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Children at Risk
Archive 1

Saturday, June 26, 2004
Posted: Saturday, June 26, 2004 at 21:34

'Child by child,' group aids homeless street kids

The Russian government estimates about two million Russian children are homeless


July 2, 2001
Web posted at: 4:45 PM EDT (2045 GMT)

From Steve Harrigan

PERM, Russia (CNN) Five years ago, Christina Greenberg and a small group of volunteers mailed a package of supplies to help homeless and orphaned in the city of Perm in western Russia.

At that time, they had no idea their efforts would grow to eventually help hundreds of children find warmth, food, clothing, counseling and schooling with a daycare center, an all-night shelter and a street outreach program.

With little resources, and little idea how many children desperately needed help, the small offshoot of Love's Bridge, a charity founded by Americans in Moscow in 1995, launched in Perm in 1996. The volunteers slowly began making a difference, child by child, Greenberg said.

Greenberg rented an apartment in Perm with her own money, plus a few thousand dollars through corporate sponsors, and opened a shelter. The city offered some help by providing transportation.

Dozens of children were living on the streets, with little food or clothing, and suffering from abuse. Some had been stabbed several times or viciously attacked. Of 14 children who lived at the shelter at one time, 13 had tried to commit suicide.

"When we first came, they had not been inside in so long -- like, they had not eaten anything," Greenberg said. "And they came to our center like animals. There is no other word for it."

There may be two million homeless children in Russia, the government says. There may be four million. No one knows for sure. In Perm, as in many Russian cities, it's a problem often left untouched by the local authorities.

The start of something

Volunteers feed one of Perm's homeless children


"We came to Perm, we asked the administration, 'Is there anyone here helping out?' And they said 'No, there is no one,'" Greenberg said. She was determined to help, to keep the children from dying or going to prison, but she encountered opposition from local authorities.

"One of the first times we were feeding them in the market, the police just stomp in and started yelling, yelling at us: 'How dare you feed these kids? Who do you think you are? They are just rats. They are just criminals. Why would anyone want to feed them?'"

Greenberg and the other volunteers continued feeding the children once a week, but they had yet to discover the magnitude of the problem.

"We would serve them food," Greenberg told CNN. "And we started seeing how many there really were. They would come with their wounds. You know, nobody would let them into the hospital. So they would be in pain.

Greenberg remains compelled to help the children, although the group eventually hopes to turn the program over to Russian staff.

"I have felt that God has led me to these kids," Greenberg said. "But I felt, once I started working with them, I couldn't just leave them on the streets, because I knew if we didn't do something, nobody would. So it was basically a question between life and death, you know. Every kid that moves on, we save a life."

Hope for the future

Society's attitudes toward the children have improved in the last five years, Greenberg said, with local people volunteering to help and the government opening a night shelter for children with nowhere to sleep.

"So there has been progress, you know, leaps and bounds of progress in that area," she told CNN. "That was one of our main goals, was to raise the awareness of the problem among the government and just among the average person. And we've definitely seen a very big difference."



Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Posted: Tuesday, June 22, 2004 at 11:45

Yesterday I sat down to watch Tom Cruise in "The Last Samurai".  Good, but not great.  However, there was one scene where he is trying desparetly to spar, using a sword, with a Samurai warrior.  Finally, a bystander feels sorry for him and says, "Too many minds."

Tom is confused at first but then realizes he is focused on the audience, the enemy, etc.  When he clears his mind of the distractions, everything comes together for him.

Too many minds is symbolic of our Christian walk.  The Bible calls it the old and the new man. Sometimes we just get so caught up in what is going on around us that we cannot focus on the important.

In our society it is easy to get caught up in career goals, traffic conditions, calendar overload, or numerous expectations.  I do that a lot.  Yet, I cannot get one picture out of my mind.  While I sit comfortably eating pizza and watching a good video...Nastaya and others like her are settling in for the a sewer.  They have no mom and dad to tuck them in or read them stories. 

God's heart is for His children.  He says pure gold to help them...his kids.  How can we become so distracted with life that we do not see this need?  Please help us to support them.  Even a small gift means a lot.

