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Building Relationships

 

Relationships are critical in any work, but especially in Ukraine.   Heart of Ukraine Ministries has developed a wide base of relationships with the following:   

  • Vinnitsa City Government
  • Region and Village Governments
  • Local Churches
  • Business Owners
  • Individuals
  • Homeless & Needy
  • Addicts and Their Families

VINNITSA CITY GOVERNMENT (VCG):  
Every Monday we meet with VCG representatives for over two (2) years; now it's about once a month or as needed.  We have had meetings several departments and met with the Mayor of Vinnitsa in August 2008. 

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.

 

Later we met Sveta who is the Director of Social Services, along with many of her staff.  Eugene is her Deputy and has been an incredible help to us in getting our Ukraine, Vinnitsa Oblast, Charity and Non-profit Organization established; ‘Vinnitsa – Heart of Ukraine.’  Eugene speaks English very well and helps us with translation. Sveta is learning English and loves to practice with Laura while Laura practices Russian with her.

 

We have met with Uri who is the Director of Human Rights on the City Council and he set up a meeting with Andre R. the Deputy Mayor – Human Services.  One of our first meetings with these men was a news conference where TV stations, newspapers, and magazine media were present.  We did not know it was a media event but thankfully we wore our suits and were prepared.  We found out later that we were on TV two different times, and people heard us on the radio.

 

In August 2008, we had our first meeting with Mayor Vladimir Grossman.  Since then we have met with a wide variety of staff to include the First Deputy Mayor, the Human Services Director, the Public Health Director, as well as many others.   

  

REGION & VILLAGE GOVERNMENTS:

In addition to the Vinnitsa City Government, Heart of Ukraine Ministries has established relationships with the Kaleenivka Region (like a county):

·         Through an interesting situation we came into contact with the Chief of Police and Passport Control and they were extremely helpful. 

·         The Vinnitsa City Social Services Director sits on an Oblast Council and now is also responsible for the Kaleenivka Region regarding Social Services. She has shared information about us and our work with the Director of Social Services in the region who is interested in meeting with us.  

·         Additionally, we had a great relationship with the Director of Land Management who has assisted us in numerous ways, including lending us land for additional garden space, as well as providing some seeds. In August 2010 we learned he had been replaced and was now working only in the town of Kaleenivka.  We are waiting to meet his replacement and hope to have the same kind of relationship.

 

In the village of Homootenci where David’s Center is, we have a wonderful working relationship with the Mayor, Oxana Petrovna.  We and clients from David’s House often participate in community service type projects.  She is extremely pleased with the ‘Good Neighbor’ projects David’s House has initiated (i.e., free rides, transporting equipment or furniture in the van, food packets given to veterans on Veteran’s Day, helping the elderly with home projects, etc…).   We also have a good relationship with the Police Inspector of the village and keep him informed on any client who stays with us more than a month. 

 

LOCAL CHURCHES:  
Since arriving in Ukraine at the end of July 2007, we’ve focused on developing good working relationships with a variety of Christian churches.   We have spoken or preached at numerous churches in the city of Vinnitsa, as well as villages and towns within the Vinnitsa Oblast (like a state).   

 

Unfortunately keeping up these relationships is very tricky as there is great suspicion between denominations and some Pastors even forbid their members to even talk to members of other churches and threaten excommunication if they do.  Initially when we explained and showed that we were non-denominational we were rejected as disobedient to the church and dangerous, however, time has shown our steadfast holding to God’s Word and that we can work with other denominations without being controlled by them.    

 

Unfortunately keeping up these relationships is very tricky as there is great suspicion between denominations and some Pastors even forbid their members to even talk to members of other churches and threaten excommunication if they do.  Initially when we explained and showed that we were non-denominational we were rejected as disobedient to the church and dangerous, however, time has shown our steadfast holding to God’s Word and that we can work with other denominations without being controlled by them. 

