A World Without Orphans
God compelled a pastor in Ukraine, Gennadiy Mokhnenko, to give homeless kids food and share the gospel with them. What transpired was beyond his wildest expectations. He shares how he adopted 32 children, and today works to raise awareness in his own country of the great need for Christians to be foster and adoptive families.
A pastor in Ukraine, Gennadiy Mokhnenko, gave homeless kids food and shared the gospel with them. He shares how he adopted 32 children, and today works to raise awareness for foster and adoptive families.
A World Without Orphans
Bob: As Pastor Gennadiy Mokhnenko was working with street children in Ukraine, he never imagined that God’s plan for him would be to do more than just provide necessities for these indigent children.
Gennadiy: The idea was just give them food, and we gave them the Gospel also.
Gennadiy: They thought, “Okay, thank you for food—but don’t talk about God—don’t talk about love—because my mother say goodbye for me when I was five years old. Can’t you just see I’m completely drugs addicted? I have HIV. I will die very quickly.” But in one day—in the middle of the night—five boys from street came and a lot of them say, “You told for us about God—and we have decision. We want to be a Christian.”
Bob: This is a special live edition of FamilyLife Today on Tuesday, July 31st.
I’m Bob Lepine along with Dennis Rainey. You’re about to meet a pretty remarkable pastor from the former Soviet Union with a pretty remarkable story to tell. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We are in—a very special live studio audience with us on today’s program. We are at the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit 2018. [Cheering and applause]
Gennadiy: Like inside my orphanage. [Laughter]
Bob: I love it. I love it. That’s great. We have a chance to introduce all of these folks to the man who is probably—I think he has claimed the title of the leader of the Ukrainian—the Tour de Ukraine—isn’t that what they call it?
Dennis: It’s around the world on a bike.
Gennadiy: Tour de Orphan.
Bob: Tour de Orphan—I like that. That’s even better.
Dennis: I want to challenge all of you here in the live audience and also who are listening by radio—tonight or tomorrow—to read Hebrews, Chapter 11; okay? This is a chapter in the Bible that talks about faith. It starts in Hebrews 11:6.
It says, “And without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for whoever must believe God must draw near to Him and believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” Then, it lists a number of saints in the Bible who were men and women of faith. It says they were tortured, they suffered, they were flogged, they suffered imprisonment, stoned—sawn in two—they were killed with the sword.
It closes by saying these were men and women “of whom the world is not worthy.”
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: You’re about to meet a man who could easily find his name—I believe we could—in Hebrews, Chapter 11, because he is a man of faith. I believe that he is going to spur us to love and good deeds. Pastor Gennadiy is a pastor in Ukraine. He is pastored for 25 years. He’s been married to Elena for 26 years, and he’s got a few kids. We’ll talk more about that in just a moment.
Bob: We have interrupted him because he is in the middle of a bike ride. It started in Laguna Beach, California.
Dennis: Well, this leg.
Bob: Yes, this leg. Where are you going to end up on this bike ride? Do you know where it ends?
Gennadiy: I misunderstood something.
Bob: Yes, you started—
Gennadiy: When we drove through California and Arizona, 110 Fahrenheit.
Gennadiy: My brain stopped like this. [Laughter] My English was bad before, but after these first days—
Bob: Much worse?
Gennadiy: Yes, sorry. [Laughter]
Dennis: We just interrupted—he just went through, literally, Death Valley on bicycle.
Bob: Yes, in another couple of weeks, in fact, about the time we’re hearing this on FamilyLife Today, you’re going to end up in Miami.
Gennadiy: Yes, we stop—this is the last stage around the world bicycle trip with my sons—with my adopted sons—and we—before this stage, we go through all Russia, all Ukraine, and all Europe like this. It was 14,000 miles before. Five days ago, we start from L.A.—Laguna Beach—and last five days, 500 kilometers—so I think it’s 250 miles.
Gennadiy: It’s so hot here.
Gennadiy: It’s so hot here. Can’t you see it’s not water for you? I will drink all of it.
Dennis: No, he—
Gennadiy: I feel myself not like man; like horse. [Laughter] I drink so much.
