Hello family and friends,
It is good to be in America, to be on the far side of jet-lag, sleeping more consistently than ever, and walking every morning. Even so, I continue to experience culture shock, keeping me most aware of the major differences between Ukraine and the USA. In the past, culture shock occurred because of the affluence that I saw upon entering America, compared to the poverty of eighty per cent of Ukraine that I experienced. This time, other factors are affecting me. The media, television in particular, is disturbing. Sensationalism takes its toll on me. Although the Ukrainian television imitates everything American, the intensity has not yet caught up. The American pace of life is faster than I remember. When I visit America, I see it from the outside, looking in.
My mind remains on the children of Dobromel, in northwestern Ukraine. I remember how, three years ago, I was introduced to the 120 children of the Dobromel Orphanage on a cold and snowy Saturday. Their needs for encouraging relationships were most obvious, as I looked into their eyes, hungry for attention. I have visited them once or twice a year, but each time, as I reported in an earlier newsletter; my visit was only for two hours, mostly due to lack of accommodations in Dobromel. Most of my time was spent talking with the director. What could I do for these children?
Finally, a door opened during my visit in April of this year. The director was waiting to show me that he was very serious about investigating a massage program for his children. A number of children were brought to me. The director wanted to know if I thought that massage would help correct their physical difference. One of the boys, about 14 years old, walked on the toes of his one foot. A second child had a rib cage that had not developed symmetrically with the rest of his body. These are only two of the many physical problems that I saw. My heart goes out to these children who have their whole lives ahead of them.
Ira has news about what Sveta has been doing in Illichevsk while I am in America.
In October of this year, MUCH will start its Pilot Massage Program in one of our Western Ukrainian cities, Dobromel. It will be another noble program of MUCH that will meet needs of many special children. In Ukraine, MUCH is known as a charitable organization that inspires our Ukrainian people to help Ukrainian children with special needs.
The idea for this program started last fall when Mark visited the orphanage in Dobromel. The children of the orphanage suffer from cerebral palsy, scoliosis, other physical problems, and many of them have different mental disorders. He saw many children who needed professional massage and a special rehabilitation program.
Working with Mark for many years, I am never without surprise. He surprises me with his unique gift to see not only the need but to find a way to fix it. Sometimes his ideas seem to me unbelievable, but later I can see great results with my physical eyes. Last year, when he shared his ideas with me about the pilot massage program for Dobromel – the idea looked incredible to me. “God is bigger than you can imagine” – this is a favorite Mark slogan. God really is. In August of this year I have seen added evidence that this slogan is right.
Two women from different cities have had training in a practical massage course in Illichevsk in August 2011. They are Svetlana, Marks’ fiancée, and Natasha, the exercise specialist from the Dobromel Orphanage. Svetlana graduated from medical college many years ago, but she didn’t work in the medical area for a long time. In July, 2011 she finished a massage course in Nikolayev that helped her renew her theoretical knowledge in massage and become recertified.
Natasha graduated from a university that prepares Physical Education specialists. She was also taught massage in that university. Today she works in Dobromel Orphanage. She teaches children to dance and one time a week she gives massage for one child.
Both Svetlana and Natasha have a great desire to develop their massage skills and increase their knowledge. They have responded to Mark’s call to come to Illichevsk for ten days to have practice with massage in the Illichevsk Massage Clinic that has been sponsored by MUCH for seven years. For ten days, Svetlana and Natasha visited three different masseuses, watched their work, practiced giving massage, and received much valuable knowledge. All of the masseuses say that Svetlana and Natasha have a great potential for work with special children and a big interest in helping such kinds of children.
Thanks to Mark’s idea, Svetlana and Natasha left Illichevsk with great zeal to start the Massage Pilot Program at the Dobromel Orphanage in October this year. I am really looking forward to seeing progress in this orphanage because massage can do much for such children. It can change not only their physical condition but to improve their mental ability. I believe that soon this Pilot Program will encourage many hearts to help the children in Dobromel orphanage.
Until next time,
What a joy it is for me to experience hope for the children. And what a joy it will be to have Sveta join me on my next visit in the spring of 2012. Not only will she be my wife, but because she speaks both Russian and Ukrainian, she will make it possible for me to visit the children for a week, instead of two hours. As I explained in the April newsletter, Pastor Volodya was my main contact, and I stayed in his home, two hours away from Dobromel. His daughter was my translator. With Sveta’s language skills, it will be possible to find a hotel or home in Dobromel where we can stay. Her contribution will be so much more. Not only will she translate for me, she can talk with the children in their native language, learning about them in ways that I never could. She has the gift to touch the inner souls of these little ones with great love and compassion.
Please pray for Sveta as she mentally prepares for her month with the children in Dobromel. Also, a prayer or two for our wedding that will take place in November will be appreciated very much by both of us.
Blessings of love and healing,