"Why in the World go on a Volunteer-In-Mission trip to an orphanage in Russia???"
(Or anywhere else for that matter)
- God calls us into mission.
~Our Christian faith calls us to respond to those who hurt, who suffer, and who experience hardship, for whatever reason, whether they live in our own neighborhood or in another country. We follow the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ who served and loved those who were outcast, sick, poor or estranged from society.
~Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with God's commands calling his people to care for those who suffer and are in need: the widow, the fatherless, the hungry, the poor, the imprisoned. In helping those who hurt, we put our faith into action and make God's love known. We serve as his instruments and become the eyes, the ears, the hands, and the feet of Christ. We become God's ambassadors, bringing good news to those who have lost hope. Through mission work we provide bread for the body and the soul. We are the only way God has to get his work done. Volunteer-in-mission members bring the hope of Christ, the love of God and the good news of the Gospel to those who are starved for those very things.
"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."
James 2:14-17, NIV
- God is not finished with us yet.
No matter our age, we are a work in progress. A volunteer-in-mission trip allows God to be at work in our lives, sometimes in surprising ways. You begin to see things differently.
Whatever your interests, skills (or lack of skill), there WILL be a unique way that you will "fit into" the VIM experience. You will have the opportunity to do what you enjoy, whether it is leading a game of Twister, taking the children on a trip to McDonalds, for ice cream, or to the store, teaching them a song, playing card games, etc. If it is important for you to participate in the repair and renovation at the orphanage, you will be able to spend time doing just that. You will find your "niche" on the trip and God will use you in it.
- It is the best way to see the Church at work in our world and experience the power and presence of God.
Through our Christian faith and heritage, you and I have been given a legacy of love, a heritage of love, a history of love. God sent his Son out of his great love for us. In his life and ministry Jesus showed a radical love to every person he encountered: the woman caught in adultery; the tax collector; the rich; the poor; the politician; the Pharisee. Jesus told us that God loves us with such a great and powerful love that he would leave the group of 99 in order to search for the one who is lost. Jesus lived love. So must we.
You and I are not powerless in the face of a world that is bruised, broken and scarred. We have the most powerful resource of all available to us - the spirit of the living, re-creating, and renewing God. It is the power of a resurrected Savior, who calls us to be his witnesses to those who need food to eat, medicine for sick bodies, shelter for abandoned children, and need to know the good news of God's great love.
The VIM Experience
Personal stories from people who have participated in
Short-term service/learning mission trips
"Never Stop Coming"
We traveled to an orphanage near Sergiev Posad where 350 children live with psychological disabilities. It was my first work team experience ever, but certainly not my last. The people on this work team had many reasons for going on this trip but it seemed that the most common reason was that a "call" or a definite tug had been placed on them to go. After we arrived at the orphanage and as the days unfolded, each of us found out what our "call" meant for us.
The children that I was able to be with, to see, to touch, to get to know tore at my very being. It was not that they were mistreated or malnourished. It was just the sheer volume of the children there. All of them abandoned and unwanted for reasons we did not search out. There were lines of these children always moving in the hallways - to meals, to class, to chores, to naps, to bed. I cannot imagine how the staff maintained the order there let alone fed, clothed, and somehow taught these children. And yet the staff did so - to the best of their ability with such large numbers and with so very little. The older children helped care for the younger ones.
The physical aspects they did not seem to lack - basic food, a few, very few clothes, and a place to live. It was the emotional or loving aspect that was not and could not be available with such large numbers. This seemed to be our greatest gift that we could give to these children -- a simple touch, hug, high five, or even a smile or thumbs up. Things that we take so much for granted here at home. Things that, as we understood it, no one in Russia volunteered to do for these children except the staff. No one came to the orphanage to visit or help them. It seemed that this place was off limits or out of bounds. Or maybe there was always so much happening in Russia that these orphans were the least of their worries or problems. We do not know nor did we find out why this was so. We simply knew that we were there for a short time and could give a little to these children - they could have a memory of the time the Americans came and loved them. Every time that we left or came from our rooms we had to work our way through the children. We got very used to taking a long time to get wherever we were going because the children would surround us begging for our touch or special smile.
Those of us on the work team to Sergiev Posad felt that our mission there was not the actual completion of the rooms that we were working on, but the time spent with these children. This was a hard lesson for us to learn, as it was such an emotional hardship for us to see the needs of the children. But learn this lesson we did, and as soon as we did, attitudes changed, materials arrived, and we seemed to mesh as one unit with a purpose we could "touch".
The time that each of the fifteen spent in Sergiev Posad will hold special and different memories for each one of us. We left the orphanage with tears in our eyes and aches in our hearts for the children and even the staff members that we had grown close to. We won't know if we will ever see these special people again, but, hopefully, have left part of us there for them to remember and cherish.
A Russian Orthodox priest, Father Sergey, spoke to us one evening and said, "Never, never stop coming". For those willing to volunteer, this can always be true. It will be a life changing experience for those who "hear the call."
West Virginia VIM Team
"You Can Use US"
In an article in a Focus on the Family magazine, a young college student named Kelly Greer wrote about a trip she took to Guatemala. She worked with a group of eighteen students at an orphanage in the mountains of Guatemala City. They helped build a school, cook meals for 400 orphans and staff, change diapers in a baby dorm and do whatever else was needed.
One day the children were begging to go to a place called "el rio". So they took a group of fifteen children on this special outing to what they heard was a very special place. The children were so excited about the excursion; Kelly figured it had to be a huge, rushing river. The little ones skipped and raced ahead of the slower adults. Finally the children were shouting "el rio, el rio", they had finally arrived.
As Kelly approached they found a steep bank, below a small stream about the size of a drainage ditch. This was "el rio", the river? This was what the kids were so excited about? That evening Kelly wrote in her journal:
"God, life is vastly different here - slower, simpler, harsher, with few options. Small moments are treasures. Life is raw and basic: hearts broken, bodies abused, spirits wounded or destroyed. In the states our destruction is often more subtle. Values lowered or destroyed, focus on busyness and not fullness, time together yet apart with cell phones, television and fast food.
I'm excited that you can use us to show your love through our actions - through our service. These orphans will grow up seeing you through those you bring to serve in this place."
"Building Bridges for Peace"
A trip to an orphanage teaches you many things. We learned the wonderful fact that love needs no translation and that we all share the same hopes, fears, and dreams. We discovered that we all have the need to be known, to be touched, and to be loved. We learned that service is a key to breaking down barriers that have existed for years. We learned that life is a precious gift from God.
Many people wonder why anyone would want to go to an orphanage in a struggling country. While we came from different faith backgrounds, each person on the team shared a common desire to serve those who must struggle each day to survive. As fortunate as we are in this country, we were hoping to give back in some way to a group of children who live with so little. We went in an effort to build bridges of reconciliation and peace with a people who were once considered our greatest enemy.
Judging by the smiles of the staff and loving expressions from the children, bridge building took place. We believe that it takes place with every group traveling to a foreign country in order to work side by side with people who need assistance, support and hope. Volunteers in mission are not exceptionally gifted people; they are people who simply make themselves available to God.
Rev. K.T. Adams
YSU Vim Team
"Ministry is investing in people. Period. Jesus did. We do too."
Rev. D.B. Joachim