Thursday, February 25, 2021

Winter News

The melting snow, sunny days, and temps moving above freezing have us believing that winter may soon be on its way out! So I should catch you up on some of our activities since the New Year. In January, we completed the 3rd session for the current group of students of the PT Training Center. 

We were privileged to have Annie, an occupational therapist that lives in Uzhgorod, join us for the second week of teaching. We were grateful that she was willing and able to participate and that this group of students could learn about occupational therapy from an actual OT. Following the session, Nikita (the tallest guy in the pic) joined our rehab team. He is currently training for several months with Pasha before he begins working independently as a PT. We are thankful that our team is growing and, therefore, the number of patients that can receive rehab at any given time is also increasing. The plan is for this group of students to return for their final session in mid-April. 

On a fun, personal note, a few of us were able to get away to the mountains to ski for a few days at the end of January. We had a great time and enjoyed the beauty of the snowy mountains!

We returned to a snow-covered Lutsk and the month of February has held many very cold, snowy days. We got more snow over a few days than I think I've ever seen except in the mountains. It will definitely take a while to melt the large piles of snow everywhere. We enjoyed walks by the river and evenings by the fire during this time!

 Taken from the balcony of our office at Agape

                                       The Agape dog has found his new favorite lookout point

                                  We definitely got a workout clearing the driveway for our car!

Lutsk city center

With the growth of the rehab team, the current building at Agape is rapidly becoming too small to accommodate both rehab patients and temporary residents. So plans are actively moving forward to begin construction of a separate residential building on the property that will house 8-10 people with disabilities. This will allow the main building to be devoted to the housing of rehab patients, which will allow us to invite more people for rehab as we have the therapists to provide them with services. Please join us in praying for the planning, construction process, and necessary finances to begin and complete this next phase at Agape. 

That's the quick update from here. We are thankful for the Lord's provision, protection, and grace in our lives these first months of 2021 and look forward to what lies ahead for Agape and the work here in the months ahead. 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

2020 is a wrap!

I join all of you in acknowledging that 2020 was a strange year that presented unique challenges. We here in Ukraine, and specifically at the Agape Rehabilitation Complex, were also challenged in new ways and yet we also continued to witness the faithfulness and goodness of God. 

Due to the pandemic, Agape closed for nearly 3 months in the spring and another 2 weeks in November. Despite these closures, we were still able to provide inpatient rehabilitation for over 130 people, conduct over 60 one-time evaluations, complete two sessions of the PT Training Center and provide temporary residency for another 20-30 people with disabilities. Our work system has been altered more than once, but God has protected, provided, and sustained and for that we are so grateful! 

Here is a brief year-in-review of the work at Agape in photos:

PT Training Center sessions...


I recently had to function as an OT for a few weeks when this patient's OT got sick. And then I simultaneously became his PT when one of his PTs also got sick. Craziness - but he was such a fun patient!

Beautification of Agape with a new outdoor lighting system...

The pictures do not adequately portray the beauty and light that Agape now shines into our village - it truly is a beautiful sight! But those of us who get to work at Agape seek to shine a much greater Light, one that has potential to reach far beyond our village to all of Ukraine - the Light of Christ. Let me share a couple of the ways I have witnessed this Light being shone into the lives of people with disabilities and their families members over the past year. 

One-on-one conversations: When our therapists spend 1-2 hours daily with a patient for 3, 4, and even up 6 weeks, relationships are developed and conversations about many topics inevitably take place. The opportunity to share truths from Scripture often come up naturally in the course of conversations. Not long ago, Katya shared her testimony at church about how Christians intentionally built relationships with her to share the Gospel with her, leading to her eventual repented. Near the end of her testimony, she talked about her work as a PT at Agape and the opportunities it provides for evangelism. One comment particularly stuck with me: she said she doesn't have to go out looking for people to share the gospel with because they come to her from all over Ukraine and are waiting for her to come to work every day. That is so true! The people who come for rehab (sometimes also accompanied by a member of their family) are hurting and in desperate need of hope. They are seeking physical restoration, but over the course of rehabilitation we also have the chance to share with them what their souls need - Christ! And our therapists are doing just that...

A few weeks ago, I was working with my patient on the mat next to another PT and his patient. They immediately engaged in a conversation about God and this conversation lasted the entire 50-minute session and even continued for another 20-30 minutes afterward (it was the last hour of the day). The patient never even transferred out of his wheelchair or began any physical rehabilitation. But he was given spiritual truth for his soul, which is eternally more valuable than any rehabilitation. 

