Thursday, July 22, 2021

Agape Celebrates 5 Years!

On June 25, a party was held to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Agape Rehabilitation Complex! Current patients and residents of Agape, employees, and other guests were in attendance. Polos shirts with the Agape logo were given to all employees for the occasion. The evening included a delicious dinner, a concert by some of our own employees, recollection and gratitude for how Agape came into existence and has been upheld by God's hand these past 5 years, and an admonition to continue in the work from our senior pastor at Fimiam Church. It was a wonderful evening together!
I love working daily alongside this rehab team that has become like family!

The pictures below are particular favorites of mine. Sasha Tkachuk (left) is senior pastor of Fimiam Church and my home church leader. Sergiy Bolchuk (right) is another Fimiam pastor and the visionary leader of our ministry. These two godly men deeply love the Lord and others and it is a joy to be shepherded and led by them. Their passion to sacrificially serve the Lord with their lives is a tremendous example to all who have the privilege to witness it. Their earnest, sincere prayers of gratitude, praise, and petition are an encouragement to me any time I get to hear them. Please pray for God to continue to grant them both wisdom in the roles into which He has called them. 

The following link is for a video made for this 5th anniversary. Unfortunately it is not yet in English, but you can still watch it to see Agape in action. Many employees and a few residents are stating "For me Agape is..."

So what else is going on at Agape? 

Well, paperwork is being completed so that construction of the Agape House can begin. This building will provide temporary or permanent residency for 18-25 people with disabilities. Our current building will then house only people who come for rehabilitation. The need for this new building is increasing as our therapy staff grows and is able take on more rehabilitation patients while the needs of people with disabilities to have a place to live or visit also continue. There is much to pray about in regard to the Agape House:
    - That the paperwork will be approved soon so that construction can begin this year.
    - The finances needed to complete this construction.
    - Wisdom for the big and small decisions that will be made throughout the construction process.

The prospect of the Agape House brings much joy to many people with disabilities. The majority of people with disabilities do not live in a place that is fully wheelchair accessible and allows access to the outdoors. When many of our friends with spinal cord injuries are at home, for example, they must stay in bed as moving about in their apartments or homes is not possible. Also, many people with disabilities have caregivers who are ageing and are increasingly unable to care for them. So the Agape House will provide them with a place to reside, temporarily for most and permanently for some. But Agape cannot offer this for free and people with disabilities draw a very small amount of money from the government, many less than $100 per month. This is an inadequate sum to purchase necessary hygiene supples and medications, as well as cover room/board at Agape. If anyone feels led by the Lord to assist someone with residential costs at Agape, please let me know and I can help you become acquainted with a person in need and also how you can donate the funds. This is a current need and will be an ongoing one when the Agape House opens in the future. 

Rehabilitation continues to be in full swing this summer. This is one of our recent patients who was much loved by all and brought a smile to our faces every day. 

Thank you to all who think about and pray for us. God has given us many blessings in the past five years and we look forward to what God has in store in the future for the Agape Rehabilitation Complex!

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Spring News

Spring in Ukraine this year was long and cool, but also beautiful as ever...

It's kind of hard to tell, but this is a cemetery, 1 of 2 in our village

Several of the pictures were taken on my early morning runs and give you a taste of the beautiful countryside around us! 

So what have we been up to this spring? 

In April, the fourth class of the PT Training Center completed their final session. Not everyone was able to be physically present in Agape due to coronavirus, but this group of students has learned to be flexible and participate in distance learning, so we were able to complete the session anyway. Some of the students have joined or will be joining our Agape rehab team and the remainder will continue working together at a rehab center located at a church in Rivne, a city about an hour from Lutsk. We are thankful for all that this group of students learned and look forward to witnessing and hearing how God uses them in the future. 

The first session for the fifth class will be scheduled when we have a minimum of 8 students who meet our requirements. The application process has been slow, so we will be patient and wait for God to lead those who should participate in this program to us. 

Other events of the spring have included the annual tulip festival...

Walks in our central park with friends: This spring they deep cleaned the park and had a contest to make structures out of the brush, branches, undergrowth, etc. Some of the results were pretty good...

Cookouts with friends or just on our own here at home...

Gardening: Our garden gets bigger every year and my favorite addition this year is the 4 blueberry bushes. It was a very specific and somewhat time-consuming planting process, but they look good so far. We also expanded our strawberries, raspberries, corn and okra this year. While our garden doesn't compare to most in Ukraine, we definitely enjoy reaping the fruit and veggies it produces throughout the summer.  

Summer has now officially begun and I love the long daylight hours and warmth that beckons us outdoors. The work at Agape continues and we will soon be celebrating the 5th anniversary of the complex...more on that in a future (soon I hope) post. Camps have also begun. This year our ministry will host 3 camps, one each for children, young adults, and adults with disabilities. This will be the first year that Sveta and I are not participating in any of the camps, but will instead continuing working at Agape and hopefully make a day trip on a weekend to visit during the adult camp. 

The start of the construction of the Agape House for permanent residency for people with disabilities had to be delayed when it was discovered that the paperwork requirements necessary to break ground had changed since the Agape Rehabilitation Complex was built. The process is now much lengthier and beginning construction before it is completed would incur a huge fine, so for now construction is on hold with the hopes that it can begin by the end of summer. Please continue to pray with us for this construction, the finances necessary to complete it and that the work could begin soon. There are many who are eagerly looking forward to the opening of this home for them. 

I hope your summer is also off to a great start! And I hope you hear from me again sooner than later! 


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!