Dennis: Well, Pastor Gennadiy, before we talk about what’s happening with orphans, first just talk about the family in general in your country. What’s happening there? There is a breakdown that is an urgent crisis in your country.
Gennadiy: We have completely family destroyed culture—completely. Can you imagine? My mother had her brother, and I never had meet with him in my life.
Bob: You never met him?
Gennadiy: Never. We have destroyed family—destroyed culture—especially about adoption.
Twenty years ago, when somebody adopted children like me and my friends, people—Christian people—not just people ask, “What’s happened? It’s not possible to have biological?” I hate this question. One time in my church I said, “I must tell truth. I can have biological children.”
Dennis: In fact, you have three.
Gennadiy: Yes, but I still can have biological—
Gennadiy: —because for people it was like something strange—“Wow!”
Bob: No one would choose to adopt in Ukraine or in Russia unless they couldn’t have their own children—that’s what you’re saying?
Gennadiy: Yes, but now, we start change this culture.
Bob: You grew up in a home—
Bob: —that left scars on your own soul; didn’t it?
Gennadiy: Yes, my family was destroyed through alcohol addiction.
Whole family connection was destroyed. Praise the Lord. God saved my family. My father and my mother and my sister—all of them came to Jesus.
Bob: Brought you to Christ first; right?
Bob: Who shared the Gospel with you?
Gennadiy: It was a pastor from a little church—ten people—and he give many time for me. I was just joking and said, “No, no, it’s so—it’s not interesting”; but later it started working inside me, and I came to Jesus. Then, God saved my mother and my father and my sister, and I’m a pastor 26 years. [Applause]
Bob: I love it.
Dennis: Share with our audience how you came near the orphan. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “There are two kinds of problems: those that are far away that we don’t understand—we never get close enough to feel it”—
—“and those where we’ve experienced it up close and personal.” How did it happen with you?
Gennadiy: In my city, we had tragedy. Homeless children were everywhere. Each cross of roads, they live many years. They used drugs. They die from drugs. They kill people, and they were criminal.
Bob: —Just alone on the street? —Just children alone—with no parents?
Gennadiy: Yes, many hundreds—many hundreds in my city—
Gennadiy: —many years. We just—the first idea was—“I’m a pastor. We have a church not so far the cross of roads where they live—and what can we do?” First idea was just give them food. We start prepare some food—each day, same time—we give them some food; but later—and we give them Gospel also—
Gennadiy: —and they told—“Okay, thank you for food, but don’t talk about God—don’t talk about love because my mother”—
—“said, ‘Goodbye,’ to me when I was five years old—Can you just see I’m completely drugs addicted?—I have HIV—I will die very quickly. Don’t know about God—know about Gospel”—but people from church just prepare food and give them.
In one day—in the middle of the night—five boys from street came inside a room—
Gennadiy: —where lives the family who prepares the food for them. They asked, “What’s happening, guys?” One of them said very bravely—“You told for us about God. We’re thinking—and we have decision. We want to be a Christian. Take us and go to pastor for church. We must change our life.” It was a long process. We just give them food and tell them about God. Nothing changed but later, first of them, came to church.
Now this is a biggest children rehab center in former Soviet Union for homeless children.
When we start give them food, we never thinking about around the world bicycle trip—from what you wait other people for that trip—but when we took them from street—second point—they started inviting their friends from street. I bought church building; and in 17 years, church doesn’t have place there—just homeless boys and homeless girls.
Later, we start on this: “The real answer is family.” It was the new step. We start to adopt them. It was my first adoption—three boys and later five and later seven—and never follow me. Now, I have number 32 adopted in my family; but it’s not good example. [Applause] It’s not good example. My story is crazy story—never follow me.
Nobody needs to adopt 32— [Laughter] —but I am sure we have enough very good Christian family who can adopt one—maybe two.
Gennadiy: We have enough for adopt all orphans around the world. [Applause] There’s something wrong with that.
When we started this bicycle trip around the world—it was a crazy idea—but now, when we get 14,000 miles—very often in the morning—I think about many hundreds, hundreds, hundreds story about children who were adopted through this bicycle ride. I have many, many hundreds pictures—many hundreds letters from people who said, “Pastor Gennadiy, thanks for you and your team—for your adopted sons because”—
—“we follow through Facebook, through different kind of—we saw a movie—and this decision about adoption grew inside.”
