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Finding warm hearts in Belarus

It took a trip halfway around the world for Sean Kimball and Tom Boisseau to truly appreciate their home.

The pair recently returned from a trip to the former Soviet bloc country of Belarus, where they spent nearly two weeks filming and interviewing for a documentary.

"Our main goal was to make a documentary to help raise funds for the Byelorussian Mission organization," said Kimball. This was his first mission trip overseas. The film crew also fit in a few musical performances for church groups and orphanages there.

Tom Boisseau first heard about the former Soviet country of Belarus when Andrew Ryzhkov, pastor of the Byelorussian Mission program, came to speak at Gateway Community Church in Covington.

"When he was done, I went to my minister and said, for some reason, I really feel like God is saying we should go to Belarus," said Boisseau. It took him a little while to get there — he ended up going to Trinidad first. But once he finally did go in 2006, he was hooked.

For his most recent trip Belarus this summer, he asked his friend Sean Kimball, who helps run Rockdale County’s Channel 23, if he wanted to come along.

"I don’t think I’ve been called to the missions field to be an evangelist," said Kimball, who attends Conyers First Baptist. "But I think I’ve been called to go and film and make documentaries to do stuff to help. Then he comes along one day and says, would you like to do this?"

Kimball was intrigued, but lacked funds and resources to make the documentary. "Long story short, God provided everything," he said, as he described the donations and services that came streaming in.

The film crew visited orphanages, hospitals and stayed in regular people’s homes.

One of the things that touched him the most, Kimball said, was an orphanage that reminded him of a scene from Oliver Twist. "They basically throw food on the table and you see the kids leaning over, huddling over their food like they’re protecting it. That’s exactly what it’s like out there." 

He made it clear that the food served in regular homes and churches was much better, much healthier and much fresher.

"It’s rare to see people our size out there," said Boisseau. "Generally they’re much more fit, but they also can’t afford it."

The children in the orphanages are also so hungry for attention, it didn’t matter that they couldn’t understand their visitors and vice versa.

"I’ve had kids literally take my hand and put it on their shoulder; they wanted attention.," said Boisseau.

The pastors in the Belorussian churches deeply impressed Kimball with their fervor and work ethic.

Of one minister, Kimball said, "It’s amazing to see a man work as hard as he does in his cobbler shop and work as hard as he does as a minister. And we complain about the 10th hour of doing it. But he drove us all over the country."

With the footage and interviews collected, Kimball hopes to make a documentary that will move people to donate to the mission organization. The Byelorussian Mission recently held a fundraising concert, headlined by singer Twila Paris.

Kimball looks forward to going back to the country again, this time to do more ministry work than filming.

"Everywhere you go, it’s like you met family. They treat you like absolute gold," he said.

For more information on Byelorussian Mission, call 770-356-3592 or visit