First of all, happy new year! Sorry we’ve been a little silent on the blogging since we’ve been back… Winter has hit pretty hard here in Ivanivka and we have so much snow! Just this past week, we had a day where the knee-deep snow kept us from going anywhere other than out to play. Luckily we had nowhere urgent to be because here in the village we would have likely gotten stuck in all the snow. The only thing we can do on those kind of days is make snow angels. And so we did 🙂 Village life is very different than life in the city and ministry is also different. Some days seem busy from sunup to sundown while others move more slowly. While some needs are similar to what we’ve done in the past, there are also very different needs here.
This winter, we have plans for continuing and starting new ministry in the village of Ivanivka. We are getting ready for our whole team to be back for New Years and kicking off 2017 with new outreach, building relationships, and community development in Ivanivka. With Thanksgiving just past and Christmas and New Years right around the corner, we are praying that you will join with us in our planning and excitement for giving and loving the people of Ukraine. Our goal for the end of 2016 is to raise $5000. It may seem like a lot, but this will help us fill in the gaps where we need it for general ministry and launch us into all the outreach and events we have planned – a New Years event, gifts for the orphans and village kids, renting facilities for outreach, travel cost for our team, and more.
The newest and biggest goal for 2017 is opening a cafe in Ivanivka. We have the opportunity to lock in a permanent facility for bigger ministry outreach. This of course in a big cost, but it will provide jobs for the village, be a community facility, centrally located and will allow us the opportunity to reach out to even more of the village people. We hope to also use it as a space for church in Ivanivka, and create a safe space for kids to come. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
We are so thankful for all of the help you give to OAU throughout the year. We are excited to finish this year strong with your continued support. **UPDATE** Facebook is waving all fees and the Bill Gates Foundation is matching donation made through Facebook up to $1000 per fundraiser today! So please use this link to our Facebook Page and donate there!
Donations of any size toward our $5000 goal can be made via the PayPal button below or by mail to us and PO Box 1148, Oakley, CA 94561. We are incredibly grateful for each and every one of you and the ways you allow us to serve in Ukraine.
We have been behind on updates lately, but we wanted to pause today and say THANK YOU!! When we sent out our request for help with our plumbing for our village house, you guys blew us away with your generosity! We ended up raising over $3000! You are all amazing and we cannot thank you enough. Not just for this specific need that you fulfilled, but in your monthly, one-time, and special need giving. Thank you for your prayers, for your encouragement of us and of our work, and all of the ways you guys make Open Arms what it is. It may just seem like words, but we truly could not do this without each and every one of you.
As we all enjoy this season of family, holidays, shopping, and feasting, we pray that you are all blessed for the ways that you bless us and our kids. And as you shop, for all of you Amazon shoppers, if you didn’t know already, please shop www.smile.amazon.com instead. Support us when you shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #StartWithaSmile at smile.amazon.com/ch/06-1806270 and Amazon donates to Open Arms Ukraine. All your shopping looks exactly the same an normal Amazon, but by shopping on AmazonSmile and selecting us as your non-profit, 0.5% of your shopping purchases is donated to OAU!
For months, we have wanted to do a harvest festival for kids in the village. But we ran into problem after problem ranging from not being able to get permission, no where to do it, and dates not working out for people being able to come and help.
As Monday got closer and we had a few of the regulars over, we got to talking about what they planned to do on Halloween. It was clear we needed to have a safe place for them to come. Now that being said, we at that point still did not have heat, just the one room that was being heated from a small wood burning stove. We cleaned what could and just decided to make some food, have a few fun costumes, and have games with candy. We had 6 kids in our one-stop room and it was a blast. The night started with kids finding costumes, played some crazy games, and end with Captain America (who was the hit of the night), reading them John 3:16 and giving them a challenge to memorize it in Russian and English with the promise of prize next time we meet.
As thankful as we are to just have a little room that is literally everything from where we sleep, cook, clean, hang out, and now do ministry, it was clear that night that it would be really helpful to get some running water in the house. Because we had little kids, there were multiple times we had to stop the festivities so they could bundle up to then trek outside to use the hole we call a bathroom. When they are only able to come for a couple hours this hurts the flow of our activities.
