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Additional Historical Outreaches
Goodness Children’s Reception Orphanage
This was our first ministry started in Vinnitsa after our move to Ukraine on July 26, 2007.Every Monday morning at 10:00 am we Prayer Walked in front of the Vinnitsa City Government (VCG) building downtown.
At first we attracted lots of attention from building security and the group of drivers that stand in the parking lot.They were really curious as to why we were walking in circles and whoever we were waiting on never showed up.
We have prayed in 40o C (like 100 o F), in rain, in snow, and in -17 o C (like 0 o).Thankfully we have only missed 1 or 2 Mondays due to both of us being sick.If there is a holiday on Monday and the VCG is closed we go the next business day.
During our Prayer Walks we pray for the Mayor on down to the cafeteria workers in the basement.We prayed for the janitors, construction workers remodeling the building, for (department head) drivers, and for people coming to the building for business. We prayed that God would bless the workers and give them integrity in their decisions and attitudes, and that God would soften their hearts toward Him. We prayed that people entering the building would be greeted with helpful attitudes and that getting their business done was pleasant.We prayed for the safety of the drivers and their occupants.We prayed that the food prepared in the cafeteria was good and pleasing.We prayed that the cafeteria and janitor workers were appreciated by others.We prayed for their families, for peace and love, for children to do well in school, and for marriages to be healthy.We prayed for everything and anything we could think of that would be in God’s will.
When we started this ministry we had no idea of what God would do.After about a month of praying we were introduced to Toma who was the Director of the International Department – Foreign Relations.She is a strong Christian and felt like God had called her to work at the VCG despite the very low pay.She speaks English really well and has translated on many occasions for us in a number of meetings. After meeting her, more doors opened and we met with a number of city department heads and staff, and ultimately the Mayor.
One of the biggest contacts we made there was Eugene, the Assistant Director of Social Services.He has been instrumental in establishing our Ukrainian non-profit charity organization:Vinnitsa – Heart of Ukraine, and in submitting all the required reports.We have worked closely with him on a number of projects, from providing clothes to newly released prison inmates, to volunteering at the Special Olympics with our clients, to participating in AIDS & Rehabilitation meetings.He has also been instrumental in educating and spreading the idea of a homeless shelter with the city.
Many people that we have met with do not know about our Prayer Walks and many would not understand and probably would think we were fanatics.One time I (Laura) was walking around the building with a woman who joined us and as we came around the corner of the building I noticed Mark standing and praying.He was kind of pointing (for himself) to each window of the building praying for the occupants in those specific offices. What was interesting about it was that I don’t think he realized how much movement he was making in pointing to the windows and a small crowd had formed in the front plaza area in front of the building behind him, all looking up to see what he was pointing at.The drivers were also trying to figure out what he was looking at.People in Ukraine can be very curious, especially when someone is acting outside of their normal cultural perimeters.
We continue to pray for the Vinnitsa City Government although we cannot be there every Monday to walk around the building.We would ask that you please join us in praying for the Vinnitsa City Government.They are striving to break away from the old mold of communism but it is difficult as it has woven itself deeply into every aspect of the culture, like cancer weaves through muscle and bone.
Goodness Children’s Center (Orphanage)
Every Thursday at 4:30 pm in the year 2008 we visited the Goodness Center Orphanage and worked with the children there. This is not a regular orphanage but a reception style facility for troubled children.The children housed at the Goodness Center are either arrested on the street by the police or are removed from their homes by Social Services due to neglect and/or abuse.
While at the center, authorities determine what actions should be taken.Generally we’ve seen three outcomes:1)Retraining of parents/guardians and the child(ren) returned to the home; 2)Finding other family for the child(ren) to live with; and 3)Going to court and taking parental rights and then moving the child(ren) to a permanent orphanage.
Children are typically at the center for up to three (3) months, however, in the summer time the children are generally not moved and remain at the center for up to five (5) months.The number of children housed at the center during the summer stays between 9 to 15, while during the winter, numbers can run as high as 40 children.
The age of the children ranges from two (2) years old up to 17 years old.The children present a variety of problems due to their histories.We have seen the children exhibit severe behavior of withdraw, anger, crying, and fighting.They have little discipline when they arrive and their attention spans are very short.(See below for some stories)
Our ministry team was comprised of several native young adults from a variety of churches, in addition to the two of us.Each one had a main responsibility and then assisted with other activities.In April 2008, we started training one of our team members, to lead the ministry, a young girl named Angelica.Her spiritual gifting is that of leadership, administration, and teaching, and she has a huge love for hurting children.
Our program was very simple with the children and the main focus was to love the children at every opportunity.
MAIN PHRASE:Every week we had a main phrase that was woven into our music, Bible studies, crafts and games.Each member rehearsed the phrase and repeated it over and over to the children.Phrases have been ‘Ask God and He will Forgive,’ ‘God loves You,’ and ‘Love One Another.’
