Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Coming and Goings

Well, fall came...and it left already.  We have had cold temperatures for weeks, the leaves have all fallen, and yesterday we are had our first wet snow.  The sun now sets before 5:00 and life takes on a different feel as we say good-bye to fall and settle into these winter days.


For our ministry team, October brought sorrow as well as rejoicing.  We were reminded of the brevity of life as grieved over the death of a dear brother in Christ in a car accident.  Sergiy Ivashko was the driver for our ministry when I first came to live in Lutsk off and on in 2008-2010.  We spent many hours with him in those years and he became a dear friend.  He spoke Russian and I had not even begun to study Ukrainian, yet somehow we communicated and had many laughs along the way.  He moved on to opening his own business and we saw much less of him in the last few years, but the bond of friendship remained.  He always had a smile on his face, never failed to put a smile on ours, gave generously whether he had much or little, and was a testimony to all of the power of God to change a life - transforming him from a man addicted to drugs to a man who wholeheartedly served His Savior.  We miss him, rejoice to know he is in heaven, and pray for God's provision for his wife and two small children.


The beginning of October also brought cause for rejoicing as the first residential rehab patients came to Agape.  In addition to these inpatients, our therapists continue to treat the children and adults who come for rehab on an outpatient basis 2-3 times a week.  Residential patients receives 3 hours of therapy per day, so we slowly added patients throughout the month as we learned how best to work the schedule. Currently, we are up to four residential patients with more scheduled to come in the next 2-3 weeks.

Vanya (in the first 3 pictures below) will return home at the end of this week after five weeks of inpatient rehabilitation.  He has paraplegia due to a spinal cord injury he sustained this past summer.  He arrived at our facility completely dependent on his family in all spheres.  He has worked hard with Vadim and Vanya (our therapists) and has now gained complete independence in his mobility and self-care.  He has even begun to think of work possibilities when he returns to his village home.  During his time at Agape, he has also attended some church services and home groups and his therapists have conversed with him about spiritual matters.  He has been open, interested, and inquisitive and we are praying for his repentance.

This sweet lady (above) was so disappointed when she had to go home early due to uncontrolled blood pressure.  We have a nurse on staff at Agape, but not a physician so we could not provide the medical care she needed and had to send her home.  We were glad when she recently notified us that her blood pressure is now stable and she is able to return soon to continue her rehabilitation.  Please pray for our nurse as she oversees the medical needs of our patients and for a physician who would partner with us.
The cycle of patients coming and going continues.  As a team, we pray daily for our patients and for wisdom in determining how to manage their care.  Some patients are with us only a few weeks and others for more than a year.  For various reasons, the four patients below have all completed their rehabilitation.  Our hearts rejoice with them over their progress and ache with them over their unachieved goals.  Please continue to pray for our therapists as they assess new patients, plan and conduct treatment sessions, converse with patients and their family members, and make difficult decisions about the termination of rehab. 


All of our therapists continue to work with children, but the waiting list of children needing rehab is long and continues to grow.  Please pray with us for additional therapists with a desire to work with children.  We are even dreaming of having a therapist devoted solely to pediatric rehab.  The need is great, but we know that God is able to provide!

I mentioned our growing rehab team in the last blog post.  Unfortunately, we recently learned that Vanya (below) is moving to a new job after this week.  He has been with us for about a year and a half, initially as a volunteer, then as an assistant, and currently as a growing therapist as he was progressing through our PT Training Center program.  It is with great sadness that we see him go.  Our patient caseload is growing and qualified therapists are very difficult to find, so we are praying for God's provision in this area and for His blessing on Vanya's life. 
We have seen God's faithfulness to us in so many ways over the past weeks and we pray for His continued provision in our lives and the lives of our patients.  Please join us in prayer for:
- New therapists to join our team
- Students in the PT Training Center program: The next session for the first class of students is in December and the second class begins in January. Please pray for them as they study at home now - for their understanding and retention of the material.

- Finances for rehab equipment needs: For several months we have been praying specifically for the finances to purchase a treadmill and a LiteGait (a specialized device that supports the patient while the therapists facilitate proper gait).  Since we now have more and more patients coming to our center with whom we are working on gait, we see the need growing in this area.  Please join us in praying for the needed finances (it is certainly not cheap equipment) as well as the logistics of getting it through customs if we are able to purchase it in the future.
- Healing for our leaders, Sergiy and Natasha Bolchuk: Natasha recently broke her lower leg and Sergiy quickly injured his back by picking her up repeatedly.  They are both improving, but progress is slow and they are homebound in the meantime.  
- A car: For reasons not related to me, the car I mentioned in the previous post was not sold to me.  It is still in my possession, but the new owners will come for it soon.  There is a definite need to transport workers to and from Agape daily, so we are praying about another car.  It's not a simple process in a foreign country - I need assistance but don't know to whom to turn.  So for now we are praying and asking God for wisdom and for His provision. 
Thank you for standing with us in prayer! May God bless you all!


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Getting into the swing of things...