God give me one mind -- yours.



Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Posted: Wednesday, June 16, 2004 at 19:21

Beginning this ministry has been an adventure.  Last year I saw the video of Nastaya living in the sewers (hatches).  It broke my heart, but that was the end of it.  Of course there was nothing I could do about it.

Then we got this crazy idea that maybe we should adopt Nastaya.  Suddenly there was a flurry of e-mails and letters and...then a dead end.  Nastaya could not be adopted.  She has a mother, one that abuses her, and Nastaya is not in the adoption system.  So, that was the end of it.  Nothing more to do.

Then some friends invited me to visit Russia over the holidays and teach at a Pastoral training school.  It was there, on Christmas day, that I finally met some hatches kids face-to-face.  I am still moved when I remember them.  Yet, their faces feel distant now.  I sometimes forget they are still sleeping in the streets, begging, prostituting and dying.  I returned to my nice home.  That was the end of it.  Nothing more I could do.

Okay, so then I decided to actually start Shepherd's Purse.  I bravely made the commitment and announced it to the world.  A web page was donated and my monthly newsletter was started, but progress seemed slow.  I was beginning to think again that this was a bad idea.  Nothing left to do.

This spring Andrey Revtov came to Michigan.  Andrey works with the kids in Kherson, Ukraine.  He knows Nastaya and doesn't see a lot of hope for her, but Andrey persists in working with 2,500 kids a month.  Andrey came to my hometown, and spoke to some people, and we got on television and somehow we managed to raise $1,500 for his work.  Then Andrey returned home.  And now his face and his ministry and the faces of the kids I met...all seem distant. Again I sit here thinking...was that all?  It feels like there is nothing more I can do with my limited resources other than get the word out.

And then the e-mail came that Nastaya came Kherson Christian Church and in tears, accepted Jesus into her life.  They say her chances are still slim.  She still lives in the hatches.  All I can do is hope and pray.  Now there is this lull again.  I have contacted companies about donating tents for Andrey's ministry.  I am looking for cases of Kwell lotion.  We are hoping to set up a benefit concert and speaking engagements for Andrey when he comes to Atlanta, Georgia in November.  Yet, there is this lull in activity and purpose. 

I have been thinking lately that I would like to take a short trip to Kherson, Ukraine soon, like this October.  We are trying to set up a group trip next spring, but it seems so far off.  There is this longing to see face-to-face what Andrey's people are doing.  There is this longing to see...face-to-face...the kids of Kherson.  I am afraid the kids are beginning to feel like a dream. I need to refresh that dream.  Regretfully, I do not have the finances for a trip in October.  So, I am sitting here thinking if it is what God wants, God will work out the details.  The cool thing is that fares the other day were only $600 round trip.  Housing would be free.  I think I could make the trip for about $800. 

My purpose is to get the word out that kids are dying and suffering in Russia and the Ukraine.  I am hoping that monthly support will begin coming in and that sometime soon, I will be able to get over there to see it first hand and come back filled with renewed passion.  Right now, there is a lull.

Funny, every step of this journey so far has been one slow door at a time.  So I am learning to sit quiet...knowing they are sleeping in darkness.  It is 8:00 p.m. in my quiet office.  I am listening to the gentle tones of a music group called Clanad.  My fan is cooling the room while I sip my tea.  In Kherson it is 3:00 a.m. Hopefully, Nastaya and her friends are snug in the darkened sewer after a full day of begging on the streets.  There is no daddy to tuck them in.  There is no mommy to read them stories.  There never has been.  They only have one Father now and He is hoping the hearts of His children will be stirred with this suffering.  From nothing He creates.





Seven Years Old
Posted: Sunday, June 13, 2004 at 22:04

Sierra is only 5 but nearly 6 years old and a cutie.  She can work her way around her sisters and even manipulate our hearts at times.  The other day I realized that she is the same age as Dasha, the little girl living on the streets of Perm, Russia.  Suddenly I was shocked to think of little Sierra living on the streets, surviving in any way she could.  This shouldn't happen to any child.  Please help.  Right now we need donations (donate right here at the web site) to help Andrey Revtov in Kherson, Ukraine.  They are working with 70 kids a day from the streets.  Please consider giving even a small amount to this work.  All donations made online will go directly to Andrey.