We couldn’t be more thankful for all the help, prayer, and support from those of you who are so faithful to give. We hate to feel like we’re asking often, but we need your financial support for our all-purpose house. Since we run every part of our ministry from here, it would be incredibly helpful for us to have running water, a toilet and a shower in our house. Please don’t think we are just trying to make our house fancy. If it was just us, we’d be fine with no plumbing. But seeing as this has become our home base for all ministry, and it’s cold now, we’d really like to make it a functional place to serve the people of Ivanivka.
Every day we have visitors in our all-purpose living/bedroom/kitchen/closet-room. Having running water would allow us to cook and clean dishes for these visitors. We currently wash and rinse with well water in tubs on a table in our everything room. A toilet will help in moments like at our harvest festival so kids don’t have to bundle up in the cold to walk out past the fence to the hole we dug for a toilet. Running water would allow for a washing machine to help wash clothes, sheets, towels, blankets not just for ourselves, but also for people like Dusya. She has more than once told us how washing is the hardest thing for her all year, but especially in the freezing winter temps. And a shower? I think you know why a shower is necessary. 🙂 And realistically it isn’t gonna cost that much to make it all happen – around $1130. The break down looks something like this: Shower – $600. Toilet – $60. Sink – $120. Pipes – $50. Digging for drainage, piping, water pump – $300.
If you are able to contribute to these needs, please use the PayPal button below, or by sending donations to us at PO Box 1148, Oakley, CA 94561. We are so, so thankful for any amount you can give to help support us with this specific need!
Got another visit from this sibling duo today. This is literally how they are sitting here at this very moment, watching a movie on our couch/bed as I write this blog from across the room. They came in today with a few embarrassed requests that quickly turned into a full list of things they need. Vika in her same dirty pair of gray pants and worn out, too-small shoes. Tolik in his same outfit as yesterday, and little canvas tennis shoes in the 30-something degree weather today. They both need new shoes, pants, warm socks, beanies, basically a new wardrobe. We are going to be in Sumy tomorrow (to celebrate Sasha’s birthday actually!) and will hopefully have time to purchase a few of their needs. If you would like to contribute to helping with these purchases, we would be so thankful for your help!
This past year has been full of changes and sometimes we haven’t fully understood where God was taking Open Arms. Except we knew it was the village. This summer was different than we expected as we thought we’d be able to do a lot more ministry in the time we were here. But it turned out to be a lot of time spent working on our house and preparing for future ministry. Not even fully understanding what we were going to use the house for, but knowing that we needed to fix it.
This past week has given us a glimpse into why God lead us to buy this house, why we’ve been fixing it up. Not to be cheesy, but the phrase that has been coming to mind all day has been “if you build it, they will come.” Today alone we had 2 unannounced visitors at different times throughout the day. First Tolik came by because we had offhandedly given him an invitation a few days ago. As we sat on the floor playing cards and dice games, he opened up about life at home with his mom.He shared how he wishes he was still in the orphanage. A couple hours later, we got another knock on our gate from his sister, Vika. She was also tired of being at home and was looking for a safe place to hang out. It was nice to have Tolik and Vika, as well as Dusya and her kids all over for a few hours this afternoon. Even though we were all confined to one room due to lack of heating in the house. We are super thankful for our little woodburning stove that heats at least the one room! Even as they all were leaving a few minutes ago, they asked if they could come back again tomorrow.
Today is just a small example of why we’re doing all the work on our house. We are so thankful to all of you who have blindly and generously contributed to allow us to be here and do the work we need to! We would not be able to have these moments like today without you. This week are are working on getting gas to both heat the house with and cook with (a real stove and oven!), as well as water piped into the house. This will be an amazing improvement for us here! If you would like to contribute to help pay for these continued improvements you can use the PayPal link here. And if you would come alongside us to pray for us we would be so very thankful! Especially as we work on gas and water this week specifically and spend time with kids and friends here. And also as we plan and try to organize a harvest festival day next month.
Today, in just a few hours actually, we will be making our way to the airport to fly back to Ukraine. Our team is beyond excited to get back to the village. Because of traveling we might be late on posting a blog next week. But we are very excited to share with you all the new adventures that will happen in our time in Ukraine. We covet your prayers and would love to have you partner with us on praying for some specific requests.
