Last Bell Ministries is a Christian ministry offering family care for orphans in transition in Zhyrtomyr, Ukraine. It invited Pam Russell to come to the Ukraine to teach an Almond Tree Ministry seminar, a drug and alcohol abuse program based at Bible Baptist Church, Kokomo, Ind. Pam is an instructor for the substance abuse curriculum, which she wrote while working as a chaplain with female inmates in Indiana. She is endorsed by Regular Baptist Chaplaincy and is a member of the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors.
The Almond Tree material had already been translated into Russian, so translators with Last Bell fine-tuned the translation and served as interpreters for the training seminar. Accompanied by Steve and Ruth Salmons, members of Bible Baptist Church, Pam visited Last Bell’s two drop-in centers and support center, where orphans can find help with Biblical counseling and legal issues, as well as eat a meal, access a washer and dryer, and find love and acceptance.
Last Bell’s website, www.lastbell.org, explains, “The Last Bell Ceremony marks the end of the school year for orphans in Ukraine. For the 15- and 16-year-old graduates of Orphanage #4 in Zhytomyr, this means the end of life in an institution. They go on to trade school for two or three years and live in large government dormitories with minimal supervision.
“Many enter trade school already devastated from the rejection and abandonment they experienced growing up. At the orphanage kids often develop coping mechanisms to deaden the pain: stealing, fighting, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual promiscuity. They are not prepared for life at a trade school, let alone independence. After leaving the institution, orphan teens are more alone than ever. The long-term emotional effects of abuse and neglect become unavoidable and sometimes unbearable. About one out of ten commit suicide in the years following graduation.”
Upon graduation from Orphanage #4, “Last Bell Ministries comes alongside these teens . . . , letting them know that there is a family waiting for them.” The teens are invited to join one of two family homes, where “houseparents offer them the love and security of family, and the many practical and emotional tools they will need to survive their transition to independent life.”
Over 30 people attended the training session on April 19 and 20: Last Bell staff, Last Bell graduates, graduate orphans, orphan foster parents, treatment center staff, prison ministry workers, and church counseling ministry workers. The Almond Tree material was well received, with many questions and much discussion.
The Almond Tree team here in the U.S. is praying for much fruit as these brothers and sisters in the Ukraine begin to work with this new material. “We thank God for this amazing opportunity,” Pam says. “May He use it for His purposes.”
- Read more about Almond Tree in “Life and Hope for Addicts.”