The Boaz Story

“April, did you see that thing last night on 60 Minutes?” the voice on the other end of the phone asked.

“You mean the 20/20 piece about Russian orphans?” I interrupted.

“You saw it?” came the reply.

“No,” I answered, “but this is the third phone call I’ve gotten about it.” I hoped that would be enough to deter the caller from yet more details on such a depressing topic. But it wasn’t.


She spoke of children—children too old, really, to be left in cribs—rocking back and forth, banging their heads against the rails of their beds. She told of babies dying because they couldn’t yet crawl to the bottle which had been tossed onto their mattresses. She spoke of infants lying on soiled bed linens and older children who were drugged to make warehousing them simpler.

Finally, when I hung up the phone that day, I wondered, “Lord, is that you calling?”

In the days that followed those three phone calls the Lord had braided into my memory, God began hounding me in earnest. When I spent time reading the New Testament each morning, suddenly, verses about the orphan and the fatherless started jumping out at me. “I’ve read these books of the Bible before. Why haven’t I ever noticed God’s passion for the orphan?” I wondered.

From that point on, thoughts of helpless children distracted my thoughts during the day and often prevented my sleep at night.

As only God could orchestrate, these inexplicable incidents happened while I was preparing to return to Russia for a short visit. In the days that followed, people started walking up to me, handing me money, and saying, “When you go back to Russia, can you see to it that this gets to an orphanage?”

I could not ignore that God was up to something… even when I tried.

So, I acted. I went to Wal-Mart and filled a cart with Tylenol, socks and underwear. I bought bibs and toothbrushes, deodorant and shampoo. There were so many items I had to sit on the suitcases to zip them closed. And with care packages in tow, I boarded the plane.

Before we could even get off the ground, I discovered that the family seated in the row in front of me was returning to their work in an orphanage in Moscow. This wasn’t just any orphanage, however—It was one of the orphanages 20/20 had filmed!

When I de-boarded the plane, I began asking all my Russian friends, “Do you know anyone who works in an orphanage?” Within two days, I had found connections in two orphanages that would set the direction of Boaz’s future course. I delivered the items from my suitcases and bought a cargo van’s capacity of other things the children needed: snow boots, school supplies and other such items they were not able to afford.

The stories were now alive to me. The children I met were no longer tidbits on news magazines—they were of real children with names and talents and wounds. Their cries were now audible. Their haunting eyes chilled me. All I had heard about on 20/20 I had now seen firsthand.

I knew I had to do something, but that I could not do it alone.

Within days of my return home, I found myself telling everyone I saw about the children I had met, but couldn’t stop there. Sending email blasts to friends from out of town and talking to my church’s missions committee, I felt a burden to get the word out as far as I could.

I was finally sensing that God planned something greater than two suitcases and that I owed a debt of gratitude to 20/20. But I still didn’t realize that what began out of sheer desire to obey God’s command in James 1:27 would change the course of my life. I didn’t discern that orphans would rock my theology. I hadn’t realized that these children would pierce my heart. I couldn’t have imagined that the little faces I had yet to meet would nimbly change my perspective on everything.

But I knew I could never walk away from their need, and so The Boaz Project was born.

18 Comments

  1. Patti Rubino

    I never never tire from hearing this miraculous moving of the Holy Spirit – becoming a story of miracles of which I am blessed to now be a part of!!

    Whoever reads this take an hour to find out how to minister to orphans and give them “family” from far away and sign up for an encounter!!

    Reply
  2. Mary Rayburn

    A truly inspiring story of God’s persistent call and April’s obedience. A story that continues to change lives for eternity. Thank you for inviting others to join you in this ministry. My view of orphan care has changed through partnership with The Boaz Project. I’m looking forward to learning more through the Orphan Advocate Training.

    Reply
  3. Svetlana

    I don’t know if I have heard this story all together, just bits and pieces. I’m so glad you chose to listen to God’s calling and that He is using you for great things! On behalf on the orphans, I think it’s safe to say they, and we, are all so incredibly grateful for your faith.

    Reply
  4. moriah

    This is such an inspiring story April. Doing things that not everyone has the guts to do and taking that leap of faith is truly a work of God. I’m so glad you did what you knew was God’s plan and have changed so many orphans lives for the better.

    Reply
  5. George Mongeri.

    This is a wonderful story which is so much inspiring. I realize that its God”s plan to take care of orphans.

    Reply
  6. Maggie Cripe

    This story brings tears to my eyes of how involved God is in our lives and how much He wants to use us if we are willing! I’m so glad you said yes April!

    Reply
  7. Jessi Morton

    I was going to say the same as many others have…I never get tired of hearing this story. It’s like a great parable, where every time I hear it something new sticks out and pierces my heart. Thanks for continuing to tell it.

    If you’ve never heard the full version of the story – you should attend an Encounter! https://www.boazproject.org/encounter/

    Reply
  8. Maia Johnson

    Thank you, April, for responding to the God-nudge and taking the leap of faith to answer His calling. I love the heart of the Boaz ministry. Many young lives have been set on a new trajectory through your team’s compassionate, Christian care. Such an inspiration- praise God!

    Reply
  9. Lauren Mcleish

    I think it is amazing that God calls us to do his work. I also admire your courage to listen to him!

    Reply
  10. Sarah Shake

    I agree with David, I never get tired of this story. Having traveled to India with the Boaz Project, I know what April means when she says, “The stories were alive to me… they were real children with names and talents.” But because of the incredible work the Boaz Project and the children’s care givers are doing, I did not see the haunting eyes and here the cries of these children. I met sparkling eyes and heard cries of joys from children that know that Jesus loves them.

    Reply
  11. Darla Matthews

    The first time I heard about The Boaz Project was in 2004 (I think). April came to CCML to share about Boaz. To hear the plight of those children in Russia made me want to jump on a plane and go bring some of them home with me. I retired from my job in 2017 and was then able to begin volunteering at Boaz on a regular basis. I am so grateful for the work they do now in three countries, and so blessed to be able to serve the children God loves so much.

    Reply
    • April Jurgensen

      We’re so thankful for you, your big heart, and your tireless service, Darla!

      Reply
  12. Amanda Reed

    I love this story! Through continuing to engage in Boaz Project’s online meetings such as “Encounters”, and zoom with house parents, these children are becoming more and more and more close to my heart everyday, as I see their faces, hear their stories, and learn some of their names:)

    Reply
    • April Jurgensen

      I love how God has knit you right into the Boaz family, despite geographic distance. We love your vision. compassion, and drive to serve orphans. <3

      Reply
  13. Jill Dyer

    God certainly was persistent until April responded! Now so many orphans’ lives have been changed for eternity. May I be ready to listen and act the next time God taps me on the shoulder with a way to be His hands and feet.

    Reply
    • April Jurgensen

      Yeah…I was a little slow on the uptake 🙂 But God kept hounding.

      And for the record, I think you model that readiness on many levels. You are great evidence that there are numerous ways to fight on behalf of the voiceless.

      Reply
  14. David Mercier

    I never get tired of hearing this story!

    Reply
    • April Jurgensen

      That’s good, because you certainly heard it numerous times! Haha

      We’re so thankful for the many years you POURED into Russia and it’s most vulnerable children.

      Reply

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