Do the Orphans Know It’s Christmas?

Presents, Christmas tree lights, homemade fudge, knitted stockings and fireplaces. . .

It’s Christmas. And I’m the first one to get sucked into the “magical winter wonderland” of it all. It’s my favorite season (yes, Christmas is a season. I’m willing to fight you over this.) I love the music, and my house must always smell like cloves and cinnamon.

But none of that matters. Every year, I need a reminder to step back and understand not only the significance of Christ’s birth, but what that should mean for my life and my thinking. This year, the word stitched on my mind is orphan.

As I checked gifts off my Christmas list and splurged on cheap Christmas-tree-shaped chocolate, I couldn’t help picturing the children without parents, without family. . .what would they think if they saw my Christmas mindset spread out on a table like a blueprint?


One Christmas my sister-in-law and her husband asked everyone to donate to a specific nonprofit organization instead of getting them Christmas gifts. I couldn’t imagine believing in or loving a charity or nonprofit organization that much. . .until I discovered Open Arms Ukraine a few years ago.

This ministry reaches orphans in the Ukraine. Did you know that only 10% of orphans there will successfully transition into adult life? The other 90% will end up turning to prostitution or a life of crime because of lack of preparation or help once they’ve “graduated” (at ages 14-17!) from the orphanage.

Four women with whom I went to school at Biola University moved to Ukraine to devote their lives to the ministry. Open Arms Ukraine was established in 2006 and the missionaries there put on camps for the graduated orphans to reveal the love of Christ, to prepare them for adult life, and — ultimately — to build individual relationships pointing to Christ.

They are changing lives.

I’m honored to know them and be a part of this.

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Christmas time makes me think about Open Arms Ukraine a lot. And this year, I wondered…do the orphans know it’s Christmas? (Tweet this) I mean, I know they’re told it’s Christmas by those working at Open Arms Ukraine, and they probably understand some of their own cultural traditions but…do they see that it’s Christmas from us? Are we showing the orphans of this world what Christmas should feel and look like? Tweet this

Melissa Keane shared how one of the boys was given a birthday cake for the very first time in his life — he was seventeen-years-old! How many other youth are living lives without a gift of provision, of God’s grace, of a surprise present to reveal to them what we claim to celebrate every year? Tweet this

It’s good to remember that Christ was born into this world for us. But it’s also good to act upon that knowledge. To change lives through “action and in truth” (1 John 3:18)

So this Christmas, amongst the crazy gift-giving and family time, please take a moment to think of these kids who have never had a family. Think of the girls and other volunteers spending their Christmas in the Ukraine — away from their own families — in order to provide these youth with love, to bring Christ-focus into their Christmas. Read more about their story, there is such a strong vision behind it.

And please, consider for a moment, sending a Christmas gift of financial support to Open Arm Ukraine or to another ministry. Only five dollars a month will provide the bus fair for train tickets for 20 kids to get to the Open Arms weekly grad meeting. This is a plea from my soul, not because anyone from OAU asked me or even knows about this post. It’s because these children have been placed on the hearts of me and my husband, all the way across countries and ocean.

I hope, someday, to meet them in person. To see the ministry up close and to take part more deeply, getting my hands dirty and my feet muddy. Until then, I will support with prayer, resources, and do my best to bring more awareness to ministries doing His work.

Do you have a specific charity or non-profit organization you support or want to share? Tell me about it in the comments!  

How do you think God wants us to care for orphans in this day and age? Tweet this



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About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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  1. I support Emmaus House ( which is a transition organization for orphans in Haiti.

  2. I heard about Open Arms Ukraine around November this past year, I’m only thirteen so I couldn’t think of anything I could do to help until it clicked one night, I’m thirteen and for all thirteen years I’ve been alive I’ve had everything I need and some things I want, if I have everything I need then why do I get More things for my birthday? I decided that for my birthday I’m Getting Blankets and socks To send to OAU, I was so happy to know that even though im not an adult there was something I could do to show others Gods Love and how much he cares about each and everyone of them. I sent the stuff and it should get there anyday now Open Arms Ukraine is a organization I will continue supporting, And I am Very glad I could do something to help.

    • Maria, what a wonderful heart you have! I love how you chose to join in the ministry in the way God’s prepared you to do so. And I’m so happy to hear that those kids will be getting blankets and socks, especially at the start of winter. 🙂 Bless you!

  3. Nadine, I just saw this post today and was so blessed reading your words! Thank you so much for not only your support, but for spreading the word and your passion for getting others involved! We are so thankful for you and others like you who allow us to do what we do. 🙂

I love hearing from you!