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. 

Monday, May 22, 2023

A Long Overdue Update

Once again a long period of time has lapsed since I last posted a blog. So here goes on catching up from January...

In January and February, groups of Agape employees and their families were blessed to have the opportunity to travel to Germany for a week of rest and refreshment. The German Evangelical Alliance met all of our needs and also filled our buses with humanitarian aid to bring back to Ukraine. It was fun to spend a week with coworkers, many of whom had never been outside of Ukraine in their lives. I traveled with the January group and we were thrilled to have snow as we did not see much of it this winter in Ukraine. 

As you are all aware, the war in Ukraine rages on. It is never far from our minds and constantly in our prayers. At Agape, we continue to rehabilitate wounded soldiers. Their stories, injuries, roads to recovery, and futures are each unique and often heart-breaking: 

- I recall one soldier who admitted that his marriage was not solid before the war. After he received his spinal cord injury, his wife left him, taking their young son with her. 

- Vasyl, a current patient, relayed how he was sent to Poland for medical treatment and rehabilitation following his injury. He expressed that he fully believed he would buy a car there at some point and drive it back to Ukraine after completing rehab. Instead, after 6 months in Poland, he returned to Ukraine still in a horizontal position with a long road ahead of him due to his spinal cord injury, pressure sores, and other complications. He told me "I never expected I wouldn't drive myself back." Unfortunately, it is unlikely he will ever walk again. 

- Bohdan (pictured below) was in working in a European country at the time of the full-scale invasion. He made the decision to not only give up the safety of that country by returning to Ukraine, but also to volunteer to fight upon his return. He took a bullet to the head and spent several months in the hospital before coming to Agape for rehabilitation. His sister is his only family member and she told us that after spending several months in the hospital with him, she could not imagine what we could do to help him. His progress was indeed slow, but with much perseverance on his part and that of his therapists, he was walking short distances with a cane and completing basic self-care tasks independently at the completion of his rehab. He attended services at Fimiam Church every Sunday and never seemed to get down, despite the drastically life-altering nature of his injury.  

These men exemplify the sacrifices Ukrainians make every day as they fight on the front lines to defend the freedom of this country, many at the cost of their health, families and lives.

We see images of the death and destruction that are the result of Russia's full-scale invasion on our screens daily. 

Smoke covers the ruined city of Bakhmut where intense fighting continues

A civilian passenger train was hit in one Russia attack

But we also feel, hear and experience the resilience and resolve that Ukrainians continue to hold in the face of this ongoing war. God sustains and continues to use His people. From delivering humanitarian aid to the de-occupied territories to housing and assisting internally displaced people to faithfully continuing the ministries of the church - God's people are active. 

Volodymyr Andriyovych (below) was a patient at Agape in January following a stroke. He is 85 years old and has been living at Fimiam's Retreat Center in the village with about 100 other internally displaced people since the full-scale invasion began. He was evacuated from eastern Ukraine with only the clothes on his back. Pastor Pavlo has faithfully been caring for and ministering to those living at the Retreat Center and a small church has now begun. Volodymyr Andriyovych heard the Word of God before his stroke, during his rehabilitation and after he left Agape. Not long after returning to the Retreat Center, he repented and was baptized. Since travel is difficult for him due to his age and the effects of his stroke, he had a modified baptism there at the Retreat Center. We rejoice that not only was his physical life saved, but now his soul is eternally saved as well!   

On a personal note, I had the privilege to attend a MedRefresh retreat in Antalya, Turkey in April. It was a week spent with other medical missionaries and their families and a team representing several organizations in the US with the goal of giving us rest, fellowship and refreshment. We were right on the Mediterranean Sea and had the opportunity not only to be instructed and encouraged, but also to take in the beauty and relax. It was wonderful to meet new acquaintances, hear what God is doing through His children in other parts of the world, and enjoy a few days at the sea. Oh, and those who know me well will understand, the all-you-can-eat ice cream was an extra special bonus!! 

Please continue praying for:
- The entire team at the Agape Rehabilitation Complex as we work and interact with all of our patients and their family members. That we would be intentional to not only seek physical change in their lives but spiritual as well. 
- Construction of the Resource Center.
- Provision and safety for the trips to deliver humanitarian aid to the de-occupied region of Kherson.
- Provision for the ongoing needs of Agape and our employees. 

Thank you for standing with us in prayer! 

If you would like to donate to the needs of Agape, please visit and click "Donate."

"O Lord my God, I cried to you for help." 

