What a great day! Sorry we are late getting this update out, but we don’t have wifi in our hotel now that we are in Zhitomir. We went to a café tonight to skype the kiddos and send out an update, but our battery died…and the charger was back in the hotel room. Oops!
Early this morning we headed out by metro to catch a bus to Zhitomir. The buses leave every 20 minutes or so all day long. The ride was about 2 hours long and I slept the whole way. All I know is I woke up at one point briefly and there were about twice as many people in the bus as we started with. Standing room only! We got to Zhitomir and gave Ira, the director at Mission to Ukraine, a call. She helped tell a taxi driver where to take us and after no time at all we arrived at Mission to Ukraine! Thank God for Ira because apparently we got off on the wrong stop. Everybody else got off, so we just went with the crowd…I know, I know, if they all jumped off a bridge would we follow?
We liked MTU (Mission to Ukraine) and Ira right away. Serious case of love at first sight. You would be amazed at all they accomplish here. We were blown away. They have 2 main focuses of their ministry. The first focus is crisis pregnancies. They have crisis pregnancy counseling where they share the Gospel and really try to get at what the woman’s true desires are. As Ira said “When it comes down to it they all want life”. In the last 15 years 600 children’s lives have been saved through the counseling. One of the main barriers the expectant mothers have is money. The economy is struggling here and if a woman has to quit her job to stay home with her child neither of them will survive. MTU helps mothers during the first 18 months of their child’s life by giving them food, helping with diapers, giving free medical care, and also helping the mothers learn skills that may help them earn some income- like quilting. They have seriously thought of it all. Cool huh?
The other focus of MTU is children with disabilities. Oh my word, they go above and beyond what we were expecting. They are truly excellent in their work and they give all glory to God. They have a medical clinic that is free of charge with a pediatrician, a neurologist, ophthalmologist, and dentist. Oh, that’s not all! They have physical therapists, occupational therapists, a clinical psychologist, a speech therapist…a sensory room, PT equipment, a little preschool…on and on and on. This is not a big facility, but it is jam-packed with Jesus-lovin’ servants who are pouring their lives out for these families.
In this country you do not see people with disabilities out and about. The public transportation is impossible to navigate with a wheelchair. There is simply no way. So there is that physical obstacle, but Ira told us that the biggest obstacle for people with disabilities is that the rest of society is not ready to accept anyone who is different. So a parent with a disabled child is completely isolated and without help or support. Imagine having a child in a wheelchair and living on the 7th floor of an apartment building? No support, no respite, no Early Intervention, no Special-Ed classrooms…I cannot fathom. Part of the mission of MTU is to integrate these children into society. They want to help the children learn how to behave and experience life in society, but they also want to help society embrace these children. It is a tall task, but God is blessing it like crazy. I can’t count the number of times I heard someone say today “Every child can learn something! No child is unteachable.” Amen and amen.
Jed got to be a big encouragement today to the Psychologist, Yulia. She is the head of their therapies and she has a couple boys with Autism that she has been working with in her office. Children with Autism are not really treated here. Yulia is a pioneer in her field. She is doing what no one else is doing. All she has done so far with the boys is what she has learned by her own research on the internet. Jed got to observe her lesson with a 4-year-old little boy. He was able to encourage her and hopefully connect her with professionals we know. She is starving for resources and someone to bounce her ideas off of. She is amazingly creative and has limitless patience.
Another cool thing we got to experience today is one of MTU’s “beading groups”. Once a week certain groups of children with disabilities come and do beading projects. This is a time when they can come and be accepted for who they are, interact with one another, and they LOVE it. The mothers come too and chat with each other. The smiles on their faces were priceless. –the moms and the kids! One boy named Vitaliy was pretending to be shy, but was really proud of his beading work. He even warned us not to steal his beads and was showing Jed how fast he was at hiding his necklace.
The ministry area of MTU that most interests me is their work in the Romaniv Orphanage for boys with disabilities. Their staff has been visiting the institution weekly for the past 4 years. These are boys that the state deemed unteachable. The orphanage is for men and boys ages 7-30 years old. These boys have never been taught at all. Tania, the Communications Manager at MTU told us when they first found Romaniv the boys were like animals being held in a barn. No stimulation, no teaching, no loving. They now get to learn about Jesus every week. They have learned how to play with balls, how to wash their hands. Supposedly the change is amazing. We’ll see because get to visit there on Friday with MTU! We are very, very excited. I can’t wait to tell you all about it!
Tomorrow we will meet some Vineyard folks for coffee and a visit, and then we will head back to MTU for the rest of the day. Thanks everyone so much for all of your encouragement after our last post. I know it was a bit schizo J, but you all blessed us so much by your encouraging responses. Thank you for reminding us of who God called us to be, reminding us why we are here, loving us despite my “emo” moments. It really means a lot from this side to hear from the ones we love. THANK YOU!!
If you see our kids give them hugs and kisses from us. Addy, Ez, Havalah, and Seth- we love you and miss you so much! We talk about you to everyone we meet. We are so proud of you!