Author Archives: Sveta Koehler

Helping refugees. Evacuating children with disabilities

Hello family and friends,
It will be two months on Saturday May 14, since we were evacuated from Ukraine. We are in Krakow, but our hearts, as are the hearts of many throughout the world, are in Ukraine. Sveta has daily communication with our team, church, volunteers, and friends in need.
A number of years ago, Paul came to the church we previously attended. He talked about his program that was finding homes for orphaned children, even if it was only for a weekend visit. As the years moved forward, Sveta and I met with Paul and his wife Elena, to talk about massage therapy for the children in the orphanages and temporary foster homes. We wrote about them in a newsletter a few years ago.
When the war began in late February, Paul gathered people with hearts for children. They began to trek a caravan of vehicles across Ukraine, evacuating orphans, disadvantaged, and disabled children from Ukraine. Every trip they are taking as many as 200 to 300 children to safety. We are helping Paul and his team through MUCH. We need your big help with this one. Fuel is the big expense. The price of gasoline and propane has risen to between $6 and $9 per gallon, depending upon the location on the journey. When Sveta and I evacuated, getting fuel was not possible at every gas station.
MUCH is asking for your help. We have already sent him money for fuel. Will you help us continue helping Paul and his team evacuate children across Ukraine? Follow their journey here!
This is just one van load of children and some parents. If you have ever taken a day trip with your children, imagine a twenty hour trip with 10 to 15 children, times a number of vans!
Their stories are written on their faces. Most of the children are orphans or come from difficult homes. All of them have had a hard life.


Paul is now focusing on evacuating children with disabilities. This is an even more challenging journey. Let’s work on this one together!
Thank you in advance for your generous donations!
Thank you for your prayers!
Blessings of love and healing,
Mark and Sveta

Chornomorsk and Krakow

Hello family and friends,
We are safe in God’s hand’s. His hands are working through us!
These first two months have been a nerve bending challenge as we struggled with moving money from America to Ukraine (MoneyGram), and later from American to Poland (MoneyGram). We have it all figured out. Sveta and I have bank accounts here in Krakow. The rest is safe and secure, enough said. Russia has big ears.
We are now getting money directly to people in need. We reported that our Dr. Natalia in Chornomorsk continues to treat children in need with massage therapy. This special child has been one of her MUCH patients for about five years. This precious child cannot chew food. She can only swallow and digest pureed food. MUCH is buying her a blender to provide fresh food, and better nourishment. Dr. Natalia is one of our Ukrainian Heroes!
If you remember Alyona, from our Christmas fundraiser, here is an encouraging update about her and her children. Alyona sat with children, imagining the dreaded experience, if she had to run for safety in another country with her two children. Thankfully, they survived the Russian attempts to attack her area. They are now finding a small amount of peace as they go about their lives. Her son has found an older friend. It is ok though, because so many people moved away. We continue to support and encourage this family.
Sveta and I were invited to the Refugee House for an Easter meal. Sveta has visited on occasion to translate or help with this or that. I have only visited one time previous. 
Something about food prepared the Ukrainian way looks so appetizing.
Sixteen or seventeen people squeezed around the large and small table, ready for a great feast, good conversation, and laughter.
What amazed me the most was that all of these wonderful dishes were prepared by the women refugees. Most of the food was donated, but the grandmother who has a paying job, used her money to buy much of what she prepared. She was the hostess, organizing and cooking/baking many tasty varieties of food.
I had a good time talking to those who spoke English. Thank you friends! 
As for Sveta and I, there remains a shock, a numbness. It is gradually fading away. Our emotions catch up with us now and then; our memories of our comfort zone remind us of what we called home. We look forward, finding home in our daily moment. We find our home, our strength in the Power of Jesus Christ Who lives within us.
Thank you for your prayers!
Blessings of love and healing,
Mark and Sveta

Hunger for the Easter Spirit!

Hello family and friends,
Easter 2022
This Easter we shared the tradition of Easter breakfast with Lusia’s Family. It began at 10AM and continued through 4PM. We had a great feast that was followed by a walk to the children’s park. We returned a few hours later to eat more and have more family conversation.
Something about this day reminded me of my family holidays growing up. I thought about it for a while. As I write, I begin to understand what it was. It was the hunger of the spiritual connection of Easter and the physical experience of family. I felt the physical experience of family yesterday.
For so many Christmases and Easters, I have said that everyday is Christmas and everyday is Easter. I always felt that something was missing each year when I would experience these holy days. Now I know what it was. I missed the hunger for the spiritual experience. I missed the hunger because the hunger has been satisfied, it has been full in my heart and spirit every day, ever since I entered into that family relationship with God forty-six years ago. I wish this for all who hunger for the Spirit of Easter.
Blessings of love and healing,
Mark and Sveta

April 7, 2022 How many hero groups did you count?