Oprah and Putin
Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2004 at 12:18

We have just sent a letter to president Putin sharing our support of the hatches kids and the prayer that he will be instrumental in helping to solve the problem.




We have also contacted Oprah Winfrey's staff about appearing on her show or writing an article for her magazine.  Who knows what God can do?  Since two people in the last couple of days suggested we contact Oprah, we decided to do it!




News From Love's Bridge
Posted: Monday, June 07, 2004 at 17:22

Here is a recent bit of news from Love's Bridge in Perm, Russia:

Some may wonder why we consider former street children successful when they are able to find basic employment at the age of 18, 19 or 20. Of course, we would be thrilled if they could attend university, but most have a deteriorated mental capacity due to years of substance abuse, and have only attended a few years of school. I'm sure occasionally a former street child will beat all the odds and graduate with honors, but for most of them, finding and holding employment, living independently and avoiding toxic substances is already a tremendous success. It is certainly better than the outcome of staying on the streets: chronic addiction to substances



This is Nastaya
Posted: Friday, June 04, 2004 at 11:14

The little girl on our opening page, leaning against a pipe in her home (the sewers of Kherson, Ukraine), has become our unnoficial poster child.   Please pray for her.  We have been praying for her a year now.  She has lived in the sewers since she was seven.  Recently , staff at the Kherson Christian Church e-mailed me with good news.  Nastaya accepted the Lord. The problem is she still lives on the streets and here chances of survival are poor.  Please pray.  Please!



Exciting Stuff Here!
Posted: Thursday, June 03, 2004 at 14:37

Our new P.O. Box is:

Shepherd's Purse, Box 1291, East Lansing, MI 48826

Yesterday we recieve a check in the mail for $100.  My daughter-in-law Julie just talked to her neighbor who works with an architectural mission group.  Check out the website. This is good because Andrey is praying for the land next to his center.   While Andrey was here he told us that he had approached the mayor about selling them the land.  The mayor wanted to build a city market instead.  This would mean a lot of revenue for Kherson.  In the meantime Andrey's group actually ran across the assistant mayor's teenage son who had run away from home.  They helped him get off the streets and back home.  The assistant and the mayor were so impressed, they are considering donating the property. 

This is a really big goal for Andrey.  The center would mean housing, help and offices.  We can only dream -- and pray.

Also...big news...really big news...Ryan Wells, one of my former 4.0 students has donated his development of this web page for our ministry.  What a guy!  This will help us jump into a new arena.  Thanks again Ryan!  Oh...and he and his fiance want me to perform their marriage ceremony this summer.  A privalege.

Be sure to check back here often. Our plan is to update this news several times a week.  There is a lot happening.  Check back soon.  Oh, and you can leave comments on these stories or anything regarding the hatches kids.  Please do.

In fact, I would like some comments from: Natasha Lubimova in Perm about her work with Olga and Natasha, Love's bridge comments, Andrey...a good quick story?, and anyone else.  On a regular basis.

Hm?  Ryan...I see there is no spell check on this thing...yikes!





Kherson, Ukraine Trip Update
Posted: Wednesday, June 02, 2004 at 19:06

It looks as if the Kherson, Ukraine trip will happen in the spring of2005. Contact me if you have been considering this.

My daughter Megin and son-in-law Josh who live in Atlanta, Georgia are considering the trip.  They are also asking their friend in the music group, "Casting Crowns" about a possible benefit concert in November.  Andrey and two staff members are coming to Atlanta then.  We hope to set up meetings for them along with their conferance.

Ann Savonen from Monroe Christian is hog-tying her two teens into a the trip with us.  Possibly.  First we have to talk Craig, her husband, into the adventure.

Shirley and I will begin posting details on the Kherson trip soon.  Please seriously consider supporting us in this endeavor.  Our goal is to see Andrey's ministry first hand and meet the kids on the streets. 

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