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“Who Am I?”
Getting to know our Director of Russian Programs, Lena Vasilieva
by Whitney Williams
Posted on Monday, February 18, 2013
Imagine if your own family, the people you trust most, and the ones to whom you turn for refuge, neglected you … abandoned you.

Imagine, then, being swept up into the arms of a huge, loving—different-looking family … a family of kids, just like you, who’ve been in your ratty shoes. A home with adults who actually care for you, cheer for you, give you the love you’ve always wanted …

Imagine finding out that this newfound joy, this promising life, is made possible by caring Americans whom you’ve never met. What would you think?

The first question that comes to mind for the sweet Russian orphans we serve is, “why?” Why would they care for me? And that’s a question they reserve for their trusted adult friend, Lena Vasilieva (pictured right), our director of Russian programs.

“And isn’t that the question we all ask God?” Lena reflects. “Who am I that You are mindful of me?”

Lena grew up a happy child in the town of Izhevsk. Her parents were not Christians, nor Orthodox, as are most Russian families, so she was never introduced to the Bible. Nonetheless, God was “mindful” of her.

God stirred Lena’s heart throughout her teen years and gave her a desire to seek Him, but the only place she knew to turn was the Orthodox church—there, at the age of 14, she was baptized, but it didn’t make much difference in her life, Lena admits.

“I was still looking for God and could not find Him,” Lena said. Three years later her mindful Lord brought her all the way to Saint Petersburg—she thought she was there to study, but God had bigger plans, and He didn’t take long to carry them out.

On her first day in Saint Petersburg, Lena met a Christian girl who shared the true Gospel with her and invited her to Bible study.

“I accepted Jesus right away,” Lena said. “He was the one I was looking for. That is when my life started changing completely.”

Shortly thereafter, God drew Lena to work with orphans in Saint Petersburg, and it was there, in 1999, that she met a group of Americans who shared her same heart for God’s children—Orphan Outreach.

Now, more than ten years later, she serves as our Director of Russian programs, still making time to love on the kids throughout the week, while also working to develop new Orphan Outreach partnerships with directors of orphanages, pastors, and other ministry representatives in the area, training and evaluating volunteers who have hearts for orphan ministry, and knocking out piles of paperwork—and she couldn't be happier.

“God has been so faithful and merciful to me,” Lena said. “I felt a part of the Orphan Outreach family at once, and every child that we serve becomes part of it too—a part of this wonderful, loving, and caring body of Christ.”

And that’s exactly how she explains it when the children ask why an American would care for them: “Because you’re a part of their family, our family … God’s family—and God’s family goes far beyond borders, differences, and limitations.”

Lena, who has a degree in sociology from Saint Petersburg University, and her husband live in Saint Petersburg, Russia with their two boys, ages 4 and 2.


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