Here’s a report from Doug Brendel to all who support or follow our New Thing ministry in Belarus...
“I hope I never see you again”
Rescuing children of abuse ... mixed feelings
Years ago, our New Thing ministry “adopted” a shelter for abused and abandoned children in the town of Zhodino, nearly an hour north of Minsk.
Since then we’ve had the joy of completely remodeling the facilities.
It’s now widely recognized as the finest shelter in the Republic of Belarus.
It’s a place of light and life, joy and hope.
But of course, you wish it were empty.
Many youngsters in this area are victimized by their parents’ alcoholism.
When children are abused or abandoned, this is where the authorities bring them.
You can imagine the trauma a child has gone through just getting here.
But director Liudmila Mikhaelevna and her dedicated staff make this place a loving home.
How anyone could abuse or abandon one of these beautiful children is beyond my understanding.
But we have the privilege of being part of their rescue ... and we get to love them, at least for a little while.
The professional shelter staff works with the family, trying to make the home safe for the child’s return.
If it doesn’t work after 6 months, the child is turned over to relatives, placed in a foster home, or put up for adoption.
So here at the shelter, the children come and go.
We’ve made a lifetime commitment to the workers who are giving their lives to the children’s care.
The workers are so camera-shy, it’s actually rare to catch one in a photo.
But they are deeply devoted to their children — in spite of extremely low wages and operating budgets.
“The Great Kozovaya” and her colleague Lydia Danielevna head up our “Response of the Heart” team in Belarus.
They bring some 200 tons of donated food and goods into Belarus each year, and deliver it to institutions like this one.
Our New Thing ministry provides 100% of their funding — so they can concentrate on caring for the needy ones.
We always bring sweets and treats — and a number of toys from the Green Elephant store in our hometown of Ipswich, Massachusetts.
A banana is a luxury here — but look!
This banana got set aside for a windup toy!
Nikita, at 14, is the oldest child in the shelter this week.
It broke my heart to find Elmira here. It’s the third time we’ve found her in the shelter.
But she’s happy. Her uncle will soon take her to Russia to live with his family.
“I’m going to live at the North Pole!” she reports cheerfully.
It’s a strange feeling to hope you never see them again. But this is what I found myself thinking
Interpreter Katya demonstrated how to use the “twinkly wand.”
The ribbons take different shapes depending on how you spin the stick.
Once Nikita figured it out, all the others were ready to try — grownups too!
Even Kozovaya enjoyed it!
Squeeze toys turned out to be a hit, too.
Danik, who’s almost 5, is the life of the party. He was quick to figure out my iPhone.
Sadly, due to his upbringing, he swears like a sailor.
(Of course it’s all in Russian, so it didn’t bother me!)
After Danik sat on my lap, other kids got in line to pose with the American.
For the bigger kids, I turned the tables and demanded to sit on their laps.
On one end of the shelter is the “Domik,” or “little house,” an after-school center for at-risk children.
New Thing had the joy of building this entire facility, thanks to the generosity of caring friends.
Here, children do homework, get a snack, and stay out of harm’s way — rather than going home to an empty house.
Shelter workers connect with the families and provide support.
The goal: Keep these children from ever entering the shelter as victims of abuse or abandonment.
This was the first center of its kind in all of Belarus, and it’s been a tremendous success.
More children in the Domik ... fewer children in the shelter.
This year, a few friends of New Thing gave with tremendous generosity to install a kitchen in the Domik.
Here, the children will learn to prepare food — a crucial skill if your parents aren’t fully functional.
No other shelter in Belarus has a children’s kitchen.
It was such big news in Zhodino, a TV crew came out.
Anastasia got to be a TV star: She made a salad on-camera, with one of the boys serving as sous-chef.
Our sincere thanks to all who have a part in this terribly important labor of love.
(Hardest-working person in Zhodino today: photographer Oleg.)
Where will these children wind up? Only God knows.
Our part is to love them while we can, and help those who are giving their all to keep them safe and give them a chance.
More adventures — and photos — to come.
Thanks for journeying with us!
To support New Thing online or sign up for regular email updates — http://www.NewThing.net
To auto-give each month — https://www.dougbrendel.com/monthly.htm
To send a check by snail mail — New Thing, 403 Linebrook Road, Ipswich MA 01938