Bibles: Since Agape opened, we have sought to give a Bible or New Testament to each patient on their day of discharge. One of the therapists writes a note in the front and presents it to them along with encouragement to read it. Obviously, we do not know how many people actually read them, but we recently heard a story that encouraged us all. Mykola was a patient at our center this fall who came to us straight from the hospital following a spinal cord injury. He had also been an alcoholic and the resulting memory impairments meant that he retained little to nothing from day to day of the new skills he was taught during his rehab sessions. But he did make some progress over the time he was with us and on the day of his discharge he too received a Bible. His wife called this past week to tell us that he was hospitalised about a week after leaving our facility. Every day, when his wife or daughter visited him in the hospital, they read the Bible to him. Mykola heard Scripture daily for about a month before he died and his wife has continued to read the Bible at home and found it to be encouraging! We don't know the state of their souls, but we rejoice that we do know this: 

"For the word of God Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

May God open the eyes of people as they read His Word and may He grant them repentance and eternal life!

And so, I look back at 2020 with gratitude for the challenges and the blessings God brought our way!  And I look forward to 2021 with great anticipation for how God will continue to use Agape and the godly men and women who work there to shine the Light of Christ into the lives of people with disabilities and to then watch that Light spread out from our village to all of Ukraine as patients return home having heard the Gospel and now carrying it in their hands!  

If anyone is interesting in financially supporting the work at Agape on a one-time or on-going basis, we now have a non-profit organization in the US, Agape Ukraine, Inc, that can receive tax-deductible donations. Please feel free to contact me at for further information. We would be extremely grateful for your support!

Please be in prayer for Agape as we resume work on January 11 after being closed for the holidays. We will immediately be conducting the 3rd session for the current class of PT Training Center students, as well as resuming rehabilitation. Please continue to pray for protection for both employees and patients and wisdom for the best ways to continue our work. 

Happy New Year and may God abundantly bless you all in 2021! 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Another session completed!

The fourth class of the PT Training Center returned to Agape on August 31 for their second session. As usual, the session began with a test over the material from the previous session. A few students needed two attempts, but eventually everyone passed, earning a certificate of completion for the first session. 

Between students, temporary residents, and rehab patients, Agape was full to the brim for these two weeks! Since spinal cord injury was a big topic for us this session, it was extremely helpful to have so many residents currently at Agape with spinal cord injuries. Another plus for the students was to have multiple members of our rehab team (Alina, Katya, Veeka, and Pasha) participate in teaching. All of them are former students of our program and I really enjoy seeing them now teaching other Ukrainians!

We covered many topics and learned many new skills, often moving out and about in Agape to practice on one another: 

This group is now halfway through the program and will return in January for their third session. Several of them are from the Lutsk area and have the possibility of joining our rehab team in the future. The other three work in Rivne with some former students to provide rehab at their church. God is calling more and more people to use rehabilitation as a means of sharing Christ with people with disabilities in Ukraine and we are grateful for the role we are called to play in their training! Thank you to all who prayed for us during this session! 

Looks like we have said good-bye to summer, but God's beauty continues to abound as we say hello to fall! 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Summer in Review

Summer is rapidly winding down here and it seems like it went by so quickly! Praise the Lord, Agape has been operating in our normal capacity since mid-June! We are thankful for the Lord's protection that enables us to continue to provide rehabilitation and temporary residency for people with disabilities. There have been and continue to be challenges to our work in this era COVID-19, so we continue to pray for wisdom to address the various situations that arise, for the health of patients and employees, and for God's continued provision and protection. 

The rehab team gals!

Summer camps took place in abbreviated and atypical formats so we were unable to participate this year. Children with disabilities and their families had an online camp followed by one day together at a campground. Adults with disabilities had a 3-day day camp at a nearby campground. The overall number of participants was lower, but all expressed gratitude for having the opportunity to host and attend camps.


Other events of the summer for us included hosting a 4th of July cookout complete with a game of touch football (but no fireworks): 


The football players above and the spectators below...

We had birthday celebrations for various members of our rehab family which took us on evening picnics to the local river and all-day trips to the lake: 

Sveta and I spent 5 days hiking and relaxing in the beautiful Carpathian Mountains:

And we enjoyed some of God's beautiful nature from our own yard...

The second session of our PT Training Center for the 4th class begins on August 31st. Please join us in praying during these 2 weeks for clear teaching/translation of the material and for the students to comprehend and retain the information. 

Please also continue to pray for the work at Agape, for the health of employees and patients, for wisdom for those making decisions regarding our work, and for God's continued protection.