Open Arms Lately

Village Life 2018

By | Open Arms Lately, Uncategorized, Village Ministry | No Comments

We’re here! We landed in Ukraine on Saturday night and made it home in time to ring in 2018 from our little village home. It’s always an adjustment being back in Ukraine (10 hour time difference, outhouse instead of toilet, no kitchen…) but we’re excited to be here! God has already been affirming us in our being back. We decided to move back with very little in the bank account, but trusting that God would continue to provide. And then on January 2nd, we were notified that received a very generous donation from a special donor – such an encouragement to start off 2018! Thank you again!

You may have seen on social media that we were able to go visit and bring gifts to Vika and Tolik in the hospital/shelter that they were in near us. There were four other little kids staying there, probably all from the same type of situation the Tolik and Vika are in. We came with an entourage – Dusya and her two kids, Vala and Andre, as well as Vasya who was visiting from Sumy. Dusya, Vasya and Sasha all grew up in the orphanage and it was neat to see them all loving on these kids. All 3 of them were eager to go to the store and buy cookies, candies, dolls, trucks, and other treats, not just forTolik and Vika, but for these kids. They excitedly told them that Ded Moroz (their Santa Claus) had dropped it off for their New Years presents. The kids were so excited for some outside interaction and little gifts. Plus the kids were just adorable so it was fun for all of us.

As for Tolik and Vika, they’re doing ok, though understandably having a hard time with it all. Tolik in the short time that we had there, brought up multiple times how bad things are with their mom. It was heartbreakingly hard to watch him visibly struggle through it all. While it will be better for them in the long run, it’s pretty sad, lonely, and scary right now. We’re waiting for a call from them to hear an update as they should now be in Sumy at a more long-term shelter. It’s not exactly an orphanage, but a place where neglected, abused, and/or orphaned kids generally stay up to 9 months before being moved back into their homes or a more traditional orphanage. Our sweet friend, Ira, will hopefully be able to visit them even sooner than we will. Please keep them in your prayers as this is such a hard transition for them both. We will keep you posted as we are able to get updates and visit them when we’re in Sumy.



By | Open Arms Lately, Orphanage Ministry, Village Ministry | No Comments

Our American team has spent the last couple of years spending the majority of our time in the US and making trips back and forth to Ukraine. But starting end of this month, Melissa and Anika will be back in Ukraine full time. We hadn’t fully planned on this move but God has clearly been adjusting our circumstances to get us to where we’re at. We’re going back without visas just yet and will have to take a trip outside of Ukraine to get that ball rolling sometime in March. If we’re honest, we’re not looking forward to giving up some of our American comforts (toilet and shower, we will miss you both), but we are excited for some of the ideas and goals we’ve got for the next year!

We would like to say we have some solid plans, but since it’s been almost 10 years since we moved to Ukraine the first time, so we know that solid plans aren’t really a reality in Ukraine. So we have goals.

One of the broader goals we’re working on is teaching English in a few different ways. We’ve been in communication with the orphanage director at Pravdinska and she is excited for us to hopefully help teach English to the kids there. We have also been brainstorming starting ESL academies in the village and beyond. We’d love to start tutoring at the cafe for the kids in the village learning English in school. Again, all goals but we are working on it! If anyone has experience/curriculum/tools for ESL teaching that you think might be useful, please feel free to shoot us an email!

Our Ivanivka Cafe hasn’t honestly been financially successful. We were never expecting to make tons of money, or even necessarily break even very quickly, but we’re definitely still a long way from either. We’re changing our mindset on it to know that it will probably need constant changes and revisions to continue. And knowing all the things we can use it for as not just as cafe, but a community outreach center, gets us excited.

Another goal we’d like to make happen involves education help for orphans and at-risk kids. Very few of the kids who grow up in orphanages and small villages seem to complete any high education. They often don’t have the help financially, emotionally, or even practically to even get in to a college or university. We’d like to start little seminars with kids who are currently in or have graduated from college to help encourage, teach and improve success rates of younger kids as they prepare to graduate from 9th or 11th grades.

One more goal we’re working on is having a team come out to Ivanivka in the spring/summer. If you’re interested in being a part of it, please let us know. Any details would be announced later, but you could expect village outreach, time in the community cafe, and plenty of village dirt.

As for our team… Dusya is loving running the cafe and having the steady income to support her adorable family. Melissa and Sasha are still awaiting answers from US immigration for Sasha to be able to come to the states as a married couple. Anika is planning on being in Ukraine for at least the next year or so, and we’ll see what happens from there. Sasha has been working hard to get an additional building constructed from the ground up for our house… The whole 375 square feet of heated house that we currently have kind of limits us with what we can do (not to mention personal space for 3 adults).

With our on-the-ground team growing again and outreach kicking back into gear, obviously our budget will need to be expanding. If you’d like to make a year-end tax deductible gift we would greatly appreciate it! And if you’d like to become one of our regular monthly donors we would be so grateful. Click here to go to our donation page. Thanks for sticking with us as we enter into this next year of adventure!


