God has given us a special burden for hurting children in the world, many of whom may never have the chance to hear the gospel. Our story began in our early twenties when Joye and I both lost our spouses – Joye’s husband in a plane accident and my wife to leukemia. After our personal losses and pain, God brought us together in a divine way that could only come from Him! Our hearts were tender to God’s calling. What if someone would have never shared the gospel with our spouses? What if they would have never grown up in a Christian home with godly parents? Could we close our eyes and hearts knowing that there were millions of hurting kids living on the streets?
For months we prayed and asked God for wisdom, all while having a burning desire to provide a safe haven for as many children as we could. God led us to a missionary couple in Vladivostok, Russia. We took our first trip there in December 2003. The needs were overwhelming and our plan of action became very clear. Equipping Christian couples in Russia to care for abandoned children became our mission and Hope for Life Homes was born.
Russia’s orphanages are full of children waiting for a home. Alcoholism and a high divorce rate have put many children in orphanages, living on the streets, or wandering from one place to the next. They are “social orphans” — a child that has one or more living parents that can’t or won’t care for them because of drugs, alcohol, poverty, or incarceration. Statistics only give them a 10% chance of ever becoming a functional member of society. In some cases, the street life is easier than living in a government orphanage. God has allowed us to open three homes, creating Christian families. Our national team consists of three full time house parents, a full time administrator, and orphanage worker, as well as a working relationship with ten local churches.
Placing a child in a Christian home has been a proven method of evangelism in Russia. Our house parents have built relationships with local government officials, which is crucial in placing the children in homes. They often come from hospitals where they have been “in transition” before going to an orphanage. They come to our homes in fear that they could be returned to the orphanage or rejected. Little by little, God opens their hearts as they experience a love from their new family like they have never experienced before. Each home has the support and encouragement of a local church. It has been the backbone of the ministry in Russia.
Tanya was abandoned by her mother and left alone for weeks at a time with her younger brother. She walked to the next village in hopes of finding her grandmother. Her grandmother rejected her and she began to live on the streets. She was put in the hospital for several weeks before coming to the Hope for Life Home. Although it has not come easy for her, Tanya accepted Jesus as her Savior and has grown into a beautiful young lady with a heart that glows with God’s grace!
Our hearts were still heavy for the many children in government orphanages that we could not help. This led to us partnerships with local churches, which are able to minister inside the orphanages. Summer camps, Christmas programs, one-on-one visits, and hiking trips are some of the ways we are building relationships, which are crucial in helping the orphans maintain stability. Many orphans have come to Christ during the ten-day summer camps. The most encouraging part is to see these orphans lead others to Christ and evangelize their orphanage!
Max is 12 years old and has lived in an orphanage for many years. Three years ago he came to Christ at camp and has lead four other orphans to Jesus! He faithfully reads the Bible each night to one of his friends. This has also opened the door to share the Gospel with the orphanage directors. In one case, the director has been so touched that she has allowed the children to go to church each Sunday! It is our prayer that as the children graduate from the orphanages, their mentors from the local churches will be able to guide them and help them find God’s call for their lives. Many of the orphans long to go to church and cry out for it, but in most cases they are not allowed. Please pray for churches as they “take church” to the orphans and that God will continue to keep the doors open for evangelism and discipleship.
Much has been accomplished and the door is wide open for us to continue to equip our national team in Russia. For the orphan living in an orphanage, camp vouchers, Christmas gifts, Bibles, and a birthday gift are all means for us to encourage and share the Gospel with these precious kids. For our houseparents and those caring for orphans on a daily basis, a home or addition to a home, clothes, food, and daily needs have been instrumental in helping them bring orphans into their homes and care. Please pray for the orphans, houseparents and national workers. They are in a position to do what we can’t, but are in need of our prayers & support.
The HFL Home in Spassk is in great need of an addition. There are currently 13 people living in a 900 square foot home. An addition will not only benefit the family, but the village as well. Each week they hold Bible studies and host poor and deprived children from the village. They regularly help a single mother of three young girls who spend time at the home. All of them have come to Christ and are growing in their faith. The addition will cost $25,000. We are praying that we will be able to break ground in the spring.
If you would like to know more about the ministry in Russia or have the Ballards share at your church, you may contact them directly at [email protected] or by calling them at (843) 368-9580.