Hello family and friends,
Anatoliy Vlasov I heard today, May 7th, that a good friend died. He has died to this life of the physical body, but he lives now with his Creator Whom he met during his battle with cancer.
I met Anatoliy by phone in 2000. (Click on the blue highlighted words to follow the links.) He enthusiastically talked with me about his passion to help the children in his community of Marganets. Even though I didn’t understand a word of his Russian, I understood his heart to help children. In that spirit, our hearts spoke a common language. In 2002, we began to make his dream for the children come true.
In the Marganets ministries, Anatoliy always looked to me as the leader of the ministry. The truth is, it was always his vision, his passion, and his commitment to the futures of the children. Yes, the MUCH organization provided funds, and approved projects, but it was always Anatoliy who got the job done. He looked at the monumental needs of the children in the orphanage and the small monthly contribution from MUCH, and asked himself, “Where do I begin?”
He put his methodical mind to work and created a plan. To improve the clothing appearance of 150+ children took more than six years to accomplish. During that time, he was challenged with other needs to improve the living environments and the health of the children. Anatoliy brought unique projects to the MUCH Board of Directors for their approval. Some were too big for our small organization, but most were approved without question.
In twelve years time, he connected MUCH with a transition home, processing children from difficult homes to the orphanage system, and with a second orphanage.
Anatoliy was passionate about changing the future of these children. As a grandfather, he understood children. As a man, he understood truth, honesty, trustworthiness, and admirable character traits that many of the post-soviet generation lacked. He understood the virtues that the children needed to learn. In so many words, Anatoliy was a man’s man. He lived a full life, working in eastern Russia for a time, and retiring in Marganets.
When his retirement days came, he was not ready for the rocking chair. In his 60’s, he began to see the needs of the children in the orphanages and wanted to do something about it. He began collecting money from the different venders at the outdoor market, but that amounted to about $10 at the most. When we met, that all changed.
Although we were of the same spirit of passion for the children, Anatoliy and I were from different worlds. We each did our jobs, encouraging the other to do what he did best. This working relationship and friendship continued for twelve years. The last two or three years where difficult for Anatoliy. He struggled with throat cancer, the result of years of smoking. When we visited Anatoliy in the fall, he was unable to get out of bed. His wife Galina told us that Anatoliy continued to direct the process of his work, giving orders from his bed in spite of his extreme pain. This man’s man, died with his boots on.
Many of you know by now that my mother, an intricate part of MUCH, suffered a stroke on Easter. She is showing good signs of progress. Please keep her in your prayers. This family emergency is calling Sveta and me to come to America to be with Mom. We hope to connect with many of you while we are there. My personal victory is that I now have my permanent residency document! I am a resident of Ukraine!
Seven months ago, the then-president of Ukraine made a political decision that changed the future of Ukraine forever. I have been following the news, dividing propaganda from fact, and here is where I believe we stand. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, the West has been trying to influence the Kremlin to think in line with western democracy. On the other hand, the Kremlin has never had any desire to change. It has been covertly creating a system of rebuilding the Soviet Union. The Georgia war was the first step, Crimea was the second step. Military intervention is not so desirable anymore. Putin and his think tank have other ideas.
What seems to be the big picture of recreating the Soviet Union? Which are the most obvious countries that are desirable to reoccupy?
They now have a new method of invading and occupying a country. They send in “regular people” by the busload. These people stir up trouble, spreading rumors and propaganda against the country of that people. I heard recently that this happened in Illichevsk, Ukraine where I lived for 11 years. It happened in Odessa on May 2nd.
It seems that everyone wants to throw the blame for the crisis in Ukraine at one country or another. Everyone has an opinion. What is the solution? The future of Ukraine will have a big effect on the world one way or the other. What do you, the world community, want to happen with Ukraine?
Walking in His shoes,
I want to share a small excerpt from a presentation by Mark’s father at his Men’s Club:
“Before Mark’s first visit to Ukraine, he learned of many children who needed help and he decided to move to Ukraine and help these children.
After two years of Mark living in Ukraine, his mother, Pat Koehler, decided to set up a charity to support Mark’s work for the children of Ukraine. MUCH, which stands for Mission Ukraine Children Hope, was started. It established a board of directors that included his mother, brothers, sister, and local contributors.
Mark travels to two orphanages that house about 150 children each. One orphanage is a fourteen-hour train ride from his previous home in Illichevsk. The first project was to improve the beds. They sagged so badly that MUCH started a bed replacement program to get donations that eventually afforded 142 new beds. It took about 18 months to raise the money for all of the beds.
After several years of working at the Marganets Orphanage, toys became the focus of the Christmas fundraiser. Many of the local merchants generously gave nice discounts for a variety of toys and stuffed animals. The children said it was the first present they ever received. Some were so happy they cried. My wife Jean’s Presbyterian Church in Pompano knitted child size blankets for some of the children. Other blankets were purchased locally for the other children. In the dead of winter, the buildings never got higher than about 40 degrees on any given day or night.
In Illichevsk, Mark was introduced to a soup kitchen that was operated by a local church. It reached out to children from difficult homes, providing one hot meal a day, teaching a variety of basic skills, and Biblical instruction. MUCH supported the food program on a monthly basis until it closed a few years ago.
In 2004, the Illichevsk head doctor gave a room in the polyclinic for use as a massage therapy clinic by MUCH, free of charge. Massage has given new life to some of these children. Some children who started their lives in the institutional system were never hugged or emotionally nurtured. Some of the children, who never walked, now walk after treatments. Trained massage therapists work for only about two dollars per hour.”
For 12 years, the mission has continued to help Ukrainian children!
For many children, early intervention requires only two or three courses of massage treatment to prevent complications and the development of disability. When I look through the monthly reports of the massage therapists from the past two years, I find a large number of children from ages two months to two years whose prognosis has changed to complete body function. Early intervention provides great results.
Today I phoned Ira, our massage therapist in Illichevsk. She talked about a five-month-old baby who had a complication after chickenpox and a cold. Ira noticed torticollis (“twisted neck”) to which the mother and the doctor did not give attention. After one course of massage, this diagnosis was eliminated. Our massage therapist also found the child to have some degree of hip dysplasia. On the eighth day of massage treatment, the problem was corrected! The mother clearly saw positive changes in her child and was very pleased.
From the reports of massage therapist Natalia B., we see what results the children received after massage therapy. It also conveys the emotional background, her joy, and hope for every child to have good reports! It gives mothers faith, hope, and victory!
Alina has cerebral palsy and tetra paresis (weakness in all four limbs). We talked about this wonderful child in an earlier newsletter. She continues to delight her parents, her massage therapist, Mark, and me with her step-by-step results that even the doctors did not expect. She spends her time in a wheelchair or in bed. Her parents often need to change the position of her body in order to avoid pressure sores. During the April massage treatment, Natalia B. performed therapy for Alina to initiate reflex motor skills appropriate to her age. Alina’s mother saw that during sleep her child was able to roll herself on her side. Now, her mother rarely gets up at night to turn her daughter from her back to her side. This is very good progress for Alina!
Natalia B. told us about a sad event that will affect disabled children. The president of the charitable foundation in Odessa for disabled children, “Forward” better known as “Gold Angel”, has died. The children from Illichevsk also received free assistance in the rehabilitation center. After the death of the president, the center plans to charge patients for treatment. This will leave many children without care because most parents are not able to pay for the treatment for children. In connection with these events, Natalia B. expects an increase in children needing massage, and looking to the MUCH program for help. Already some parents have asked Natalia about it and she turns to Mark asking for assistance for these children.
Living my dream,