240315 Sga 2024 Sga.org Stories 12 15 Social Post 1 Wordpress Preview 460x460 V1
Apr 30, 2024
Central Asia
Editor’s Note: The following story and images were provided by an SGA team member in Central Asia.

Lyoshka’s name comes from the root word “hope,” but his parents nicknamed him “unhoped.” But God had other plans for this unwanted child! We are thankful that beginning in January, Lyoshka will receive help through the SGA-supported Orphans Reborn ministry. What a testimony of God’s plan and direction for an individual life! His story is a little long, but well worth the read!

Lyoshka’s story is a true visual of the many experiences and thoughts of an orphan child. His story is a story of redemption as he journeyed from horrendous living conditions with alcoholic parents, to an orphanage, to finally, joyfully giving back to other orphan children. By building relationships and organizing summer camps where these children were able to see something different in the people who love and serve them, Lyoshka and his team are working faithfully to bring hope to the children.

The “Unhoped” Baby

“He raises the poorfrom the dustand lifts the needyfrom the ash heap“ .Ps. 113:7

Lyoshka woke up from being freezing and tried to wrap himself up with a cotton wadded jacket thrown on the floor, which served him both as a mattress and a blanket. For as long as he could remember, he would always sleep at this very place. His parents were around, not far away, but they, as usual, were drunk. They did not care about either Lyoshka, or his sister and two brothers. As his mother later said, she and his father did not want him. To terminate the unwanted pregnancy, his mother took some pills, and his father tried to help by beating her, just into the stomach, so that she would have a miscarriage. However, against all odds, Lyoshka survived and came into this dreary world. Their family name was Zhdanov (which comes from the root “expect, hope for”), and they nicknamed their newborn son the ‘unhoped’…

The Age of Five

Lyoshka had stepped into half-starving and half-freezing life quite early. At the age of five, he had been already working with his hands. Their neighbor, a kind aged woman, would give him food and paid small cash for doing some chores, like clearing snow in winter, or chopping wood in summer. The woman did more of the chopping, while the boy would just carry timber and put into a wood-stack. Sometimes he tried to chop it with his weak childish hands but could hardly do it.

Early Schooling

The boy was eager to go to school like other kids, but his parents did not share this desire of him by far. Their desire was to disable their son, just as they did to his older brother, in order to receive children’s benefit on disability, only to waste it on alcohol. However, the unexpected happened: the neighbor intervened again and told the boy’s parents that she would not allow them to disable him and that he would go to school like other children. Only then did Lyoshka begin to understand that it was the protecting hand of a loving God over him. In the meantime, he went to school with great joy, carrying in one hand a school bag with pens and other things that he could buy himself with his earned cash, and in the other — a small bunch of flowers that he stole from his virtuous neighbor’s garden.

Sent to an Orphanage (5th Grade)

The boy had a great desire to study, but his home environment was not conducive for it at all: he had no place to study, lacked proper clothes and footwear to go to school, and he often had to miss classes. Moreover, due to the dire living conditions, Lyoshka could never wash or change clothes, and everyone in the school avoided him, including teachers, for smelling. With great difficulty, hewould progress through school, but it would not last long. When he was in the fifth grade, the school staff filed a petition with the appropriate authority, resulting in deprivation of parental rights of his mother and father, and Lyoshka ended up in an orphanage.

For the first time in his twelve years, he was in a car going through a big city, eyeing with curiosity at the large buildings and completely different bustling life seen through the car window. Once in the orphanage, he was washed, changed into fresh clothes, and then shown a bed, nicely made with clean sheets. When he heard that it was his own bed, he burst into tears. Never in his life had he had his own nicely smelling clean clothes or a bed. He continued to stroke the clean bedspread with his hand, as if not believing that it was not a dream, and he would not have to return to his terrible former home.

Meets Olga (Orphanage Director)

Lyoshka did rejoiceand delighted at his new life! He quickly accustomed to the rules, and since he was used to working, he would throw himself at any job. He even formed a friendship with the orphanage director, Olga, who turned to be a kindhearted woman (and who later repented and received Christ thank to Lyoshka’s testimony and ministry). Soon they made an exception to the rules for Lyoshka, allowing him to work on his own. He tried every job he could, taking on anything.

Works Hard/Forgets His Past

Lyoshka’s life was gradually getting into its new routine, as he was less and less recalling of his past life, even less his parents. The past seemed a kind of nightmare to him. In the meantime, things were going well for him. He knew how to save money and eventually bought a chainsaw. He was so proud of his purchase! Now he could be employed for sawing and chopping wood like a real man. In the orphanage, he already had his own room with a lock, that is, he had an individual apartment and could afford buying and cooking food for himself, instead of eating with the rest in the canteen.

