Hello family and friends,
Spring has come alive in Ukraine! April showers and warm days have brought buds to the trees, early flowers to the yards and fields, and have brought crops to the gardens. We planted radishes, peas, onions, garlic, raspberries, and blackberries in our garden. Our fruit trees include apple, pear, apricot, and cherry. We are learning many new things about building the soil for gardening such as biochar, no-till, composting, and raised garden beds. We will see how our garden grows this year.
What are some of the results of the “war” in eastern Ukraine?
Many people have fled their homes. Of the 285,000 or more that left their homes, close to 168,000 have sought refuge in Russia. About 117,000 refugees have moved west in Ukraine, seeking help. This link tells the story direct from the people of eastern Ukraine now living in Ivano-Frankivsk, deep in western Ukraine, north of Moldova. The story tells about great humanitarian actions.
Before Sveta and I were married, she had never visited western Ukraine. She had accepted the Soviet lies during her youth that people from western Ukraine were not good people. In her eyes, she saw them as rough, mean, violent people, and war mongers. These lies stayed with her until I asked her to do a 20 day massage therapy demonstration at the Dobromel Orphanage in western Ukraine, six miles east of the border of Poland. Now she was forced to challenge her views of these people.
When I met her at the orphanage after she lived with the people of western Ukraine, Sveta’s mindset about these people had been transformed. Everyone had been very hospitable toward her, and the children fell in love with her. Every time that we visit the children in Dobromel, Sveta is overjoyed.
Where else are there stories about people affected by the “war”?
At our last church leader’s meeting, our pastor told a story about a church that he planted by the Black Sea, one that we visit on occasion. This church in Skadovs’k had communication with another church in Krasnogorovka, the warring region of eastern Ukraine, a seven and a half hour drive northeast of Skadovs’k.
In August 2014, the pastor at the Skadovs’k church received a phone call from the pastor in Krasnogorovsty. This pastor told a story to the first pastor that people were living in their basements and underground quarters to protect themselves from the bombings. He told him about 70 children who were starving. The first pastor relayed this story, “I remember our first trip to this town. I remember how people were cooking food over a campfire near the demolished homes, I remember these dirty hungry children, eagerly grabbing for what was called food.
“Then we began regular trips to Krasnogorovsty. We met with the pastor. Before the war, his congregation was quite large. At that time when we visited, there were only 4 people in the congregation. Then, we came almost every week and handed out supplies for their church. In the city there is no supply of water, and often for weeks they are without electricity and gas, as this town is constantly under fire. Only through the ministry of the Church of Christ the Savior from Skadovs’k were people in Krasnogorovsty beginning to experience hope.
“Some who left the city have returned, looking for new hope. Many people began to attend church, asking for spiritual forgiveness, and helped serve those of the community who were in need. Indeed, the church responded to the needs of the city. Today, the church brings hope and faith to many people. People in need are receiving food, water, and clothing.
“Several months passed and the church in Krasnogorovtsy received more guests. They arrived at the Church of Good News to be baptized and enter into a covenant with God. Slightly more than 50 people were baptized. Do you remember the 4 people who remained in the church in August? Today, there are about 200 people in the church praying to God and serving their city. This is a day of joy. God is good. The Word of God changes people!”
It is amazing how people respond to humanitarian aid and look to God when times are difficult, dangerous, and life threatening. Why is that? We always need God in our lives.
Sasha has six sisters and a brother. Four of them are living in the orphanage in Dobromel. Recently, this eight-year old boy, Sasha, was diagnosed with scoliosis and mild mental retardation. Natasha, the MUCH massage therapist at the orphanage decided to give him a course of massage therapy.
The beginning was very difficult because the child was frightened. Natasha found an approach for working with Sasha. She explained what massage therapy means and demonstrated it on his arm. It took several days of this until the child finally agreed. Day by day, Sasha experienced genuine love and concern from Natasha. He trusted her, agreed to receive massage therapy, opened his heart, and told the terrible story of his eight-year life.
Natasha retells his story in his words. “I did not exist in my parents life. I felt no enthusiasm from my mother, no sincere or kind words, I did not see her gentle look, or warm smile. My mother did not love me from my birth. Whether I did bad or good, she looked at me with aggression and beat me; she beat me very much. In all of my memories, she was always drinking alcohol. When guests came to our home, I knew that I needed to quickly gather my things and run with my sisters and brother out from the house so as not to disturb the adults.
