An orphan's life

 To Everything a Season


1) We are fast approaching an important event in the life of any organization. Soon Agape Ministries will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its founding. In some ways it seems like a long time, in others, not long at all. When we stop to think about it all - oh, so many encounters, meetings, acquaintances, lessons! All of the tears and laughter, the heights of joy and depths of despair in so many ‘mountain-top’ and ‘wilderness’ moments... by God’s grace we have learned and grown in all of it.

 We have all learned. Working with the children, we have helped them learn to truly be friends, to love people, to love God and His Word, to pray together. However, I have often caught myself thinking that the children were not the only ones learning these things. I was right there, learning alongside them. All of our lessons and meetings, times of fellowship, prayer, songs and games - it all made up those small steps which we took together, slowly but surely growing spiritually.

The Bible lessons that were conducted by the teachers and volunteers of Agape definitely influenced the children as they began their first steps of life with God. However, the children were not the only ones impacted by this ministry. As they observed the changed hearts of these children, the teachers, caretakers, medical personnel and other orphanage staff also began thinking on what they heard and saw - of God’s love, of faith and salvation by grace. The prayers of the children for those who daily watched after them and taught them, as well as for their own parents or relatives, dying in their sins, are so touching that often tears suddenly come to the eyes of those listening, completely unbidden. You find yourself suddenly over come by feelings of warmth and compassion for these ‘problem children’. As a child of God, you find yourself simply wanting to thank and praise Him over and over again.

I believe in the power of the simple prayer of a child. I believe in the promises of God to be a Father to the Fatherless. I know that God is Good!

Bless these children of ours, Lord! Help them to truly come to You and live with and for You! Give us the strength to never give up, always pressing on, moving forward in ministry to these dear children!

Sveta Lubyanaya, Agape teacher



2) A new school year has started once again. As always, there tend to be complications at the start of something new. Working with the youngest classes this year was particularly challenging from the very start. They were very closed to us, even to the point of hostility. We had to really search for ways to win them over and earn their trust, to truly become friends for them.

This helped greatly, and bit-by-bit, the children began opening up to us. One of them told us that he doesn’t want to go home over the school holidays because his father beats him a lot. Another said she has a ‘new mother’ who doesn’t like her; yet another said he cries a lot at night, when everyone else is sleeping... As they grew closer to us and began sharing these things with us, they began to see that praying calmed them and singing Christian songs lifted their spirits. They began to thank me for loving them. This of course was a great encouragement for me. I found myself intentionally using kind, gentle, loving words and expressions as I interacted with them. The children soaked this up like sponges. Our interactions began to resemble true friendship instead of simply a teacher-student relationship.

However, if the youngest classes have already become a source of joy and encouragement, the older classes have me very concerned. How so? Well, I’ve invested so much in their lives over the years... at this point, it’s hard to know what more to do, and it’s tempting to just give up. Yes, I know they’re ‘all grown up’ now - they’re already teenagers, after all. Still, are these really the same kids I poured out so much love on the past 9 years??

Some have said outright, “Elena Mikhailovna, you all are just religious weirdoes. I don’t need those ‘beliefs’ of yours.” Others, who only a few years ago brought me lots of joy as I saw them grow closer to God now tell me that don’t believe in any god. It seems like they’ve simply forgotten everything I’ve taught them about God, period. I’m left with my head spinning, asking myself in shock, “What have I been doing here for the past 9 years?”

When it seemed that my disappointment and disillusionment could not get any worse, the Lord began showing me that this reaction from ‘my teens’ was all for show. They’ve started safeguarding themselves from becoming known as ‘the religious oddball’ in front of their peers. They all want to be grown up, tough, cool. This is a risky and dangerous time in their lives. All too often, teens like this find themselves caught in the bear-trap of sin; they find themselves falling into a pit they can’t get out of on their own. It’s so painful to see them act this way, knowing that each one is actually able of thinking for himself and making good decisions, but still ends up giving in to peer pressure, not wanting to be different from their classmates. On an individual basis, they often come to us still, looking for advice, sharing their problems, even asking for our prayers. That is enough encouragement for me.

Oh Lord, I hope and trust that the seed sown in their hearts will bring forth fruit in it’s time, when that soil will finally be ready to bring forth life, and I believe, Lord, that in Your eyes, our toil is not in vain. Be merciful to each one of these children. Thank You, Lord, for Your mercies to us all.

