That is how many orphanages the Central Baptist Church visits and helps. They play games with the kids. They help the kids with clothes and the basic amenities that kids need. They pray with and for the children.
I don't have the space on this blog or complete knowledge to explain orphanages in Russia. Suffice to say that there are many different types of orphans here.
There are orphans here who would fit our classical understanding of orphans. There are children who would be more like foster kids. And finally, there is a group of kids they refer to as "social orphans" -- children whose parents are very impoverished; children who live at the orphanages Monday to Friday and go home on the weekends.
We visited two different orphanages on our last day. One was for k 8 to 18 with respiratory illnesses. Think: asthma or chronic bronchitis. This orphanage is in the forest by design so that the children will get as much fresh air as possible. The kids go to school here, live here, play here. They move in groups around the campus very quickly, whispering as they go. They have Physical Education, Home Economics, and weekly breathing treatments. It is school, camp, clinic -- all in one.
Their dormitories are meager. Clean, yes. Warm, yes (Russians know to heat space). But they were very, very, very meager. The church built the kids new closets several years ago, but there was not much in them. Closets are mostly empty.
All the buildings we saw were built in the 1950's. Small and cramped. But the children seem well. It is not luxurious. But considering where some of them come from it likely seems like a safe haven.
The children were beautiful. They are just like children all over the world. At one point my friend Judy sat next to a child. The child was alone. I asked the teacher if she was OK. "She's just shy," the teacher said.
No sooner did I notice the shy kid when I heard a girl screaming "Pravda! Pravda! Pravda!" Translation: "rules, rules, rules." They were playing balloon pop relay. And someone was cheating the game to get ahead.
Here they were. Two girls. One shy and the other the kid who makes sure everyone is following the rules.
My eyes welled with tears.
Children are the same all over the world. Haiti. Russia. Honduras. Scotland. North Carolina. I wonder about you when you were young. Which one were you: the shy kid? The everybody follow the rules kid? Which one were you.
No wonder Jesus says that the kingdom of God belongs to the children. They are hard wired for joy and love. Trust and wonder. But somehow we forget all that. And emnity grows between us. Conflict is a learned and adult behavior.
Kids are the same the world over. They need the same things: support. Love. Safety. Lessons in faith and character.
14. In addition to raising their own kids, the folks in Smolensk are reaching 14 different orphanages.
Yes. There are hundred of orphanages in Russia. Far more in the world. In one light this may see like a thimble full of water in the desert.
But in truth 14 is incredible. Jesus is concerned about the one. And here we have 14!
What if every person who reads my blog or who goes to our church or who knows me helped14 lost kids, 14 schools, or 14 people in need?
Then 14 might be the biggest number of all.
If Russian friends can do so very much with limited resources and access, then what is stopping those of us with many resources from offering at least as much?
It grabbed my attention.
Smolensk is beautiful.