One week from tomorrow, the third and final sphere of the Agape Rehabilitation Complex will launch when we open the doors to our first residential rehab patients. As mentioned in the last post, the first sphere to open was the PT Training Center in August.  Then the second sphere to launch was rehab, which began a couple of weeks ago with patients who live locally. 

We are very excited to have some new members on our rehab team! Veeka (on the right below) is serving multiple roles.  Currently, she does housekeeping on the rehab floor, fills the secretarial roles for rehab, assists the therapists, and is learning to do occupational therapy.  She loves the Lord and is a hard worker.  I am really excited to see how God grows and uses her, especially as she gets more into a therapeutic role.  She has a disability, but is completely independent and will be a great teacher and encourager for patients.  Pasha (also on the right below) has officially moved from a part-time volunteer to full-time PT.  He studied PT in Poland and God brought him back to Ukraine and to our team.  We are so grateful for God's answer to prayer...bringing two men in two years to join our rehab team!


As you can see, the rehab room in Agape is spacious and beautiful!  We have rearranged a little and now have even more room for patients who work on ambulation.  We also have access to the weight room on the second floor. 
Earlier in September, we held a week of training for people who will serve as caregivers for residents of Agape.  Former patients and friends with disabilities lived in Agape for a week and helped us teach about all aspects of care: hygiene, transfers, pressure sores, feeding, wheelchairs, etc. 
The therapy team taught about body mechanics, transfers, and the proper use of equipment to move patients safely and efficiently. 


 A local physician taught CPR:

The residents enjoyed the freedom of using electric wheelchairs in an accessible building and the wide open outdoor spaces:


Residential care combined with rehab services is a huge new step for our team...something none of us has ever implemented.  We quickly saw many areas that hadn't been thoroughly planned for and ways we needed to improve.  So it was also a time for all of us to learn and implement processes that will help Agape run smoothly and provide the best possible care for people with disabilities. 


While we all love working at Agape, one challenge to almost everyone is that it is located in a village just outside of Lutsk.  This village is easily and quickly accessible by car, but most people don't have cars.  I was praying about the possibility of a car for some time, knowing it could be of service to many people when we started working at Agape.  Earlier in the summer, I began asking around about the possibility of buying a car: where, how, reasonable prices, who could help me, models that could hold a wheelchair and multiple people, etc.  We were introduced to one brother at church who brings cars into Ukraine from Europe and he agreed to keep an eye out.  A few months passed and he called with a mini-van with US registration that was brought to Ukraine by former missionaries. After test driving it, taking it to the mechanic, and praying about it, I bought it.  Now five of us ride to and from work together every day and often 1-2 more people join us.  What a blessing to have such a large vehicle! I am praying it will serve us well and long and I am thankful for God's provision!
A full carload!

In closing, would you please join us in praising God for:
- The staff and caregivers who are now working in Agape and the nurse who will begin work tomorrow
- New rehab team members
- A car that we can use to serve workers and people with disabilities
- The restart of rehab after the summer break
- The training week and all that we learned and have been able to change before residents arrive
Please join us in prayer for:
- Continued process implementation and maximum preparation before residential patients arrive in one week
- Wisdom to solve the problems and challenges that will continue arise in the coming months as we step into this new sphere
- Additional male and female caregivers
- The safety of both caregivers and patients - the caregivers are all still gaining experience with  providing full care for people with disabilities.
- Wisdom to select from the applicants who should be included in the second class of the PT Training Center, which is scheduled to begin in January 2017.  
- Efficiency, wisdom, and time for preparation of materials for the second session of the first class, which begins in less than 3 months. 
- For the finances needed to operate the facility and support current and future workers.
- That all of us working at Agape would radiate with the joy and love of Christ as we do our jobs.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The PT Training Center is launched!

Finally, after two years of anticipation, preparation, and translation, the PT Training Center at the Agape Rehabilitation Complex is launched! We held our first two-week session in August with eight students: five local and three from other cities in Ukraine.  Krista and I taught the lectures, Sveta did virtually all of the translation, Tanja helped with translation during small group sessions and Henry (the skeleton) never said a word, but was an excellent teacher nonetheless!

It was an exhausting and wonderful two weeks.  We enjoyed watching the students learn, grow, and gain confidence.  Our mornings were primarily spent on lectures in the classroom and then we moved to the rehab gym in the afternoon to develop and practice skills.  We gave exams on the first and last days and everyone was pleased to have passed the final exam.  In addition, we had lab activities, games and oral quizzes throughout the session to help students grasp and retain the information. God was gracious to us and answered many prayers and we are grateful to all who prayed for us and for the students. 

First day

Ready to teach!

Learning origins and insertions of muscles together

Tanja and I preparing material

Learning to take blood pressure
Transfer training lab
 Students practiced their skills on one another...

They practiced on the teachers...

They practiced on whoever was willing and free around Agape:
Roma, our driver
Raphael, our leaders' youngest son
Emelia, our cook
And then they practiced on our friends with disabilities...


Games were a hit and added some laughter to the learning process...

And small group problem-solving sessions helped bring all of the information together for the students...

We are grateful for the mercies of God that were so evident during these two weeks. Our next session with this class is scheduled for December and the first session of the second class is scheduled for January. So we've only just begun!