“The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining” – 1 John 2:8
It was a nice summer day, three days before school started in September 2016. In the city, parents of school children were busy shopping and getting their children ready for the new school year. Every one of them was full of hope, investing in their children’s future. In the countryside, it was a different situation. High unemployment combined with extreme poverty has resulted in people living a 3rd world lifestyle: no running water or indoor plumbing and an inability to afford even the most basic supplies. That day in September was the day that I made my second trip to Zhmievka, a village in northern Ukraine, 70 km from Chernobyl.
My first trip to Zhmievka was in August. I had met with the Gorvat family. After meeting with them, I couldn’t stop thinking about them. The parents, Svetlana and Alexander, were raising seven children. When I visited, the parents and children gathered inside the house to meet me. I told them why I came and gave a bag of groceries to the parents. For the children, I had a special gift from Canadians – one backpack filled with school supplies. Through the local pastor, I knew that one of the children was starting school this year so I wanted to give that child this special gift.
When I first met the family, I was overwhelmed by their poverty and need. They lived in a house with no proper heating, kitchen, or beds. The children didn’t know me and studied me at first. Then they told me their names and showed me their beds and photos. The house was given to them by a Christian group from Kiev years ago. The furniture, clothing, and toys were all used items that came from different people and what the family was able to find at the dump.
I was stricken by two realities – life in the city and life in a village. Such a contrast! It seemed impossible, even wrong. Soon I learned from the rest of the children that none of them had school bags. They used plastic bags to carry their school books and pens. They had no coloring pencils, rulers, or erasers. I had nice fellowship with the family and before I left, we prayed together. Only God’s grace gives us hope and strength to carry on when all around seems so dark. One of the children asked me to bring her a children’s Bible on my next visit. I wished I had enough school back packs with me for every child in the family, but I didn’t. I promised to return before the school year started.
Driving back to Zhmievka for my second visit was a dream come true. This time I had school back packs for every school child in the family, children’s Bibles and extra treats for kids. This time everything was different for me. Now I knew the children and the parents. I wasn’t a stranger. As soon as children saw me they ran to me with their arms open wide. For a moment, it felt like Heaven on Earth. I stood in the front yard with the gifts in my hands and the children hanging all over me. They smiled and shouted with excitement. Diana, the one who had asked for a children’s Bible said, “I knew you would come back”.
Svetlana, the Mom, stood in the doorway with her youngest child in her arms and a big smile on her face. “Now we are real friends,” she said. “You share our burdens. I Thank God for you and give my gratitude to all Canadians.” When we got inside the house, I noticed some changes. The house was clean. It didn’t look as dark as before. It was evident to me that the Lord had been changing the parents from the inside. It showed in the way they took care of what they had.
God has called us to be faithful in what we have. We don’t have to wait for more to be faithful. The children clung to their new, first ever school back packs and checked out everything inside. Now all children were ready for the school year. Svetlana was encouraged in her new faith seeing how God answered needs of her children. We gave praise to God and prayed for the children and the parents.
The Lord is using various ways to draw people to Himself. What seemed dark and impossible yesterday, today is bright and glorious. Jesus Christ hasn’t changed. He still saves and awakens people to a new life in Him. We are blessed to witness it firsthand. But it wouldn’t happen without partnership and commitment. Thank you for your commitment to missions. At MPI, we make it our goal to listen to God and follow where He leads. I invite you to join with us and discover together the will of God and partner in our new projects in Ukraine and Belarus.
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Magnet Youth Conference 2017
With Spring on its way, we are filled with renewed sense of hope and optimism. The weather is warming, song birds have started chirping in the morning, and new life is imminent. It is during these days that we endeavor to remember to honour God and care for those who are suffering. The Bible tells us to “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come” (Ecc 12:1). While the situation in Ukraine has dramatically worsened during the last three years, new opportunities to share the gospel have arisen.
We believe that God is preparing to call a new generation of young people into the Ministry to meet these new challenges. Together with our Partners in Ukraine, MPI is sponsoring a four-day youth conference later this spring, from April 29th to May 2nd. Our hope is that up to 350 young people will attend and be encouraged, equipped and launched into Christian Ministry.
MPI is asking Canadians to help by sponsoring Ukrainian youth to attend. With a gift of $38 CAD, you can sponsor one young person to attend this life changing “Magnet Youth Conference.” The conference will host workshops available on various topics: Your Personal Relationship with God, How to Overcome Temptation, Friendship, Call to Ministry, Missions, Christian Education, and Evangelism. Please partner with us to help transform Ukraine, one life at a time!
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Hearing Aid Gift
If you could give a gift to a child what would it be? A toy, candy, ticket to a movie? What if a child couldn’t hear?
We were visiting a small community called Gogolev about an hour’s drive from Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. There I and the MPI team with me met a widow with four children. The Mother Lena’s eyes were dark and teary with a hopeless, tired look. When we got talking, Lena told me that her husband had been killed in the war in Eastern Ukraine. Her mother was helping her to raise her four children 2, 4, 6, and 7.
I gave her a food packet and witnessed about the hope and future in Jesus. Lena listened carefully and told me why she was so felt hopeless. Her oldest daughter, Dasha, was born hearing impaired. Dasha’s friends were all going to school for the first time, but Dasha couldn’t start school without a hearing aid and would not have a hope for success in life without and education. Lena didn’t have money to afford the hearing aid. It would cost the equivalent of her entire year’s income.
That day, Lena’s burden was lifted, and hope filled her heart for the first time in her life. With some help from our partners we got the hearing aids and Dasha went to school with her friends to embrace a new life and great future. There is nothing impossible with God!