Last winter, I was on my annual Christmas trip to Ukraine. It was a relatively short trip and, as always, it was jam packed with ministry activities from morning until night. But I always set aside some time to visit at least one of the village outreaches with whom we are partnering. This is actually one one my favourite Christmas activities! Our team helps with a children’s Christmas outreach program, gives out special gifts to needy children in the village and, of course, we take emergency food packets to several homes.
So last year, we were in Krushinka, Ukraine. We had just enjoyed some time with the young kids in the church sponsored soccer club. I loved watching their smiling faces as they received a rare Christmas gift. That it came from caring people in Canada made it all the more special for them.
We visited several homes afterward. These visits always break my heart because when I see how people are really living I feel almost sick knowing how much I have back home.
One home we visited was occupied by another example of the shameful poverty I have seen over and over in these villages. We met a single mother named Tanya, her two daughters Sophia and Karina, and Tanya’s mother, Olga.
We had brought a bag of emergency food with us, along with a couple of backpacks containing special gifts for the girls. The backpacks were supplied in cooperation with another ministry here in Ontario, Jabez Blanket Ministries in Killaloe. We had also brought some books about the life of Jesus for the girls from our Prayer Bear program.
When we were welcomed into this home, we realized right away that their heat was turned off. They told us that they could not afford to keep it running. This was December and it was cold. The tiny 2 room apartment was given for free to Olga years ago by the government after she gave birth to Tanya. Unfortunately, Olga’s husband died when she was only 39. Tanya, who has no husband, works long hours to keep food on the table.
We had not yet received the MPI donated blankets we order every year for our annual winter initiative, so I was immensely grateful that we had a couple of the Jabez backpacks leftover. They always have beautiful blankets inside. Sophia was very excited when she opened hers. She showed us her bed. She had no blanket at all, just a couple of towels.
Something as simple as a blanket is precious when you don’t even have a single one!