About a year and a half ago, we told you Vlad’s story - from Businessman to Builder. It is an amazing story of God changing the heart and life of a special young man. If you haven’t heard about it, scroll down to read it first!
For those of you who already know Vlad’s story, we’d love to give you an update on his life. When we left off, Vlad had recently given his life to Christ and repented in front of his church. He was living in our Young Men’s Flat and working as an apprentice, helping to build our Pre-Independence Home in Khutory.
Now, Vlad is living in the house he helped build! He lives with three other orphan graduates, along with two house parents, in our Pre-Independence Home for Boys, “Greenfield”. He continues to work in construction - and he stays very busy! He has continued his mentorship with Pastor Vasiliy and attends church and Youth Group regularly. He was also recently baptized!
Over Thanksgiving, a group of us gathered at Greenfield for an “American Thanksgiving Feast”. After a fine meal, we sat around the table and each of us shared a few things we were thankful for. There were several other orphan graduates there as well. Each of them quietly expressed gratitude for their safe Hope Now home, friends, youth group, school, sponsors and other good things.
When it was Vlad’s turn, he paused for a moment and boldly said, “Number 1; am thankful for my salvation”. He went on to share how thankful he was for God’s work in his life and for the faithful, Christian mentorship of Pastor Vasiliy and Pastor Vova (his spiritual and professional mentor).
As Vlad spoke about the blessings in his life, the room fell silent. We thought back on Vlad’s journey to where he is today. The road has not been easy. There have been ups and downs, moments of confusion and frustration leading to moments of relief and joy. It is always messy to get involved in sinful people’s lives - no matter their background or status. However, since many orphans struggle to trust others and open themselves up, walking with them through life can be even more uncertain.
Vlad’s story is no different. However, as we sat around the table at Thanksgiving, listening to his story of restoration, we couldn’t help but be utterly joyful and thankful for God’s powerful love. HE is the one who ultimately holds Vlad’s life in the palms of His everlasting and gracious hands. What an amazing thought!
Donors who support Greenfield and our Orphanage Graduate Program are helping to transform orphan’s lives. We invite you to partner with us! If you’d like to sponsor a teenaged orphan graduate, or give a one-time gift, please click https://hopenowusa.org/pages/donate. May God bless you!
Eighth grade can be tough – especially if you’re a lanky 17-year-old, who can’t really read or write. Coming from a broken home of alcoholics, violence and poverty, Vlad arrived at the orphanage not ready to learn, but to survive. His only goal was to quietly conclude his remaining 2 years of education, as required by law.
To his classmates, Vlad was a little businessman. He sold single cigarettes to the other children – no matter that his customers were as young as 6. Where did Vlad get his contraband? Local farmers often recruit orphans to work in their fields and then pay them in cigarettes or even moonshine. Since orphans in Ukraine are generally viewed as the scourge of society, most people think they are not worth anything more.
In 2014, when we first met Vlad, he was timid and uninterested in hearing the Good News. However, he was first to help us carry our bags and boxes, open doors and fiddle with temperamental microphones. That summer, we held a camp at Shpola Orphanage and Vlad was always helping our team behind the scenes, unbeknownst to us, giving him opportunities to sneak off for a cigarette. We prayed that these kids would remember the seeds we had sown, and not just the marshmallows we toasted.
As a 9th grader, Vlad remained polite, but indifferent to our Christian messages. He preferred to assist our team, rather than participate with the other kids. We didn’t realize how much older he was compared to the other kids until we invited him to our own Youth Camp at Kompas Park. At camp, Vlad was less than enthusiastic and just wasn’t enthralled with all the crazy team activities that camp brings. Basically, he didn’t like being told what to do and reminded us that since he was already 18, he didn’t have to listen to us anyway and left the camp in a huff.
Wow, that did not go down well! We expect children to follow the rules at Kompas Park. And wait – how did we not figure out that Vlad was already an adult? It never occurred to us that a 9th grader could be 18 years old. Most orphan graduates do not automatically follow the rules. Why? Well, although it’s true there are many rules at the orphanage, usually there are no consequences for breaking them. So, most orphans are not in the habit of following any. We mutually decided to take a break from Vlad.
After 9th grade graduation, Vlad enrolled in a trade school where he was learning to be a builder. Vlad was partly living with a relative, sometimes staying in a dormitory and occasionally going home to his mom who still lived in her ramshackle house. In the fall, we invited Vlad to meet us, and over lunch we revisited what transpired at camp. Vlad concluded that he needed to apologize to our camp director and said he should do this face to face. However, the school year went by and all of our subsequent invitations were not answered. We did not see Vlad for a long time and worried about him, who he was hanging with and how he was living.
Suddenly, out of the blue, Vlad started coming to our Youth Group. Slowly, he started asking questions about God and asked to come with us when we went to his old orphanage. Vlad asked us to help him quit smoking. He was so helpful and even began serving on our ministry teams. Vlad started going to church with some of our mentors and was full of questions. He began meeting with the pastor who was patiently providing the answers. Last year, on New Year’s Eve, Vlad got down on his knees in front of the whole church and asked for forgiveness and gave his life to Christ.
There have been ups and downs, but Vlad is a totally different person now. His businessman days are over, and he doesn’t smoke, drink or swear anymore. He graduated his trade school and is working as a builder’s apprentice. This past summer, after apologizing to our camp director, Vlad was welcomed back as a team helper at Kompas Park and encouraged the kids from his orphanage to participate in all the fun and games. With his sponsor’s help, he is living in our Young Men’s Flat (for working men aged 20-25). He has enrolled in a college course, where he will earn a certificate in construction work. Lastly, he is helping build our next Pre-Independence home for teens – when complete it will house 10-12 orphan graduates just like him. Who knows, maybe one day he will be the house supervisor!
A couple of months ago, Vlad told us that he is grateful that all those years ago, we came to Shpola Orphanage. He said that we have brought him so much joy, by not giving up on him. Most of all, he now knows that God will never leave him or forsake him.Help us reach more orphan graduates like Vlad. Consider giving to our Orphan Graduate Program today. There are many more Vlad’s out there who need a sponsor like you.