Hello family and friends,
We are safe in God’s hand’s. His hands are working through us!
My friends, I will tell you honestly, I struggle with my feelings about Russians. I divide them into groups that I have identified. Putin, the Kremlin, and the oligarchs, fit into the category of evil. Those who protest this unprovoked and evil war show good and honest hearts. Many who continue to be brainwashed through the Russian media see power and authority as their provider.
I have recently been introduced to one more category that I will refer to as unexpected heroes. Here is their story. I have receive the story from people that I know who were witness to the event.
Russian maritime sailors working for a Romanian company, were sailing under the Romanian flag. A Russian War ship pulled along side the Romanian ship and demanded that they be a shield, enabling the Russian war ship to come close to the city of Odessa.
When the Russian maritime sailors refused, the Russian warship fired a missile at their own people, on the Romanian ship. A fire started on the Romanian ship, forcing the men to jump into the freezing water. While their ship was sinking, the Ukrainian rescue ship saved them from the frigid water and delivered them to the hospital.
A local church reached out to these men, men whose country was at war with their rescuers. While in the hospital for two weeks, men from this church brought them food, clothing, medical supplies for their recovery, and even a phone to call their families in Russia.
Because they were Russian citizens, and Russia was at war with Ukraine, the sailors could not return home. They were something like prisoners of war. Because of this, the Ukrainian soldiers guarded them day and night at the church, and in the worship services, too.
Ukrainian troops from Zmiiny Island that were captured by Russian soldiers early in the war were traded for the Russian maritime sailors.
When the Russian maritime soldiers returned home, their wives called the pastor of the church to thank him for treating their husbands so kindly. They are now looking for Baptist churches.
One of them gave a video interview and told the truth about what happened, but it was censored from Russian television. The truth is once again censored, just as it was in soviet times.
“Sadly, Russian Christians together with their nation do not believe that the war is bringing great destruction to our nation of Ukraine. They think Russian troops are saving us.”
When you read this story, it is up to you to determine how many groups of heroes there are.
As for Sveta and I, there remains a shock, a numbness. It is gradually fading away. Our emotions catch up with us; our memories of our comfort zone remind us of what we called home. We look forward, finding home in our daily moment. We find our home, our strength in the Power of Jesus Christ Who lives within us.
Thank you for your prayers!
Blessings of love and healing,
Mark and Sveta

