Mercy Projects was founded in 1980 and was known as Eastern European Outreach (EEO). The Founder Jeff Thompson and his wife Paula lived in West Berlin and regularly crossed “Checkpoint Charlie” to smuggle bibles behind the Iron Curtain.
Their exciting story is told in the book Leaving The American Sector.
Jeff knew that God called him to be a missionary. However, when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, he wondered if perhaps God had other plans.
Jeff had been denied entrance to the Soviet Union for seven years in the 1980s. The KGB coordinated with the East German STASI to apprehend him. They considered him a “covert agent” of a foreign government.
Miraculously, he remained safe, and with the fall of the Berlin Wall, eventually signed an agreement with the Russian military to teach a rehabilitation program for 25,000 teenage prisoners in 59 youth prisons in Russia. (This was quite the turn of events!)
The breakdown of the family in the former Soviet Union was due to alcoholism, unemployment, corruption, and poverty. These all played a significant role in creating the “social orphan” crisis in the former Soviet Union. Jeff traveled for eight years throughout Russia and Siberia to share the gospel with thousands of young prisoners. During this time working with teenage prisoners who were usually orphans or street kids, he realized we must reach them before they are abandoned to orphanages or the streets.
Thus, in 1994, Jeff opened a Charity Fund in Kyiv, Ukraine to address the problem of preventing kids from becoming orphans. Our goal with child sponsorship is really a family sponsorship that provides help to single mothers and poor families to raise their children. This approach keeps kids out of orphanages.
These stories are told in detail in Leaving The American Sector. Today, our focus remains on child and family development.