Change is hard. Especially in ministry. We knew we could not go back to Lugansk; and yet it almost feels like a betrayal to go elsewhere. Almost. But we felt the Lord opening a door for us to minister in western Ukraine. Far from the war. So we went. We hoped to plan the summer hosting program as well as explore opportunities for camps.
Taryn, Lori and I arrived in a small village in western Ukraine on Monday. The first day was spent with administrative type activities. Another difficult aspect of ministry. And, frankly, there were moments where we all looked at each other and asked “now why are we here?” But we continued to walk in faith, trusting that the Lord had sovereignly brought us here. Near the end of the day, the Director introduced us to a boy with downcast eyes. She explained he did not know much Russian or Ukrainian. I told him it was okay, I didn’t either. He almost smiled. God whispered: “this is why you are here.”
Later, we got the chance to go with some of the older children to tour a nearby castle. I got on the bus and said hi to a 14 year old girl. She gave me a nod. I gave her one back. She turned her face to hide her smile. She was going to be a tough one to crack I thought. I asked why she was so grumpy. She said it was because she did not want to go to the castle; she had already been a hundred times. Then she asked “Am I coming to your house this summer?” “I sure hope so,” I replied. Then she blurted out: “I want to come. I want to be adopted. I want a family. FOR LIFE!” God shouted “This is why you are here!!”
The next day, we watched a performance by the younger children in the orphanage. 7, 8, and 9 year olds with no parent in the crowd to beam at them or applaud their efforts. My heart ached thinking “no child this young, this beautiful, should be orphaned.” God consoled me: “this is why you are here.”
We visited the children with mild special needs. We talked to them. Held them. Heard their stories. With few hours left in the day , I pulled Taryn and Lori away: “We still have so much to do while we are here!”
Minutes continued to slip away. Children, previously withdrawn, began to soften. We laughed together. Had tea together. Strangers became friends. A boy’s almost-smile became a real smile. And the grumpy girl on the bus burst into tears as we drove away. “It’s enough now, God. I understand. I know why we are here. Please don’t make me see anymore.”
For a few moments we sat in silence. Words were insufficient. Love for a new place was blossoming. God had given us care, concern, and even pain, where none had been a day before. And then my thoughts looked ahead. Plans to be made. Money to be raised. One of us spoke what the others were already thinking: how can we make others see, care, help? I don’t know the answer to that question. But one thing I do know. I must live each day asking how I can bring these 100 children to the attention of the world. And not just these 100. But the 500 orphaned children in east Ukraine we have been asked to help. Children displaced by the war; with no socks, underwear, or basic hygiene products. Now more than ever, we need your help. They need your help. The withdrawn boy. The grumpy girl. The orphaned. The poor. It's not easy. There is pain in the offering. But offer we must. I mean, isn't that why we're here?