January 7, 2019

Old Russia, New Russia

Old Russia, New Russia

     Grey. Gloomy. Quiet. These are some of the ways that I envisioned Russia. Coming off of Soviet ruling in the 1990s, Russia was far from a place of boisterous joy and modern amenities and I assumed that not much had changed in 28 years. I heard stories that made Russia seem bleak and harsh; I looked through pictures of the orphanages and the terrible conditions that existed.

I determined that I would not go to Russia. I did not want to go to a country that seemed to embody what depression would look like if it were a place.

Well, I am writing this 10 days after returning from Russia. Friends, I am so pleased to be able to tell you that the Russia I pictured and feared was not the Russia I encountered. I believe after experiencing the culture, the orphanages, and much more that there has been a shift in Russia. God is up to something and we have the privilege of having a front row seat.

When I pictured Russia, I pictured grey streets lined with grey buildings. What I encountered in Vladimir were streets of cobblestone and buildings that are brightly colored. It’s quaint and cozy. There is a very European feel even when the streets are covered with snow. The brick work of some of these buildings is beautiful. Russia drips with rich history from the cathedrals to the ancient gates but is also met with modernization of the western world. Just across the street from the Dormition Cathedral you can find a KFC or McDonalds, which is quite comical but fascinating to see the stark contrast between the two.

The cute, small shops and wonderful display of lights which were hanging in order to celebrate the holidays began to break through the box I had put Russia in. However, it was the children and orphanages that made me truly realize that Russia has changed and is continuing to change.

I had heard that years ago, the orphanages were a harsh system for the children to go through. It would have seemed that once a child was dropped off at an orphanage, they would never leave. They would be in the system all the way until the age of 18 and then put out into the world to fend for themselves. Yet, they would not learn the life skills necessary to survive.

The children, as you could imagine, were belligerent. They were in survival mode. Bullying, neglect, and abuse were all things that would without a doubt be happening in the orphanages. The abuse would come from the caregivers as well as from the other children. It was nothing short of a hopeless, heartbreaking, devastating place to be.

The stigma of orphans in Russia was evident. An orphan was unwanted by everyone. If a child’s own mother did not want them, why should anyone else?

The Boaz Project has been working in Russia for two decades now. We’ve seen this side of Russia and its orphanages. But now, we are seeing a change.

Some of the orphanages we work in now have a high rate of adoption or reunification with family. The children are surrounded by caregivers who are compassionate and who are seeking the best for them, even helping them realize their full potential.

Partners of The Boaz Project, who are working in our orphanages weekly, have seen major changes in the children themselves. The children’s behavior has gradually changed from one of pure survival, to one of learning and thriving. They are learning skills and have the brain capacity to do so. One of the orphanages that The Boaz Project works in has an “independent living unit” in which teenagers can live and learn how to take care of themselves before they age out of the system. These units are fully functional apartments within the orphanage. The teenagers have the freedom to be “independent” while still under the watch and care of the orphanage.

Within Russia, the stigma of the orphan is slowly starting to change. The foster care system is beginning to make advantages, which is great news for these children.

Of course, the sad reality is while all these great changes are happening, there is still neglect, abuse, bullying happening. Some children aren’t in the system and won’t leave the orphanage until they’re 18. Some will go back to terrible home situations.

It is easy to become upset by these things but we must not forget that God has been and is still moving. God continues to provide a way for The Boaz Project to enter the orphanages through Russian volunteers who visit the children weekly and teams of Americans who travel to spend time with these same children. Long term volunteers and team members have spoken of the huge difference they’ve seen within the orphanages where The Boaz Project works. God has been, is, and will continue to move, we just have to step into His call to see it.

In Isaiah chapter 43 verses 18 and 19, it says:

“Forget the former things;

do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness

and streams in the wasteland.”

I believe that God is doing a new thing in Russia. But I don’t think it stops there. I think God is doing a new thing in India and Kenya. In The Boaz Project. In you and I. We need to simply perceive it. God is making a way in the wastelands.

