Try to imagine being an orphan. You’ve never known what it means to live with parents in a loving home and family. You’ve only known this orphanage as “home”. But you’ve always dreamt that one of those people that visit the orphanage from time to time would choose you and take you home! But year after year, you are left in the orphanage. You get older. And your dream slowly fades. Then, you’re sixteen years old, and now its time to leave the orphanage. Its time for life on your own. If you had any hope left of being adopted, its definitely gone now. Its like its official now. Nobody chose you. Nobody wanted you.
What a way to start the next season of life. This is the reality for older orphans every year in Ukraine. And we have committed to helping some of those orphans navigate this extraordinarily challenging time in their lives. Alpha Life is the global initiative of NEXT , Navigating Extraordinary Times.
Just a few days ago, on July 14, in a Sunday morning church service at Central Baptist Church in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, this new ministry for graduating orphans was launched! We’ve been working on it for quite a while. One year ago, our two ministry partners from Ukraine were here at LifePoint Church. We spent many hours praying and discussing ideas and plans with Pastor Sergii Sizonenko and Slava Iotko. Sergii is the pastor of Central Baptist Church in Dnepropetrovsk, and Slava is the director of the campus outreach ministry called Alpha and Omega based in a building just a few blocks down the street from the church. We three are working together to provide a graduate transition ministry to orphans graduating from orphanages in and around Dnepropetrovsk.
Orphans graduating from institutions in Ukraine are faced with extraordinary challenges. They are about to live with independence and the responsibility of making their own decisions about their lives and futures. Unfortunately, most are not ready for this. There are all kinds of statistics about where these kids end up. And while the exact numbers vary depending on the source, one thing is clear–many orphans fail to navigate this extraordinary transition to adulthood well.
The government helps them by covering the cost of their tuition and dorm rooms at technical colleges. Unfortunately, these kids need more help than that. They simply are not prepared to make wise choices with money and time and choosing the right kinds of friends. And there are people who are poised and ready to take advantage of them. Its not long before these kids have run out of money and start looking for new income sources.While that may sound a lot like American college students, the difference is that these kids don’t have parents to call for help. They’re on their own. And that’s not a secret to those who seek to exploit them. As a result, drugs, crime and even prostitution rob many of these kids of their futures. Even worse, the suicide rate among graduated orphans is very high.
So what are we doing about it? Alpha Life is a ministry where staff will begin teaching life skills to orphans in their last year in the orphanage. We will invite them to church events and young adult events to give them positive options for social outlets, friendships and role models. Once they graduate, we’ll give them the option of living in the home of a family from Central Baptist Church rather than living in the dorm while they go to school. All these things together add up to giving these orphans the family and community of loving, caring people that they wouldn’t have on their own. This is what can make the difference in their transition to adulthood and independence. But most importantly, being connected to the family of God will give them the opportunity to know how to live forever! Yes, we are concerned about their future here on earth, but we’re also concerned about their eternal future.
We ask you to pray for this ministry. Pray for the orphans that agree to be in it. Pray for families at Central Baptist Church to be moved by God to provide housing to these orphans. And pray for the staff that will run the program. Victor and Geniya (pictured below) will run this ministry. They will be the ones building relationships with the orphans and teaching them about life. Our brother and sister on the front lines of ministry. Remember them often in your prayers.
Joe and Becky Paschal with Alpha and Omega leaders. From left: Victor, Slava, Joe, Becky, Geniya, Alexey
Partners in ministry: from left, Pastor Sergii of Central Baptist Church, Joe from LifePoint, Slava and Pastor Alexey of Alpha and Omega