 

BUSINESS OWNERS:  
A number of relationships have been developed with business owners who have the desire to be a part of an outreach to the homeless and addicted.  A number of our location donations come through these businesses, especially clothing donations from Second Hand Stores.

 

INDIVIDUALS:  
God has brought into our path a number of individuals who have specific talents, contacts, or networks of resources.  One such woman is a friend’s mother.  She has a wonderful set of contacts with wholesalers and has been able to get us bulk amounts of rice, pasta, buckwheat and other grains, plastic bags, etc….. that we use in feeding the homeless and poor.  We are constantly amazed at how God lays things out for us sometimes !

 

Other people have helped with a variety of situations, like a lawyer hearing about our registration problems and assisting us free of charge; or translators who donate their time over and over again; or an accountant who has helped us understand the reports for our non-profit charity organization.

 

HOMELESS & NEEDY:   
For the first 14 months we lived in Ukraine we watched and monitored the homeless in the area.  We said ‘hello’ numerous times and most often got a suspicious stare back.  Because of the communistic background, the homeless here are twice as suspicious as those we’ve worked with in the USA.  

 

Finally God provided us with a woman who had developed a long standing and trusting relationship with a few homeless and needy people.  After meeting with her, she eagerly agreed to join us in this ministry and introduced us to those in need.  When introduced we asked if they would be willing to let us help them and they agreed.  

 

In January 2009 we began feeding a number of homeless and very poor people, along with one invalid; initially, there were only six (6) but soon we were up to 26.  For many months, before we had a van, we delivered the food on foot and they commented to us about how they would see us coming on foot with the heavy bags of food and how strong we must be.  They saw our dedication to our calling to help them.  As our reputation spread, more homeless began to trust us and allow us to help them.  Soon we picked another site to feed at as well.  By the winter of 2010-2011 we were feeding over 200 meals a week at different sites. 

 

One day one of the homeless, Larisa, related to us about a church group that descended upon their homeless camp near the lake like an invading army.  They didn’t introduce themselves before hand and didn’t ask if they could help the people.  They just came in uninvited and started handing out toiletry items, telling the people that they needed to cut their nails and get cleaned up.  Needless to say the homeless were highly offended and many refused the toiletry items.   They were also offended that someone would offer them toiletry items when what they need is food.   The homeless did not feel like this group really cared about them but were just doing their ‘work’ for the Lord.  It was disappointing to hear about.

 

One interesting point of our ministry is that we do not say one word about God or Jesus to the people we interact with unless they initiate the conversation, and then we are very reserved.  We believe strongly that they must see God in our actions before they will even listen to anything we say.  These people lead a hard life and they know when someone really cares and when they don’t, and they have been talked at so many times and told what they should believe and do.

 

We also strongly believe that the Holy Spirit will draw them in when it’s in God’s timing.  When you push or pressure someone, many times they make a decision for Christ that isn’t real and it creates all sorts of problems.  Relational evangelism is slower but it is more effective in the long run as lives are truly changed through Christ.  Excitingly, we’ve had a few questions . . . . .like ‘why do people cross themselves before they pray?  I think you should just talk to God.’  God is opening hearts!  

 

Interestingly, a large number of clients who have lived at David’s House came through this feeding program.  What’s awesome to see is our clients feeding the homeless and sharing with them how they were once in their shoes and how their lives have changed.

 

ADDICTS & THEIR FAMILIES:  
God continues to bring people to us that are hurting due to addictions.  We often counsel mothers and fathers, spouses, and the addicts themselves.  We’ve helped several get into rehabilitation centers (before we had ours, and even now if they decide they don’t want our center) and have visited with them during their program there.  (See February 2009 Heart Beat Newsletter for personal stories). 

 

Due to the history here, people are extremely concerned with their problems being kept confidential.  We are quickly becoming known for keeping confidences . . . . and this trust is crucial to our effectiveness here. 

 

 

 
 
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