By | from the heart of Ira Taranenko, Graduate Ministry, Open Arms Lately, Orphanage Ministry | No Comments

These past weeks while the girls from OAU are at home, I went to orphanage to visit kids. One time I went there were no kids there, as they all were abroad or at home or at camp. Wednesday I visited orphanage again, this time there were seven of them. And that was kind of sad. I was thinking that they must feel lonely and nobody cares about them as there is no home for them even for summer… But that is the thing we see with our eyes. I am so incredibly thankful to God who cares about those kids more then biological parents could! And my prayer is that they will have amazing home in the heaven!         59fa9b874ce7fc65cf46c2991c8ade13a5d5e874964c735c3d2d8d3f0986658e.0

Also I met Dusya and her kids while I was in the village. That is always fun to spend time with them. I am impressed by Dusya’s strong and joyful character, how she lives with so many troubles and problems but she doesn’t stop caring about others.22d2dbe37a3680060fc211953a34f5b135190b5c0498f34479704af8fc8e3b5a


I was honored to have her and Valya for one day and night in Sumy. We did a lot of stuff: did documents for her, went to the movies, went shopping, even came to home group. Why doesn’t she live in Sumy??

Dusya and Ira
Once I visited our young mom Katya, Ruslan’s girlfriend (he’s a Pravdinska Orphanage graduate). And I was so happy to see how they love their baby Max, how hard Ruslan works to give his son everything he needs and even more. My hope is this family will be always together.


We still have Wednesday meetings at church, unfortunately there are not so many kids. The one girl who attends almost all meeting and sometimes comes to home group is Nadya. Once we walked home together and I found out she doesn’t have food so we decided to help her. She was so happy and thankful for help she didn’t even ask for. In such situations God reminds me verses from James 2:15-16 “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” People needs our actions.
Wednesday Meeting
In June our church team made two camps in villages. It was great time for us and for kids. One camp we have run for five years in Korshachina, so we know kids very well and they know us. I want to share with you one story. At very first picnic we made for kids 5 years ago Marina ‘s mom come to us drunk and yelled at Marina and us. Now her mom  comes to church 🙂 Marina saw a lot of bad people and situations connected with alcohol. Her face is mostly sad all the time. This camp she started to open up and we become closer friends. At camp she read Bible stories and I feel like she is close to God.

Ira and Marina



Another camp was in village where  big family from our church lives (they have 7 biological kids and 3 adopted). We were afraid of new teachers and kids, didn’t know how people would react. So we were asked not make pressure on kids about God or something. But one day our pastor was telling about what Jesus did for us on the cross and then prayed with kids and teacher who were there. And everything was great, thanks To God!



By | from the heart of Chelsea Rollins, Graduate Ministry, Open Arms Lately, Uncategorized | No Comments

These last couple of weeks have been packed with so many different things. Here are a couple highlights from the major things we have had going on…


Many of you probably remember Slavik. We shared his story about a year ago and asked for your prayers and support. Last summer he was arrested for stealing and has since been on house arrest. It has been a long year for him as he has had numerous court hearings and had to face many of the people he stole from. Recently we attended his final court hearing. It was extremely nerve racking for all of us as we sat and waited to hear whether or not he would be taken to prison. We prayed with him and were able to have numerous conversations with him about how he wants his life to look in the future. We are so excited to share with you that the Lord had mercy on Slavik and he was only sentenced to parole. THANK YOU so much for all of your prayers!

*As I sat here writing this Slavik came in and noticed that I was writing about him. I told him that I was updating everyone who has been praying for him and he wanted me to say that he is incredibly grateful for everyone who has been praying and for everyone that donated to pay for his lawyer. We thank God that He has granted Slavik a second chance and continue to pray that Slavik will choose to live his life for the Lord.


Another highlight from the last couple of weeks is that we had camp for our post-orphanage kids. The theme was God’s Eternal Kingdom and our pastor did an amazing job sharing the truth. We challenged them to really think about their view of God and how they are choosing to live their lives. Kids were honest in their responses and a handful of them had really good conversations with some of the leaders.

To be completely honest, due to a variety of circumstances, camp was rather different and more difficult this time. However, we are grateful for the moments that we saw God moving in their hearts.

Thank you again to those who sponsored kids for camp! We couldn’t have done it without you!





By | from the heart of Chelsea Rollins, Graduate Ministry, Open Arms Lately, Orphanage Ministry, Uncategorized | No Comments

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”   ~Lamentations 3:22-23 

Isn’t it so amazing that we serve such an incredible God! No matter what we face we can trust that His love never ceases, His mercies are new every day, and He is always faithful.

These last couple of weeks have had some tough moments, but in the midst of it all we can hold tight to the fact that our God is in control. We are so thankful for His provisions and for what He is continuing to teach us all through the ministry we get to do here.

Here’s a look at some of the fun things we were blessed to be a part of lately…



We were able to sneak away and have some girl time with just Dusya and Vala. We had so much fun walking around a little town near her village and helping her get some of the things she needed.


A picture of our awesome team that made our two day program at the orphanage possible!


Ira helping a group of kids at the orphanage with their craft.


Super hero relays were a hit!


A few of the boys at the orphanage after they finished their photo scavenger hunt.


We woke up to such beautiful weather the other day that a trip to the village was a must. We spent the day fishing, playing games, and just hanging out. It was such a refreshing day for all of us!


Yesterday we celebrated Vala’s 8th birthday! We love her to pieces and are so blessed to be a part of her life!


She was so excited to celebrate and share cupcakes with her class.

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These last two weeks we have been partnering with Third Bear Candles to help raise money for our upcoming post-orphanage camp. Thank you so much to everyone who has been a part of this and to those of you who have sponsored kids. We couldn’t do what we do without you! If you haven’t purchased a candle yet don’t miss out! The campaign ends May 3rd!


Looking forward to the next Open Arms Lately when we can share pictures and stories from our post-orphanage camp.