Hello family and friends,
February brings hope for spring in Ukraine. Planting begins in March. Sveta and I are looking forward to our garden this spring.
Christmas Fundraiser Results
The results are in! Our Christmas Fundraiser was a huge success. Thanks to your generosity, we will be able to continue all of our programs, and add a few more. We have already added a second computer class at the Dobromel Orphanage. A church donated more than $2400 that was designated for winter clothing for the children in Marganets. THANK YOU to all who made our fundraiser a success!
News about Eastern Ukraine
Everyone was hopeful that the February 15 ceasefire agreement that was signed by the Ukraine government and the Pro-Russian separatists would bring an end to the war. Click on this link to hear how Nato is involved.
This is the second agreement; the first took place in September 2014. This time, the ceasefire agreement was respected by all but one small group of Pro-Russian separatists who were surrounding the city of Debaltseve. It seems that agreement within the ranks of the separatists is absent.
How is all of this affecting MUCH? Aside from closing our Massage Therapy Clinic in Froonza, Crimea, our operations continue as usual. The main dilemma for Ukrainians is inflation. Before the conflict began more that a years ago, 1 USD was equal to 8 grevnya, (Ukrainian currency). On February 19, 2015, the exchange rate was 1 USD equal to 26.80 grevnya. That is more than 200% inflation in sixteen months.
As for Sveta and me, we are staying very warm this first winter in our new “house in progress.” Our city is safe, it is pro-Ukrainian, and we are about 372 miles west of Donetsk, the main city of conflict. We watch the cost of food rise, but there is no price gouging, or taking advantage of people. Our own eating habits are changing a bit, but I think that we are eating better because of it. Transportation costs have gone up, but public transport remains much less expensive than using and maintaining a personal car.
This month began with news of the passing of one of our neighbors, Peter, who has been a long-time member of our church. As Christians, we know that Peter is resting in the arms of our heavenly Father. His funeral was to be a happy occasion for him.
I was shocked when I learned that Peter was two years older than me, only 61 years old. He appeared to have been much older. It is common for people of Peter’s generation to appear about ten years older than they are.
Somehow, he knew that his time was near. He lived alone a couple of streets from us. He spoke with Sveta a few weeks before about an operation that he was anticipating. He was concerned that he may not survive the surgery.
One of the men of our church, Andrew, was asked to visit Peter on Friday. When he arrived, he found Peter sitting in his chair with 1500 grevnya folded in a newspaper. Peter had died. He had previously put all of his affairs in order, telling the pastor, Igor, where everything was, who his surviving relatives were, and what he wanted done.
Andrew made some phone calls, notifying people of the church about Peter’s death. He stayed with the body over night. Some ladies from our church went to his home on Saturday to wait for the coroner to arrive and take Peter’s body to the morgue. Sunday, at our church service, his funeral was announced that it would be on Monday.
Monday afternoon the funeral progressed in this manner. About 20 of us met outside, behind the morgue. As soon as the casket was brought out at the scheduled time, Pastor Igor began the short service. We sang a song of faith and hope in the at-freezing temperature. The pastor read Scripture about the hope that we have in Jesus Christ and life after life-in-this-world. One of the men and I were each asked to say a few words, and we sang a song. As we ended the service, the casket was loaded into a maxi-van. Many factories provide transportation for their employees in very nice buses. Twenty of us got into a very nice factory bus that was rented to take us to the cemetery.
When we arrived at the cemetery, to our disappointment, the grave was not ready . The men were still digging, shovels in hand. While we waited for them to finish we prayed again, and the pastor shared more words of hope. The men came to the wooden casket set the lid on it and proceeded to turn the screws with a special key. The casket was carried to the grave and lowered in to it. Each of us took a handful of dirt and dropped it onto the casket. The grave diggers, to my surprise, quickly began to fill the grave, shoveling the dirt back into the hole that they had just dug. A round loaf of bread was left for the grave diggers to eat, a tradition that Sveta explained to me as we walk away.
The following day, Sveta accompanied a number of women from the church to clean Peter’s house and put it in order. Peter’s only surviving relatives were his granddaughter, age 10, living with her aunt in Siberia, and his grandson, age 14, living in a orphanage, also in Siberia. Peter had arranged for the property to be willed to his grandson. A couple in our church may arrange for him to live with them under the foster care program or adoption. In the meantime, a man from our church will be living in Peter’s home, caring for it. All of this is being overseen by Pastor Igor.
Mark and I met with Nastya in Illichevsk. She is studying at an University in Odessa with a major in music. In the summer of 2013 Mark interviewed Nastya and her friend Natasha. If you haven’t seen the video, click here. Both girls began receiving a transportation scholarship from MUCH in September 2014.
Nastya’s mother has a small salary and can not cover all the costs associated with university education. Her father died the summer of 2014.
Nastya has a goal and is using all of her abilities to reach that goal. Listen to her sing at the Easter Service. Her part in the video is at 3 minutes 36 seconds.
She wants her hard work and focussed efforts to justify the confidence of the people who invest in her education with their finances. Her university degree will allow her to teach music after she graduates from music school. Nastya’s dream is to become a conductor of music. She is grateful to MUCH and wants to express her respect and gratitude to the sponsors. She said that the transportation scholarship is a huge help to her and her mother.
Vanya, a 16 year old boy, is an orphan at the Marganets Orphanage. He will graduate school and leave the orphanage this year. He is not a happy child and seldom smiles. When he received new clothes in January, his stoic expression remained.
Although his face was serious, we could see that joy filled his heart. His old jacket and sneakers are worn out, jeans were short. That day, he received three new articles of clothing: a warm coat, pants and winter boots! I think that internally he was jumping for joy but outwardly he restrained himself and tried not to show his emotions. He said a simple word, “Dyakooyou”, (thank you, in Ukrainian), but we know that in this one word, he expressed much appreciation.
Children, parents, the directors of the orphanage, school, and transition home in Marganets thank you for all that you do for them! Your help is greatly appreciated, especially in these volatile days in Ukraine.
The price of gasoline, food, and clothing spiked. In less than a week, the value of the Ukrainian currency dropped 66%. Inflation is destroying the plans of many people who save their money in banks to buy an apartment or a car. My son in law is in this situation. Money that he saved for several years in the bank now does not have the value it had at the beginning.
The world is interconnected. God unites Ukrainian children with the American people through prayer and finance. Your prayer and financial support are the thread connecting the children’s lives with your life. Your love for Ukrainian children is reflected in your efforts. Thank you very much dear family and friends!
Living my dream,
In spite of the war in Ukraine, the great uncertainty of ceasefires, and the out-of-control inflation, I do see hope for Ukraine in 2015. Even with all of these challenges, MUCH has not missed a beat in caring for the children in each of the three cities that are hundreds of miles from each other. Our work is not interrupted by the government. We work with directors and medical leaders who care deeply for the children who need help the most. Thank you for being a part of the mission of MUCH. Your prayer and financial support make it possible.
Blessings of love and healing,
Mark and Sveta