“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in distress.” (James 1:27) At Orphanage #1 in Samara, Russia, Director Tamara Turkina looks after 128 orphans, ages 7 to 18, many of whom were taken from their families because of alcoholism or drug abuse. From that dark place, these children are given a chance at a new life.
Every winter, as the Christmas season looms closer, children around the world write letters to their culture’s adaptation of Santa Claus. Russian children are no different, sending missives to Father Christmas with lists of dreams and desires they hope will come true. But not the children at Orphanage #1 in Samara…they have no need to implore Father Christmas for presents. Their greatest gift comes each January in the form of a Volunteers in Mission (VIM) team from the West Ohio Conference.
“If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame” (Isaiah 58:10-11).
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11). In one of the poorest countries in the world, the DR Congo, hundreds of children become orphaned every day due to disease and poverty. These children have a precarious future unless others extend hope and care. Although the term 'orphan' elicits compassion among those of us in the church, it is a demeaning label for children in Africa.
For the past 20 years, the West Ohio Conference has been sending VIM teams to a clinic at a non-denominational church in Nuevo Progreso, Mexico. During that same time, a Methodist Church in the neighboring colonia was growing to the point that it could support a medical clinic within its own complex.