Village Ministry


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After years of visiting the village, we thought we had a good idea of the need for kids and family support. Since moving there, it seems like sadly, that’s all we can see.You may remember this video about brother and sister, Vika and Tolik, that we posted a year or so ago.

IMG_9024We met these adorable siblings at the Pravdinska Orphanage and quickly learned that their mom lived just a couple houses away from the orphanage. Depending on the mom’s sobriety and level of neglect, the kids bounce back and forth between their mom’s house and the orphanage. This summer we ran into Tolik a few times walking around Ivanivka and were able to chat with him a little. We were worried about him a little based on his physical appearance.

We recently found out that Vika and Tolik (in 5th and 8th grade) are no longer at the orphanage and are both attending the public school in the village and are living with their mom and step dad. To tell you the kind of heart that Tolik has, we’ll share a little story of what recently happened. Tolik was buying school supplies that he needed. It was clear that he didn’t have enough money to get all the things he needed. But he didn’t let her know that, IMG_9498and made sure to let her pick the giant white hair bows that she wanted. Thanks to Dusya and her initiative and discernment, we’ve been able to contact their teachers at the school to find out what they need. It has been made clear that their mother is unwilling or unable to pay for their needs (things like notebooks, pe clothes, lunch at school, and other necessities). Vika actually just told Dusya that they haven’t been eating because no one has paid. This is obviously breaking out hearts and we are looking for sponsors to help pay for their monthly needs. If you would like to help support Vika and Tolik with a one-time or monthly recurring donation, please use the PayPal button below. Checks can also be mailed to us at PO Box 1148, Oakley, CA 94561.

There have been other factors that have come into play with these kids and our heart in wanting to help them. If you would like to know more about how to help and pray for them, please contact us for more info. Thank you so much for joining us in loving these two and many others like them.


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image Moving to the village has had a slower start than we first anticipated. We of course understand now that it will take time to build the trust of the people of Ivanivka and that is what we have slowly but surely been doing. We have thought for some time how we would like to somehow get involved with helping the school that most of the kids of the village attend. Dusya’s daughter, Vala, is there and we have been able to go to her classroom before to bring sweets for her class. But we have been thinking and praying about more involvement. Yesterday we received word that they need some new windows before winter arrives. They need three big ones for of the classrooms, which happens to be Vala’s class. We really would like to help and think this could be a great opportunity to be more involved. It will cost about $450 total for all 3 windows. If you would like to be involved and donate you can click the button below. Thank you so much in advance!

Tuesday Tales – 08/30/16

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As summer comes to a close, we have been reflecting back on our time in Ukraine and our first summer in the village. This was a big change for all of us. Some days it was really rough… Feeling dirty with no sink, shower, washing machine, or clean anything sometimes left us asking ourselves why we chose to pick up and move to Ivanivka. But then God would do something to gently remind us that this is exactly where he wanted us and knew we were home.

Now that we’re home for a bit with consistent internet, we’re going to continue with Tuesday Tales highlighting moments from our summer in Ivanivka.

IMG_8078When you live in an almost 100 year old house that no one lived in for the past 2 years, all your electrical –
wires, outlets, fixtures, meters – are a little out of date. Since we know some moms will be reading this, we won’t tell you that for a while we had 2 live wires plugged straight into a surge protector that then brought electricity to our whole house. 🙂 Thanks to Dusya who always knows what to do in the village, we were able to hire her uncle Petya to redo all the electrical wiring in our house. This was awesome because not only is he a retired electrician who needed the work, but it was also someone we could trust. He was at our house multiple times over the course of a month or so, and Uncle Petya quickly became a family favorite every time he was there. Some days Sasha would drive with him to the closest city to buy supplies, some days he’d be standing on a stool working on the wires, but he was alway happy and worked hard on his task for the day. One day when he and Sasha made the drive to Okhtyrka for more supplies, Melissa had specifically been praying for Sasha to have an opportunity to share with him about God. She hadn’t even said anything to Sasha about it. When they got back that day, Sasha told her how on their drive they were able to talk about God. It was an awesome answer to prayer and encouragement to us that even just in fixing up things in the house, God was working.

If you’d like to donate to help allow us to continue our Village Ministry, click here. Thank you!

Tuesday Tales – 08/02/16

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thumb_IMG_8638_1024Expectations are a funny thing. Sometimes they inspire you and push you forward. Other times they can leave you feeling disappointed. We have had a lot of conversations about expectations lately. What we expected this summer to look like. Where we thought ministry would be by now. At first it was easy to become burdened by feelings of disappointment, but through processing together and separately we have been reminded of God’s plan and faithfulness even in the little things.

