One of the first places Frank and I were invited to go to was the First Stage Orphanage here in Berdyansk. Bill Brower, our WGM missionary in charge of youth work, goes to the orphanage twice a week in the mornings to play with the kids and be a part of their lives. When he invited us, we were eager because we had been talking about the orphanages for two years and had shared about the spiritual and physical needs of these kids. So we piled into the van with him and his co-worker, Vika, a young woman who also works in the youth ministries.
At the First Stage Orphanage children are usually brought by their parents or other family members to stay because the family is unable to give them proper care, for various reasons. The children can stay for three months to begin with, but some stay as long as nine months. After that if the parents still can't care for them the children are sent to Azmol Orphanage, which is the regular long-term orphanage. There aren't lots of children in the First Stage Orphanage, but there are enough to break your heart. We spent time with the younger children who don't go to school yet, and they are as adorable as they can be. We also saw some of the older children who are probably between the ages of ten and fourteen.