What went through your mind as you read that word?
Incredible figure skaters?
Each of us have feelings and emotions that are associated with certain words and places.
When I hear the word “Russia,” the things that go through my mind are a bit different.
My future home.
Whenever I overhear someone mention this expansive country, or if my eye happens catch that familiar grouping of letters, I am immediately drawn to the conversation or the article. My heart beats a little faster in excitement. It’s as if God has leaned over and whispered in my ear.
And In many ways, He has.
Russia is a country of over 144 million people. It spans parts of both Europe and Asia. Russians are a strong people; people of perseverance and grit – with normal winter temperatures dropping well below zero in many parts of the nation, it’s no wonder the Russian people are fighters! Yet beneath their tough exterior lies a warm and giving heart. During my visit to Russia, I was blown away by how generous the people are. A friend once told me that they would give almost everything they have in order to meet a need. From what I witnessed, I can verify the truth of this statement.
Despite the love I have for Russia, I am not blind to the struggles that are prevalent in the country.
Winter lasts all year in Russia. No, I am not speaking of perpetual snow (all without a Christmas, like in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), but rather the spirit of winter that hangs over the nation. Hopelessness and depression are like a blanket that covers the people. I was there only for a brief period of time, and yet I was still affected by Russia’s heavy spiritual atmosphere. Winter lingered even throughout the summer.
One of the greatest needs in Russia comes in the form of so many of their children, specifically their orphans. The orphan crisis, although significantly better than it was 20 years ago, still exists. Many children are taken out of their homes because of parental drug or alcohol abuse. They are raised in a government institution instead of a loving home. For them, a loving family is a completely foreign concept, because even within their homes, love was absent. Upon reaching adulthood, these orphans must face a world that never wanted them as kids, and has not changed its attitude toward them even as they’ve grown. With no support system of encouragement or hope, where do many of them turn but to the very things that caused them the most pain: alcohol and drugs? Many even resort to involving themselves in prostitution just to survive. It’s no wonder the suicide rate is so high among orphans in Russia; what do they have to live for?
While in Russia last summer, I met a woman who grew up in the orphan care system. I will call her “R.” Her mother was an alcoholic and couldn’t care for her three children. R’s two younger siblings were adopted, and she hasn’t seen them since that day. At the age of eighteen, R was required to leave the orphanage. R became addicted to alcohol, just as her mother had been. I made her acquaintance in the rehab center where she’d met Jesus and watched Him transform her life.
She now dreams of having her own family, one filled with love and hope, unlike the one she was born into.
I want to see a new “normal” become the reality not just among orphans, but among all Russians. A reality where they meet Jesus at a young age and grow up with hope. This hope and relationship with their Savior will keep them from following the pattern of this world, but instead show them the future God longs to give them. One that is not colored by their experiences, but by the character of Christ.
Spring will come in Russia. Joy and hope, found only in Jesus, will rain down on the hearts of the people when they look to Him. I know this to be true because this is what Jesus has done for me. Despite the cold of winter, I still love Russia. If Russia were a piece of music, it would be one of hope that mirrors the song God has written on my heart. This place will one day be all that the Lord has designed it to be.
Spring is coming.