This is my word. You know Tour de France, guys?
Gennadiy: Tour de France—well, they have the gold one day award the Tour de France, but we have more than gold or world gold—we have hundreds, hundreds story when people adopt children after this. [Applause]
Bob: You and your adopted sons riding from city to city—it draws a crowd in those cities, and that’s where you talk about adoption. The parents see the street children in their cities—their hearts are moved—and they are adopting these kids.
Gennadiy: It’s so many different ways. When we go through, we have press conference, mass media, newspapers, TV channels. Exactly. We have church and concert.
My sons—they are acrobatics. They produce something on disk. People say, “What is this?” but through all these ways, more and more people start to hear about this project. Later, some of them say, “Why not?” They start to prepare the commitment and adopt somebody.
What I think about when I finish this circle around the world—United States of America is not so easy for people from Ukraine and who live inside war ten miles from frontline. It’s not so easy to organize this, and I want to say special thanks for Serving Orphans Worldwide: “Guys, thank you so much Serving Orphans Worldwide for organizing everything.”
Dennis: So, you biked all the way across Siberia?
Gennadiy: Yes, I did it, but it—
Dennis: Did you do that in the winter?
Gennadiy: It was summer, and it was also hot—not so hot like California and Arizona—but also hot.
Dennis: I want you to share your idea. We talked—I wish the audience could have been in the back room listening to pastor share his heart for the orphan. It was shared that there was a number of leaders in your area of the world that were not addressing the needs of orphans—and you had an idea of how to get their attention.
Gennadiy: Yes. The general idea for this bicycle troupe, I think, about—we must do something radical for attention—
Gennadiy: —for people start hear us. Why do people now hear me? We have strange project around the world bicycle trip; yes? I know not each person can adopt somebody, but I know inside each church we have amazing, beautiful Christians family who can do it.
Maybe, we have 10 - 15 families who stand with them together who will help them. [Applause]
Dennis: You know the team is back in Arizona right now—
Bob: You’re out ahead of them on the—
Gennadiy: I know.
Dennis: —the bike ride.
Bob: You certainly have—at least—one of your sons who is right on your heels; right?
Gennadiy: Yes, Andre—yes.
Bob: Can you—
Dennis: Can you get ahold of him?
Bob: Can you get ahold of him and get him here?
Bob: Go ahead and call him.
Gennadiy: [Shouts] Andre, are you here?!
Bob: Let’s all shout out. On three, we’ll call, “Andre.” One, two, three: Andre. Here he is. There he is.
Dennis: He’s on a bicycle. [Applause]
Bob: He brought you some water.
Dennis: Here you go, Bob. You’re the first son he adopted; right? [Gennadiy translates]
Bob: So, everybody, this is Andre. Everybody say, “Hi, Andre.” [Applause]
Bob: Now, Gennadiy’s English is a little better than Andre’s.
Gennadiy: Oh, yes. This is true.
Bob: You’ll do a little translating for us.
Gennadiy: I will try.
Bob: What do you remember about being adopted? [Gennadiy translates]
Andre: [Gennadiy translates] I lived on the street for six years—from six to 12. I had big problem in my family. When I was 12 years old, I met the people from church who gave food for us homeless children; and I had decision to be with them in my life.
Later, Pastor Gennadiy, my father adopted.
Gennadiy: Thank you for this. [Laughter]
Dennis: And how did your life change as a result joining? [Gennadiy translates]
Andre: [Gennadiy translates] If don’t adoption—if don’t church—I don’t have chance to be here because—now— [Andre speaks in English]—I take part in the bicycle tour. [Laughter. Applause] I take part in the bicycle troupe because I want to inspire people to adopt.
Dennis: Yes! Good for you! [Applause and cheering]
Andre: Because this chance for children—yes.
I’m now—I am 30 years. Now, I have family—yes.
Dennis: Are you going to adopt any children? [Gennadiy translates]
Andre: I want to adopt—yes. This is my dream. I prayed.
