Autumn - Winter 2010
The Lord has been good to us teaching & leading us in His ways. I am blessed to be serving along with these selfless & encouraging girls.
We are in constant need of God’s grace, protection & provision as we seek to grow in the calling He’s placed upon our lives. As our eyes are set on the bigger things – we need grace to keep it that way & to let that show in all sorts of small things.
THE ORPHANAGE At this point the American part of our team has been banned from attending to the kids at the orphanage in Pravda. We are left to guess why. Among many empty & lame reasons there is one
that makes sense. It is a need for the “Open Arms” to be registered in Ukraine on Ukrainian terms. For years we never needed registration; but times are changing. & we need to keep up with that. So we’re working in that direction. The process is as complicated as it is expensive. But it is a serious & needed step in the growth of our ministry.
Meanwhile, I am the only one who gets to go to the orphanage; & not because I am allowed, but rather because the director seemed to forget to forbid me to come. So I try to stay low & quiet when I am at the orphanage. We are looking forward to those doors being wide open to our work again, like they had been for years.
“When one door closes – many more get open”. As we don’t get to go to the orphanage as often – we get to do bunch of other things. We have been making visits to a number of the graduates, whether at their schools, or at their home. Throughout September & October we took numerous trips to a small town called Krasnopillya to see Vova, Vitalik & Dusya with her family (that live 30 minutes out of
Krasnopillya), & some other kids. Dusya had an emergency situation with her health few weeks back. She underwent an urgent surgery, & with the very scarce information we were given on it – we were really worried. Praise the Lord the surgery went well, & Dusya is recovering fast.
Mezenivka Mezenivka – is a small village where Sergei & Dusya had moved with their little daughter Valya, as they were given a house there. The house is in a very sad condition. It’s old & its foundation gets ruined a little by little. There is no running water. There is a well nearby. You have to walk up a very slippery hill to get water. The only heating they have – is an old stove. & they use whatever wood they
scavenge or have some money to buy, plus some trash that will burn. During the summer Open Arms team & the group we had here had helped them with fixing their house a bit, by wallpapering the rooms, cleaning it & building a fence there, to keep the local drunkards from knocking on their windows for fun. Now we are looking into ways to help this family with better conditions to live in. We went to videotape the deal to raise some funds for the beautiful little family.
Vitalik Vitalik has been making all of us happy with the progress he’s shown over the past few months. He has gotten much better at communication. He calls & texts showing respect & accountability. He has gotten tremendously better at saying “no” to the kids that used to use him for money & drinking company. Couple of times Anika has initiated cooking the things that he’s been learning to make at his trade school. & the results were quite good. Vitalik, like most of our kids, has had it pretty rough. He doesn’t remember ever seeing either of his parents (who by now had both passed away). His first memories in life are a baby orphanage, where he was taken together with his sister, who now lives in Crimea (southern Ukraine). Vitalik has his interesting moments (again, like most of the kids we work with). But for the most part he’s an extremely easy-going kid, which has not been doing him good service when he was surrounded by trouble kids. He is always willing to help & join any type of activity. He constantly cracks jokes, & gets a kick out of them himself.
For the past 13 years he has been spending his summers with a host family in France. French culture has shaped Vitalik’s personality in interesting ways. He associates himself with French folks. & he sincerely doesn’t understand a lot of things here in Ukraine, & why they work the way they work. He’s good at French. So much so that he will be going to the Pravda orphanage to translate for an older lady that is coming to visit there. He’s been teaching me some words. & though I am not the best student, Vitalik gets really fired up & excited when I show an interest in his help. He loves to be needed. & he needs to be loved…
Grads Weekend Two months ago we began a monthly Grads Weekend. We see the importance of keeping in touch with the kids that had graduated the Pravda orphanage both: this year or three years ago all the same. It is on our hearts to maintain connections through regular meetings to remind them that no matter what their lives look like, & no matter what they’d been through – we still care for them, we still love them, & we are here for them. We have learned to accept it when some kids just drop out of communication, be it because they move somewhere far or begin to date some people who consume all of their time & attention. With some kids – you might not see them for months & months, & then they’ll appear even more broken than they were before. & you can never predict when they might just disappear. So, other than showing them our care & love & give them a good time, we want to use the time we have together as well as possible impacting them, keeping in mind that any time could be the last time we see them for a good while. In the ministry, it is my heart’s greatest desire – to teach the Word. Though nearly
Friday Bible Studies all of our kids, knowing most of the Bible stories & right answers & good principles, however don’t have personal relationship with God… The Scripture remains true telling us that the “faith comes by hearing, & hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). I believe that my job is to let God’s Word out. From then on – it is His job to make it bring fruit. At the same time – I am very blessed to have the team I have here, & to see how we all contribute to the ministry with the place, food, games, singing & simple care. Because without these things – practical signs of care & love – the preaching appears to be rather religious. & religion attracts no one. & it saves no one. It is so very beautiful to see the team come together for the same cause of the Gospel. I had begun studying the Gospel of Matthew on Fridays with Vitalik Vikhrenko & Vova Gutarev when they come to Sumy for the weekend. It is not as consistent (with the boys having different plans on different weekends), but from the start they seemed pretty into it (especially Vova, who after a two hour long Bible study kept asking questions).