Elena Konstantinova, Agape teacher



3) When I came to Christ, my heart was simply bursting with the desire to tell everyone I knew about Him and His saving power. At the same time, my own thoughts often served to curb my enthusiasm: “What can you tell people? You don’t have a powerful testimony, after all - you didn’t have any ‘serious’ sin in your life. What really changed? Haven’t you always been modest, well behaved and honest?” And so it went.

However, as I began serving the Lord by serving orphan children, He opened my eyes to my own life as it really was. You know, I was just like them: I cursed, held grudges and didn’t forgive others. I committed the very same sins I was seeing in these children, and as a result, experienced the same problems I now saw in their lives.

When I shared more of my life with the children, they were simply taken aback that I had lived with the very same problems they have. Even more importantly, through my testimony, they became convinced that God could change their lives too, since He had changed mine.

Praise the Lord! I’m so happy for ‘my kids,’ and I’m especially grateful to see their anticipation of going to church with me every Sunday. I thank God for the orphanage director who allows me to work with these children and take them to church.

Thank you, Lord.

Alyona Kosareva, Agape teacher



4) As you work with children at an orphanage, you find yourself becoming very attached to them. Some of them even become as close to you as if they were your own children... and your heart aches for each and every one of them. You ache for their future - what kind of future do they have to look forward to? How you want to see them be happy! But is it even possible for anyone to truly be happy without God? Sadly, not many adults, much less children, understand how vital God is for their happiness. Be that as it may, we still believe that God has a plan for each orphan child that we work with. In His time...

Having said that, we also know that “the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

The Word works on the consciences of many of the children. We can see that as we work with them and teach them from God’s Word they begin to have a true fear of God. They begin thinking things through more before making serious decisions. Here’s one example:

Recently, one of the orphanage graduates approached me to ask my advice about a very personal matter. She wanted to know what God thought about the situation she was in and was she sinning by being involved in it?

I turned to the Bible to explain what God had to say on the matter. I wanted her to see very clearly what the Bible said on the topic, what it could lead her into, and where she could end up if she continued in this behavior. She didn’t really like what I had to share with her from the Bible, and had a hard time even hearing me out. She tried to justify her actions. Her heart just didn’t want to agree with God’s Word, because she was actually enslaved to sin. She had no power to resist, much less reject the sin she was caught in. We prayed together that God would help her find freedom and give her the strength to make the right choices.

I continue to keep this girl in my prayers, and many others like her. I ask the Lord to protect them from disappointment and suffering, from making mistakes that can be avoided, so that they can have blessings and not curses in their lives. I pray that they will meet and find love with the life partner that God has prepared for them.

Lord, bless these girls and boys to make sound decisions as they grow and mature in this life. Give them the desire to live a life filled with Your blessings.

Elena Kudelya, Agape teacher



5) An orphanage is a beehive of activity; you can hear children’s voices buzzing all around you from the moment you walk in. It’s great to see how eagerly the children await your arrival, interrupting each other in their excitement, trying to fit all the events of the past week in a few sentences. Even more wonderful is to see how often that the events in their lives correspond to the lesson that we’ve prepared for that week. Many of them leave the lesson having had questions answered that had accumulated over the course of the past week. In this they themselves begin to see proof that God really is with them and wants to help them, personally. However, often the question is: do they really want God to help them, and how often to the actually turn to Him for help?

We know that there are as many ways to come to see your need of salvation, as there are people. The teens that graduate from the orphanage are no different than anyone else. Each one chooses the kind of life he wants to lead. It’s really quite sad when they choose a lifestyle that leads them away from God rather than to Him.

On the other hand, it’s wonderful to see that often, after running into the harsh realities of life, they call upon the Lord and choose to live with Him!

This is what Andrei, an orphanage graduate shared with me: “For a while, I really tried to believe in God, but for some reason, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t live with and for Him like I wanted to. Something held me back. It was only a few years later that I began to truly seek Him, and He found me. He knocked on the door of my heart, and I opened my life to Him. Now I’m happy living with Him.”

This is far from being the only such testimony of an orphanage graduate coming to accept Christ as their personal Savior at some point after leaving the orphanage. This is something to rejoice about, a true encouragement for us. Praise the Lord that the seed we have sown in the hearts of these children has fallen on good soil and we can see that indeed, our labor is not in vain.

I want to challenge anyone who is not touched by the needs of orphans: “Oh, you who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent!”
(Isaiah 62:6)

Natasha Zatirka, Agape teacher



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An orphan's life

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Soon Agape Ministries will celebrate it's 10th anniversary.  In some ways it seems like a long time, in others, not long at all. When we stop to consider -  the tears and laughter, the heights of joy and depths of's by God’s grace we have learned and grown through it all.