It was a rainy day and the rain drops were drumming against the window. Our small meeting room had the looks of the long passed soviet era. It was an old room in desperate need of a facelift.

The tired director of the boarding school was sitting behind her desk, piled with all sorts of paperwork. The clutter was unavoidable. She had been there a long time. A long-time mother for hundreds of forsaken kids. Her door never closed for any of “her” children. They all were welcomed, any time.

The question she asked just a moment before, had hit the target hard. It resonated in my heart, as the cry of my own soul. I had to answer but there was so many “buts” and so much uncertainty. Her question hung in the air unanswered. She leaned on her desk, and looked purposefully at me, and asked the question again, making her words as clear as possible:

“Will you take our kids to your House of Hope? They all want to go. They graduate here in June. They want you to take them? How many can you accommodate? I will give you permission to take all of them. Will you take them? How many?”

How many? That produced waves of pain and faith at the same time. How many? That question pressed against the wall of my heart. I wanted to scream my lungs out – “All of them! We will take all of them, all of them and more.” But the painful reality and calculation said, “We can’t.”  Dear God, what do we do? How can we turn them away?”

I was taken back to a vivid “God moment” just few years back. It was a flashback. I was back in my room meditating on a dream I just had. A dream? No, not a dream – it was a God moment. It was Him speaking. I knew it full well. It was His voice – unmistakable. “I want you to go back to Ukraine, the land from which I took you, and bless the people there. Go back and help them.”

Go back to Ukraine, after thirty years of being away. Now to leave a solid commitment to the people of Siberia and go back to Ukraine. This was not an easy decision. But I knew well, it was not open for discussion – it was not an option. It was His choice because He had heard the cry of people. It was not up to me to argue.

He guided us here to Odessa. He led each step of the way. He parted the sea so many times. How could I doubt, now that I faced the decisions to take in more orphans? At this time, we already had kids staying with us in the House of Hope. We had already opened our hearts and home to many forsaken teenagers. Kids with no hope, only misery. But now to take in more? How can we take in more? But how can we not?

The “House of Hope” is His project. It is He who hears the cry of the teenage boys and girls. It is He who sees the great, anointed future of these kids. It is God Himself who comes to their rescue. One by one He is touching their lives.

My mind raced back to the kids who were already staying with us. Flashback – seeing them on their knees – reaching out to God. Being embraced by the power of God, being born again and filled His Spirit – it was so obvious what we had to do!

God is up to something so much bigger. He is raising a new spiritual army, a people of radical action, people of loving, passionate and radical faith – many times I have seen it as these kids have worshiped God and prayed.

There was another flashback to a boy’s tearful face and whispered words of appreciation: “Thank you for taking me out. Thank you for having me”.  These words were spoken by a boy we took out of a house that could hardly be called a dwelling.The walls were gone, the windows and flooring had been sold for another bottle of vodka. Just a dirt floor, a rotten mattress and a shivering boy.

Dearest Jesus, how can I say no now, to more needy teenagers? How would I pray, how could I live with these words ringing in my ears? It was God asking me to believe Him for more. I knew I was left with no option other than to trust Him to part yet another sea for us to go through.

We can extend the House of Hope, we can build another room – maybe two.There is space for two more rooms – we can renovate the basement. One by one things were clicking in my mind and I began to see possibilities, more and more.

The orphanage director was still looking at me for an answer, and she was not taking “no” for an answer. The director looked into my eyes and smiled with relief. She knew the answer. The rest was just logistics.

Today, we are in the process of extending our House of Hope for more teenagers. We are stretching to make room where there is no room. The boys are doing the renovations under supervision of a builder. This is saving a lot of money and the boys are learning a trade for the future. There will be a great need of skilled building labor for the rebuilding of Eastern Ukraine in the future.

It might be a little tight, but our hearts are wide open. In our hearts we have already accommodated ALL of them – all eight of them. They belong here!

We are working hard, connecting vision and faith to reality. We are working hard to renovate and prepare for more kids to come in.

For us it is like the final scene of the movie “Schindler’s List”when Oscar Schindler saw how many people he had saved. Every opportunity is worth trying and we will! We will try and act on every thought, every opportunity! Nothing will be taken for granted.

Nothing comes easy and we are reaching out to you for prayer. Would you pray with us for these issues? Pray for the renovation process and the permits to be granted. Pray for the wisdom to make right decisions and for skilled builders. Yes, we need HELP, need those who can come and help us build. Pray for the “manna” of God’s provision for each step of the way. Pray for us to have strength to keep going. For our team – the people of great capacity!

We appreciate your kindness and love.

With many thanks,

HIS BONDSERVANT

Vitaly and Nadezhda Kogan

I have known Vitaly from 1993 where I met him in Latvia, at the time I first ministered at the Word of Truth Church in Riga. He was about to leave for Siberia at that stage.

It’s an honor and a privilege to stand with Vitaly and Petr, his co-pastor, in this great work with the Orphans and Homeless Kids in Ukraine.

David Smethurst

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