During the summer months, many of us will take the opportunity to catch up on some reading – oftentimes with light, easy beach books that allow you to “escape from reality” for a few hours. I am no different and this summer I was treated to a full smörgåsbord of Harlan Coben and Lee Child books.
But I also thought I would tackle some meatier material, so I chose to read “Priceless: A Novel on the Edge of the World” by Tom Davis. Tom is the president and CEO of Children’s HopeChest, our partner with our Mission 1:27 efforts in Russia. He is an impassioned advocate for the fatherless in the world, considered by many to be the foremost speaker and social justice warrior for orphan care.
The book is a fictional story about Stuart Daniels, an American photojournalist on assignment in Russia who gets wrapped up in a dangerous campaign to rescue helpless orphan girls trapped in the sex-slave industry. It’s a quick and gripping read…but not an easy one. You get a firsthand experience of what life is like for orphans all over the world – and what peril awaits them once they leave the orphanage.
Since I am not a professional book reviewer, you will be spared a compelling critique of complex plot issues and character development challenges. What’s important is this: the book rocked me to my core. In large part because the content is so real, especially to those of us who have been to this part of the country. We have stayed at the hotels mentioned in the book, we have been to the places where clandestine meetings were held, we have worked alongside some of the amazing people who shaped the main characters in the book – and most importantly, we have met 50+ young orphan girls who could, at any moment, become victim to the atrocities described in the book. No light beach reading here – the book describes reality for orphaned kids in Russia and all over the world. And it breaks my heart…and inspires me to do something to fix it.
The statistics of what happens after kids leave the orphanage are gut wrenching:
- In 2007, Russia had an estimated 4 million orphans under the age of 17.
- Of these 4 million children, 15% commit suicide within 2 years of leaving the orphanage.
- Life expectancy for orphans is only 28-30 years.
- Fifty percent abuse drugs and alcohol.
- As many as 70% of orphan girls end up in some form of sex trafficking or prostitution.
Why? Because these children grow up feeling alone and unworthy and are easy prey to folks who can and will take advantage of them.
Even if you don’t read the book, I ask that you spend five (5) minutes watching the video linked below. The stories in this video are true, the buildings really exist and the images poignantly capture the sadness and reality of the situation – and the hope and vision of what can be done to help.
Amidst the sadness and depressing statistics, there is hope. Hope for a better future. Hope for safety and security. And hope for building a sustainable solution that will produce results and change lives. That’s why we travel to Russia throughout the year, including a trip in 10 days. It’s why we are having our first fundraiser this Saturday, with the benefits supporting future trips and helping build a Ministry Center in Kirov. And why we spend so much time and energy listening, praying and hoping for God’s guidance on what to do next.
As I write this, my mind wanders to Katya and Masha with their beautiful, melodic voices. And Sveta S. and Sveta C and their sports prowess. And Rinata’s smile, Natasha’s shyness and Vera’s skill as a seamstress. I think of Zhenya, Lyuba and Karolina. For if the statistics are correct, seven of these girls will end up in a very bad place once they leave the orphanage. By the grace of God, we can’t let that happen. And with the power of God’s love and His support, we won’t let that happen.
For the Fatherless,
Mission 1:27 Team