April 2022

Hello family and friends,
We are safe in God’s hand’s, understanding what it is like to be a refugee from the eyes of Mark and Sveta, residents of this world, Citizens of Heaven.
Mark’s Moments
When God showed us the future of MUCH in developing countries, He explained that the foundation would be through churches. With this concept firmly established in our minds, our third day in Krakow was a Sunday. Lusia introduced us to a friend of hers. We met her friend, Martinek, at her church, and Lusia continued to her own church.
Martinek, introduced us to her friend Monika, who is interested in our massage therapy program. Each of them had someone else in mind who would also be interested in working with massage therapy.
The following Sunday, Monika, Ela, and Cheszka, met with me after church. (Lusia and Sveta were on a two day spiritual retreat.) The four of us talked about the massage therapy program, and my vision for it in Krakow for refugee children, in particular. This is where we are at as of Sunday 3/27.
In one other direction, Sveta and I anticipate living in a multifamily house for refugees in the near future. At this time, there are two families with a total of two children living in this home. When we move in, Sveta will provide massage for these children. We anticipate finding/training massage therapists to be available throughout Krakow. (Big picture)
We will follow our Ukrainian MUCH model of no/low overhead. We have not discussed price per massage yet. But again, it will be modified from the MUCH model. We are not interested in becoming a business, but each massage therapist could develop a business from our startup model. I will share more as we move down the timeline.
“Make yourself available, and God will use you.” Oh! Does that sound familiar? God continues to open doors for Sveta and me wherever we go. The story can only get better.
Sveta’s Journey
We are so thankful to God and to all of you, dear family and friends. We see, and the Ukrainian people also see, your love and compassion. Your big help is proof of your love. Our two managers and their children have moved to other countries where they were surrounded by love and care. The financial assistance provided by MUCH touched their hearts deeply. They said that these gifts were most unexpected, but very timely.
Dr. Natalia remains in her city. She continues not only massage treatment for disabled children, but helps their families, and families who need support, through church organizations and MUCH.
Another massage therapist, Anya, of MUCH remains in Ukraine with her sister and mother. Her husband is in the army, fighting for freedom in Ukraine. Anya has been providing massage therapy for Maria, who we have written about in recent updates. The money that Sveta added to Vera’s (Maria’s grandmother) account made it possible for Anya to do some shopping for Vera. She continues to provide massage treatments for Maria. The war has challenged everyone greatly. Even so, our therapists who are still in Ukraine are working diligently.
In western Ukraine, our therapist and computer teacher continue their work with children, hungry for activity, knowledge, and stress relief. The goals may change somewhat, although their love and compassion march on.
This morning, my brother sent a picture of our house. There was a piece of metal in an upper window. The source of the metal is unclear, but it remains lodged in our triple pain window. We are amazed that no other damage has fallen upon our house.
We want to tell more heroic stories of our people who remain in Ukraine, but it is not safe to release information and locations that may jeopardize the lives of any, or many of our Ukrainian people. Know that we continue to help the people in need that we have contact with in Ukraine, and those that we are meeting in Poland.
Please continue to pray for our city of Mykolaiv, City of Heroes, that continues to receive attack from the Russian barbarians.
Living my Dream,
Sveta
As for Sveta and I, there is still a shock, a numbness. They may be hiding within us, but I think that they are still there. We find our strength in the Power of Jesus Christ Who lives within us.
Thank you for your prayers!
Blessings of love and healing,
Mark and Sveta

12 days of war

Hello family and friends,
No place is safe in Ukraine for more than the moment. We are safe in God’s hand’s. 
Isaiah 54:10“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor My covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, Who has compassion on you.
What shall we do? Believe! Believe that our King is Sovereign!
Psalm 57:1
Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed.
II Kings 6:16, 1716 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
This morning, we were awakened by explosions at 5:45. It is difficult to tell what is happening as we listen to the “fireworks.” Sveta’s brother keeps us in touch with what is happening in the city. He works for the city water company. It seems that the utility workers are keeping things rolling. They have police escorts while working.
I understand that the price at the gas pump is high. When you go to the gas pump, consider your freedom. We are fighting for the freedom of Europe. So when you put gas in your tank, say, “This one is for you, Putin.” You are fighting the war in Ukraine at the gas pump, turning away the Russian tankers, mid ocean. Everyone in the world can go to battle in one way or another. Nobody needs the Soviet Union to be reborn!
Here are some pictures: of the results of the attack on our city this morning.
As for Sveta and I, there is a shock, a numbness. We find our strength in the Power of Jesus Christ Who lives within us.
Thank you for your prayers!
Blessings of love and healing,
Mark and Sveta

Update on war: in Mykolaiv 3/6/2022

Hello family and friends,
Sveta and I are safe in our home.
It was a difficult day to day. We ended yesterday at 3AM. We had an interview with News Nation Prime at 2AM. If you didn’t see it, you can watch it here:https://www.newsnationnow.com/video/couple-describes-working-with-children-inside-ukraine-newsnation-prime/7499474/

Ourdaughter, I think that I mentioned in another update, fights the war by giving our soldiers pride in their hair cut. It is her profession, but also her passion.
The female soldiers like getting treated to a haircut that compliments their uniforms. Olya has been giving our soldiers free haircuts as her part of the war effort.
We should all find our place in the war effort. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, male or female. You can play an important part in this war. Not everyone can be a soldier with a gun.
One Facebook I saw a little girl, maybe five or six, in the underground safe place, singing a song. Can you imagine the joy that it could bring to so many people in hiding to share a song or a musical tune. Music won their freedom from Russia in Estonia.
Share your gift, your passion, to help win the war.
As for Sveta and I, there is a shock, a numbness. We find our strength in the Power of Jesus Christ Who lives within us.
Thank you for your prayers!
Blessings of love and healing,
Mark and Sveta