Life After the Orphanage

Begins Drinking Like His Parents

Lyoshka had a character that allowed him to get along easily with people, and having been acquainted with local guys, he soon became a familiar face among them. Such a life continued almost until graduation from the orphanage school.

Then clouds started gathering in his life. One day, while in the company of the locals, one of them offered him a taste of beer. Having made one sip, he liked it and made a second one. The next day he already bought a bottle of beer, then two, and it all began… Later, when asked about why he was doing it, he answered that he did not think much at all, that he lived for one day, not caring about the consequences, even though he did remember the life of his alcoholic parents who were ready to abandon everything for the sake of drinking. He had to hide carefully his new ‘hobby’. He was especially afraid that Olga would find out about it.

Lyoshkasoon started getting his friends into drinking. To his joy, the time had come to graduate the school and step into adulthood. He moved to a hostel, where he had no one to hide from, and everyday drinking was becoming a new norm for him. Having not recognized what was really happening, the young man was slowly sliding down the path of his parents, in other words, into the path to hell.

Visit from Believers

One summer day, the director of the orphanage, Olga called him and happily reported that some young people {believers from the USA and a local church} came to their school. They were about his age, very sociable and cheerful youth. She invited Lyoshka to come to the school to meet with them. A storm broke out in his soul. Who are they? What are they doing there? After all, what do they know about orphaned life? This and many other questions were simmering in his mind, but, interestingly, inside he felt some interest to go there, and the confidence that he would do it.

The Curious Life of the Foreign Christians

Since the very first meeting, Lyoshka was watching the guests carefully. They did truly differ from ordinary youth. What especially surprised him was their relationship with each other: they did not fight or quarrel, and treated everyone in a simple manner, and what touched him most was that he did not hear a single curse word from them. Their days began very early with reading from the Bible, as they read a chapter and took turns delving into what they read, verse by verse, and then they prayed. For the first time in his life, Lyoshka saw young people reading the Bible and praying willingly. After that, they would go to wake up the sleepy children, cheerfully singing a song with a guitar,encouraging them to do morning exercises, which was a lot of fun. After breakfast, the room was cleaned, and Bible lessons began. After the Bible lessons they had various hobby classes, when the children did crafts from the materials the youth brought. After lunch and quiet time, there were long-awaited evening sporting activities. Whatever they played, soccer would always be the primary game for the boys. In the evening, everyone would come for general gathering for communication, where the team was singing and teaching new songs with the children and showed skits. Stories from the Bible and testimonies were very edifying. When the children would go to bed, the team would get together again, debriefing the past day, having some tea, and praying before going to rest late at night. Lyoshka was slowly making his way to them, and they allowed him to participate. He could not understand what exactly attracted him to these young people. The two weeks flew by quickly, and no matter how hard it was to say good-bye, the time came for them to leave.

The Contrast with Non-Believers

When Lyoshka returned to the hostel, he was shocked with the oppressive atmosphere there: swearing, scolding, fighting, and drinking. It was as if a veil had fallen off his eyes. How had he not seen this before? He caught himself thinking that during those two weeks he had not taken a drop of alcohol. He could no longer withstand this atmosphere. Two days later, having found an apartment, he moved out.

The Desire to Contact Christians Again

How much he wanted to have that communication again with the Christian youth, but they had already gone home. Then he realized that he had not even taken any contact phone number or address. He remembered that they talked about some church in the town where he lived, but sadly, he had no address or contacts.

So, winter passed, and spring came. Lyoshka, lacking spiritual support, has been slowly weakening and returning to the circles of his usual life. Then a miraculous encounter took place! By accident, when he was at the bus station, he saw two girls who seemed familiar to him from before. He approached them and asked whether they could meet before, and one of them answered positively, recalling his first and last name, and added that they met during the summer in the camp at the orphanage. These two girls were a part of the local church community who were also in that camp. Lyoshka rejoiced with this encounter, as he finally found the lead that connected him with another world. The girls shared the address of the house of prayer and the hours of worship services, and Lyoshka came to the church the very first Sunday. He tried not to miss a single gathering. He especially liked youth meetings.

He Becomes a Christian

Then came the summer, and he learnt that young people from a far city would come to hold a riverside tent camp, named “Choose Life.” It was in the camp that Lyoshka chose life, true life, the life with Jesus. His heart was filled with great joy of forgiveness and love for everyone, which he had never experienced in his entire life.

