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!

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