Hello family and friends,
Sveta and I hope that this letter finds you happy, healthy, and looking forward to a great August, and a new school year for the children. COVID-19 has challenged the world for more than seven months. Let’s work together to overcome all of the problems in the economy and society that have developed during the pandemic.
In this newsletter, Sveta and I will share two stories about children who are not in the MUCH program. Ukraine, with the lowest GDP per capita in Europe, struggles to provide a bright future for its children. Here are two stories that demonstrate the longing of children to have a better life. They show through the hope in their eyes their desire to grow both in learning and in Spirit.
Three years ago, Sveta met one of our neighbors, Alla, from the next street over, on her way to the city. As time moved forward, we visited our neighbor and her husband on a number of occasions. Our visits were pleasant, and the conversations led to speaking about Christianity, our mission, and their own outreach to an orphaned boy, Kolya. They had taken him under their wing, inviting him to stay with them on the weekends for seven years. They took him to church with them on Sundays, teaching him the spiritual things that he never learned in the orphanage.
Alla’s husband, Volodya, taught Kolya many responsibilities and skills around the house. They worked together in the garden, a mainstay of life in Ukraine.
While living in the orphanage, Kolya took a liking to a certain girl. She was 14, he was 15, (not exactly a Sound of Music story). The girl became pregnant, and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Olga. Because the mother was still attending school at the orphanage, Olga was moved to a Baby House. She lived there until the mother graduated from the orphanage, four years later. The mother took Olga from the Baby House to where she was living. After a short time, the government became aware of her lifestyle of alcohol and boys in the house. Olga was taken from her mother again and placed in an orphanage. She lived in the orphanage for two years.
All of this was happening while Kolya was being shaped and molded into a good father by Alla and Volodya. He and Alla loved Kolya very much. They built his character, and encouraged him to take responsibility for the life that he helped bring into the world. They encouraged him to raise his daughter with a better life than he had lived at the orphanage.
Volodya traveled to Russia to visit with their children and grandchildren. While there, he died suddenly. Alla immediately organized her trip to Russia for her husband’s funeral.
She asked Kolya, a young man now, to care for her ninety-three year old bedridden aunt. Kolya cared for her before and after work. When Alla returned, she decided to sell her house, and take her aunt to live with her in Russia. She offered her house for Kolya to live in while it was on the market.
Alla asked Sveta and me to be a friend to Kolya and Olga. In a sense, the grandparent baton was passed on to us. We received it with pleasure.
This year, Kolya organized his parental documents and brought Olga to live with him. Last week, Sveta and I had a nice surprise. Kolya came to visit us with his daughter, Olga. We had a great time!
We are so happy that both Kolya and Olga have a new life together. This is a type of love that Sveta and I seldom see. We are so happy to be a part of their lives.
During the quarantine period, Mark and I did not visit our children in orphanages and did not meet with children who receive massage therapy through our mission. But the work continues and we keep in touch with our massage therapists by phone and see the results of their work in their progress reports. We hope to see our lovely little friends again soon!
A couple of weeks ago, our church organized a two day camp for children. This took place on a tiny plot of land not far from the river. Roma, his wife Anya, and their two little girls shared their yard for camp. (Roma, mostly by himself, totally rebuilt what was a little dacha house.) Roma and Anya, who directed the camp, serve children at our church with all their hearts! They have big dreams for the children.
It’s so great for kids to spend time together in the outdoors! There was just enough room for six tents. Our 5 year old grand- daughter slept in a tent. What an adventure it was for these city children to experience.
The first night the children set up their tents. Later, they had conversation about the two greatest Commandments with Mark and me. Together with the children we discussed these two Bible topics. It was interesting to hear the opinions of children, and their observations. They wrapped up the evening, watching a movie projected on a sheet, between two trees.
Saturday began, of course, with breakfast. To their surprise, the morning activity was to prepare lunch as a competition between two teams. It was a sight to see. After lunch, the children participated in other competitions and played games! The big event was swimming in the river! After supper Mark and I discussed with the children about building Biblical character in their lives. Finally, the children, exhausted after a long day, did their best to stay awake to watch a movie under the stars!
Cooking dinner was one of the competitions. It was very thrilling and exciting for the children to cook. And for us adults, it was interesting to watch how they did it. They cut carrots, peeled vegetables, marinate meat … When the jury was evaluating the tastiness of the dishes, the children stood and looked with tension at the expression on our faces. Which team’s food was cooked tastier?
This camp compensated for our failed meeting with the MUCH children. It was a pleasure for Mark and me to be a small part of the lives of these wonderful children!
Living my dream,
I think that you could drop a missionary anywhere in Ukraine and he or she would find children in need of love, direction, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are so many children, even within a one mile radius of where we live, we will never run short of the work that God sent us to do. Thank you for reading this newsletter, and thank you to sponsors, and those who pray for the children and Sveta and me.
Blessings of love and healing,
Mark and Sveta