Thinks About His Parents

Returning home after the camp, he was flying high with happiness: he still could not believe that he became a child of God, and it all seemed like in a dream. Then thoughts pierced him, What about my parents? Where are they? Are they alive? A new heart filled with divine love and forgiveness could not remain indifferent to anyone, especially to parents. How are they? After all, I haven’t seen them since I was taken away… The next day he was in the bus, heading to meet his parents.

He Finds His Parents

It is not hard to imagine what a house of vagrants may look like. As soon as Lyoshka opened the door, a strong smell of dirt and human waste hit him hard. Having looked around, he saw two people lying on the floor, who were clearly in strong alcohol intoxication. Having pinched his nose, Lyoshka burst into deep tears out of pity. He was silent for a long time, not knowing what to say, and then, with surprise to himself, he pronounced, “Dad, Mom, I love you.” Then he parted, having returned to his apartment. For a long time, the picture of what he saw did not leave his memory. As if it was real, the scenes from his childhoodrevived in his memory: food poverty, bleakness, abuse, and misery. “Who I could’ve become and who I am now…”, Lyoshka pondered. And tears ran down his cheeks again, but those were tears of gratitude to God for His steadfast love and salvation from sins. The struggle that began in his soul was overcome by victory, and his heart overflowed with love to his parents.

The next day he would come to them again, and again he saw the same picture — nothing had changed, his parents were in the same deranged state. Within two months, Lyoshka would repeatedly come over to say over again that he loved them. He could not remember where that strength and money for travel came from… One day his mother, apparently after sobering, asked him, wondering, “Why do you love us?” Only then, Lyoshka was able to talk about the One who changed his life and filled his heart with love. The brain clouded by alcohol, functioned slowly, but it seemed that love was healing it, too. The changes in Lyoshka’s mother started to appear. First his father and then his mother quit drinking.

He Asks Forgiveness of Others

Lyoshka then felt responsible for everyone he met in his life. He wanted to find those, whom he had brought into drinking. Firstly, he would ask for their forgiveness, and then testified about how God changed his life. Lyoshka was rejoicing, when one of his friends named Victor repented, and trusted in Jesus as his Savior.

He Blesses His Parents Before Their Passing

Again, God granted Lyoshka His great mercy: first, his father, and later his mother turned to God. However, their bodies, tormented by alcohol, could no longer recover. Six months later, the father died from liver cirrhosis; God gave his mother strength to hold out for another year. Dying of cancer, a week before her death, she said, “How happy I am that God has forgiven me. Now I’m not afraid to die.” She passed away peacefully, with a smile on her lips. Many of her past drinking companions came to the funeral. For them, her funeral served a bright testimony of changed life and forgiveness. The pastor and his wife, as well as a few sisters from the church were there, too. They sang Christian hymns; the pastor preached from the Word of God and called to repentance. Lyoshka had one thing that he regretted the most — he spent too little time with his mother before her death. So now, he was left alone, yet he was not alone, as God Himself is with him, and He certainly knows what is best for his life.

He Has a Vision to Give Back to Other Orphans

In retrospect, Lyoshka has clearly seen the hand of merciful God in his life, who did not leave him even for a moment, but was guiding him through a difficult but wonderful path of life that leads to eternity. Now Lyoshka can share about God’s wondrous deeds and blessings in his life. He is now ministering to orphans and, like those youth who would come once to the orphanage where he grew up, he holds Christian camps in orphanages. They minister in eight orphanages. In fact, his assistant is that old buddy of his, Viktor, who is now also serving the Lord. Lyoshka also has another ministry, helping families like his own when he was growing up.  There are three homes where parents used to abuse alcohol and led terrible lives. The husbands agreed to go to a rehab center and Lyoshka ministers to them at the center, as well as to their wives and children. Lyoshka has started building his own house. The desire of his heart is for this house to serve the Lord, accepting and providing temporary housing for orphanage graduates, and his Gracious God does not leave him in this ministry.

A word from the interviewer (another team member): 

This is atestimony, written down from thewords of the character of the story. It is not over yet, and life goes on, but now having its meaning and purpose. His goal is to glorify God on this earth and in eternity. Quoted from our conversation, “Just to imagine who I serve … not a boss, not even a president … No, I, a simple guy, Lyoshka from an orphanage, serve the Great God Himself! Blessed and glorified be His Holy Name!”

Read More Stories
Be a Part of God’s
Life-Changing Work