MUSIC:We generally started with some children’s songs in Russian or Ukrainian that have hand and body motions. We even taught them the song ‘This Is The Day’ in English, which they sang for a group of young college students who visited the center with our team
BIBLE STORIES:After the music, we would share a short Bible story with the children.This had to be short and very interactive in order to keep the children’s attention.Often we had dramas and things the children can look at and touch.Sometimes we had poems or cadences we sang as we march.
CRAFTS:After the Bible story we would give the children a choice of coloring, a craft, or games.Usually the young children, 2-5 years old would color, the middle aged like the crafts and the older boys and some younger boys liked to play the games.At first we tried to put the children into specific activities but we found that new children often wanted to stay with siblings of different ages.Flexibility was a big part of this ministry.
Our crafts always related to the Bible stories to reinforce the message of God’s love.After a lesson on forgiveness we had the children write the name of a person or a situation on a heart and then nail it (face down) on a cross to symbolize giving the hurt to Christ and forgiving the offender.Later one of our team members reviewed them and gave us a general idea of the issues and we (as well as some of our Bible Studies and Sunday Evening Fellowships) prayed for the children and their ‘hurts.’
GAMES:Games had to be very flexible as we never knew who would want to play, what the weather would be like, or what space was available to us to use.Soccer was a big hit most days, but an animal sign game that moves fast was also popular.On special occasions we had games for all the children.
Working at the center was sometimes difficult due to the Director there. He tried to intimidate and bully us into bringing things to the center.Well, finally a scandal broke in the news about the Director and he was removed.We were excited to hear this as we had been praying for more than six (6) months for a new Director.One, that the children and teachers would not fear, and one who really cared about the children.
The first time we visited the center after the new Director was appointed, she called us to her office and after listening to all we had done there, told us that we could not work there anymore! She said that the law stated that only Orthodox church workers and ‘higher education’ people could work there.We knew this wasn’t a law and that it was a choice left up to the Director. We very gently pushed a little about this and she ended up calling her supervisor who confirmed her own decision to ban us.However, during the discussion she used some words that gave us hope that after all the attention died down that we might be able to get back in and work.
In December 2008 we attended a St. Nicholas programs by the children for different officials, at the request of the children.They swarmed around us and our team before, in between the 2 different presentations, and afterwards.One TV reporter picked up on our presence and interviewed us about our work at the orphanage.The new Director’s boss attended one of the presentations and she even came to talk to us.All of this continued to give us hope that we’d be working back at the orphanage soon.
After a few weeks passed with no word, in late January 2009, one of our workers went to visit a specific girl (children can have anyone visit them individually).They found out that all the children had run away during the holidays, were rounded back up, and most were sent to different orphanages.There were only 2 - 3 of the same children we knew still there.And the young girl advised that she was being adopted by a Ukrainian family.
We asked Vinnitsa City Social Services to inquire about us working at the orphanage in hopes of prompting the Director.Unfortunately, the Director was even more set on only Orthodox workers being allowed.Social Services was a bit shocked at her demeanor and refusal.
Although we were greatly disappointed, we know that every ministry has a time for it to end, and God always opens a new door when He closes an old door . . . and at the time this was happening, we had regrouped our efforts and had just started feeding the homeless.
SLAVIC was two (2) years old and had been at the center the majority of the summer (2008).His head is pointed and appears to be deformed since his birth.When he first arrived he was extremely withdrawn.He would come into our activity area, seek out an object and then sit in a corner away from the other children and obsessively play with the object.He would not respond to his name, directions, or other people.When you spoke to him and looked him in the eyes, he was distant and non-engaging.We never heard him speak.
After working with him over the summer, constantly trying to interact with him we have saw great progress.In mid September 2008, right before we left for our USA trip, we met outside for our time with the children.All the children ran down the hill to us and sat around the table under the gazebo.Little Slavic stood up the hill just staring.I (Laura) called out to him in Russian and when he heard his name his little face lit up with a big smile.He ran down the hill and into my arms.Throughout the lesson he would quietly mimic what was said, like ‘thank you’ or ‘please.’At the end of the lesson he helped Laura gather the ziplock bags of supplies and put them into the travel bag.
What a change a little bit of love and attention can bring ! ! !
ONE YOUNG 14 YEAR OLD GIRL came to the center during the winter of 2007/2008. She was tall and lanky but was very apparently pregnant, most likely 4 months or so.We asked the staff about her situation and learned that she had been abandoned by her mother and left with a step father who sexually abused her over and over.The staff did however adamantly deny she was pregnant.After being at the facility for 3 weeks she was gone for 2 weeks and then returned . . . .not pregnant.
Each of our team tried to find any little thing we had in common with the children so that we could relate to them and them to us.One of our team members did not have a biological father in her life, as this girl, and that was the common link between them. . . . not a strong link in our eyes but one that allowed this girl to open up and share her problems and hurts.A few weeks before she was moved to a permanent orphanage she accepted Christ, and the week before her transfer we brought her a Bible (at her request!).