Zhitomir Scoop

What exactly will we be doing in Zhitomir?  Why Zhitomir? Have you been wondering? 

Well, if you’ve been wondering, you aren’t the only one.  People have been asking, so I thought we better set the record straight.  :)  

I’m not sure we’ve done a super good job of explaining what exactly our purpose is for moving to Zhitomir, specifically, and what we plan to do once we’re there.  I’m so sorry about that!  I feel like I’m constantly talking about it all with someone, so pretty soon I forget who knows what, and what I’ve blogged about vs. what I’ve emailed about vs. what I’ve texted about vs. what I’ve chatted about over coffee dates vs. what we’ve shared at church leadership meetings. Yes, we talk a lot.  :)

So, here is the full Zhitomir scoop, in all of it’s glory!

Why are we moving to Zhitomir?

We are moving to Zhitomir because God led us there.  Last April (2012) when Jed and I visited all over Ukraine checking out what different people were doing for disabled orphans we decided to check out Mission to Ukraine (MTU), and MTU is in Zhitomir.  We were totally amazed and touched by the work done at and through MTU.  

So, when we got home and prayed about where we should land when we first move to Ukraine, our hearts kept going back to MTU. They are the only ones we know about in Ukraine who do what they do, and we want to be a part of it.  We have a lot to offer them, professionally, but more than that, they have so much they can teach us.  We asked MTU if we could spend our first year in Ukraine volunteering for them, and after many months of communication they said yes!  So, to Zhitomir we go!

How long will we be in Zhitomir?

We don’t know the answer to that one. We committed one year to MTU, so we know we’ll be there for at least a year.  This first year is really going to be such a time of learning.  We don’t know what The Lord has for us after the first year.  Maybe He’ll keep us around at MTU for longer, maybe doors will open in another place, we just take one step at a time and say yes.  We’re really okay with that.  The dreams He’s given us for the group homes are still completely alive in our hearts.  We don’t know how God will take us from Point A (MTU in Zhitomir) to Point Z (medical group homes), but we don’t need to know that yet.  Step by step…breathe in, breathe out.  Whew!  We are blessed this first year to have a “landing place” at MTU where right away we can be actively involved in the type of orphan care we love and have a passion for, but we don’t have to come up with something all our own, starting at square one.  We can join what the Father is already doing and bless that.  Super cool.
Note to self: I will know what I need to know, when I need to know it.  Chill out.  

What is Mission to Ukraine?  What do they do?

Awesome, and a lot.   

How’s that for an answer?  

Kidding!  You know I can’t just leave it at that!  Remember, I like to talk too much.  :)

MTU is a Ukrainian non-profit.  It was started by an American missionary years ago, but now all the daily operations are run by Ukrainians.  They have an American Board of Directors in Indiana that support-raises, resource-gathers, and provides guidance as needed, but MTU is a Ukrainian organization at heart.  We will be the only foreigners working at MTU in Zhitomir.  

MTU has a center in Zhitomir, but they minister all over the city. They have 3 main focuses: Crisis Pregnancy Counseling and Support, support of children with disabilities and their families, and the work at Romaniv Boys Orphanage.  

Our primary interests lie in the work done with the disabled children, and the work at Romaniv.  At the center children are given free physical therapy and speech therapy.  There is a specialist who has started doing some work with autistic children, and MTU is in the process of developing Occupational Therapy, which doesn’t exist as a profession in Ukraine at this time.  They have a wonderful pediatrician who is on staff full time and provides free care to children, as well as an ophthalmologist and dentist who volunteer time a couple of days a week when they aren’t at their own practices.  All the therapists and other medical professionals are Ukrainian too!  There are various classes held throughout the day for disabled children and adults of all ages.  In their classes they get to learn about Jesus, do crafts and artwork, beading, learn different life skills, and build friendships in a place where they are fully accepted, just as they are.  It is BEAUTIFUL.  Every day several different special needs preschool classes are taught as well.  All I have to say about that is CUTENESS OVERLOAD.  When I got to assist with the preschool class for kiddos with Down Syndrome I thought I was going to freak out due to the extreme cuteness.  It was almost too much to handle.  OMG.  While the kids are in class or therapy, there are Bible studies and support groups for the parents.  Genius.  

You’ve heard us talk about Romaniv.  Love, love, love that place and those boys.  MTU staff have visited Romaniv once a week for 5 years now.  The transformation has been miraculous.  There is still a lot of work to be done, specifically with the more severely disabled boys. Their lives haven’t changed nearly as much as the verbal boys and the ones who are more physically capable.  We really desire to help in that area.  We would love to be able to do what we can to bring about more change and help for the boys in “isolation”, as they call it.  Those are the boys we would love to target while working with MTU, so we’ll see what God has in store!  

There is so much more that is done at MTU: summer camps for disabled children and their families, summer camps at Romaniv, a social integration project, abstinence education…and on and on….cool, right?

What will we do at MTU?

We’ll do whatever they want us to do!  We’ve said it before on here, and we really mean it.  We want to be a blessing and we don’t want to push our own agenda.  Right now it seems that they have a big need for Jed’s professional skills.  Jed has a lot of experience in non-profit program management, building new programs, building a volunteer base, teaching caregivers to care for themselves, teaching people in the helps field learn to process what they see and work with…Jed’s job here in Salem has basically groomed him for helping at MTU.  We couldn’t have planned it better if we tried.  God is so smart!  Jed is nearly bursting with ideas for MTU and already has plenty of work to keep him busy there for quite some time.  

It seems right now that the best use of our family will be having Jed be the primary help at MTU.  Of course I will help too, but Jed will invest the most hours.  My main job this first year will be helping our family acclimate to living in Ukraine.  I will home school the kids- like I do now, learn to grocery shop and run a house in Ukraine, and support Jed.  I will most likely find out what special needs classes they need the most help with and assist every week in at least one class.  I’m excited to have Addy and Ez help me with that!  The woman who supports the moms asked me to help her as well.  Yay!  My biggest love at MTU is Romaniv.  I hope to go to Romaniv every week and do whatever I can to support, help build, and expand the work being done there.  I am SUPER excited for that!!  

Wow, this is getting long.  I better stop now.  :)  I hope this helps fill in some of the info gaps.  If you have any questions at all after reading this, please ask away!  We really want to be clear and lay things out as plain as possible, so if I’m assuming you know or understand some things and you don’t, just let me know and we can explain better.