Category Archives: Ukrainian missionary

June 2020

Hello family and friends,

June has zipped by so fast. It is amazing! Covid-19 is challenging Ukraine once again. We thank God that MUCH is not being challenged as much this month. All of our massage therapists who work during the summer months have full client schedules. Sveta and I are very happy to see how God continues to provide for the children.

Mark’s Moments

Sveta and I were married in 2012. By 2014, we realized that we needed to buy a place of our own. We looked at a number of properties with land that were above our price range, but far below the value and possibilities that we were looking for. A realtor friend of Sveta’s told us of a property that was still being built. When we looked at it, a vision of what we could do with it began to blossom. The house was small, but the back yard was plenty big. The outhouse and outbuilding provided more opportunities.

 

 

 

 

The inside of the house was not finished. We were thankful for that. It gave us freedom to create without undoing what was done. We made the most of the space we had. The first room inside the front door became a beautiful entry way. A wall now separates the entryway from the large bathroom with laundry. During the past six years, we have improved the house, step by step. This summer we are adding a second floor.

All of the funds for our purchase and building projects come from our personal savings. We are investing in the children of Ukraine not only for today, but for generations. We are setting an example. As we imagined the different possibilities, a greater vision developed. Sveta and I have seen many examples during our visits with Ukraine Challenge in northern Ukraine. Our current vision has begun to play out in this way.

The second floor will be used for visiting missionaries, small group seminars, and overnight guests. (Temporary roof) We will rebuild the outhouse, adding a shower and sauna. Aside from use during summer orchard and flower garden work, the outhouse and shower will be for the children’s camp programs. A number of years ago,

 

I was surprised to see a ceramic toilet made for the dacha outhouse. It will be nice for the children. The outhouse will be rebuilt with accessibility for children with disabilities. We are setting examples for future generations.

God has provided the property and the people, so we will connect the dots.

Sveta’s Journey

In Mykolaiv, MUCH has a wonderful massage therapist, Oksana. She helps many children from the age of two months to one year. On the recommendation of pediatricians, parents bring their babies to Oksana for massage treatment. It seems to be minor problems for babies, but without timely help they can lead to disability in the future. Therefore, it is very important to detect and remove the problem in time.

After a routine examination, two-month-old Yegor’s pediatrician discovered an umbilical hernia. This is when part of the intestine is pinched in the umbilical ring. When the correct passage of food and feces through the intestine is disturbed, it causes pain for the child, who in this case can be very restless. She recommended a course of massage therapy. Oksana gave the baby a course of massage, paying special attention to massage of the abdomen near the navel. This massage for the umbilical ring improves local blood supply and helps to tighten the umbilical ring. In two weeks the baby got stronger, began to hold his head well, and colic in his stomach decreased. His mother was satisfied with the results. On the recommendation of a doctor and our massage therapist, Yegor needs to undergo another course of ten-day massage therapy to consolidate the achieved result.

Four-month-old Alex’s pediatrician also recommended a course of massage. The child had hypertonicity of the upper extremities, stiffness in movements, and did not turn over from the back to the stomach. The diagnosis of torticollis was also established. Alex completed a 12-day course of massage. After the third massage treatment, the child began to roll over, the muscles returned to normal, and his sleep pattern improved. Alex’s mother was satisfied with the result.

 

 

For eight-month-old Nikita, it was his second course of massage therapy. At four months old, he had some lag in physical development. Nikita held his head poorly, did not hold toys in his hand, was inactive, and did not turn over from his back to his stomach. By the end of the first 10-day course of massage, the boy became more active, began to roll over and hold toys in his hand. But hypertonus of arm and leg muscles continued to be a problem. After the second course of massage therapy his mother and the doctor saw the changes and were satisfied with the result.

Four-month-old Daniel also had a small torticollis, holding his head poorly. After a 10-day course of massage, he began to hold his head in the correct position. Daniel’s parents were satisfied with the result of the massage treatment.

