Thursday, July 4, 2024

The Cost of Independence

While Americans celebrate the independence of our country today, Ukrainians continue the fight to retain their independence. The effects of this war are seen, heard and felt daily all across this country and the cost that war continues to require from the people of Ukraine is great... 

For all in Ukraine, THE COST is currently alterations of our daily lives due to hours of planned power outages. The power outages are necessary due to persistent Russian shelling of Ukrainian energy infrastructure resulting in an inadequate amount of power for the system. This month there are also planned take downs of partially functioning power stations for repairs, further limiting electricity nationwide. As a result, we all live without power up to 12-14 hours per day (in 2-4 hour increments). Thankfully, the next day's schedule is published late each evening, so we have some awareness of what to expect each day, but that does not eliminate the need to alter our lives and plans. Tasks such laundry, cooking, and bathing are not necessarily done when desired, but when power is available. Some houses and apartments are also without water when there is no electricity. Some have gas stoves for cooking, but many homes operate fully on electricity. definitely helps that it is summer because it is warm and also light late into the evening. If this continues into winter, however, it will be much more difficult to cope. 

PRAYER: Please pray for successful repairs of the energy system and protection of the power stations from further shelling. 

For some THE COST is constantly feeling the weight of uncertainty regarding army mobilization. A new law passed in May increasing the requirements for men aged 18-60 to update their information with the army and the penalties if they do not. By completing the process, however, they also increase their risk of being mobilized. Even men with legitimate reasons that previously exempted them from army service (certain disabilities or medical diagnoses, for example) have had great difficulty completing the process, basically being given the runaround. They all understand the difficulty and the risk, so it is very challenging time for men and families. By law, men have until July 16 to comply with the requirements of the new law. 

PRAYER: Please pray in particular for the men at Agape. First of all, pray for their hearts to have peace at a time filled with anxiety. Pray that they would continue to trust God's good plan for their lives. And pray, if it be the Lord's will, that they would not be mobilized by the army.

For some THE COST is financial and material. Ukrainians, as well as many people abroad, continue donating for the needs of the army and for civilians living in the de-occupied territories of Ukraine. Teams from Agape and from Fimiam Church make routine trips to the east of Ukraine to deliver aid. 

PRAYER: Please pray for continued financial provision for supplies and travel as well as safety for the men. 

For many THE COST is safety and sleep. Russian shelling in the night awakens people all across Ukraine to the sound of air alert sirens and explosions. Of course, the intensity and frequency vary based on location in Ukraine, but few are completely exempt. Although the air alert sirens can often be heard in Lutsk, we fall into the "not frequent" category for actual explosions. About 2 weeks ago, however, we were targeted and the visible and audible explosions in our night sky were Ukrainian air defense systems shooting down Russian drones. Praise the Lord the only damage was from falling debris, but it was a good reminder that we are never completely safe as long as Russia continues to attack this country. The picture below shows the missiles and drones launched at Ukraine that particular night. Lutsk is located in the upper left where the yellow lines converge. 

PRAYER: Please pray for God's protection day and night for Ukraine. Pray that air defense systems function properly and effectively to protect people, structures and cities. Pray for the provision of necessary weapons to continue this fight.

For too many THE COST is their lives or their health. This is the cost we witness most often at the Agape Rehabilitation Complex. We continually have soldiers and/or civilians injured in the war undergoing rehabilitation. Their injuries are often devastating and leave them with permanent disabilities. Here are just a few from the recent months...

Please follow these links to patient videos:

Of course, we also still have many patients undergoing rehabilitation at Agape who were not injured in the war. Our team has added 3 therapists over the past year, so we are now able to treat a larger number of patients consistently. 

PRAYER: Please pray for the patients undergoing rehabilitation. Pray that they will improve physically and meet their goals. Many of our patients are young and middle-aged men and their injuries have significantly altered their lives, how they relate to others and their ability to provide for their families. Please pray that while providing physical rehabilitation, we can also be a source of emotional and spiritual support.

I have described only a few of the costs of war in Ukraine. The price for freedom is high and it is ongoing in Ukraine. Please continue to pray for Ukraine and Ukrainians. 

If you have a desire to help support the Agape Rehabilitation Complex, please visit our website:

Pray for victory to come soon to this beautiful country! 

Saturday, February 24, 2024

February 24

Today marks the two-year anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and this month marks the ten-year anniversary of the Russian annexation of Crimea and the beginning of fighting in the east. While I have my own thoughts regarding this day, I prefer instead to share the words of one of our local pastors regarding this anniversary: 

Probably every resident of Ukraine will forever remember the morning of February 24, 2022, which divided our lives into before and after.

