Orphan Awareness in Ukraine and Beyond
After ten years in Zhytomyr, we’re aware of the growing number of people and organizations that are called to serve orphans in Ukraine. We’re humbly pleased by God’s good work through Last Bell, and we’re blessed know we’re not alone! Many determined Jesus-followers are instigating radical changes in orphan care and the post-Soviet Ukrainian culture.
“Tour de Orphans” is the nickname for a Ukrainian-led bikeathon to raise international awareness of orphans
A bicycle marathon tour began in 2011 as a yearly effort to raise awareness about Ukrainian orphans. Every summer since, a team comprised mainly of former orphans has ridden across Ukraine and other parts of Europe. At each stop in the two month journey, they gather people, organizations, and media to inspire cultural changes so that all orphans will find themselves in families.
The bikeathon is now sponsored in part by World Without Orphans, in partnership with Gennadiy Mokhnenko, a prominent Ukrainian orphan advocate. The 2016 tour extended through eleven European countries, and according to Mokhnenko, the youngest participant was a formerly-orphaned eight-year-old.
Andrey and Oksana Pankyeyev with orphan advocate Gennadiy Mokhnenko
The bicyclists made daily stops in different communities with the hope of influencing people to reject the myths and prejudices against orphans, and to welcome them into their families. This year, Last Bell’s own Andrey and Oksana Pankyeyev were asked to be expert panelists at a televised event when the tour stopped in Zhytomyr.
In 2015, an American filmmaker focused on Mokhnenko’s work, creating a compelling story of the orphan’s plight in Ukraine. This portrayal shows that he isn’t just an orphan advocate. He’s also a church-planting community leader, an adoptive father of more than thirty orphans, and an outlaw-type vigilante who calls himself “Pastor Crocodile.” The movie Almost Holy presents him as a bold, even iconic figure.
Here’s a trailer for Almost Holy:
The film is available in DVD format and on-demand streaming on Amazon.
We’re inspired by Gennadiy Mokhenko’s earnest love for orphans. The film is a great reminder of just how much Ukraine’s orphans need our help. Thank you, dear Friends, for your constant life-giving stream of prayer and funding for Last Bell. You are co-conspirators in this momentous work that’s changing the lives of orphanage graduates in Zhytomyr!
Editor’s note :
We highly recommend the viewing of Almost Holy. The film will leave you feeling like you’ve visited Ukraine and walked a mile in the shoes of a brave orphan advocate. It has some raw moments, but we don’t feel it deserves an R rating. Although much of the language is subtitled, we advise screening it without small children in attendance.
Lastly, we invite you to take action for orphans by advocating in your community. Raising awareness of the orphanage graduates in Zhytomyr is not only helpful for Last Bell, but an entire city. It’s a great way for you to directly impact the lives of our youth and their community!
The global awareness effort called Orphan Sunday will occur on November 13 this year. It’s easy to send a message or telephone your church urging them to pay attention to orphans on this day along with thousands of other churches around the world. If you’d like help promoting Last Bell Ministries through Orphan Sunday in your place of worship, contact us at info@LastBell.org or 877-772-2280. We’re delighted to help you with this!