A Postcard from Belarus

This Fall has been quite busy. After traveling to the Arctic last month, I’ve just returned from Minsk, Belarus where I visited Stoneworks partner Spring of Revival (SOR). I visited the Minsk Family Homes, boys’ and girls’ homes for graduate orphans, helping teenage orphans make the transition from life in the orphanage to life on their own.

Olga Goncharenko, the Director of SOR, is doing very good work.  In addition to the Family Homes, SOR serves several shelters, orphanages and foster families. You can see where they serve by visiting the Stoneworks Ministry Map and read news about SOR here.

Sergei Tovstopyat (the new Executive Director of MIR) traveled with me, and it was very nice to have time with him. One result is that some of the girls will serve as counselors at our Camp Elama this summer. Also, Alla Shestak (above, at left), the director of the girls’ home, will come to Russia to learn from Sergei how to lead Eco programs in orphanages and shelters. It’s gratifying to see various Stoneworks ministries working together.

Valerie is doing great. The picture at left was taken at Camp Gideon in Estonia this summer. She sure doesn’t look like a 5 year old in that picture, but she looks more like herself in the picture below. Her English is coming along, and she’s learning her numbers and letters (two alphabets!) quite well.

The adoption process continues, however slowly. We’ve completed all of the documents we need from the US and are waiting for the final apostilles before they can be sent to Russia. We are also finalizing documents in Russia, most of which are medical checks (which take a LONG time to complete). Hopefully we can submit documents to the court this month. My FBI background check is taking the longest time; last spring we were told by social workers here that we didn’t need it. If we’d known we could have gotten it months ago. The process is full of frustrations, but we trust the Lord’s timing and are content.

I had to return from Belarus a day early because Oksana, Valerie’s birth mother, was released from prison on Friday. Oksana has been in prison for two and a half years. Olga visited Oksana many times and we’ve exchanged letters and phone calls with her as well.

We met Oksana at the prison when she was released. I cooked her favorite food (my version of potatoes au gratin) and we had a nice visit with her. She hugged us and called us Mama and Papa. It was an emotional day for her, as you can imagine.

Oksana is now in a Christian rehab center. She wants to make a new life and not fall back into her old way of living, but she’s torn about what to do next. In the rehab center she is surrounded by loving believers and has a good structure for her life. She is HIV positive and has Hepatitis C, so her health is not good. Please keep her in prayer. Her life is in the balance right now, and we pray that she’ll live by faith and abide in the Lord.

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