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Christian leaders set to gather in Ukraine for Eastern European Summit on Orphans and the Church

March 10, 2009, 10:00 3563 Author: Peter Wooding journalchretien.net Around 150 delegates from Russia, Ukraine the UK and US will be gathering in Donetsk, Ukraine March 17-19 for the Eastern European Summit on Orphans and the Church

Around 150 delegates from Russia, Ukraine the UK and US will be gathering in Donetsk, Ukraine March 17-19 for the Eastern European Summit on Orphans and the Church. But organiser Karmen Friesen director of the CoMission for Children at Risk says time is running out for those wishing to still register as the deadline is Monday March 9.

“The conference is designed to encourage and equip pastors and Christian leaders from Ukraine, Russia and other Eastern European countries to mobilize the body of Christ to respond to God’s call to care for the fatherless,” explained Karmen.

“The conference will bring these leaders together to pray, network with each other, understand the urgency of the orphan crisis better, and be trained in practical ways in which their churches can care for children at risk.

“At this summit, we expect to have a wide range of participants, from pastors who desire to mobilize their churches to care for orphans, to those who have already been actively serving children at risk for years. One of our primary purposes will be to provide information and encouragement to those attendees relatively new to orphan care ministry. In the plenary sessions, they will gain a deeper understanding of God’s heart for the fatherless and the Biblical basis for adoption, as well as receive practical training on how to start an orphan ministry in their church.”

Karmen added that delegates will also be able to personally visit ministries near the conference site in Donetsk: “Participants will see firsthand how others are caring for orphans and street children and get ideas for how God might want to use them and their church.”

2000 Summit birthed vision for CoMission for Children at Risk

Karmen says the vision for this summit and his own ministry began more than eight years ago: “The National Summit for Children at Risk, held in Atlanta, Georgia on November 9-11, 2000, was the conference that brought the vision for The CoMission for Children at Risk to reality. At the event, which launched the network, God assembled over 200 individuals representing 120 mission organizations and churches that were actively providing support to orphans and street children.

“While the event in 2000 was open to anyone working with children at risk in Eastern Europe, in 2004, we held a more focused event for those working with street children, HIV/AIDS related ministry, and those working with older orphans who are transitioning out of institutions into society. At the 2004 event, participants asked us to consider two things: 1) holding our next event in Russia so that more nationals could attend, and; 2) focusing solely on the issue of older orphans and successful models of ministry to reach these children who are, for the most part, ending up on the street, homeless, involved in crime, prostitution, or drug use.

“So in 2006, from November 10-14, the CoMission partnered with the Russian National Network (www.risknetwork.ru), Children’s Hopechest (www.hopechest.org), and Peter Deyneka Russian Ministries to hold The Eastern European Summit for Children at Risk in Moscow and Vladimir, Russia. With 250 attendees from 15 countries, God blessed this event beyond our greatest expectations as Christian leaders learned from one other and left encouraged and equipped to better care for orphans as they age out of institutions.

Amazing opportunity for Christian families to care for orphans

Karmen explained that it was while hosting that event that they began to hear that the governments of Russia and Ukraine were planning to close orphanages and overhaul their child welfare systems with a focus on finding families to care for orphans: “It was exciting to see that governments were recognizing the urgency of the orphan epidemic and that institutionalization fails to provide orphans with the loving care they need. And it was especially exciting to realize the amazing opportunity this was for local churches and believers to bring orphans into their families through guardianship, foster care or adoption.

“Over the next year, it became clear that churches, Christian organizations, and individual believers in our network were all seeing God opening new doors for more believers to care for orphans. As we talked with groups like Eastern European Outreach and Peter Deyneka Russian Ministries, we were asked to consider hosting an event where pastors and Christian leaders would be encouraged and equipped to help their churches begin or grow orphan ministries.

“During a couple of trips to Ukraine in 2008, I and other CoMission colleagues met Ukrainian Christian leaders who are passionate about the body of Christ caring for orphans. In one church we visited, 65 Christian families are adopting or fostering children. And we heard similar stories from other parts of Ukraine. Christian media organizations are speaking up for the fatherless and encouraging their brothers and sisters in Christ to care for orphans. Believers are praying for orphans, visiting them, providing for their material needs, becoming mentors, as well as fostering or adopting. But there are still hundreds of thousands of children at risk in Ukraine that don’t have someone that loves them.

“In meeting these national pastors and leaders in Ukraine, God confirmed the opportunity and importance of partnering with them to host The Eastern European Summit on Orphans and the Church.”

Key speakers at the summit from Russia, Ukraine, and the United States will include:

* Gennady Makhnenko, head of the largest children’s rehabilitation center in Eastern Europe. In the past 10 years they have had over 2,700 children (primarily former street children) go through rehabilitation at their center. He is also the head pastor of Church of Good Changes in Mariupol, Ukraine.

* Dr. Susan Hillis, Senior HIV Scientist, Division of Reproductive Health, CDC, USA and adoptive mother of eight Russian children.

* Sergey Demidovich, Pastor of Good News Church in Slavyansk, Ukraine, and Producer of TV-Together, as well as the Ukrainian representative for TBN Christian Television Station

* Nikolai Kuleba, Director of Governmental Child Services for the City of Kiev

* Mikhail Pimenov, Director of the Russian NGO “Family” which provides training for foster families across Russia

Praying that God will empty the orphanages

Karmen says it’s his desire that hundreds, possibly thousands, of orphans across Eastern Europe will receive families and experience God’s love through other forms of care as a result of the encouragement and training given at this conference: “We also believe that this event has the potential to be a major catalyst for the movement of national adoption and foster care that is in its infant stages in Russia and Ukraine. Our national partners in Ukraine are praying that God will use the Church to empty the orphanages in the next 5 years. With 100,000 orphans in Ukraine this means every church caring for just 4 children.

Information to register for the summit is available at www.comission.org/go/conference

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