Words by Karyl Boring, a Boaz trip veteran
I was nearly 50 years old before God captured my heart by showing me the plight of orphans around the world. I knew the verse in James1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and keep oneself unstained from the world.”
I believed the truth of that verse, but I was waiting for God to present an opportunity for me to know an orphan instead of actively pursuing this mandate. My husband and I knew many widows, some in our own family. We could easily visit them. But orphans-I didn’t know an orphan. Adopted children -yes- orphans -no.
My husband and I were invited to a presentation of an orphan ministry called The Boaz Project that had been begun by April, a young friend of mine from our church. My husband and I went to support and to encourage her work. Little did we realize that God had other things in mind for us!
The pictures of the orphans we saw that day, the stories we heard about the conditions in which these children live , and the vision April had to offer these children physical and spiritual care changed our hearts forever. We had no excuse and found ourselves signing up for one of the first team trips to Vladimir.
I now have been blessed to have visited orphans through The Boaz Project nine times over the last 17 years – 7 times to Russia and twice to Kenya. Each trip has been unique, and each time I return thankful for what God teaches me about His unfathomable love for the least of His children and His desire for His Church – for me- to be His hands and feet to show that love.
I will never forget our very first visit to an orphanage in Vladimir. This was an orphanage for babies and preschoolers tucked in the back streets away from the main part of the city, hidden out of the view of most. Though it seemed clean and adequate, it lacked the welcome and warmth of a home. The children were crowded in rooms, some in large playpens with five or six children in each with very few toys. I noticed there were many children and few caregivers.
A few of our team walked into a room off in the corner. It was dark with the curtains pulled and silent. In the room were several cribs and in each crib were infants and toddlers with Down’s Syndrome. There was one caregiver. The smell of dirty diapers and the sight of baby bottles propped up for the infants to nipple as they could overwhelm me.
I was to learn that most of these children had at least one parent, but the doctors encouraged the parents to give them to the state as they would never lead a normal life. Some did not want the stigma of having a child that was “not right”. As part of the orphanage system, it was the survival of the fittest.
I thought, “This shouldn’t be! What can I do that would even make any difference?” But, we touched and we smiled and we spoke to these children that day and prayed that God in His mercy would protect and guard them.
Most of our time was spent in the Vladimir Children’s Home. The orphanage was bright and cheery with lace curtains in the window, beautiful rugs on the floors and cute painted table and chairs in each room. These were things that the director of the orphanage was able to buy because of money given by The Boaz Project. I was told that the state only provides the bare necessities for the orphanages.
Each day, part of our team along with our interpreters would visit that orphanage to teach Vacation Bible School and play with the children. I loved interacting with our group of children each day, but found it frustrating to always have to depend on an interpreter to communicate with the children and their caregivers.
One afternoon, while playing with the children on the playground outside the orphanage, Sasha approached me holding a ball out to me. I took it and threw it back to her. She giggled and threw back to me. Over and over again we tossed the ball back and forth laughing and smiling. I realized that day that we really didn’t need to know the same language to communicate respect and love for each other.
As I think about that first trip and the subsequent trips, I believe that I have come to understand that I may never know what difference visiting orphans, being with them and teaching them about Father God’s love for His children has made in their lives. I leave that in God’s hands, knowing obedience to Him is more important than knowing the result in what we do.
The trips have impacted me in ways that have changed how I view serving others. By partnering with The Boaz Project through volunteering and giving, I am able to join with a staff who knows so much more about orphan care than I do and with hundreds of other partners who are passionate about caring for orphans in ways that will help and not hinder.
The intentional way in which The Boaz Project desires and has planned to meet the physical and spiritual needs of individual children in the orphanage is more than just giving aid. It remembers the dignity and the uniqueness of each child as created by God. I am so thankful that all those years ago, I was challenged to risk going beyond the safety of my world and begin to have a glimpse of God’s heart for His orphaned children.
Learn about a new culture. Minister to the world’s most vulnerable children. Go on an adventure that will change your life. Apply today at www.boazproject.org/tripapp