Yuri describes himself as the only Christian to survive the only Christian orphanage in the city. I have heard from other sources that this orphanage turns kids away from the Good News though their methodology, which is sad. Though still an exaggeration, there is no question that God has a special hand on Yuri.
Providence sent Yuri to this orphanage at the age of 11 – unusually late – with his sister (6). He knows nothing of his father, and he only sees his mother once or twice a year even though she lives here. The institution did give Yuri a good background in English; he was in my English class this past fall, standing head and shoulders above the rest of the class. We would love to show you a picture of Yuri, but as a resident of the Harbor, we can’t do that. When we reshuffled placements at the end of the year, Yuri ended up as my sole student, and we excitedly agreed to have him come over weekly for lessons.
Just these simple changes made a world of difference in our relationship. Wednesday evenings became an opportunity to let Yuri build a relationship with our whole family. We feed him our strange Americal diet. (He discovered that he really does like beans, for example.) We plays games together and joke around. He shares things from his web page (the Russian equivalent of MySpace).
English lessons quickly evolved too. Since we can talk about more than Dick and Jane, I started asking some penetrating coaching questions and having him do some homework that would lead to conversations about life and purpose. Where we have landed surprised me: Yuri is really motivated to know what it means to be a godly husband. Well, why not? What modeling did he have? And this happens to be one of my biggest passions, having written an in-depth study for husbands back in 2006. God planned this connection well.
Our relationship is somewhere between English tutoring and old-fashioned mentoring. We use my study as a launching point for discussion and getting to his own “heart of the matter.”
Even though Yuri is a 19-year-old student at a local technical college in chemistry, he longs to be in youth ministry. Pray for him, that God would release in him the faith and vision for a bold life of leadership in whatever field God sends him.