Friday, March 4, 2022

Hello family and friends,
Sveta and I are safe in our home. 
It is getting more real for the people of our city. The numbness is being awakened to the reality of war.
Friday, March 4, 2022, the Russian army began their approach on our city. We heard the first blasts at 11 AM. It is now 12:30 PM. Within that short time, we heard more blast than any time previous. Now there is silence. We hope that means that our men are holding control of the city.
For me, my body is reacting more than my mind. It is more difficult for me to have only communication activity to do. My language communication is limited, so that leaves me out of the loop on a number of levels. On the other hand, it is better for me not to have to process all of what I hear, and not to have to deal with emotion about what I hear.
It is better that I focus on hearing the voice of God, being aware of His presence, and focus on the spiritual warfare. 
In my heart, I want to take up arms and stand side by side with my Ukrainian brothers and sisters, but without the language my concern is that I would not recognize the enemy. As I watch from a distance, I am encouraged to see how our Davids are battling Goliath.
One thing that is happening with Sveta uplifting. She has a “ministry of conversation”. Many people are calling her on the phone. As she listens, God’s spirit fills her with compassion and words of healing and calm. Sveta has the heartbeat of this city. So she is able to help many people find what they need. Today, our Christmas fundraiser family is in need of diapers. Sveta found two sources of help and sent her the link.
Some people are rattled because of the war. Some are afraid of the unknown. And some have big fear that they will return to living under the soviet control. If only all of the EU, and America and Canada … understood, could feel the hopelessness that these people feel, and remember, then they would not be so slow to act against these war crimes of the Russian government.
In 2003, I live with a wonderful family for the months. I was new to Ukraine, and understood nothing about the post soviet life. At one point, the husband, a Russian Christian who was a strong Christian believer, said to me, “Mark, we must plant as many Christian churches in Ukraine, as fast as we can, before Russia controls us again.” I thought, “Who is your God.” I had no clue that he was not talking about faith, he was talking about the mentality of the Russian government. He was talking of a mentality of domination of nations. He grew up under soviet rule. He was denied higher education because he was a Christian. Think about that!
As for Sveta and I, there is a shock, a numbness. We find our strength in the Power of Jesus Christ Who lives within us.
Thank you for your prayers!
Blessings of love and healing,
Mark and Sveta

Update on war 3/2/2022

Hello family and friends,
Yesterday was a busy and emotional day. For me, the numbness continues, as my mind tries to process so much information.
Our daughter was ready to begin the process of exodus with her children. When she could no longer wait around the house, doing nothing, she went to the street to explode with emotion. As she walked around, calming down, God spoke to her (the hairdresser). He said, “Olya, your weapons are your scissors and comb. Serve the soldiers.”
Today she had many requests. As her husband drove her to the first location, they were stopped my the local military. The city had been locked down. Even so, She now understands her purpose in life. She has here home salon, and does home visits for hair care. She will share her talents with those in need, unable to afford, or now for the soldiers who protect our country.
On the map, you can see the MUCH locations in yellow. Most locations are not able to operate because of the invasion. Here is a rundown of what we understand.
Alyona, from our Christmas fundraiser, delivered her baby the other day. Both mother and baby are doing well.
The boys from one orphanage has relocated all of the children. Orphans from another orphanage and children from transition home stay in their facility, they are in safe. When it need children stay in underground place. So, our children in safety.
One of our massage therapists continues to treat two children with great needs.
As for Sveta and I, there is a shock, a numbness. We find our strength in the Power of Jesus Christ Who lives within us.
Thank you for your prayers!
Blessings of love and healing,
Mark and Sveta

Update on war 2/27/2022

Hello family and friends,
Sveta and I are safe in our home. 
The scheduled bombing and arrival of tanks in Mykolaiv continues. Here is the latest news that I am aware of.
This is a street not far from the building where our congregation rent a room for church services. This location is about 15 miles from our home.
Last night, there was some kind of attack. It is not clear what. These pictures are taken from a phone video. Our daughter says that the tanks are Russian. If that is correct, and I hope that it is so, then our boys have destroyed four Russian tanks. Unfortunately more are on the way.
It appears that whatever was used to destroy the tanks
created shock waves that broke windows in the buildings.
This family spent the night in an underground area. This morning, they return home to check on damages. They were pleased to see no damage.
I hear bombs from a distance as I write.
As for Sveta and I, there is a shock, a numbness. We find our strength in the Power of Jesus Christ Who lives within us.
Thank you for your prayers!
Blessings of love and healing,
Mark and Sveta