As some of you know, I traveled to Ukraine July 4-14. It would be difficult, if not ridiculous, to not share some highlights from this trip over the ocean we call the Atlantic.
First off, how this came about. Back in March, Andrey and Oxsana Pankyeyev, who run Last Bell Ministries in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, came to visit Indy. Trinity Church here in Broad Ripple is a supporter, and Ellen, who is in our house church group, is their board chair. By the way, Last Bell is a ministry to orphans. They have a shelter where about six to eight youth can live, and they do quite amazing work with these very marginalized young people. Just to give you a tiny piece of perspective–in Ukraine, if you are an orphan, this status is designated on your ID card, and this label makes it very difficult to gain employment. No Joke. Thanks to the education and advocacy of Last Bell, they fair much better in the job market. Without help, well over half of female orphans become prostitutes, and well half off males become criminals. That’s just one aspect of how this ministry helps.
Go to Last Bell website, if you wish.
So Ellen asked if I would Andrey and Oxsana down at Outreach, Inc. (a ministry to homeless youth here in Indianapolis, and where I use to work) and do a little filming to be used on their website or elsewhere. Well, as things go, we get talking ministry, cameras, and soul care, and next thing you know, we are friends. The couple came to our house church that same nite where we heard beautiful stories of their lives and work in Ukraine. We prayed for them, laying hands on them, and we all bonded.
Shortly thereafter, Ellen asks us to go with her to Ukraine for ten days in the summer. This sounded like crazy talk. Isn’t that dangerous? And my initial thought was being very uncomfortable with leaving Gaby and Zayra for that long that far away. What do we need to go all the way over there for? Then, my loving wife tells me that she really thinks that I should go. That I’ve never done a trip like this, and that it will be a huge blessing to them and me.
We had a family meeting and made the final decision that I would go. The very next day, while at the gym, I just happen to grab a USA Today between sets. Bear in mind, I NEVER do this. I keep up with no news whatsoever if I can help it. And what’s on the from page? Trouble in Ukraine! People are being dragged off the streets, beaten, killed, taken. Civilians are not safe, the article said. I called Ellen. “Sooooo where exactly in Ukraine are we going?” “Oh, we’ll be like 8 hours away from all that stuff.” “Right. Cool.” She already bought the plane ticket. Crap.
Obviously I went and am alive to tell the tale.
Four of us went–Ellen, her thirteen years old son Max, me, and Megan Flinn, who works at Outreach, Inc. Our main objective for going was for Megan and I to facilitate a three day retreat for all fifteen of the staff of Last Bell. My goodness. What were we thinking?
You know what? I just noticed how much I’ve already written, so I’m gonna stop and share about the retreat experience tomorrow. I leave you with the link to the video I shot in March so you can “meet” Andrey and Oxsana.