Living my dream,
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Sveta

The parents of these children and as many as thirty more each month are so pleased with the results of their children throughout the four cities and three villages in Ukraine. They all send great thanks to MUCH sponsors and those who pray for their children.

Sveta and I thank you who read our newsletters, hold us up in prayer support, and sponsor the great work that God has called us to do. It is such an honor to be a part of caring for special needs children here in Ukraine. We invite you to join us to help the children through prayer, financial gifts, or simply sharing our stories with others by word of mouth or forward this letter to your fiend.

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Blessings of love and healing,
Mark and Sveta

September 2013 Newsletter

Hello family and friends,

The first of September fell on a Sunday this year. Even so, the school system brought in the ceremonial First Bell where the children dress in their best clothes or school uniforms and honor the teachers with flowers. The ceremony includes music and speeches, kicking off the school year with enthusiasm and new energy.

For MUCH, September brings our focus to education scholarships, and the great need for seasonal clothing for the children in the Marganets orphanage and school. In our scholarship program, Vika is in her last year of medical college. She wants to continue her medical education and become a doctor of microbiology. See her video.

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Two other girls in Illichevsk desire to continue their education. They talked about their vision for their futures in this interview.

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Moving is always a great adventure. There are seasoned movers, novice movers, and those who see it as a challenge to overcome, something like a contest. A young couple we know took the challenge. The husband said to his wife, “We can pack in three days!” When I told Sveta that we would move in April 2014, she began to pack in July 2013. It is a good thing that she did.The rent went up quite a bit in August, so Sveta looked at me and said, “I’m ready to move when you are!”

I have been visiting a language school as a guest speaker for the past two years. During my final visit, one of the students asked me why I wanted to leave Illichevsk. It is a seaside resort, and a very clean city. Soviet and post-Soviet people often remain in the same city, in the same flat or private home most, if not all, of their lives. After a moment’s thought, I realized the truth. I replied, “Sometimes we get too comfortable in our lives and need to be pushed into something new and challenging. We need something that will bring out our best selves.” There is a phrase that goes something like this “Comfort those who are bothered, but bother those who are comfortable.” I was getting comfortable.

When Sveta and I got married in January last year, we pushed ourselves from our individual lives into a life that causes us to become selfless toward each other. On September 21, we moved to a village south of Nikolayev where we will live until our house is built. Now, living with her parents and her brother, we push ourselves out of our comfort zone to become selfless toward them.

The travel distance between Illichevsk and Nikolayev is about 124 miles. Waiting for buses and travel time, usually takes us about five hours and three bus changes. We hired a truck to move us, and friends helped us load and unload. The travel time was close to four hours. It was a full day for Sveta and me. Our work has begun! In June we had started digging the foundation for our house that we will build in a year or two. Sveta and I began by moving the Together 2topsoil from the foundation area to the back of the property where we will have a garden. (Sveta and I are pulling a two-wheel-wheelbarrow in this picture.) We are very excited about our new adventure.

My time and opportunity have come to expand my personal involvement in ministry. Our involvement with MUCH will remain the same. Ira Kolosova, my previous assistant and contributor of the Ira’s Insights articles for the MUCH newsletters, will manage the ministries in Illichevsk. Sveta and I will visit Illichevsk, Dobromel, Marganets, and Froonza twice a year, as we currently do. In the house that we will build, there will be a multipurpose room that will give us opportunity to minister to the village community with programs such as exercise for the elderly, Christian small group meetings, Bible study, and other social activities.

Life in the village is quite the challenge if you are used to city life. The many luxuries that were within walking distance in Illichevsk are now a twenty minute bus ride away. Any project that I may do must be very well planned to avoid spending the day traveling to and from Nikolayev.

On the other hand, our opportunities to reach out to people in the village may be greater than they were in Illichevsk. In the village, everybody knows everybody. I think that many people know about me already, even though I have only met two people from this village of Galitsinovka.

