“For the last couple of years we have been helping orphanages in larger cities. This year we decided to investigate some other orphanages in smaller, poorer sections of Lithuania. As Director, do you see that your orphanage has any needs? And if you do, would you make a list and email it to us for examination?”
Our speech to the directors of those orphanages in Lithuania were simple, concise, and to the point, but how diversified the answers we received.
“We have 10 computers, but would you buy us 10 newer computers?”
“We don’t have any needs, thank you.”
“It’s not every day that we have two young men come in off the street proposing to help us. Is there some credible organization who would write a letter of recommendation for you and your work so we’ll know if you’re trustworthy or not?”
“My orphans have one pony, would you buy a mate for our pony, because he’s lonely?”
“Our needs are the bare necessities of life. In fact, this morning we used up the last bit of soap we had and I was wondering when and from where we would be able to acquire more. No, we don’t have email or fax, but we’ll send a list to you somehow, someway, because we really need help.”
Joshua Miller (ADRA Country Director and Laymen Ministries Missionary to Lithuania) and I were in Lithuania again. Weeding through our list of orphanages, trying to locate ONLY the ones truly in need of help. Sometimes we didn’t even have to talk with the director. We just walked in the front door or drove up to the building, looked, and we could tell. Those were easy, but it wasn’t always such a straightforward task. Other times, after listening to the director tell how poor they were and how much they needed help; we would take a tour through the orphanage. Only then would we realize that the director was telling us a bunch of lies. From my observation, there were several orphanages which were treating their orphans to far better living conditions than my family ever had while we lived in Lithuania, and yet they were still begging for more money and more help. Those directors didn’t realize who they were talking with, they didn’t realize that we know what poverty looks like, and we know what wealth looks like. After having a couple of directors try to deceive us, Joshua and I were kind of uncertain of whom we could truly trust. After a week and a half of driving, interviews, investigation, and decisions, out of 21 orphanages we considered, we had narrowed ourselves down to 5 orphanages that we honestly knew needed our help and that we would consider helping.
The last week of our trip we had planned to spend accumulating all the clothes for the orphans. Jeff Reich (Director of Laymen Ministries) sent Glenn Woiler over to Lithuania as camera man to video the proceedings, which will be footage for upcoming episodes of Laymen Ministries. The proceedings were rather uneventful for Glenn, until we started to buy things in the open market. We were met at the gate by security guard who said, “What are you doing here? You are not allowed to video inside the open market.” After explaining that we were buying large amounts of clothing, shoes and other necessities for orphans, he said, “You’ll have to talk with the Administration about this.” They didn’t tell us till later, but they actually thought we were from the IRS office coming to film all the crooked activity that goes on in the open market. The director of the orphanage went in with Joshua to talk with the Administration and they gave us, not only permission, but sent a security guard along with us, “just in case.” Of course we didn’t have any idea what would be coming, but God knew what He was doing, because that “just in case” happened a couple of times. Was I ever glad we had that security guard with us, he was certainly an asset that we could have never done without! Several times some of the men and women in the market got rather perturbed that we had a video camera and had we not had a guard with us; it could have turned into a large uproar. We learned later that most, if not all the people who became upset about our video camera were ones who were more than likely doing crooked business, and they were afraid our video tape would be a means of bringing them to justice. So either they got rather violent or simply ran away and hid somewhere. I am sure there was more than one person there who would have liked to steal not only our camera, but all the money we were obviously carrying with us, however, with a guard walking right beside us, nobody was brave enough to try anything.
We purchased literally hundreds of Winter Boots, Shoes, Slippers, Socks, and Underclothes. Not to mention all the Shirts, Sweaters, Coats, Sheets, and other clothing. Then there was the Tooth Paste, Tooth Brushes, Hand Soap, Shampoo, Laundry and Dish Detergent, Paper, School Notepads, Pencils, School Backpacks, Medication, and other things. Altogether we spent a total of $6,300 over a 4–day period of time. I don’t think I have ever spent so much money as quickly as I did on this last trip to Lithuania. But I can say of a certainty, that this money was not wasted or spent on things that were not needed. We tried to find as good of quality as we possibly could, for the amount of money that we had. And of course, all the sellers we purchased from gave us very nice–sized discounts since we were buying in such large bulk and many numbers.
Each orphanage that we visited to distribute all the things that we purchased I noticed that same thing. As I looked into the eyes of those kids, I could see rejection, hurt, bitterness, hatred, and revenge reflected; from some more and from others less. But even more plainly I could see the question mirrored on the faces of all. “Do you love and accept me even in the condition I am in? Or will you reject and hurt me as others have done?” I longed to tell each of those kids about the loving Savior that I have come to love and serve, and how much He loves them, and wants them to love Him too.
We didn’t want our gifts to the orphans to only be temporal and physical. So we carefully selected Lithuanian Christian books, which would be geared for their ages and yet uplift their minds to know more of the loving God and Father that will never turn them away or forget them. I pray that as they read these books that God’s Spirit will open their understanding and enlighten their consciences that they will surrender their lives to Jesus. Yes, we want to help them physically, because they need help in these areas, but most of all they need Jesus living and ruling in their hearts, molding and shaping their characters after His likeness.