We did not realize at the time how well we lived without knowing what blackout, javelin, PTSD, bomb shelter, air raid sirens, checkpoints, displaced persons, etc. are. We knew little about such cities as Bucha, Chornobayivka, Izyum, Bakhmut, Avdiivka. We did not know what the "brotherly people" and army of "liberators" were capable of in order to de-Nazify us, as a result of which many Ukrainians would die. We did not know how many traitors, greedy people, bribers and corrupt people there are in our country.

At the same time, we did not know that we could face a much larger country and army. We did not know that we have such a strong army, such self-confident doctors, such active volunteers and such self-sacrificing people. We did not know that we could donate and serve so much. Of course, it would be better if we never knew all this, but now we know that we can be strong, indomitable and united. Moreover, the whole world now knows about all this and about Ukraine.

We still don't know when and how the war will end, we don't know when peace will come and what the future will be, we still have many open questions, but we know the One who knows everything and will one day put everything in its place. We know for sure that one day Putin and his cronies will die, and even if they don't stand before the Hague Tribunal, they will definitely stand before the righteous judgment of God. We know that one day the criminals will be punished and the memory of February 24 will be forever erased from our memory. We know that one day all the weapons on earth will disappear, there will be no sound of air raids or missile explosions, no more pain, tears and death, because the long-awaited eternal peace will come over the whole earth. This day will surely come and it will be even more glorious than the victory of Ukraine in this war, which, we know, will surely come. And until that day, we continue to strengthen our hearts with the words of this psalm: "I will lie down in peace and sleep, for You, Lord, are the only one who makes me live safely."

Today, Ukrainian churches are united in a day of national fasting and prayer for God's protection, victory and peace in Ukraine. If you would like to pray with us, below are some specific ways to pray that we received from our pastor. 

Pray for:

• Ending the war with the victory of Ukraine and the establishment of a just peace.

• Saving the lives and health of our defenders and the civilian population of Ukraine.

• Healing and rehabilitation of wounded Ukrainian soldiers.

• Strengthening the spirit and protecting the souls of our defenders.

• Wisdom for the government leadership and military commanders of Ukraine in managing and making effective decisions.

• Conversion of Ukrainians to God and the spread of God's light in all spheres of social life.

• Restoration of destroyed cities and villages, in particular, the homes of Ukrainians and critical infrastructure facilities.

• Development of the economy, the flow of investments into the country, the emergence of new opportunities for the work of small and medium-sized businesses.

• Healing the wounded bodies and souls of Ukrainians who have suffered in this war. Gaining hope in the Lord for further life.

• Release of Ukrainian prisoners from Russian captivity - both servicemen and civilians.

• Return to their homeland of Ukrainians who were forced to go abroad. Creating favorable conditions for this. Reuniting families separated by war.

This Christian young man from a town just outside Lutsk was killed in the fighting in Avdiivka just two weeks ago. A sad, fresh reminder of the cost of this ongoing war. 

Thank you for standing with Ukraine! 

Saturday, January 13, 2024

What is it like?

The changing of years is always a good time for personal reflection and analysis of the previous year and planning for the coming year. While I’m not going to use this space to share my personal conclusions regarding 2023 and plans for 2024, I do want to dedicate this post to writing a bit more detail of my impressions of living in Ukraine during a war. I find some of my thoughts, emotions and reactions repeating themselves, others have intensified, and yet others have diminished or disappeared. The war has continued for nearly two years now. While I understand why it is not ongoing front and center news all over the world, we in Ukraine are not allowed or able to forget about it. To varying extents, depending on our location and activities, we daily live with the reality of war. So what does that look and feel? Here are just a few of the ways I could answer that question:  

WAR in Ukraine looks like being awakened multiple times in the night to air alert sirens. First they go off to alert you of the threat of attack. Then later they go off to cancel the alert. Then another threat is detected and they go off again. And so the cycle goes all night. And you know that if they are going off in Lutsk, they are most likely going off everywhere and so all of Ukraine is under attack. And when you hear them multiple times in one night, you are not surprised (you expect it, in fact) to read the news in the morning of multiple cities hit and civilians targeted and killed. Just recently, 158 cruise missiles and drones were launched at Ukraine - in one night! 

WAR in Ukraine means simultaneously feeling sorrow and thankfulness when you read the morning news. Because along with seeing the high number of missiles and drones launched at Ukraine in the night, you also note that a high percentage of them that were shot down by our air defense systems. You are thankful that our men have the weapons, skills, desire, diligence and attentiveness to protect Ukrainians day and night. 

WAR in Ukraine means that as you walk to work surrounded by fresh snow all around, you do not fully enjoy the beauty as you once did. Instead, you feel a measure of guilt because in a few minutes you will trade the bitterly cold, single digit temperatures for a warm building while our soldiers sit, stand, and sleep in this weather day after day while defending this nation. You express gratitude to God for their sacrifice and pray they have adequate warmth, food and clothing.   