Sveta and I are pushing ourselves into the reality of the vision that we have talked about for the past year. Exercise for the elderly will begin with Sveta and me encouraging each other to exercise. Once the garden is finished, we will have a large area to exercise in. We are almost unpacked, so we will begin soon.

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The first week of October we will be in the cold northwest at the Dobromel Orphanage. It is always interesting to me to see new and old buildings beside or across the street from each other.

 

The results of Soviet times effect the buildings as well as the people. What a great contrast of these two pictures that are across the street from each other in Dobromel.

The second week we will visit the Angelina Foundation Maternity House near the city of Zhytomyr, east and bit north of L’vov. Marina narrates their story. Take a look!

Our goal is to better understand the lives of girls from the orphanage system, the problems that they face after leaving the orphanage, and what is available for them. It has been on my mind for about nine years as we ministered to the children at the Marganets Orphanage.

Sveta’s Journey
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I am waiting for our visit to the orphanage. I am thinking, “What can I prepare for the children when we will have meetings with them? What interesting and instructive things can I do to leave a good mark on their lives?” I remember a year ago; I prepared a few games and tried to get the children to play them. I was not successful. I was saddened to tears.

Under the terms of the game, children were divided into two teams in a competitive manner and as quickly as possible they were to bring some balloons to the finish point. I explained to them the rules of the game, but the children were focused on the fact that each of them wanted to have a balloon. There was a disappointment among the children. The children did not want to join in the game; each child wanted to have his or her own balloon.
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Mark said that I have a talent of very good communication with the children, asking about their lives, their dreams, and encouraging them. Therefore, I decided not to create games. We would bring God’s love through us, through our communication with them.

Living my dream,

Sveta

You can see all of our videos at our YouTube site. http://www.youtube.com/user/smmuch

Thank you for continuing with us on our journey of service to the people of Ukraine, particularly the children.

Blessings of love and healing,

Mark and Sveta

August 2012 Newsletter

Hello family and friends,

It has been hot recently, in the mid 90s. But, then again, it is summer. Sveta has coaxed me to swim in the sea a few times this summer. The water has had a cool temperature, just right for swimming. The ½-mile long beach has been packed with vacationers from Western Europe and Russia. The Illichevsk beach remains free, although it has become very commercialized. There are many ways to spend your money.
My focus this summer is to write articles on Sveta’s and my blog about the education needs of the children. My series begins with “What About Education? – Intro,” and, if you are on the Internet, you can find it in the second article, Wednesday July 11, on this page http://tinyurl.com/bqevdjv. With each article, I am building the foundation of environment and need of the children in Ukraine. This series will come to a conclusion soon, and will be followed with a series on Health Care and how MUCH is involved.
MUCH is not an organization created to educate the children of Ukraine. It is our intent to evaluate what is current, and be a catalyst for inspiration or change to create opportunity that will improve the options of the children. Here in Illichevsk, our Transportation Scholarship Program (TSP) does this. Our long-term goal is to alter society through education. Our focus is not to teach our thoughts and beliefs, but rather to encourage and challenge the children to continue on to higher education that is already waiting for them.
I believe that this will break the cycle of poverty, giving the teenagers a bigger picture of what is available for them to do with their lives. With a picture of something more than their past lives and how they were raised, these teens will not only have the opportunity for higher education, but will realize that there are people who care enough about their future to help them. Some of the teens who do want this are not able to afford the transportation to and from Odessa every day. That amount is about $2.50 a day for an hour of travel each way! Imagine that!
In Marganets, the staff and administration are committed to the 156 children in their orphanage. It is government-run, but this one is operated so much better than others in Ukraine are. Their focus is to challenge the children to find their highest abilities and excel. For some of the children, these areas are in computer or music and dance. MUCH believes that these classes are preparing the children for their futures in a bigger perspective, developing thought processing and new patterns of thinking, which were touched on in the June Newsletter.
A third course of study that MUCH supports in Marganets is provided by a local church. In the beginning, we asked them to meet with the children and teach about morality and self- respect, with a focus on prevention of drug and alcohol abuse. For children in an orphanage system, this can be the biggest influence on their lives. Taught by loving teachers, the children can develop character that will carry them through the difficult times that they will face in their futures.
MUCH has been influencing the lives of children in Ukraine in these ways for six years. Our desire is to expand our education programs and inspire the teachers to do more. The government is not likely to add to the budget, so MUCH sponsorship may be the only way to express to the teachers that we care about what they do.