-Safety for travel and our time in Ivanivka
-Doors to open in the village for us to do more ministry
-Tolik and Vika
-Ministry at the orphanage
-Our house: the remodeling going on for future ministry
We will keep you posted on Instagram/Facebook/Snapchat on here as we are able! Thank you so much for your prayers and support!
It has already started getting cold in Ukraine, and we couldn’t be more excited about the work that is being done on the house. Misha (Dusya’s brother) has been doing some much necessary work to the inside of our house. Misha grew up in the Pravdinska Orphanage with his sister and graduated from there 10 years ago. The project of the house and the work being done has been a blessing in many ways this fall already… For us, it is nice to have someone we know and trust doing the work. We probably otherwise wouldn’t have been able to continue progress on the house while we were in the States. Our sweet Dusya has also been helping at our house and basically keeping everything on track and in order. We’re so blessed by them both and the work they’re doing!
It has also been nice to have them there as our house and the project of working there has become a safe place for Dusya. She loves a project and has loved sending us updates and pictures as she makes progress in different places. It’s also been perfect for Misha because he is in need of extra work to support his family.
We’ve also been blessed by the restoration of our relationship with Misha. Years ago, he seemed to have a heart to follow God, but has had a lot of struggles since graduating and has lost some of what he had as a young teen. While we were close with him during his time in the orphanage, somewhere along the way, he became uncomfortable with us and we lost the connection with him. When he started prep work in the summer, we were able to reconnect with him and restore some of the relationship that used to be. Sasha even has been able to share with him about God and we’ve been praying for continued opportunities to help bring him back to God.
And if all of those blessings weren’t enough, the work getting done on our house is wonderful! Misha is fixing and drywalling all our walls (they had chunks missing and practically no square corners). He’s also taken out our “pechka” (sort of a brick oven to heat the house) and building us a fireplace instead. Dusya has been cleaning and clearing the parts of our yard that we didn’t get to this summer, and cleaning up after Misha progresses around the house (anyone who has remodelled or repaired in a home knows the dust and dirt that ends up everywhere). We are so excited to get back there in a couple weeks and see the changes they’ve made and be able to continue ministry in a much more livable space! A huge thank you to those of you who have donated to help us fix up our almost-100-year-old house/ministry base! We can’t wait to give you more updates as we keep working on it and sharing ministry moments we have because of it.
Eleven years ago in July, marked the first time we ever went to the Pravdinska Orphanage. There have been many changes over the years for the orphanage and for us. But one thing remains the same, our love and dedication to the kids who are there. The orphanage has changed in size tremendously since we first began going there. There once was over 200 kids and now there are less than 50. Our role there has also changed and evolved. But we are thankful to have a better relationship with the director than we have ever had. We help in whatever ways we can. This summer your donations helped us give to allow them to repaint their floors (yes, they paint floors in Ukraine) in the classrooms and in the kids rooms where they sleep. After we gave the money she said it “helped us to solve a lot of problems before the start of the school year.” So thank you all for what you gave to help the kids at the orphanage!
Since last week’s blog was a little heavy, we thought today we’d share a happier story from our time in Ivanivka. This summer we spent a lot of time at and around our house, doing much needed repairs and replacing of things that were as old as the house (almost 100). We didn’t spend as much time doing organized events or programs in the village as we originally thought we might, but we still saw God moving and preparing hearts for future programs and relationships.
Throughout the summer, we took a lot of walks through our neighborhood. Sometimes alone, sometimes together, often praying for the people of Ivanivka – our neighbors, the families, the kids stuck in neglect, the parents trapped by alcoholism… One day as Chelsea was walking she said a quick hello to a group of kids nearby and they all giggled. One little girl yelled out, “you’re beautiful!” to her as she passed. Not too many days after that, unfortunately after Chelsea had already left to go back to the states, those same kids were playing outside near our house. Melissa heard them from our yard… They had apparently asked around and learned Chelsea’s name because they were standing in the street, loud and clear, yelling “Chelsea!!”
It was a clear reminder and affirmation to us that even though it often feels like we aren’t making an impact, these kids are wanting relationship and waiting for us to reach out. Please be in prayer for us because we are trying to put together a harvest festival for the village kids in October. Stayed tuned for more details and ways you can be involved.