WAR in Ukraine looks like hearing the air alert sirens during the day followed by the groan of a coworker whose child is at preschool or school. Why? Because they know their child will now spend 30 hour...maybe even several hours down in the cold basement bomb shelter instead of in the warm classroom learning or playing.

WAR in Ukraine means cheering when you hear Ukrainian fighter jets fly over head. As you watch them through the window your heart cheers and you mutter words like, “Go get ‘em boys! Thank you for defending our skies!” And then you are really excited when you observe that recently there began to be not just one, but two fighter jets regularly flying over Lutsk! Bring on the F16s!

WAR in Ukraine feels like sorrow and anger when a friend of a friend is killed while defending Ukraine. You see his picture on the internet. No, you didn’t know him, but your friend did, so it hits closer to home. He was only 24, with a wife and little girl. Your heart breaks for that family, for that little girl who will now grow up without her father. And you pray for God’s peace to fill them. And you are reminded again that they are just one of many. In your heart you feel sorrow and anger simultaneously. This war does not have to be!! These men, young and old, don’t have to die this way, leaving behind wives, children, parents, siblings, friends and their country. 

WAR in Ukraine is minor inconveniences and sober reminders. You make a trip across town just to go to one particular store. But as you are driving, the air alert sirens go off, meaning that the store is closed when you arrive. You get back in your car, trying to decide whether to risk that the cancellation signal will soon be heard and the store will reopen or to just turn right around and leave. And while you ponder what to do, you hear commotion and look up to witness the procession of vehicles escorting the body of yet another soldier killed in the war to the cemetery. And you are reminded again that this war is taking the lives of so many in Ukraine. 

WAR in Ukraine feels like rejoicing when over 200 Ukrainian prisoners of war return home. The pictures of them standing near the dark draped in Ukrainian flags, hugging and singing the national anthem capture your attention. And then, when you hear that among them are 48 soldiers who had been missing in action, you feel a glimmer of hope that your coworker’s son, who was declared MIA one year ago, will be among them. Unfortunately, no such news comes. 

WAR in Ukraine sounds like the fellowship portion of weekly home groups including a small or large portion of the conversation about the war. We ask about one ladies’ brother who has long been fighting on the front line. We discuss pending laws regarding mobilization. Someone comments on the large numbers of wounded soldiers recently brought to our hospital. We talk about the recent attacks and ask about the family members and friends still living in the cities from which members of our group fled at the beginning of the war. And on and on... While war itself is not normal, the topic of war has become normal and natural. It cannot and should not be avoided because it is the reality of everyday life in Ukraine. 

WAR in Ukraine means that you now have friends scattered all over the globe - Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, the US. Some of them you haven't seen for two years and some of them you get rare opportunities to see. They are people you were close to before the war. You saw them nearly every day. You worked together, shared an office with them, and frequently shared life together outside of work. So when that rare opportunity comes to see them in person you stay up late talking and laughing, discussing the future and wondering together when they might live in Ukraine and work together with you again. It's truly sad how much separation of families and friends has been brought by the war. I am certain not on person in Ukraine is exempt from experiencing the pains of separation on some level!    

Thankful for a few days with the dear friends not currently living in Ukraine (above and below)

WAR in Ukraine means going to work week after week and month after month at the Agape Rehabilitation Complex and being reminded of the vast numbers of Ukrainian men wounded - often quite severely wounded - in this war. These men and their families will never be the same. Many will spend the rest of their lives in a wheelchair. Some learn to walk again, but not without great difficulty. Many need specialized equipment or prosthetics or orthotics. The mechanism of injury for most is an explosion, so their injuries are often extensive. They go through months of rehabilitation at various centers in Ukraine and sometimes abroad. It can be discouraging when you see how many applications Agape alone receives knowing it is only a small portion of all the wounded soldiers. But, we are thankful we get to help some of them on their path to recovery. 

Please use this link to watch a video about Denis, one of the Ukrainian soldiers who underwent rehabilitation at the Agape Rehabilitation Complex:

If you would like to financially support the Agape Rehabilitation Complex as we continue providing rehabilitation for soldiers and civilians, delivering humanitarian aid to the de-occupied territories of Ukraine and constructing an bomb shelter/ storage center to align with new Ukrainian laws, please go to: 

And please, continue to pray for Ukraine and the Agape Rehabilitation Complex. We continue to need support and prayer! The war rages on and lives are at stake. 

Our hope is in God as we pray for victory for Ukraine in 2024! 

Monday, October 23, 2023

How Long, O Lord?

