Hello family and friends,
February has been an unusually warm month for us in southern Ukraine. Low temperatures were in the 20s F, highs were in the mid 30s F. It is true that the post-soviet generation can be found standing outside, talking with friends, in the coldest weather. Although, as soon as the temperature is above freezing for a couple of days, many people are found to be out in their garden, preparing the soil. To my surprise, some have already completed their spring planting. As for Sveta and me, we pruned our fruit trees, grape vines, and rose bushes. We are ready for spring. Even so, there could be more snow before the spring is over. We just never know.
In the summer of 2017, Sveta and I visited the Stepovoya Orphanage for Boys with Physical and Mental Disabilities. We were visiting with a group from our church. Since that time, the director has been replaced and we have visited a few more times. Each time, Sveta and I talked with the director about massage therapy for the boys in his facility. He was absolutely in agreement with our program, but was having difficulty understanding how to implement it.
Natasha and Ira
Finally, with all of our ducks in a row, he introduced us to Natasha and Ira. Both Natasha and Ira work part-time. Natasha works as a care taker of the children, while Ira is the social worker. As we interviewed them to participate in the massage training course, they asked questions, wanting to understand the program that we were offering. I can imagine the unasked question, “Who are Mark and Sveta, and why are they giving us this opportunity?”
After completing the course, Ira and Natasha hold diplomas from their massage therapy course posing with their course instructor.
Natasha told Sveta that this opportunity has changed her life. As a wife and mother living in the village an hour outside of Mykolaiv, she saw no opportunities in her life that could change. (The common phrase is, “This is my life, what can I do?”) Now, with a diploma, she can give more of herself to children at the orphanage, changing their lives through massage therapy.
Ira wrote in one of her progress reports about a 17 year old boy who receives massage therapy. His name is Vlad. He was born with spina bifida (open spine) on his lower back. Both legs are unable to function normally. He also has a flat foot problem that is common to cerebral palsy, which is his diagnosis. He can stand, but cannot walk. He can pull himself along the hand rails on the walls.
Vlad likes the massage therapy very much. He pulls himself along the hand rails each day, showing up at the therapy room on time. Ira gives Vlad a full body massage. She begins with conversation about his favorite singer. While they talk, Ira begins by asking Vlad to straighten his leg at the knee. They move on to massage therapy, step by step. At the end of the treatment, Vlad always gives Ira a big “Thank you!” — I can’t wait to read about the rest of the wonderful stories from the Stepovoya Orphanage.
I am continually amazed at how God has connected the dots over the past sixteen years. Sveta and I have made ourselves available, and God has used us. (Dennis Lennon shared this phrase with me in 2000, and I have lived it ever since.) The progression of introductions for massage therapy were: Chornomorsk, Froonza Crimea, Dobromel, Marganets, Veleekey Lubin, Mykolaiv, and now Stepovoya.
Glory to God for the great things He has done!
In the end of February, I received a report from our two new massage therapists in Stepovoya, Natasha and Ira. This is their first month of work. From mid-February, they began to give massage therapy for boys with disability in the Stepovoya Orphanage. All boys have several difficult diagnoses. Many children cannot walk and their leg muscles have atrophied. Massage therapy normalizes the work of internal organs and stimulates blood flow to the skin and muscles, helps to avoid pressure sores, and the immunity is strengthened. Natasha and Ira use a rehabilitation Turbota table. It is difficult to work with a child who is not able to lay flat from head to toe. This table can be adjusted for angles and hold limbs in place while the child is receiving massage treatment.
Mark and I were glad to see, through the written lines of their report, that the hearts of Natasha and Ira are full of love for the children. Seventeen boys received massage therapy for 14 days. Here are excerpts from what our massage therapists wrote:
I saw small results in 12-year-old Anton. He sits in a chair all day. This lack of exercise negatively effects his digestive system. After 14 day of massage therapy, Anton had a normal stool, and his muscle tension decreased slightly. He likes massage therapy. During massage therapy the boy always gives me a big smile.
Six-year-old Andre, diagnosed with hydrocephalus, almost from the first day, liked the massage treatment. He always smiles. The boy cannot walk. He sits in the chair all day, so massage therapy has good benefits to his circulation.
Cerebral palsy on the lower limbs of 16-year-old Igor led to atrophy of the leg muscles, especially from the knee to the foot. He also has strong contractures in his joints. During the first massage treatment, he immediately relaxed and smiled. Igor especially liked the fact that I was talking to him. Igor is not able to speak. The massage experience for him was so calming, 30 minutes was like 1 minute, one breath of air. Igor spends most of the day in a sitting position and therefore massage therapy has a big effect on his circulation.
Fifteen-year-old Sasha was nervous during the first massage treatment. On his third visit, thanks to the establishment of trusting relationships, calm music and warm massage oil, Sasha began to relax. A few days later when he saw me, he was so very happy to see me in my new job. He was looking forward to his next massage therapy treatment. Sasha can barely walk, but he can stands, holding on to the wall rail. One leg turns inside. While doing massage therapy, I paid a lot of attention to his foot. As a result, Sasha began to more confidently step on his affected leg. Unfortunately, the affected leg has contractures. My work is aimed at overcoming the spastic condition.
The director of Stepovoya does not allow pictures of the children. As we see the progress, we will have to do our best to share vivid word pictures with you. Mark and I are very excited about Natasha and Ira in their additional positions as massage therapists! They have a great love for the children.
Thank you, dear family and friends for your prayers and financial support. These children can receive massage therapy and special attention from our massage therapists because of you. They have such a great need! Mark and I are glad that we are also partnering with you in this good deed just as you are our precious family and friends! Thank you so much!
Living my dream,
Blessings of love and healing,
Mark and Sveta
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