This month, as you pray for The Boaz Project, please remember to:

  • Thank God for all He has done and will be doing through The Boaz Project.
  • Pray for the children we work with that all their needs spiritually, mentally, physically, and socially are met.
  • Pray for our caregivers who face all sorts of challenges: burnout, persecution, emotional and physical exhaustion.
  • Please pray for one of our Indian homes that is facing extreme religious persecution with the threat of closure. Ask the Lord to give them wisdom and protection during this trying time.

“Doing small things with great love”,

Taylor Pennycuff

Staff Writer

The Boaz Project, Inc.


  1. Anonymous says:

    beautifully written!!

  2. Jackie Cram says:

    Very informative.

    I feel your passion!

    Jackie Cram

  3. Brandi Ford says:

    I think I had a similar misperception of Russia before reading this. That is incredible to hear that this organization has made such a great impact with orphanages who care for countless children of God. Reflection like this is so inspiring. Thank you for sharing your journey!

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Because God knew that abandoned children would need help to survive, He tells us to actively meet the needs of orphans in James 1:27.

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When you choose to partner with The Boaz Project, you'll restore hope, ensure a brighter future through education, and share the love of Jesus with children who desperately need it.

Just imagine the impact you can have—from saving a child from the horrors of the streets to helping them become community leaders, educators, and nurturers of the next generation.

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Orphan Advocate Training Certification Levels

Level 1

Learn about the mission and vision of The Boaz Project through activities such as watching an Encounter webinar, exploring our website, and following us on social media. You will also have the opportunity to meet and interact with your Orphan Advocate Training Coach, who will help you as you go through the levels.

Level 2

Gain more insight into the realities of the orphan crisis through reading "The Orphan’s Abba" and visiting The Boaz Project YouTube page. You will also meet The Boaz Project staff.

Level 3

Grow in your understanding of the orphan crisis, meet some houseparents by reading their stories, and create your own "Pick 2" with options like watching a movie and completing a creative project utilizing your unique skill set.

Level 4

Enhance your knowledge of healthy attachments for orphans, watch a webinar about Eastern Europe’s institutional orphanage system, and visit the Boaz office virtually or in person.

Level 5

Utilize all of the knowledge you have gained throughout training to develop methods based on your personal experience to share the mission and vision of The Boaz Project with others. Read a portion of our first level Houseparent Trauma Training and use your unique skills to impact orphans with a special project. Completing Level 5 gives you the option to apply to become an OAT Coach and/or a Regional Coordinator for The Boaz Project.


Do I have to live near Greenwood, Indiana to complete the training?

No! This certification is intentionally created to allow opportunities for anyone in any location to fully participate.

How much of a time commitment is it?

This is completely up to you. The entire process is self-directed. There are no deadlines, and you may take as much or as little time as you need to complete each course.

Can I do this training with my spouse? Or a friend?

Yes! Going through the training with a spouse or friend can provide accountability and motivation. As you progress, you may be able to accomplish more together!

How much will it cost?

All Orphan Advocate Training courses are free to join! While you may choose to spend money while completing some projects, there are only minimal costs involved (such as a book or a few supplies) depending on which course you choose to do.

Is there an age requirement to become a Certified Orphan Advocate Trainee?

This would be answered on a case-by-case basis. This would also be open to middle schoolers or high schoolers looking to complete volunteer hours (i.e. National Honor Society) or build college applications. We always encourage young people to be involved if they feel led by God to do so!

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If I complete the five-level Orphan Advocate Training Certification, can I put it on my resume or LinkedIn profile?

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Will I be able to get a signed letter to verify my volunteer hours?

We are sorry that we cannot verify volunteer hours that are done outside of the office or an event due to the fact that these hours are not supervised. However, we can write about the quality of work that was done, your commitment level, and the training courses achieved. We can also say that your self-reported, unsupervised hours fit into the typical number of hours that are usual for that course.

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If you think you would like to begin Orphan Advocate Training, please complete the form below, and you’ll be assigned an OAT Coach. Once your coach reviews your information, he/she will send you an email with your next steps!

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