“My mother never worked for money. People who hired her, paid her with a lunch and/or vodka. We always felt a terrible hunger. We were hungry, but did not dare tell our mother. The neighbors came and gave us a piece of bread. My father also led an immoral lifestyle. Now he is sitting in prison for raping my sister.
“The history of my sister Luba is difficult,” says Sasha. “My father had sex with Luba and my mother. I knew about it. I was afraid to tell anyone about it, and this time I ran in the forest and cried a long time. It was awful. My sister was silent and did not talk about my father to anybody. When my mother found out about it, she called the police and he was jailed. I do not mind it. It is even better for my sisters and brother. From the time when I went to the orphanage my mother was not interested about me; she did not visit me. I knew this would happen.”
Natasha writes that he told the story as if he was 16 years old. It was so strange to hear from a little child of eight years, this story of his life. I am very sorry that he had many horrible experiences in his short years.
Parents, who should be the most intimate and loving, caused great injury to this child. But other people were giving love and protection for this little child. Sasha revealed his wounded heart to Natasha and step by step received healing through relationships of trust and sincere love from Natasha. After three 20-day courses of massage therapy beginning in October, Sasha began to relax, the stress and anxiety disappeared, and tense muscles relaxed. Healing continues!
I, Sveta, believe that God is very concerned about the children’s little hearts. Through the massage therapist, He is bringing healing of body and soul for many children. The MUCH massage therapy program in Dobromel is a great blessing for children. It was a miracle of God when Mark visited this small town and opened the possibility to begin a massage therapy program for these children. One of Mark’s best qualities in his character is to notice the needs of people or their talent through the eyes of God. He helps meet needs or helps direct the person to develop the talent which a person sometimes does not know he or she has.
God brought Mark to the orphanage for children with physical and mental disabilities in Dobromel. Mark saw the children and recognized the needs for massage therapy. Natasha worked as an exercise teacher. Massage was part of her Sports Medicine education. Mark had a conversation with the director, offering a massage therapy program for the children. The director said, “If it will help the children, I want it.” With the approval of the MUCH Board of Directors, Natasha went to Illichevsk to learn special techniques from the MUCH massage therapy program that had been in operation for seven years. In January 2012, Natasha started the massage therapy program for children at the Dobromel Orphanage.
Of course it was God’s plan, but it is important to be sensitive to what God wants to do through each of us. We are very grateful to all of you that you prayerfully and financially respond to the needs of our children.
Natasha shares this report about John who is also an eight-year-old child. He is diagnosed with mental retardation and bad posture.
“In September this year, he came to the orphanage. John could not speak, he was very closed, did not respond to questions, and often cried for no reason. It made me very concerned, and I immediately began to try to get closer to the child and watch his behavior.
“John’s mother was born with a disability. John was also born with special needs. His parents did not reject him. They have educated their son to the extent possible. John does not speak, but he understands everything. What caused the parents to send the boy to the orphanage? I do not know. His father promised that when his life improves, he will take John home. He is quite energetic, although he constantly needs encouragement. He loves to paint pictures and watch the phenomena of nature. If the weather is bad, he sits on the window sill, thinking about many things.
“My goal is that the boy will begin to speak; this is my greatest desire. I try to teach John to communicate with his peers and teachers, develop logical thinking, imagination, and love of beauty. Through massage therapy I try to correct deficiencies in the development of his muscular-skeletal system.
“The first time I gave massage therapy to John, I saw that he was responding to a lot of warmth, love and kindness, and his blue eyes showed that he wanted to communicate. He is friendly and sociable. At first, I invited John to do self-massage on his hands in the form of a game. I showed him how the massage therapy will affect his health. I can say that I did manage to encourage the child to attend massage therapy!
“This year I gave John several courses of massage therapy and I noticed many changes in his physical and mental development. Massage therapy stimulated the growth and development of his muscle mass, helping to maintain optimal tone. It developed the motor activity and contributed to the proper development of the child. I combined the massage therapy with exercise. Because of the complex rehabilitation, I saw improved psycho-emotional development, improved coordination, and the boy began to speak!”
“Finally I want to say, we have to remember that we should not lose hope. We have faith that there are people who stretch out a helping hand to us in the most difficult times of our lives. Thank you for stretching out a helping hand to our children! “
Living my dream,
Blessings of love and healing,
Mark and Sveta