Teaching Russian Orphans
By Andrew McChesney, Adventist Mission
The challenge appeared enormous.
Natalya Balan, the 59-year-old grandmother, wasn’t sure how to make God real to the two young brothers that she had brought home from a Russian orphanage.
The boys – Daniil, 10, and his 9-year-old brother, Nikita – had suffered unspeakable abuse from their alcoholic father and later in the orphanage. Their mother was dead.
Natalya and her husband, Yakov, a retired Seventh-day Adventist pastor, took the foster children into their home in Obolensk, a small town of 4,600 people located 70 miles (115 kilometers) south of Moscow, after reading church cofounder Ellen White’s appeal for every Adventist family to care for orphans. The parents prayed earnestly for God to manifest Himself in the boys’ lives.
Then calamity struck.
Daniil and Nikita owned a pair of old bicycles, a gift from kind neighbors, that they loved to ride. But the boys disliked taking the bicycles up the elevator to the seventh floor of their apartment building. They ignored Father’s warning not to leave them on the first-floor landing, and one day the bicycles were gone. How the boys cried!
“Let’s pray, and God will help”, Mother said.
At morning worship, Mother prayed, “Dear God, please help the boys who stole the bikes to return them”.
Then the boys prayed.
The town only had one school, and Mother was sure that schoolboys had taken the bicycles. With permission from the principal, she hung signs around the school, reading, “Children from this school stole two bikes belonging to two foster children. Please return the bikes”.
Mother and the two boys prayed every morning and evening for three days.
Then the intercom rang, signaling that someone downstairs wished to speak with the family. A male voice said, “Come down and take the bike”.
Downstairs, Mother found a stranger with an expensive, brand-new bicycle.
“I saw your sign when I took my son to the first grade”, he said. “My boy is too small for this bike, so I have decided to give it to you”.
The big bicycle went to the older boy, Daniil.
“God, thank you for such a nice bike!” he prayed that evening.
Nikita also was happy, but he wished for his own bicycle. Mother told him, “Let’s pray to God”.
The family prayed for a bicycle for Nikita for several days.
One morning, the intercom rang again, and a male voice said, “Come down and take the bike”.
Mother found another stranger with another expensive bicycle, smaller than the last one. The man also said the bicycle was too big for his first-grade son.
Nikita was overjoyed!
The thieves never returned the stolen bicycles, but the family thanked God for answering their prayers and giving them even better bicycles than the old ones.
“I thank God that He answers prayers – especially my own that my children would know God”, Natalya said.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission. Find more mission stories at adventistmission[dot]org
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