Galina Kuleshova directs the street children’s ministry in Kherson, Ukraine. This article originally appeared in the Summer 2002 edition of the StreetChild newsletter.
Three years ago in the winter of 1998, I heard that a boy had died in the underground street crossing. He died right on the steps, while adults were dashing by. It was cold winter. The boy froze to death. He was probably hungry.
What I heard shook me so, that for a long time I shuddered at the thought that no one prayed for him, that no one was with him. No one told him about God.
I pray for my children, and right near by are thousands of children no one wants. Many parents, affected by the social and material situation of our country, live below the poverty level. They have despaired of finding a way out, giving themselves over to drinking, drug abuse and prostitution.
As a consequence of this horrible behaviour, their children have run away from these terrible homes. Children have become the victims of their parents. Newborns are thrown into trash dumpsters, left in bushes or on benches. If a child is born and the parents “raise” her, then at 3 or 4 years old she is already begging for her “family”. She is forced to steal, deceive and prostitute herself.
All the children (living on the streets) have been subject to emotional and physical abuse in their families. They don’t have a future. Their parents don’t pray for them. They have one goal – get money for glue, something to eat and to find a warm sewer so they won’t freeze.
The city of Kherson is located in southern Ukraine, and therefore a significant number of these children live here. Kherson has a shelter that accommodates 50 children. They are allowed to stay for 3 months. If they don’t run away, they are sent either to a boarding school, to their parents or to an orphanage. But there are thousands of these children on the streets, around five thousand in the oblast’ (state).
The municipal authorities cannot solve this problem. The main danger is that these children do whatever they want: drink, smoke, sniff toxic substances, prostitute, fight, steal. This “freedom” produces horrible fruit in their lives. They are dirty, not having anywhere to bathe. They can’t read and write.
Practically all of them are sick. This is, of course, a huge problem not only for our city, but for the whole country. A lot of people just throw up their hands, believing nothing can be done. People can’t do it. But God can do anything! I began to pray, and I asked my sisters at church to join me in prayer.
Still not knowing how I could help these children, I had a fervent desire to tell them about the Saviour and teach them how to pray every day. The first thing we did was to go out to the shelter, where the children live and have a routine. The director permitted us to come on Wednesdays and Sundays, so we started conducting Bible lessons. That was a real joy for the children. None of them had ever heard about Jesus Christ. None knew how to pray.
During the visits we got to know the children a little better. We found out who they were and why they lived on the streets. Many of them had lived on roofs, in basements and in sewers.
They are often hungry. They got to eat about 2-3 times a week. We learned where most of them were and decided to go have a look for ourselves. They are at the train station, the bus station and all the markets. We got to know some kids and took them bread and milk, clothes and medications.
Since that time almost 4 years have passed. Many of the children know us. They always look forward to our coming. We provide them with a hot meal on Tuesdays and Thursdays at a local cafeteria. We have appointed places for our meetings. On Sundays some of them come to church, where they listen attentively to the Bible lessons. More and more come all the time, around 50 now. Our Sunday school has become like a second home to them. They love spending time with the members of our church, sensing their positive attitude towards them. Our church prays for them constantly.
We are grateful to the Lord for giving us this unique opportunity to touch the future. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) We believe that the Lord will warm their hearts with His love, change their lives and the life of our country, our people.
Here people visit the refuges and hide away of these children, offer them medical treatment, food, shelter, education and a path to training and adult work.
The children are shown better alternatives to their current way of life.
But all this needs your help.
The Leaders and helpers need your help as the resources (funds and other donations) are not sufficient or available in Ukraine.
Leaders can do so much, but the economic differences between Ukraine and other countries mean that they need your help.
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