Several months have passed since we met with the parents and their daughter, A., in their home. This time, while visiting the massage clinic and the doctor/masseuse Natasha B., Mark and I saw good results from A. Her parents give a lot of attention to the child. Four times a year A. is being treated in a children’s multi-therapy clinic called “Golden Angel” in Odessa. She receives medical treatment and massage therapy, and during the summer, the parents bring A. daily to an Equine Therapy program near the town, where she rides a horse in a small walking circle.

Sveta’s Journey

Contact with the horse gives A. many positive emotions, helps relax her spastic muscles, and builds tone in her legs. Contact with the horse warms up the muscles and joints of the legs and pelvis, and also develops coordination. The girl is very patient and she is accustomed to numerous procedures, training, and massage. Her parents are actively involved with the child at home. They use a special suit that holds the muscles of the extremities in the correct position. We reported on A. in the February Newsletter that she could not raise her head. During this visit, she is able to raise her head and hold it in a raised position for a count of 60 seconds or more. This is great progress.
D., an eight- and-a-half year old, is a very interesting and clever girl. She is an extraordinary child! When she learned that Mark would be at her massage treatment, and that he would be taking pictures of her, she carefully prepared for the meeting. She wore her best dress, jewelry, and her grandma braided her hair beautifully. D. met Mark about 4 years ago, and she loves him very much. When it came time to say goodbye, it was clear that D. did not want to part with Mark.

She has Cerebral Palsy, but she goes to a regular school and has almost no free time. She regularly receives massage treatments and visits a dance choreographer for lessons in stretching muscles. The stretching exercise is very hard work for her. Currently, D. is interested in working with beads. She showed us her work, a beautiful bracelet for her wrist. D. loves animals, especially horses and dreams of working with them in her future.


Two years ago, D. underwent surgery to lengthen the muscles in her left heal cord and her right hamstring, behind her knee. Before, she could stand only on her toes. After the operation, she is now able to stand with her foot almost entirely flat on the floor. She receives a single injection of a medication called Disport, to relieve spasticity of her leg muscles once or twice a year, depending on the results. It costs 1500 grevnya ($187.50) per dose for her. Currently, MUCH is not involved with the cost of this injection treatment.

It is very important when doctors and parents notice the child’s deviation from the norm in infancy. Actions taken in time, especially before the child reaches the age of one year, can greatly alter the development of the baby. M. began receiving massage treatments when he was one month of age. He is now 1 year and 8 months. During this time, his muscle tone has been restored. His mother is delighted with the good results, and understands the importance of massage for him.

V. (right) has hemi-paresis, and he began to receive massage at the age of three months. Now he is two years and four months old. During this time, he has received massage treatments and also has good results.
Our hearts were saddened when we learned the story of this next boy. I. (below) has a very rare disease and has already suffered a complicated surgery to remove his colon. Mark and I visited him at home. I. is now a patient of our masseuse, Tanya. The doctor caring for I. has prescribed
massage as mandatory. He states that it is very necessary to receive massage as an important means to help restore the function of his body. He is a beautiful child!

Thanks for your help! You are sincere and good people. You are well aware of the complexity of situations and in the past have been ready to provide much needed assistance. Charity is one of the most important works in society. With your help, needy children receive timely assistance and can always count on your support. People involved in charity, by helping others, get moral satisfaction from their work.

