Building Bridges of Peace in the Former Soviet Union

By Rev. Kathryn Adams*

On one of my United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) trips to orphanages in the former Soviet Union a Russian woman approached me, grabbed me by the shoulders, looked at me as if she was about to burst and said, “Why did they teach us to hate you? You are JUST LIKE US!”

In July, I will make my 25th trip to the former Soviet Union.  Each time I go, I learn something new and different and so do those with whom we interact and work. One of the most obvious is how much we are alike.

Mission volunteer with Ukrainian girls
Lots of Smiles

A trip to an orphanage teaches you many things. We learn the wonderful fact that love needs no translation, and we all share the same hopes, fears, and dreams. We discover that we all have the need to be known, to be touched, and to be loved. We learn that service is a key to breaking down barriers that have existed for years. We learn that life is a precious gift from God.

Many people wonder why anyone would want to go to an orphanage in a foreign country. While team members come from different faith backgrounds, each person shares a common desire to serve those who struggle each day to survive. We know that we are fortunate in the United States.  We go to Russia hoping to give back in some way to a group of children who have so little. We go to build bridges of reconciliation and peace with a people who were once considered our greatest enemy.

Bridge-building takes place with every group traveling to a foreign country to work side-by-side with people who need assistance, support, and hope. Volunteers in mission are not exceptionally gifted people.  They are people who simply make themselves available to God.

If you are interested in learning more about our July 10-24 UMVIM trip to Chernivtsi, Ukraine, please e-mail me at

*Rev. Kathryn Adams is a retired Elder serving part-time as pastor of Lowellville UMC (Mahoning Valley District).