learning to their plight. I had read articles and watched television shows concerning the challenges faced by these children. I even had a short discussion with a middle-aged guy who was adopted from one of those orphanages in Russia when he was a child. There are some very heartbreaking stories of many people who have invested a lot of time, effort and love into the lives of these orphans, oftentimes, apparently to no avail. The child still acts out in monstrous ways, gets into serious trouble with the law as a teen, and ends up a cold, distant, "emotionally dead" person stumbling through their way through life. I have bumped into glaringly few bright spots concerning this issue. I'm embarrassed to admit that even when I read a hopeful article like the one above, my first fleshly response is "What difference can a few people investing a few hours a week possibly make in relation to so large a problem?" Thankfully, in this case, my mind quickly transitions to principles from the bible clearly displaying God's love for "orphans" and "the fatherless." I don't fully understand it, but somehow, God has a special place for these people in His heart and is using His followers to show them this. In fact, this whole idea of people who grew up in rough situations has spurred me on to try something new. I've recently been feeling a drive to look into whatever local prison ministries there might be around our area that I could get involved with. I must confess to a bit of apprehension due to a feeling of "Do I really have anything to offer?" But I have faith that God can and will use me to make a difference in someone's life. Just a couple days ago I got the email and phone number for some guys already involved in local prison ministry, and I plan on contacting them to see how I might get involved. It is truly an honor to serve our awesome God in whatever ways He has enabled us and I don't want to take it for granted. I'm excited to think about God using me to help some person who might not have had much unconditional love shown to them in their lives. I'd love to hear from any of you with experience in this area, or in other areas where you've stepped out to try to make a difference in someone's life.