Living my dream,

Sveta

You will be hearing more about our efforts toward education and health care as we enter the fall season. MUCH is made up of many different people. I am only one here in Ukraine who moves things forward. There are thirty-one people of Ukraine, in three cities and two villages, who are involved to some degree in making the work of MUCH happen. In America, the MUCH board of directors guides my financial decisions here in Ukraine, and the sponsors of MUCH make it possible to carry out the work that God guides me to do. Finally, but equally important, are those who lift us up in prayer in America and here in Ukraine. The children thank you all!

Blessings of love and healing,

Mark and Sveta

The Innocence of Children

As I woke up this morning, the scenes from a film that I had watched last week reappeared in my memory. Not many films are more than a momentary escape from the reality that I live. Not many films that I have seen portray reality. But this particular film, “The Boy in Striped Pajamas,” was filled with more reality, more diverse perceptions of the reality of life in Nazi, Germany. The film opens with these profound words:

“Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows.” -John Betseman

In the film, two boys find friendship on opposite sides of the fence. The eight year old son of a high ranking German officer comes upon a wire fence while exploring a wooded area. On the other side is a boy of the same age in prison clothes. The boys have long conversations sitting by the fence, totally innocent of what is happening on either side of the fence.

The scene by the fence stayed in my mind. I think of our MUCH children, particularly the youngest ones. When I chat with them, they are the most delightful children, so hungry for attention. When I watch them play with each other, I see the innocence of childhood. It is so precious to experience.

Through no fault of their own, they have come to live in an orphanage. Their futures are branded. The innocence of childhood is soon lost, and a new life challenges them to enter into a world of adversity. Whoever they were before, people will soon look at them as unwanted, undesirable children.

What can we do to change the preconceived notion of who these children are? Over the past six years, MUCH has helped reshape the lives of the children. We have encouraged the children to improve their self images. Clothing and an improved environment has caused the children to see themselves differently. This has caused them to act differently. In turn, new impressions are created within the local people. It takes a long time, but children are worth everything that we have to give. Children are the future.

Help Wanted

When you see these two very common words side by side, what thoughts come to your mind? My first impression is that a job is available, that there is some work to do. Think about the word help. If I replace it with the word to assist, I immediately envision a very different concept. If I am asked to assist someone, it means that he or she is the captain. I am only the helper.

As a humanitarian aid missionary, I was called to assist God in His work here in Ukraine. Going one step further, I was called to assist the people of Ukraine to care for their children. How could that be accomplished? If I was called to come to Ukraine to do a job, and then leave, that is pretty easy to imagine. But that wasn’t the case. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t exactly sure what God was calling me to do.

My first outreach ministry opened up in Marganets when the father of a friend took me to visit an orphanage. It was his dream, his desire, possibly his calling, to help these children in some way. When I saw the children, the surroundings, and the emptiness in their eyes, I felt the deepest compassion in my heart that I ever had felt. But there was nothing that I personally could do help them on a regular basis. I would be living in Illichevsk, 320 miles west of Marganets.

This was to be the beginning of my work to assist the people of Ukraine to make changes in their country. This retired father, Anatoliy, had the knowledge, energy, and the drive to make things happen. He didn’t have the funding. By the time that I met him, he had already begun to raise money for the children from the local merchants. The community was very poor, so he could barely raise enough money to help one child, much less 156 children.

Given a small pledge of monthly contributions from me, he went to work. After about three years of making great changes in the appearance of the children and their environment, Anatoliy confessed to me, “Mark, in the beginning there were so many needs and there was only so much money. I didn’t know what to do first.” God had prepared him to be ready to do this work through a lifetime of experiences. At age 63, he stepped up to the plate and answered the call. Now, seven years later, my assistance to this Ukrainian man has helped him to do a great service for the children of orphanage number three. It has been my privilege to assist this man in this great humanitarian effort for the children.