We have seen God moving slowly and setting the foundation for ministry here in the village. We are hopeful that slowly but surely God will continue to open the doors for revival here in the village of Ivanivka. Reading through Ephesians reminded us of God’s grace and faithfulness. It also reminded us of the call to make the most of every opportunity.

thumb_IMG_8771_1024We have seen God set the foundation as we go on prayer walks and say a simple hello to our neighbors. He is moving through dinner conversations with Dusya and her two kids as we talk about our favorite Bible stories. We see Him moving in the beauty of His creation that surrounds us and the sense of home we have here. God is reminding us that although there have been obstacles and we have not been able to do the camps and things we had expected, He is still faithful. He is still working. Whether it be through connecting with the workers at the market each day, talking to a stranger while swimming in the river, or Sasha being able to talk about God with the man doing our electrical work, He is moving. We also recently connected with the director of the orphanage and received an update about the handful of kids there this summer. It will be exciting to see how God continues to use that relationship.

So while we may not have any “big” news to report, we can tell you that God is still moving and working in our day to day life here in Ivanivka.

Tuesday Tales – 07/21/16

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It’s hard to believe that two weeks have already passed since our last Tuesday Tales post. (And that it took us till Thursday to actually post because – no wifi in the village.) We have lots to catch you up on! Lets just say it’s been an adventurous couple of weeks full of traveling, an engagement, lice (yes, you read that right), new windows, and the beginning stages of village ministry.

imageLast week we had the opportunity to escape village life and travel as a team to Western Ukraine. We stayed a couple nights in the beautiful city of Lviv and a couple of nights in the Carpathian Mountains. It was a week full of rest, adventure, an amazing excursion in an Indiana Jones like jeep, and excitement. The highlight of the trip was getting to watch two of our own get engaged!! It was an exciting day and we could not be happier for Sasha and Melissa.

In the midst of all the excitement we ended up with lice. Thank you mayonnaise, essential oils, and plastic bags for helping us get rid of it. Please pray that we were able to get rid of it completely. It’s hard to kill it all without a washing machine or shower.image

Expectations are a funny thing. We dream and plan and try, but find ourselves waiting more than we anticipated. We were thinking that tomorrow would be a “Big Day” kids outreach event in Ivanivka. Our church was coming with a team to help run games, a Bible lesson and all kinds of fun. But we ran into some road blocks with needing more official documents and permission than we thought. So we are talking with the Sumy church and working towards it happening later this summer. For now, we keep working on our house and establishing ourselves as residents of Ivanivka. As we sat on the floor of our veranda, with dust and construction and chaos in the rest of the house, gaping holes to fill where the new windows got put in, and layers upon layers of wallpaper waiting to be stripped and refinished, we felt like God has us in this time reminding us to trust that His timing is always perfect. We thought for sure we’d have more formal ministry running by now, but it seems like God wants us to wait, to keep preparing our home, to show the people of Ivanivka that we’re here to stay. We’re wanting to do things the right way and to build trustworthy relationships. Even though it will take longer, we will jump through the hoops that we need to so that Village Ministry can reach it’s full potential. Please continue to pray with us as we dream and plan and wait on God.

IMG_9905Please be praying for us in this next week. The heat is getting to us, we are tired, we had lice. All sneaky little ways we feel that Satan is trying to slowly tear us down. We are so grateful for all of your continued support and prayers. We truly could not do this without you.



TUESDAY TALES – 07/05/16

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We’ve been working hard on our house since we all got to Ivanivka. If you looked at it now, you wouldn’t necessarily believe it but it’s true. The difference between two weeks ago and now is actually impressive. We’ve cleaned and repainted the “veranda” almost completely. Our yard looked like an overgrown jungle when we came back. Now it’s a couple of burn piles left to finish, a blow up pool, a mosquito-tented easy-up, a brick fire pit built by Boyko, and a even an awesome new chair that Melissa and Sasha made from an old “wheelbarrow.” The boys even dug out and bricked a pit with a closing door/lid that will soon be able to lock and safely store our water pump! We’re so thankful for Sasha and Boyko and all of their hard work! We haven’t had to hire out much work yet because they have been killing it with the work that we’ve done so far! We’ve even got an electrician coming out again tomorrow to rewire everything so we don’t blow the breaker every time we plug in our little electric kettle. And Friday we get new windows! We still have two rooms we haven’t even touched, but we are making a lot of progress. Restoration is happening! Please pray that we would continue to have the funds and the stamina to keep plugging away at our fixer upper.

