Though the reign of communism in Ukraine officially ended more than 15 years ago, its legacy lives on in the desperation and despair of its people, evidenced in part by the two million children who live on the streets of Ukraine. This month, a Vinnitsa, Ukraine-based ministry for these children-The House of James-is celebrating its second anniversary.
"Our ministry is to set up family-type homes, up to 10 kids per home," said Sean Johnson, director of the House of James. "We give them a family setting: we have a mom and a dad here, they have siblings-it's a really close relationship."
The House of James' second location opened its doors to five children six months ago, though the building is still under construction. The two houses, located just 400 meters apart outside Vinnitsa, draw their name from James 1:27, which says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (NIV).
Through family homes, House of James is able to take care of the physical and spiritual needs of the kids, responding quite literally to the call to take care of orphans.
In contrast with most orphanages, children at House of James attend school (sometimes with the help of local tutors), say family-style prayer before bedtime, help in the garden, and are encouraged to do things together.
"The kids are learning how to work as a team, as a family," said Johnson.
These homes also differ from orphanages because the House of James is a lifelong home. In Ukrainian orphanages, children are sent out on their own when they turn 16. A child at the house of James is welcome to return anytime he or she needs a place to stay.
The Ukrainian government helps to support House of James by providing money for groceries and other necessities. This covers about half the cost of running a house like this, and none of the startup costs. "I've never had a regular monthly supporter," said Johnson, "But the money has always been there. God has been faithful."
For Johnson, three houses are just the beginning. "We're hoping to open Houses of James throughout Ukraine ... Maybe throughout Europe, maybe throughout Asia ... Who knows? Maybe Africa too."
For more about the House of James, visit houseofjames.org. --Eurasia Communications