Saturday, March 21, 2009

Children and persecution

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?


  1. Is this the Danya I know or a different orphanage? mary

  2. Excuse me, Danya is not even a Russian boy's name...

    What is Danya? Daniil?

  3. Mary, it's the one which Irina visits...

  4. Vitali, Danya is short for Daniil. Do you know some other version? I don't know its origin, but it's in the Russian Bible...

  5. How I'd love to have that boy as my own. What a jewel. I have a rabid non-believer in my home, and it grieves my heart.

    Though I feel God brought me to the Catholic Church - led me, truly, from my childhood (Oh, yes! the faith of children is real!) - I am so overwhelmed by the beauty of the Orthodox Church....the deep mystical spirituality of the Liturgy, and the discipline of the Liturgical seasons. And I sincerely love (and hope to emulate) the zeal and active faith of so many Protestant churches.

    Isn't it possible to support Danil's faith within his Orthodox context? I hope so.... Am I misunderstanding you?

  6. Annie, I think it's clear that this child's faith has been enriched by a variety of Christian disciplines. I have not heard him refer negatively to any church. However, if the director is nervous about him witnessing to his friends and reading the Bible on his own, then I do think there is a limit to the amount of spiritual guidance that an Orthodox orphanage can give him. Aside from that, it could prevent him from being adopted by a Protestant family.


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