I know I am not the only one asking "How long, O Lord?" It only takes a quick glance at the news to see massive suffering all around. There are wars, floods, earthquakes and wildfires snuffing out and drastically altering tens of thousands of lives, sometimes in the span of just a few minutes. Beyond the headline news is still more suffering occurring in countless lives and countries that simply does not reach our eyes and ears. In Ukraine, we continue to be hit daily with news that is just devastating. God is in control - I do know and believe that - and yet my heart cries out for Him to shower this nation and people with mercy and an end to this war and all the death and devastation it brings. 

At the Agape Rehabilitation Complex, we continue rehabilitation, the construction of the Resource Center, and the delivery of humanitarian aid to the de-occupied areas around Kherson. We seek to be faithful in the continuation of these tasks and we each have our role to play.  

First, I would like to share feedback that we received from a recent patient. Receiving her comments was unexpected for us and also a great encouragement, particularly for her therapists. Tetyana is a 52-year-old female who acquired a spinal cord injury two years ago and arrived at Agape in a depressed state. While we all witnessed her progress during rehab, none of us understood the full impact on her life until she wrote back upon returning home. Here are her words: 

"A MIRACLE happened to me! I was depressed for two years. And now I feel happy every day! My trip to Agape inspired this. Two months ago, I sabotaged my first trip with a broken leg. As soon as the cast was removed, my daughter asked me if I really wanted to go to rehab. She always said, "I'm ready to help, but if you don't take responsibility for your life, I'm powerless to do it for you." I decided to go.

It was three wonderful weeks. Above all, I wanted to learn how to transfer to a wheelchair without help. Weak muscles did not allow me to do it skillfully. But when my therapists gave me a special board for transfers, I felt like a hero. I even learned how to get into a car.

I also learned to self-catheterize. In my condition, this is a vital procedure. You can't imagine how happy I was that I didn't have to call someone for help all the time. And the Agape employees rejoiced with me.

I returned home with the feeling that I will be able to overcome my fears and insecurities. And on the first day after my arrival, I already began making adjustments for my independence. I bought a light fixture that I can turn on from bed with a remote. We rearranged the furniture so that it would be more convenient for me to move around the apartment in a wheelchair.

The next day, for the first time since my injury, I completed my morning routine on my own, transferred to the wheelchair, made tea, set the table and invited my daughter to breakfast. I even washed the dishes.

Recently, the roles have shifted in our family. My daughter took care of me for a long time. And now everything has fallen into its rightful place. I am a real, loving mother! I cook her favorite dishes, which she missed so much. I support her and make her happy with her achievements.

I believe that my good mood, which I ignited in Agape, will stay with me forever!

I thank God that he did not leave me and again gave me a thirst for life!"

When we provide rehabilitation for our patients, we have the privilege to give them increased independence, hope, and life. And we get to share the love of Christ with them as well. What a joy! 

Below are a few recent pictures from rehabilitation. Among our current patients are five soldiers (all with spinal cord injuries) and one civilian wounded in the war. 

Men from Agape continue to make 2-3 trips per month to deliver humanitarian aid to the Kherson region. They have made a total of 17 trips in 2023. The area also experienced flooding after the dam explosion earlier this summer and they are still under near constant shelling. Most of the villages continue to be without water and electricity and the residents depend on the aid delivered by volunteers. Many of the residents are elderly and/or have a disability and they are very grateful for the help of volunteers such as our men from Agape.

Please pray for the safety of the volunteers who deliver humanitarian aid. It is not without risk that they make these trips. 

In the flooding that followed the dam explosion, rescuers were welcomed by all.

Sasha really touched the hearts of our volunteers. He is wearing, as he apparently does every day, tactical gloves given to him by his dad when he departed to fight in the war. Sasha says he plans to wear them until his dad returns home. We have prayed at Agape that indeed his dad does come home safe and alive!

Construction of the Resource Center continues on the territory of the Agape Rehabilitation Complex. Each time the builders complete another floor, we hold our employee meeting for that week on the construction site for prayer. In the picture below, we are standing on the ground floor and below us is the bomb shelter. The ground floor will be used to store large equipment, such as electric and standard wheelchairs, hospital beds, etc. This floor is now also complete and the second and final above-ground floor is being built. It will be used for storage of smaller items, such as diapers, non-perishable food items, hygiene products, etc. The builders say they can get the roof on before winter if there are adequate finances to purchase the needed materials.

In more personal news, I spent a week this summer in the village helping with a children's camp. I ended up hanging out all week with the smallest kiddos, ranging from 3-6 years old. As you can see, they were super cute and we had lot of fun together! 

And to wrap up the summer we took a week off to head to the Carpathian Mountains! It was a blessed time of hiking, relaxing, and just simply getting away from day to day life. The beauty of the mountains never gets old for me!

None of us knows what tomorrow holds, no matter where we live. I am thankful for the privilege to be in Ukraine at this time and for the God-given opportunities to trust His plan both for my life and for the people and nation of Ukraine.