On the Ukrainian calendar, spring officially begins on March 1st and people immediately declare "Spring is here!" while still walking around in winter coats, hats, and boots because they are still very much necessary. Spring makes a very gradual entrance here and because walking is our primary mode of transportation, I've had a front row seat to God's work in creation to bring life to a world that appeared lifeless.
I take the same 10 minute walk to work every day, past the same stores and same rows of trees, across the same streets, and cutting through the same preschool to arrive at the rehab center. For about 6 months, the view on this walk was of trees stripped of their leaves, barren vegetable gardens next to grey apartment buildings, and lifeless-appearing bushes and flower gardens. When there was fresh snow, it was a beautiful sight, but when the snow was gone our surroundings were a general shade of grey-brown. In addition, winter daylight hours are short here (8-8.5 hours is about the maximum in the dead of winter) and even when it is daylight, we have few sunny days in our region of Ukraine in the winter. I found myself eagerly anticipating the arrival of warm, sunny days, blue skies, the growth of trees, and the blossoming of flowers.
So as I walked to work over the past month or so, I was aware of even small changes that gave evidence that spring was slowly emerging. First, life started to spring up in the bushes that line my walk through the preschool. When I first noticed the tiny buds on the branches, I found myself wondering, "How do even they know it's time?" Yes it was March, but our daytime highs at that point were still in the 30s or low 40s. There was no indication to me that winter was really ready to give way to spring. But God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, was showing His handiwork even in these bushes. They were budding according to His design and timing.
Soon after, I noticed small green sprouts popping up through the ground all around. Those green sprouts have grown and grown for several weeks and now our world is starting to gain color. Yellow daffodils emerged first and they will soon be joined by my favorite flowers, the red tulips, which will last for several weeks.
Last week the temperature finally topped 60 degrees, winter coats could be officially put in the back of the closet to wait for next year, and central heating was turned off. The sun appears more frequently now, so we got to pull out our sunglasses. And we are finishing one of the best weeks of spring in which all of the cherry trees are in bloom with their white, fragrant blossoms. Spring has definitely arrived and I am thankful now that walking is my primary mode of transportation because it has allowed me to enjoy and marvel at so many of the details of God's intricate work in creation along my daily path. What an amazing Creator!
We've had several fun events since my last blog post. We had the opportunity to attend another seminar at the Fimiam Retreat Center at the end of February. God blessed us with a few sunny afternoon hours, so we took friends, sleeping bags, and a hammock into the nearby forest and relaxed for about an hour. It got a bit chilly but we enjoyed it!
At the end of March, Vadim prompted our rehab team to organize a steak dinner because he said it was the best time of year to buy good meat. Vanya brought a small grill and we all stayed at the center after work to enjoy a time of food and fellowship together. Alla (our former therapist who is now in the final weeks of her pregnancy) and Katya (Vanya's wife who also formerly worked with us) both happened to stop by that afternoon and agreed to stay for dinner. So God really blessed us by orchestrating our whole team to be together for a few hours.
|Since eating steak is more American than Ukrainian, I was declared to be the "steak grilling expert" before we started. But I was no expert when it came to cooking on this apparatus, so thankfully Vadim took over.|
This past weekend the weather truly warmed up and we were able to spend a relaxing afternoon at a nearby Christian campground. Lena, our friend and neighbor, drove us all in her car and we again took our hammocks. It was a rejuvenating time to be out in God's nature, enjoying reading, rest and fellowship.
|Our spot is ready!|
In rehab news, we have many new faces...and a few familiar faces. Several patients have been discharged recently and new patients always seem to be waiting to fill their places. We have been able to keep the adult waiting list fairly short, but the waiting list of children is growing and growing. Here are some of our youngest patients at this time:
|Timur and Vanya at work on the piano|
|Maxim learning to walk up the stairs|
Little Daniel recently started coming to our center. He has cerebral palsy and is less than a year old. He's super cute and sweet, but he has many physical deficits. Please pray for his progress and for Sveta as she ministers to him and his family during rehab.
|Anna-Maria and Stasik|
And here are some of our adult patients:
Pavlo (below) had a stroke last year and has made more progress than we first anticipated. His rehab concluded at the end of March and he is now able to take care of himself in his own apartment. Please pray he will accept invitations to come to church and other activities to have more opportunities to hear the Gospel.
Please pray for Sveta as she works with Volodimir. He also had a stroke and has significant physical and cognitive deficits. His wife, Alla, is at every session to assist and encourage, but he presents a great challenge to both Sveta and Alla in his attitude and motivation. Please pray for them to have patience and wisdom, as well as for Volodimir's progress.
Ira is also currently working with several patients who have had strokes. Unfortunately, people often come to us several months after their stroke and so they have already developed poor patterns in their mobility that are very difficult to correct. This is true of Petro, but Ira is working diligently to maximize his rehabilitation progress.
Tamara also had a stroke and is making good progress in rehab. She recently spent a week in the hospital and was excited to be discharged and get back to work in our center. When the family member of a prospective patient came to inquire about rehab last week, Tamara was marketing for our center and encouraging this person to convince their loved one to come, saying "they really help people." Please join us in praying for Tamara's physical improvement and for God to open her heart to the truth of the Gospel.
Anatoly is a kind, motivated man who, in addition to his physical deficits, is unable to speak due to his stroke. Sveta works with him on all of his challenges, but since he also started rehab several months after his stroke his progress has been slow.
I mentioned Andri in a post last fall. He had a massive head injury due to an aneurysm last spring. When Andri started rehab last summer, he didn't say a word, couldn't sit up, and made no facial expressions. We are so pleased with the progress he continues to make. He is now walking, repeating words, and smiling and laughing (as you can see in the photo below). It is an ongoing encouragement for Ira to see his progress with rehab, which she has been fully in charge of since last September.
In conclusion, please be in prayer with us for:
- The Agape House opening, scheduled for Saturday, June 25th. Supporters from around the world are invited to celebrate with us. Local civil leaders will also be in attendance. The construction appears to be on schedule, but we are now praying for the road to be completed. Sergiy Bolchuk, our leader, says they need to start by the end of April to finish in time and they are still seeking the necessary funds for building the road.
- The PT Training Center is scheduled to host the first session of our first class August 22-September 2. Five members of this class have already been identified and the 6th member will be determined soon. Just this past weekend we completed and emailed the preparatory material that students must learn before their arrival. Please pray for their studies and for us as we continue to prepare the material that will be taught during the session.
- Zoryana is a member of our team in the ministry for people with disabilities. She and her husband, Maxim, lead the program at summer camp and clubs for adults with disabilities. She is going to have surgery this Friday in Kiev to remove a portion of her thyroid due to a mass. Please pray for her and for this family. Pray for the surgery and the biopsy results. Pray that God will use this situation for His glory in and through her life and will use her as a testimony to people with disabilities and her unbelieving family members.
Thank you for standing with us in prayer!