Good Samaritin Ministries Day
Our day started with a return to our familiar hotel restaurant called “The Georgian.” We had an awesome breakfast of mashed potatoes, bologna style sausage, beets mixed with onions, bitter cheese and hard bread. We all loved it and ate every morsel. After a quick catch up with e-mails (wi-fi only in the lobby) we were greeted with our dear friend and Ukraine Coordinator of Good Samaritan Ministries, Alex B. http://www.gsmukraine.com/MainENG.html
We went to the village Vegoda to visit their rehabilitation center that is presently housing about 5 men. The men have ranged from 18 to age 50 but are typically in their 20’s and 30’s.
Men’s Rehab Center in Vegoda
They come from all walks of life, including a physician, with all sorts of hang-ups . Their program uses no medical intervention but just relies on fasting and prayer to help break the bonds of substance addictions. We listened to the testimony of Dima, who was leading the house as a mentor, and is currently working on a business plan to start a furniture repair/manufacturing business with the help of the men in the program. The average stay varies from 3-6 months, and typically employs the men in metal fabrication or automobile repairs.
Metal working table and shop
Dima had lived in prison from a young age till he turned 25 and his parents had thought he was dead. Though his parents had migrated to Canada, they were visiting in Ukraine and accidentally ran into their son! Their relationships have been restored and Dima is now married with twin 4-year-old daughters. He is extremely thankful for Christ being in his life, and for the program to make such a change for him. The grounds were quite modest, with a “kitchen” garden and a new orchard of fruit trees that will someday provide fruit. Such good work in these men’s lives was so apparent and a blessing to the community.
Men’s sleeping quarters
Mentor Dima giving his testimony
We next continued down the highway to Chervonoarmeysk, Zhytomyrs’Ka Oblast’, Ukraine, which is the district center town to see the Widow shelter/community center. This is a wonderfully built large structure with a barn shape, new brick, and modern facilities sitting on about 2+ acres. An auto shop was being equipped for more major repairs, with a vast garden, chicken accommodations, and a brand new green house that will extend their growing season starting next year. The facility is entirely fenced with metal fabricated from the men in the rehab center, and the acreage is well manicured by one of the graduates of the rehab center.
Widow’s Home and Community Center
New Green House made by men in rehab program
Inside it is evident that this was a newly built structure with western European standards, fixtures and tile. The capability exists to house 8 widows in a quasi-assisted living style arrangement, but 5 are their current occupancy having lost a resident in the last several weeks. In Ukraine there are no funeral homes or embalming specialists. Typically one of the family members (if one exists) will clean the deceased and follow through with a pine box burial on the second day. Not only is this often difficult in the winter, but tradition will also require that the funeral attendees all walk the entire distance to the graveyard. After this brief cultural lesson, we resumed eating cookies and tea.
The remaining widows were in good spirits and particularly enjoyed having the company of Natalie and Rhya, knowing that they were native from Ukraine. We were spoiled with more cookies, tea, more cookies, and more tea. One of the ladies just longed for conversation past the translation of Alex, and confessed that she still wants to learn English. Vera, the most engaging widow who sat right next to Rhya and constantly hugging her, wanted to know Anna Seleznova’s full name and what time we would be at the SDA appointment so she could pray for a successful referral. They talked about their chickens that were brought with the English wannabe and about how a cow would be nice, but that it was too big of a job for anyone to take on as a task.
Tea and Cookies with the Widows
Upstairs we discovered a community center with new computers, arts room, children’s play room, meeting room, and two office staff that work on community relations, training, and a multitude of other community outreaches. One of the employees, Ben, is a Peace Corps’ Volunteer from New Mexico. The facility was a dream of Don and Nancy Miller from Good Samaritan Ministries, and is the fruit of their labor after visiting Ukraine 1-2 times a year since the early o90’s. Don is now 78 and having recently talked to him while at his Portland home, he was delighted to know that he and his wife are still strong and full of energy. He also shared that when the good lord decides to take them home, his work will continue on in full force thanks to so much visionary planning and relational work in the community to get such an awesome staff well established. It was hard to leave, but we knew that it was nearly 4:00 (dark time) and Yana was calling every 5 minutes to find out about our return to Zhytomir. What an awesome blessing Alex, his staff and the Lord have provided with these two incredible ministry programs that are working hand in hand. We left the home feeling like we had just left our Great Grandmother’s house. We were filled with joy that these beautiful ladies had bestowed upon us.