There is a boy at the orphanage who believes in God.
Danya has been living in this orphanage with his siblings at least since I started visiting it over 4 years ago. As part of our New Family program, a Christian woman has been spending time with the siblings, even taking them to church with her.
Danya has been hosted by a Christian family in the U.S. a few times, where he also heard about Jesus.
He has also been raised in an Orthodox orphanage and told about God for much of his life. Other children have had the same exposure, but Danya is different. He has had an encounter with God, and talks about his faith. He has been inviting his groupmates to read the Bible together, on their own.
I was shocked at how warmly I was welcomed while visiting the orphanage this week. The two counselors who were at the door when I arrived had been absent last week, when I also visited. They both exclaimed when they saw me and said, "Come here and let me give you a kiss!" One of them at least is rather reserved, so this was a surprise.
Once in the group, the counselors announced, "Children, look who has arrived to see you! Aren't you glad? Now how do we greet guests?" (The kids had seen me last week and were bewildered. Who could possibly be there to see them? Oh, it's just her.)
After we had worked on English for a few hours, one of the counselors invited me to eat dinner with them. They don't usually feed me, but one of the counselors was absent, and there was an extra meal, which I ate gladly. Then Danya sat down next to me at the dinner table.
"Why you so love Russia?" he asked me in English. I leaned in close and whispered that it was God who sent me here. His face lit up.
When I was Danya's age (about 11), I remember being concerned about the salvation of my friends. What I mean to say is that a child's faith is real. He feels the presence of God and he feels the ache of knowing that not everyone shares this. It's more than a playground discussion about which holidays your family celebrates. Children recognize that if they are Christians, they are called to live differently.
Orphanage counselors are supportive when a child is baptized in the Orthodox church or shows devotion of that confession. But the adults are not so happy when a child becomes "tainted" by visiting a sect, and Protestant congregation are regarded as such. Though I cannot often talk to the children about God, opportunities do arise. But the Orthodox orphanage is their reality. And if I tell them something that is outside the boundaries of the Orthodox church, I introduce conflict into their lives. Is it worth it?