The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 left millions of people in a spiritual vacuum, the result of 70 years of atheistic ideology. The spiritual hunger of the people ushered in thousands of missionaries from around the world in the 1990’s. YouthReach International was part of that evangelistic push, reaching children in former pioneer camps.
The welcome of the 1990’s was replaced with skepticism of the 2000’s. Most Russians/Ukrainians/Belorussians claim to be Christians as members of the Orthodox Church (believed to be associated by birthright) of their respective countries. The overwhelming religious beliefs are a combination of Christianity, eastern religions, mysticism, animism, and pluralism. Most people do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, yet they will light a candle in prayer to God or celebrate religious holidays such as Easter or Christmas. Discussions with children confirm that their understanding of the Lord is tainted with folk stories, a distant faith, and certainty that God is more punishing than merciful.
Within this environment live millions of forgotten children. Some are orphans – either left with no living parents, dropped off by parents unable to care for them, or taken by the state from alcoholic or abusive parents. Some live with grandparents who are unable to truly care for their needs or understand the complexities of this new generation and a world system so different from that they grew up in. Some have the perceived blessing of living with parents, but are in reality forced to see them drunk, abusive, or simply unavailable to raise them. It is these young people – the orphaned and at-risk – that YouthReach International introduces to a relationship with Jesus Christ.
YouthReach International operates under a unique concept of mentoring orphans and at-risk youth for Christ. It is our work to see 12-3-1 Mentors acting as a big brother or sister to these youth, counseling them in their life journeys, and ultimately leading them to Jesus Christ as their Savior. We also bring foreign short-term team members into interactive environments and outreaches to initially connect the children with the 12-3-1 Mentors. This relationships with mentors are further deepened and developed throughout the year during our regular gatherings, either in a local city or in their own orphanage.