When Dusya got to a hospital, & she was down on her bed recovering after the surgery it hit me that I had no reading/studying Gospel-oriented material to give to her. I jumped onto that, contacting friends throughout the churches in Ukraine who could help me with getting some. & a few weeks back we got our first package with some day to day reading (my friends are translating & printing out Jon Courson’s “A Day’s Journey”), & some video material on Creation vs. Evolution by Dr. Kent Hovind. Very excited to copy that multiple times & give some to the kids at the orphanage that are watching stuff brought by the teachers that you probably wouldn’t be showing your kids.
Temple Youth “Temple Youth” is a youth ministry at a local Charismatic church here in Sumy. They put together a “Ukraine Got Talent”-like competition for their teenagers (both: from the church & outside of it). Our friend Sasha had called our boys up to participate in the gig. Roman & Misha (see picture above) had jumped in, & me, Vitalik & Ivan came to support them as they showed they did some wicked break dancing. Misha (Dusya’s brother. Dusya – is the girl we work with. She has a little daughter named Valya. You can also see her in the picture from the Grads Weekend) Misha was the first kid to begin to break dance in Pravda school years back. He had a big influence on most of the boys there, so most of the kids took after him. & until this day an average kid at Pravda orphanage who think he can break dance somewhat – is actually pretty good at it. We also had a great time hanging out for two days, as Misha, Ivan & Vitalik stayed with me.
Christmas Time & Hair Cutting
In the summer I was close to cutting my hair, & got a trimmer. Well, my hair is still here & all knotty, but the trimmer is not getting rusty. Vova was the first victim of style. He needed a haircut & his only concern was that I had experience cutting hair before. I didn’t lie. Just… Misha was second. Then came Vitalik. & even Roman (who is very picky about his hair) gave into it
I got to spend Christmas with Vitalik. We had a blast shopping, decorating the Christmas tree, cooking, eating & just chilling to some Christmas music. It was a special night. I love how we get to pretty much two weeks to celebrate Christmas here in Ukraine. December 25 – January 7, when the Orthodox church celebrates Christmas.
- Praise Reports: - God’s faithfulness in sustaining us, providing for us & guiding us as a team. - God’s work in our team in Sumy, full time as well as the volunteers. We had been blessed to have an opportunity & the means to go to an At Risk Children conference in Kyiv at the beginning of November. We had a great time, learned a lot, & then got to put the new knowledge to use with our kids back in Sumy. - The progress in getting papers for the authorities to give us permissions for our ministry to continue to grow. - The kids’ response to the Gospel. It’s rare. But it’s there. & also the progress in teaching the kids some nuggets of wisdom & social skills here & there.
- Prayer Requests: - God’s work in the hearts of the children, & really, young adults that our kids are becoming. Please pray that the Holy Spirit works in their hearts convicting them of sin & showing them the crucial importance of being reconciled with the Savior. - God’s protection upon the team. Both: spiritually & physically. - God’s guidance & provision as we pursue the vision we have today. - God’s hand upon our paper works, all the needed approvals & permissions we are to get for all the big plans we have for the next 6 months. We really need favor in the eyes of people who have to do with giving us permissions on all sorts of levels – Government officials, different department workers, prison headquarters, heads of villages, directors & teachers at orphanages. - God’s hand upon my health. Never before had it affected it my life like it has been from week one I moved to Sumy back in March. Over this period I’d seen numerous doctors, done numerous tests for all sorts of things. Only recently it had begun to look like the problem might be in my spine. Nerves get blocked causing your whole organism to malfunction. It might not be the case. But it is the closest I came with self-diagnosing myself. Praising the Lord for my chiropractic, & really hoping to be done with not feeling well soon. Prayers would be appreciated, as I am on the verge of giving up fighting it mentally. Besides – physical illness can really take away from the ability to do your best in the ministry. & my place here requires me to be active & initiative.
How To Get Involved - Keep our work in your prayers. This comes first. & it is definitely the most essential help you could provide. - Connect with us via: FaceBook, BlogSpot or e-mail. - Contact us if you think you could help donating to the ministry here. We could always use your help, be it a dollar, ten tooth brushes or a set of children’s clothes. It all counts. - Contact us if you’d like to come out here & physically take part in the activities. As our ministry grows – we are in a growing need of help. We have a number of projects for the Summer of 2011, & if you would be interested in participating – please get a hold of us & we will be thrilled to tell you more.
Me If you’d like to receive my updates & newsletters – please e-mail me. Check out my WordPress page. Connect with me on FaceBook. Please consider plugging into the ministry by remembering me in your prayers. If you would like to take part in monthly giving or one time support check out www.openarmsukraine.blogspot.com or send a check made out to Open Arms Ukraine and mailed to P.O. Box 277, San Lorenzo, CA 94580 with "Sashko" written in the memo line.
“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early & latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” - James 5:7-8