Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Holiday Season

I know, I know. Even for Ukraine where the Christmas season lasts until January 14th, a post about the holidays is long overdue.  The truth is that I had almost finished writing it just before our PT Training School session started two weeks ago, but I didn't manage to put on the finishing touches and post it. So now, rather than just scratch it altogether, I'll wrap it up. It's late, but hopefully still worth reading...

I enjoyed this season of celebrating our Savior's birth and welcoming the New Year and hope you did as well! Here are a few of the events of the season for us:

The exterior of the Agape Rehabilitation Complex was decorated "American-style" and it lit up the village:

In December, our ministry had the privilege of celebrating the baptisms of Vasya, Lida, and Yuroslava.  Vasya repented at camp this past summer and recently spent a month living at Agape, during which time he was baptized.  He lives in the village where the Fimiam Retreat Center is located (about 90 minutes from Lutsk), so we do not get to see him often.  But his spiritual growth is evident and we rejoiced to witness this step of obedience in his life. Please pray for him as he is the only believer in his family and he has a desire to be a witness in his home and village. 

Yuroslava (on the left) and Lida (on the right) are relatives of young people with disabilities who have been participants in our ministry for many years.  Yuroslava and her son, Bogdan, live in the same building where our first rehab center was located and Bogdan began rehab with us when he was around 2 years of age.  Over the years they have participated in more and more activities with our ministry and God graciously saved Yuroslava during this past year. What a blessing to reflect on the path God has taken this family on and how He has used various aspects of our ministry - from rehab to camps to crafts groups to Bible studies for moms - to plant and water seeds of the Gospel that eventually bore the fruit of repentance in Yuroslava's life!

Lida has been caring for her niece Ilona for several years now. Ilona had a brain tumor as a child and developed hormonal problems from the treatment that resulted in physical and mental disabilities. Her father left when she was young and her mother died several years ago, so Lida began caring for her. They have also participated in various aspects of our ministry for many years and during this past year God also graciously saved Lida.  What joy to witness these two women being baptized together!

Members of our ministry surrounding Yuraslava and Lida after their baptisms
For Sveta and I, Christmas Eve day was spent baking cookies and in the evening we took them to Agape to enjoy fellowship with our friends for a few hours.  

This year, for the first time, Ukrainian Protestant churches celebrated Christmas on December 25th! (Ukraine, along with Russia and some other former USSR countries, celebrates Christmas on January 7th traditionally.)Oh what fun for me! The sanctuary was packed for our Christmas service at Fimiam and we enjoyed "celebrating Christmas with the world" (in the words of our pastors).    

Christmas evening, Sveta and I invited our rehab family to dinner at our apartment.  Nothing fancy, but a good time of fellowship and food together outside of the work environment.  God has blessed us with these individuals not only as co-workers, but also as our brothers and sisters who we consider some of our closest friends! 

The final event of 2016 for our ministry was a Christmas/New Year's club meeting held on December 30 at the Agape Rehabilitation Complex.  Many former patients, several current or recent patients, and many other friends with disabilities attended.  We had fun together, ate together, played some games, and listened to the Word of God. 

with Lena

Our kitchen ladies - they have a great time together and serve us wonderful food too

Our rehab room turns into a large meeting hall for these events

The Agape Rehabilitation Complex closed for the week between New Year's and Ukrainian Christmas, so we enjoyed some down time.  The New Year brought COLD temps and several days of snow...which we have yet to see melt.  Here are some final pictures from around town during the holiday season:

Christmas morning walk to church

Winter wonderland in the park!

Lutsk city center

Dusk on a snow-covered morning

Happy New Year to all! 
May the Joy of the Lord be your strength in 2017!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Session TWO of the PT Training Center

The first class of students of the PT Training Program recently returned to the Agape Rehabilitation Complex for their second two-week session.  We rejoiced that they each passed an exam over the material from the first session (which is a requirement to continuing on in the program) and received a certificate of completion.  