Sunday, January 15, 2023

New Year, Same War

While the war in Ukraine may not often be headline news where you are, let me tell you that it indeed still rages on. Soldiers die fighting, are injured or are declared missing in action, civilians are injured and killed, families are separated, homes are destroyed, electricity and heat and water are cut off for hours or days or weeks, students attempt to learn by flashlight in basements during air alerts, and the list goes on and on. While, by God's grace, we do continue to live in safety here in the western part of Ukraine, we are not untouched by the effects of war and our prayers are continually for Ukraine's victory in the war to come soon.

Collection of Russian missiles and rocket that have been launched at one of Ukraine's major cities

Children and adults suffer from the consequences of Russian shelling

School continues by flashlight in basements when necessary 

Destruction, massive destruction

Below is a picture of one of the power stations struck by a Russian missile on Saturday. One look at the devastation reveals why Ukrainians are living with power outages. Russia has been very intentional with targeting these stations. Our soldiers have successfully destroyed many of the Russian missiles that were launched, but some do get through and the destruction can have wide-reaching and long-lasting consequences. 

Yesterday's missile strikes across Ukraine resulted in a major hit on a multi-story apartment building in the city of Dnipro. One entire section of apartments was destroyed with 30 people killed and another 75 injured (as of this moment). More than 30 people are still missing. Search and rescue efforts continue. Please take a moment to look closely at each of these pictures (below) and consider what Russia has brought with its invasion of Ukraine...nothing but death and destruction...

Aerial view of the damaged apartment building

The residents of this apartment may have even had lunch in this kitchen just hours before the strike

Looking closely at the center of this picture, you will see a red blanket covering a girl sitting in a destroyed apartment waiting for rescuers to reach her. 

Stranded residents used flashlights to alert rescuers of their location

Cranes were used to rescue residents

Rescue and recovery is still taking place amidst the rubble

Our work at Agape continues even as these devastating events occur across Ukraine. Here is a portion of the story of one patient who recently spent a month at Agape. 

Oleksandr and his wife were injured during the summer in an explosion in the city of Bakhmut. As you can see, his injuries resulted in a double amputation as well as hearing and memory loss. His wife has spent the past 5 months in the hospital due to her injuries and is still awaiting a hip replacement before she can begin rehabilitation. His daughter's home was destroyed and she now lives with her small children in a preschool in a city nearby Lutsk. Oleksandr's son died in a car accident 2 weeks before the Russian invasion and his daughter-in-law has also had to flee her home with their small child. This family has been traumatized in countless ways by this war and they represent thousands of families suffering at the hands of the Russians. Please pray for Oleksandr, his family, and the many other families who have lost their homes and been injured and displaced by this war. 
At Agape, we seek to provide professional, individualized rehabilitation to each person who comes to our facility. Along side that, we seek opportunities to speak with them about the love of God and their need for a Savior. God graciously gives us those opportunities both one-on-one during our sessions and in larger settings such as morning devotionals. Please pray we will be faithful to seize these opportunities to point people to the One True Hope. 

A little fun during a PT treatment session

A wounded soldier working on walking again

An outing with my patient to a nearby bakery during our recent treatment session

A small team from Agape was able to make two trips over the past month to the de-occupied region of Kherson, delivering presents for children, medical supplies, and food to people in need. The people in the regions they visited constantly live without heat and electricity and state that they are surviving only because of the work of volunteers. Agape would like to partner with Fimiam Church to continue making these trips as the need truly is great. Please join us in praying for the necessary finances and supplies for these trips and the wisdom to know when and where to go. Below are a few pictures from the recent trips. 

Christmas was officially celebrated only on December 25 by many, if not most, Ukrainians this year. The previously celebrated date of January 7 has connections with the Soviet Union era and is no longer recognized by many Ukrainians. My home group came over after church for food, fellowship and fun together. It was a blessed day! 

I got to spend the three days after Christmas in the village with friends, mostly playing games and relaxing!

And last week we hosted our team of therapists for our annual Christmas party. Even Vadim was in Ukraine at the time and able to come (he and his family are currently living and working in Poland). Katya also got to come as she has returned to Ukraine from the Netherlands and will begin working again at Agape in a couple of weeks! So thankful for time spent with these dear friends who are now family!

We tried to reenact last year's picture but we are still missing three people

Please also join us in praying for Zhanna, our head chef at Agape. Her son was serving in the army on the front lines and has been declared missing. Several members of his team say he was killed but no body has been recovered so that is not official. Please pray for Zhanna is this obviously difficult time of waiting, that God would be her refuge and strength!

I trust and pray you all had a blessed holiday season and that the coming year will be filled with God's blessings in your lives. Thank you to all who pray for us and support us. If you would like to donate to the needs of Agape, please visit and click "Donate."