Lowcountry couple turns hurt into hope

Bluffton contractor Jeff Ballard and his wife, Joye, are passionate about bringing hope to the lives of young children in need.

The Ballards have spent the past 10 years working to improve the lives of orphans in Russia’s Far East region, where government orphanages have a reputation for being stark and joyless.

Mission work — and particularly bringing comfort to those who are hurting — has long been a priority for the couple. The dedication is borne out of personal tragedy; Jeff lost his first wife to cancer shortly after they married and Joye lost her first husband in a plane accident not long after they married. Experiencing the devastating loss of loved ones inspired the Ballards to dedicate their time, energy and resources to helping children who have lost everything.
“We experienced hurt at a young age and, after we got married to each other, we decided that we wanted to do something to make a difference in the lives of children who were hurting,” Jeff Ballard said.
To say that the Ballards have made a difference is quite the understatement. Jeff is the director of the Hope of Life Homes program for the Hilton Head Island-based nonprofit Harvesters International Ministries, and he and Joye have built and overseen the operation of two homes that house approximately 30 orphans in Eastern Russia. The organization employs three full-time house parents to give the children the kind of individualized support and attention they’d most likely not receive in a government institution. Harvesters International Ministries also works closely with Christian couples in Russia to help guide them through the Russian foster care system.
“We have a team of nationals in Russia that we help to equip,” Jeff said. “We give them the tools to get the job done – financial support, encouragement, prayer support, working with the kids and house parents – and we have two primary focuses: to equip Christian parents in Russia to care for abandoned children and to help orphans in their time of need with an emphasis on building long-term relationships. It’s very fulfilling to see the changes that we’ve made and the differences that have been made in the lives of the children.”
The organization’s generosity isn’t limited to the orphans it has helped to take out of the system. Harvesters International Ministries also strives to build and maintain positive relationships with children in government orphanages. Each year, the organization sends as many children as it can to a 10-day Christian summer camp, which is a thrill for all and a once-in-a-lifetime chance for many. To date, Harvesters International Ministries has helped hundreds of children experience the joy of summer camp.
“Once we take the children out of the state-run orphanages, within about three weeks to three months, we see them get healthy, and they’re happy and smiling,” Joye Ballard said. “That’s my favorite thing about the work we do with Harvesters International Ministries.”
All the work that the Ballards and Harvesters International Ministries does to form long-lasting bonds with orphaned and abandoned children is particularly important in Russia, where the majority of orphans lack the life skills necessary to live as functional adults when they leave the orphanage.
“Statistics say that 90 percent of children living in a government orphanage will never become a functional member of society,” Jeff said. “We think that the work we’re doing there could make a small change, hopefully. The orphans that we’re helping, we’re trying to build long-term relationships with them so that when they come out of the orphanages, they’ll have someone there in their life that can support them, encourage them and lead them on the right path.”
Harvesters International Ministries’ operating costs are covered by a dedicated group of individuals and churches, allowing the organization to send 100 percent of the donations it receives to the mission field. The organization is happy to accept donations for its Hope for Life Homes and summer camp programs.
“One of the big ways that people can help Harvesters International Ministries is to give financially so that we can help our house parents,” Jeff said. “We’re always trying to save money for summer camps; it costs about $300 to send a child to a 10-day summer camp, but that’s a life-changing experience for them.”

To learn more about Jeff and Joye Ballard, or their work with Harvesters International Ministries, call 843-368-9580, email jeff@harvesters.net or visit harvesters.net/partners/hflr.
For more information on Harvesters International Ministries, call 843-689-6213 or visit www.harvesters.net.