The “Parents” of Wellspring Transition Home on Love and Conviction
Orphanage graduates in Russia leave the institutions with few life skills.
Even basic hygiene is not taught- a couple rotten teeth are common. It is rare for them to have received sufficient education to qualify for university. Jobs are hard to come by; according to Pastor Anatoly Redin (the home’s founder), there aren’t many good organizations who want to take orphans, who have the reputation of “professional thieves” and often a record to match.
Denis and Valya Shirshova serve full time as the “parents” for Wellspring Transition Home. They came three years ago, only a year after marrying. They’d never imagined living here, but believe that God led them to meet Pastor Anatoly, and to come here. “It really does happen so that when there is a need, God finds people to meet that need,” Denis says.
“All the time we remember that God wants us not only to be saved, but also to serve other people,” he adds. “At times we wish to leave all this, but God really wants us to do this ministry… Christ gives us the strength to do this ministry.”
Many of the kids who come through the transition home have their papers stamped as “debil” (disabled). In some way or another, they are considered defective and unqualified for driver’s licenses or normal jobs; they have to constantly fight discouragement. They often are recovering from addictions (vodka and gasoline sniffing provided a comforting escape) so relapses happen. On top of this, some savvy people will have abused the orphans’ longing for affection to extort money from them (the government gives a stipend), as well as sex. Girls pulled into these relationships sometimes don’t return.
To live here day in and day out; breaking up fights, working alongside kids who’ve never had to work before; is, as Denis says, a way to “find out who you really are.”
Filmed in the transition home’s dining area. The music is a recording at evening prayer, with Denis leading.
Denis and Valya Shirshova on how they help orphans who come through Wellspring Transition Home to see that they are loved
Paying attention to them, of course. Valya is like a real mom to them. And also teaching them, giving good advice.
We explain how it is in reality. And speak, and communicate with them like they are our equals and friends. I understand that sometimes I act like our kids.
So contacting them on their level, and explaining to them the truth.
Valya: They like love. So Denis and I, we try to show this love, and we try to share the life experience we have with them.
Each of these kids wants our attention, our love. It is always a struggle for love and for this attention.
Denis: In the majority of cases, for them to understand that you love them, you just need time. And in order that they will be sincere and true with you.
I noticed that most of them are very communicative, but in many cases they did not tell everything.
So if we want them to tell us the secrets and serious things, it will take some years.
They need more than just some acts or behavior towards them. They need your participation in their lives. They need a person to be interested in their souls, in their inner world.
On the perception that to be an orphan is to be “defective” in some way.
Valya: I can’t say that these kids are stupid or quite defective. OF course they have their problems and shortcomings, because nobody taught them life skills.
But the main thing all these kids have… they are very kind. Even more so than kids who live in normal homes, and have families.
Denis: Our kids are really good, and kind, and really wonderful. If you can really connect with them and try to understand them, they are really quite perfect guys and girls. They’d never tell you no, and they will help you in all situations.
And of course, they can always see if you are not sincere with them or if you tell them a lie.
On how they find the strength to continue
Valya: It is written in the Bible that “you will know them according to their fruits.” And sometimes we don’t see these fruits quickly, and doubt whether we should do this or not.
But thanks to Anatoly I understand, especially during our morning and evening prayers, that we are here because God wants us to be here. And I have no doubts from this moment.
Sometimes it is difficult emotionally when you have a misunderstanding with the kids here. But God gives strength, and I pray together with Denis, and God gives us strength and wisdom, and patience. And God gives patience, and resolve (as Jesus had going to the cross). And you understand that you must go further.
Denis: This has been one of the most difficult periods in my life, maybe because God changes me and my character. Sometimes it is not easy or joyful. But on the other side I understand, what to do in this life, if not to serve God?
Valya: I think that God wants us to be beautiful, and that the transition home is that place where people change, and the change to be better.