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.