Voronezh is located an overnight train ride from Moscow. It was always an adventure when our large group of VERY Western-looking team members arrived at the station. In Soviet Times, Voronezh was closed to foreign visitors at is was the hub of the AeroSpace industry. Through the years we visited over ten times, watching the children grow into amazing adults now with ministry in the orphanages they grew up in.
Located to the far northeast of Moscow, and renamed after an assassinated Bolshevik leader, Kirov region is also an area steeped with rural and remote orphanages. Year after year, we returned to encourage and share the love of Christ with children abandoned or orphaned by a social system that had failed them. The local evangelical churches brought programs, supplies, food and hope at a time when all seemed lost.
Kaluga was our first experience to Russia in 1998. The economic hardship brought on by Perestroika, created open doors for the Gospel. Each day on the streets, hundreds of children appeared and were invited to the Gospel program later that evening. The Interpreters were frightened by the presence of the police, but on the last day - they asked for a balloon animal and a photo.
Salekhard is the only city in the world on the Arctic Circle. It was often used as a place of exile during the Tsarist and Soviet times. We visited TB Clinics for children, schools filled with social orphans from the indigenous Nenets - nomadic reindeer herders of the region. Many of the orphanages had boys aging out and on their way to Afghanistan to fight. When I asked the interpreters why they would want to spend time with a Clown, they said, "Don't worry, they see your heart - what's inside."
Yekaterinburg is the gateway city to Siberia. It is rich in resources and history. After the Bolshevik Revolution Tsar Nicholas Alexander and his family were exiled there and later executed. We found ourselves in that remote area ministering to children who it seemed the world has forgotten. Our visit to towns and institutions that appear on very few maps were sure evidence Christ knows their name and exactly where they live. Joy and laughter were in abundance!
1998 KALUGA: At the end of the week the officers asked for a photo from the Red-headed Stranger