Veeka - our OT student

Unfortunately, we lost a couple of students between the first and second sessions, but our soon-to-be Agape physician expressed a desire to listen so we gained a participant.  Of the six remaining students, four are training as physical therapists, one (Veeka) as an occupational therapist, and one (Natasha) as a speech therapist.  Since our program is focused on physical therapy,  Veeka and Natasha were given time for independent study after participating in the general lectures that had applicability in all three spheres.  

I am so thankful for these students!  They came each day with a desire to learn, an eagerness to participate and a willingness to forgive the mistakes we made in the teaching process.  They were patient when our village shut of electricity unexpectedly and we had to adjust our teaching plan and finish the day by flashlight. In addition to being able to maintain seriousness when needed, these students know how to laugh and make one another laugh, which made the long days of learning more enjoyable for all of us!

In this class are two students from other cities and we were excited to hear from them about their work since the first session.  Yura (the shorter man in the group picture above) is from Rivne and his church provided him with a room for rehab immediately after he returned home from the first session. He currently works alone and has five adult patients. He was SO excited to report what he has been doing, he kept me on my toes with questions throughout the session, and he repeatedly stated how valuable this training center is for him to continue learning and be better able to assist his patients. What a blessing and encouragement to my heart!  

Lena (in the orange jacket in the group picture above) is from Khmelnytskyi and her church has been providing physical rehabilitation for over a year.  Lena had no rehabilitation education or training prior to joining our program, but she has participated in camps for people with disabilities for many years, so she had already developed some skills in assisting people in wheelchairs.  Now she is also eager to learn and apply new knowledge and skills and she also comes with plenty of questions each day!

During this session we tackled some large topics such as gait, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, and posture.  There was an abundance of material to cover and the first week in particular was difficult for everyone.  But thankfully the students persevered and we saw them starting to learn and integrate the material following review and practice sessions.

Lectures are a necessary part of the program, of course...

But it's safe to say that we all most enjoy the times when we can be active, such as...

when learning the phases of the gait cycle...

Yes, our OT and ST students learned the phases of the gait cycle - why not?!


or when learning to assess standing posture...

or when practicing various skills that a person with a spinal cord injury might employ to move:

or when learning to take measurements to make recommendations for a wheelchair...

or when determining and then teaching one another how to stretch various muscles...

or when assessing our friends around Agape who use wheelchairs for proper fit and posture...

or when working with patients with spinal cord injuries...

We concluded the session with a written exam as well as a skills exam in which Sveta enjoyed playing the role of a patient.  

We rejoiced together that each student passed and then we had a time of prayer before departing. This class is now halfway through the program and will return in March for their third session.  We give thanks to God for how He is using each one of them as they use physical therapy to minister to people with disabilities in their cities!  Please pray for them to have wisdom and to recall what they have learned as they work with their patients and to have time and a desire to continuing studying and integrating the material presented thus far in the program.  

The second class of the PT Training Center begins their first session on January 16.  There are currently nine students enrolled, four local and five from other cities.  Three of them have been or currently are involved in our ministry, but we are not acquainted with the other six students. Although many of these students currently serve in ministries for people with disabilities, none of them have any education or work history in the physical therapy sphere. So please be in prayer for them as they continue studying the home material they previously received and throughout the session as they seek to understand and learn the material we present.      

Please also be in prayer for the teaching and translating aspects of this session.  My friend and fellow PT, Krista Burton, is coming from the US to participate and we are planning for Ira and Pasha (our therapists who are in the first class) to each teach one lecture and lead a small group during the skills session that follows.  Sveta has obligations to continue treating her rehab patients as well as traveling to another city for a continuing education course, so Tanja will be doing the bulk of the translating for this session.  Please pray for her to be able to recall the specific terminology of our profession.  And also please pray for her to remain healthy and for the physical and mental stamina she will need.  

I look forward to relating to you how God answers these and other prayer requests.  Thank you for standing with us in prayer!