Gennadiy: Can you imagine from six to 12 he was on the street? He had the amazing family. His mother was acrobat—circus acrobat—but something happened with father—nobody knows where is father. After that, his mother start use alcohol, and family destroyed.
Gennadiy: When family destroyed, his adult brothers killed himself. His second brothers—his mind was, like, destroyed. He was grown on the street—half-life from six to 12—but now, he’s a worship leader in my church. [Applause] He’s an amazing worship leader!
Dennis: Well, we didn’t get a chance to explore how this man of faith has chosen a life that matters; but he has a name that he calls his tribe of adopted children. It’s called “Pilgrim.”
Gennadiy: Republic Pilgrim—it’s like a country for homeless children.
Bob: I love it—The Republic of Pilgrims—isn’t that great?
Dennis: 3,500 children have been through his rehab—and you’ve made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. We give thanks to God for you.
Gennadiy: Thank you.
Bob: Bless you.
Dennis: Pray that he makes it. [Applause]
Bob: Well, let me give you just a quick update. It was this past weekend that Pastor Gennadiy and his team of bicyclists arrived in Miami. So, mission accomplished—beginning in Southern California at Laguna Beach and making it all the way to Miami over,—
—I guess, a three month period with lots of water consumed in the process.
If you’d like more information on Pastor Gennadiy’s ministry and what he’s doing, you can go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. If what you heard him say about adoption resonated with you—if it’s something that, maybe, God has been stirring in your heart—come to our website—FamilyLifeToday.com. We’ve got articles and resources designed to help you think carefully and biblically about whether this is God’s call for your life and your family.
I have to tell you. I’ve run into a lot of parents over the years who are regular FamilyLife Today listeners who have introduced me to some of the children who are a part of their forever family now because they heard us talking about this on FamilyLife Today. If God is tapping you on the shoulder, go to FamilyLifeToday.com, get some help,—
—and keep praying and asking God to direct your steps about what you need to be doing in your family. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
You think about having 32 adopted kids and three biological kids. You can imagine that Pastor Gennadiy is a man of prayer because if you’ve got that many kids, you’re going to be doing a lot of praying. We’ve been encouraging moms and dads over the last week or so to take part in a 30-Day Prayer Challenge that we put together here at FamilyLife.
I know in some parts of the country, school is starting up very soon—even this week for some students. In other parts of the country, it won’t be until after Labor Day—but we’re encouraging moms and dads—as this season rolls around—to start praying regularly for your children. We’ve got a series of emails we’d love to send you that will provide you with a prayer prompt each day—a subject to be praying for, some Scripture, some suggested prayers.
It will be in your email inbox every day just to prompt you to be praying for your kids as this season begins to emerge.
You can sign up for these prayer prompts on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. There is also information on the website about our Art of Parenting™ video series that a lot of churches are going to be using this fall as special classes or as small group material. We’ve been hearing about churches that are kicking off their parenting groups with an all-church showing of the movie that was in theaters a few months ago called Like Arrows. That movie is now available for church showings, and you can find out how your church can use this film as a kick-off for Art of Parenting groups.
Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and the information is available there. Or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Let me just mention—we also have an online Art of Parenting course that moms and dads can go through on their own. You can find out more about that when you go to our website as well.
Be praying for your kids as they head back to school and think about getting together with some other couples and going through the Art of Parenting video series from FamilyLife.
Again, the information is available online at FamilyLifeToday.com—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY for more information.
We are grateful for those of you who partner with us in all that we are doing here at FamilyLife—grateful for our monthly Legacy Partners and those of you who will from time to time get in touch with us and make a donation to support the ongoing work of this ministry helping us reach more people, more regularly with practical, biblical help and hope for marriages and families.
If you’re able to help with a donation today, we’d love to show our appreciation by sending you a copy of Dennis Rainey’s book, Choosing a Life That Matters. The book is our thank-you gift when you donate today online at FamilyLifeToday.com—or you can call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can also request the book when you mail—
—your donation to FamilyLife Today at Box 7111, Little Rock, Arkansas; our zip code is 72223.
Tomorrow, we’re going to hear from Barbara Rainey about how we can come to understand—in our lives—that Jesus is indeed enough. We’ll hear from Barbara tomorrow. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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