Putting an End to Orphanages
Regarding the efforts of Ukrainian pastor Gennady Mokhnenko
M o s c o w – Eastern European people of good will usually support the retention and improvement of orphanages. But the Ukrainian pastor Gennady Mokhnenko expects the exact opposite: He wants them eliminated. In a recent interview this Charismatic pastor described his “mega-dream”: “The ceremonial closure of the last orphanage on the terrain of the former USSR.” They are to be replaced by caring, Christian families willing to accept orphans and abandoned children into their homes. He wrote in an open letter of 24 February 2011: “If every (Protestant) congregation finds between three and five families ready to accept foster children, then we could empty all of our country’s orphanages in short order. The statistics prove that this is possible. All we really need, is to do it!” Ukraine has 102.000 orphans and abandoned children; in Russia that number exceeds 1,5 million.
Mokhnenko reappeared in the headlines in late May when „Makarenko from Mariupol“, a film featuring his work, was named the year’s best film on the issue of children by the national “Open Ukraine” competition. The film reports on the lives of drug-addicted and neglected children that the pastor and his congregation had gathered from the city’s basements and gutters. (Anton Makarenko was the Soviet Union’s best-known educator.)
Today, „Pilgrim Republic“ (Respublika Piligrim), which was founded by Pastor Mokhnenko, is Ukraine’s largest Protestant children’s centre. The centre is presently home to 400 minors; 2.500 children have transitioned through this home since its inception in 2001. More than half of them are now living with families or in boarding schools. Others are living lives which cause concern to their one-time supervisors – but these adults believe that good seed has been sown. “We have also buried many children,” the centre’s head concedes. This home is today part of a network of 32 rehab centres for children in Ukraine and Russia, many of which were founded by Mokhnenko. Adults are now also being served in some centres.
Gennady Mokhnenko was born into a violent and alcoholic family in the port city of Mariupol in the south-eastern corner of the country in 1968. In 1992, he planted a congregation known as “The Church of Positive Changes” in his native city. The city was teeming with street urchins early in the 1990s. In 1998, members of his congregation began to bring warm meals to children squatting in basements and other hideaways.
This mission reports that 20% of its young clients are HIV-positive; it has consequently made rehabilitation work
among drug and glue addicts a priority. Basic school training is also vital; many of them are still illiterate. Its primary objectives include the “domestication” of children, acclimating them to
family-style living and regular school work. Yet spiritual issues are not neglected. In an interview the effort’s founder assured: “All our experiences show that without a deep spiritual
conversion, that without a true rebirth, even the grandest pedagogical concepts do not work.”
Mokhnenko himself is not only a gifted manager – he attempts to practice what he preaches. In addition to three children of their own, he and his wife Yelena have adopted 21 more. Between 11 and 13 of them are presently living under one roof with the couple. He assures that some of them are now as close to him as his own biological children: “I cannot imagine living without them any more.”
Obviously, an effort of this size cannot succeed without the robust aid of partners. A major contributor to this work is Sacramento/California’s “House of Bread”. This Charismatic congregation consists primarily of Slavic immigrants and is headed by the 37-year-old Ukrainian Alexander Shevchenko. Baptists are also cooperating: Mokhnenko notes that an entire container of humanitarian aid donated by a Baptist congregation in the USA has been of major assistance.
Gennady Mokhnenko sits on the board of the initiatives „Ukraine without Orphans“ and „You Will be Found“. The 2010-founded campaign „Ukraine without Orphans“ intends to get the country “orphan-free” by 2015. It is supported for ex. by Pat Robertson’s “Christian Broacasting Network”, “CoMission”, „Compassion International“ and the Baptist-allied „Peter Deyneka Russian Ministries”. “You Will be Found” has very similar goals and is supported by similar Western agencies.
Despite initial resistance, the city fathers of Mariupol are also on-board. They are now paying for heat and power at the centre’s primary building. Its director assures that relations with the city are “very good”.
Equal rights for gay couples
“Pilgrim Republic” combines its practical aid for individual children with socio-political efforts expressed in part through public rallies and bicycle tours. When the Ukrainian parliament ratified the “European Convention on the Adoption of Children” last February, major protests from the above-mentioned initiatives resulted. Peter Dudnik, a Charismatic pastor from Slavyansk, described it as a plus that Ukrainian orphans could now be more easily adopted by Western European families. „But it is certainly a minus that unisex families will be able to adopt Ukrainian orphans.“
In this letter he calls for putting aside all confessional disputes in order to prevail in the struggle against the legal upgrading of unisex relationships. “We must make clear to politicians that public opinion will not accept this abomination in silence.” He continued: “If we do not wake up soon and jointly confront this evil, then a curse will fall upon our land and our children. They will then need to live in a complete different society 10 to 15 years from now.”
This reaction could be described, among other things, as a simple overreaction. The revised Convention of 27 November 2008 leaves it up to the member state to decide whether or not to permit unisex couples to adopt. The Convention does not force any state to give equal legal status to homosexual unions.
The pastor from Mariupol can be thanked for many wonderful initiatives. The demographic crisis present in the former Soviet states could also be softened by awakening the reserves slumbering in the now-living adults and children subsisting on the fringe of society. All of us would profit from the mobilisation of those reserves. How the world’s sexual minorities could also profit from the love of Christ – that issue is deserving of additional reflection not only in Western Europe.
William Yoder, Ph.D.
Smolensk, 15 June 2011
Press service of the Russian Evangelical Alliance
A release of the Russian Evangelical Alliance. It is informational in character and does not express a sole, official position of Alliance leadership. Release #11-11, 1.083 words, 6.826 keystrokes and spaces.
Note from June 2020: After Maidan in February 2014, Gennady Mokhnenko sadly chose to become a virulent and militant opponent of any pro-Russian activity in the
break-off republics of Donetsk and Lgansk. See our release from 2 July 2015. One of his most famous statements expressed his readiness to personally murder Vladimir