Hello from Novosibirsk, Russia!
It's cold but not that cold. It's dark but not that dark. It's great to be here and that is an understatement.
The next 10 days are key in the life of YouthReach International. Beginning in 12 hours here in Novosibirsk, Mike Neill (Atlanta, GA), Margaret Moore (Abilene, TX) and myself will be coming alongside the true heroes of this ministry, our Mentors, for 3 days of equipping. Core Mentors from Novosibirsk as well as partners from Tomsk and Big Lake, Russia, will be present as well. I always wonder during these gatherings just who is training who. Meeting yesterday with Ruslan Asadov, our Russian Operations Manager, showed me again that the commitment to this ministry our local leaders have is unsurpassed. I learned of new orphanages we're working with, new programs that have been started (Brother to Brother and Sister to Sister for example), and new Mentors who are now with us. It really makes me wonder who should be training who the next three days.
Rob Browne and Mike Neill in front of St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square as well as Margaret Moore who looks like she has lived here her whole life.
Over the next two weekends, in Donetsk and Simferopel, Ukraine, YouthReach International Director of Ukrainian Operations, Tony Morrow, will be carrying out a number initiatives none more key than deepening and developing the number and quality of our Mentors there. Your prayers for Tony as he travels to Ukraine alone and then comes alongside Arthur Kazaryan, YouthReach International's Oprhan Outreach Coordinator, are needed.
One of our dear partners from a nearby region came into Novosibirsk yesterday for our gathering this weekend. Last night in our flat over dinner he received a message from the older brother of one of the orphans he has worked with for years in his ministry and mentoring efforts. The older brother was calling to say his younger brother had died the day before playing a "pass out" game popular in orphanages among teenage boys. Just last week in one of the orphanages in Ukraine where 2 of our mentors are on staff, a 16 year old girl took her own life. Two days ago in a nearby Russian city, one of our mentors was attacked by girls in her orphanage making her unable to attend our retreat this weekend.
The next 10 days are important not because of the fellowship or the training or the resources made available. These days are important because commitment to this cause will be refined. That's important because without commitment to this cause, none will stay with it. It's too hard, too risky, too painful. While that is true, it is also very needed. The difference between the kids who fall prey to the actions of others or their own carelessness and those who survive is almost always found in the presence of a mentor who is committed to them no matter what. So for that reason these 10 days are very, very important.
Your prayers and your partnership are dear to us. Thank you for them.