Collateral Blessings

Ludmilla’s Grave Luhtonova, Russia

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In times of war we talk about collateral damage, which means destruction of people or things who weren’t the intended target. In Missions we can use the term collateral blessings, which means benefit to people who weren’t our intended ministry target.

Our target group is older Russian orphans. Over the years we’ve found that many who weren’t our intended mission target group have been blessed. One such collateral blessing person was an Orphanage Director named Ludmilla.

It was out of desperation that Ludmilla began allowing Americans to visit her orphanage to minister to the 90 special needs orphans who lived there, preparing them for “life after the orphanage.”She was unable to provide the food, heat, cloth-ing, or educational supplies they needed. When I first visited her orphanage in 1998, she introduced herself by saying, “My name is Ludmilla. I’m an atheist.”         I responded, “My name is John, and I’m not.” Though she didn’t share our faith, she loved her kids enough to risk having us come and help them.

After several years of watching us work with her orphanage kids, she let me know that she had come to faith. Her initial words of testimony were rather strange. “Pastor John, I know you’ll be pleased to hear that I purchased a grave in the local Orthodox Church cemetery!” I knew what that meant. You can’t be buried in a Russian Orthodox Church cemetery unless you are a professing, baptized Orthodox Christian, which Ludmilla was informing me she had become.

Over the years I saw Ludmilla grow in her faith, and when I saw her for the last time in September she and I prayed together before I left, as we had done since her conversion.

Ludmilla passed away in January, 2015. In Russia they still bury people rather quickly after death. She died on a Saturday morning and her burial was on Sunday afternoon. It just didn’t give me enough time to attend, though I would have loved to have been there to honor the life of my sister in Christ.

About a month after her funeral a friend visited her orphanage and stopped by the cemetery to see her grave. They took a picture of the cross which marks her final resting place. The woman who once claimed to be an atheist is now buried under the sign of the cross, a symbol of her faith in Christ her Savior and Lord.

We went to her orphanage to work with older orphans.
Ludmilla was a collateral blessing.