Stoneworks Board Chairman Larry Heller sends this report on his recent trip to Belarus and Russia –


This was my 35th trip to the former Soviet Union. During my 18 days on the ground in Russia and Belarus, I had 74 meetings, spending time with 176 people. The numbers are not important, except to reveal and celebrate the goodness of God, and how He can use an ordinary person to make His presence felt among His children.

While in St. Petersburg and Minsk (and surrounding territories)…

I held the hand of a 17 year old unwed mother (like a daughter to me since 2012) who back in June had given birth to a baby girl with serious medical issues. The baby lived in the hospital on life support for five or so months and eventually passed. I could see that she was emotionally exhausted and still feeling like, as she had written to me, “…now there is this ‘black stripe’ against me that will never go away.” She needed to hear many important words of encouragement so that she wouldn’t remain in despair. She needed to know, for example, that this chapter of her life does not predict the course of her future and that her past decisions and these events do not define her or decide her identity. She needed to hear that God listens, God comforts, God heals, forgives, restores, reclaims and redeems. She needed to hear that God is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) and that she is a beloved daughter of the King (II Corinthians 6:18).


I hugged a teenage orphan for about 5 minutes straight. She wouldn’t let go. It was as if she was feeling a father’s hug and was trying to recapture in those few minutes what she had missed for all of her childhood. I could feel God’s love going through me and I could feel her trusting and receiving His love.

I believe moments like these can be transformative in a young person’s life. They can change a person’s perception of the world and of themselves. While catching a glimpse of God’s agape love, and a glimpse of their worthiness to be loved, an orphan can set a new course for her life, with hope that God’s love is real and she is worthy to receive it.

There were celebrations too! I celebrated the 13th birthday of my godson Andre – the child of a girl I met sixteen years ago at Children’s Home #51, when she was 15 years old. Andre, now himself living in an orphanage with his two sisters, got to play with abandon in a giant game arcade with his sisters and two buddies, his foster mom and I following behind snapping pictures and smiling about every little thing they did. Again, just affirming for Andre that he matters and that he is deeply loved and that he has a Father God who cares for him.


And I celebrated Sergey Vinichenko, a young man I met on my first winter mission trip back in 2000. Sergey has broken the cycle of orphans begetting orphans. He became a lawyer, was elected as St. Petersburg’s ombudsman for orphans rights and does pro bono work helping to secure (and in some cases take back) apartments that were issued to orphans by the state.

Sergey is ferocious and fearless in his defense of children’s rights and he gives God the credit for his accomplishments.

Lots of other good things happened too…

  • heller-trip-006We equipped Sasha, a dear sister who visits children’s homes and poor village schools as a clown! We took her a new “Snazzy Clown” costume, a big rainbow wig, colorful socks, a ton of balloons, face paint, brushes, a big squeaking red nose and a flower that squirts water! (You should have seen the amused expressions on the faces of the otherwise stoic Russian airport security people as they searched my bags.)
  • We took 37 bottles of vitamins for 25 families.
  • We gave financial support to 9 orphan ministries which included 2 transitional homes, a foster mom of 12, Lucya Subbotina, an angel who makes regular visits to the pediatric cancer hospital, a single mothers’ home, a Russian family of 4 who adopted 3 more, a ministry to village children of impoverished & broken families, and bereavement support for 2 young adult sisters whose mother, only in her mid-fifties, unexpectedly passed away from a fall in her apartment.
  • We bought some long overdue eye glasses for two boys, bought shoes/boots for five kids (hey, buy-1-get-1 free!), and enjoyed several fun hours of ‘foosball fellowship.’
  • We counseled a young couple about abstinence and God’s plan for marriage.
  • Dozens of children and young adults were encouraged and lifted up through ordinary meetings and from the continual returning over many years, to be reminded, in word and in deed, that they are children of a supremely powerful and loving King.

This is a testimony to how God can use an ordinary person to extend His love in extraordinary ways. We only have to be willing to go where He calls us, and prayerfully request the Holy Spirit to do the real work. I’m thankful to my hosts in Russia and Belarus (Marina, Dasha, Olga and Vita) and to the many people (especially my wife, Kim) who prayed, encouraged and gave so that I could go.

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