Sunday we had our first ever church service in Ivanivka. It was wasn’t huge – just the 5 of us, plus Dusya and her kids, her dad and theirs. But the last two being around even for part of it was a small miracle in and of itself. We are so excited to see where God takes it, even by the end of summer! Please be praying for the growth, health and leadership of the Ivanivka church.

We also got to help out a growing family yesterday. You may remember us temporarily housing a young couple in the fall. Nastya and Zhora had a baby girl named Taya on July 1st! Unfortunately, he had to go out of town to work on Sunday while Nastya and baby were still in the hospital. So yesterday, Melissa and Sasha drove to Sumy to pick them up and bring them home.

To those of you who have been praying for us – thank you!! We were talking today about how evident the power of prayer has been already on this trip. Please continue to pray for our health, ministry direction, strength, patience, and love for this village. And again, sorry for no pictures in this post. The lack of Internet connection and bad cell service makes it tough. But check out our Instagram, Facebook or find us on Snapchat to see pics and videos (you should be able to search @OpenArmsUkraine on all 3).


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It’s been a week since we’ve all arrived back in Ukraine. We wanted to share some of what has already happened since we left. We have all been excited to see what this adventure of village living and this trip would bring us. We have quickly hit some road blocks that only God could bring us through. Even leaving California was an ordeal, so we were encouraged that God has big plans and the devil was already working to hold us up. The short version of that story is we had to be reticketed because of a visa issue with our flight itinerary to Kyiv for Sasha. We waited about 3 hours at the United counter, on the phone with United (don’t even get us started how that was) to try to get them to rebook us all on the same flight and not pay for their mistake. But finally, we got our tickets and boarded our flight(s) to Ukraine, all 4 of us together.

We stayed overnight near the airport, and our pastor came from Sumy to pick us up the next day. We crammed all of us and all our bags in the van and were on our way. About 30 minutes into our drive (and also 30 minutes after we posted a request for prayer for safety) we were cut off by a semi. We all watched and were sure that we were gonna slam into the back of it (with no seat belts). Nothing but a miracle stopped us. It was like at the last moment, something pulled us back and we stopped within a couple feet of hitting it. Praise Jesus!

We spent a couple of nights at a friends house in Sumy and then dove right into village life staying with Dusya. She welcomed us back instantly, even had a whole party with decorations and food for us when we arrived. We’re kinda cozy in her house – 3 of us on a 1 couch, 2 on mattresses on the floor, and Dus with her kids on the floor too. But she had been so gracious and hospitable to let us stay with them while we begin the work on our house.

We have no wifi and cell service is spotty so posting a lot is hard. We are doing our best to keep you all updated with Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. We will be working to keep you all in the loop with these Tuesday Tales, sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly on a weekly basis. Stay tuned for more updates on our progress in our home restoration and plans for more ministry in Ivanivka. Please keep the prayers coming!


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imageThe countdown is on – we leave for Ukraine in 3 days. In case you missed it, we moved from the city of Sumy to the village of Ivanivka. As excited as we are to be living in the village, we are also experienced enough to know that it isn’t going to be without its challenges. It is going to be a huge change from the privileges of city life that we are used to. We firmly believe in the power of prayer. We are looking for people to come along side us and pray for specific needs. If you would like to be a part of our daily prayer team, please send us an email at and we will send you a specific prayer request. We would be so grateful for your prayer support as we start this new chapter of our crazy lives in Ukraine. We are looking forward to seeing what God does through the ministry and through your prayers this summer!



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image-56ae40384411d18e8cac91443beb13d7641dbf1be0d924ac8fd7d1bcaa550533-Vimage-536edeb6981c8b256f55f862e4dc521ce1d3ab25fe5e1b2a5d4e15700955f651-VSummer is fast approaching and that means our team is getting ready to head back to Ukraine. There have been many changes this year, some good and some hard. We recently made the decision to move from the city of Sumy to the village of Ivanivka, where we recently bought a house. This is the same village where the Pravdinska Orphanage is. We have loved Ivanivka for going on 10 years now. We have seen so much need and are excited to help where we can. This is going to be a HUGE change seeing as our house has no running water, functioning toilet, or kitchen. Who doesn’t love camping for an extended period of time?? But on a serious note, we are looking forward to the opportunity to be next to the orphanage and also love on all the people in the village.

image-7f24b9176d4ae6f4900e82e54ecee5c54e200fcc478904c80d86050d8c02eb07-Vimage-a5e4a049fe07c56304161772edba8a9391d729a7048fed4ff445081501e2d4b3-VThere is a lot that’s on our to-do list for the house in order to make it a livable home for our team, as well as a good space to run ministry. Some of it will be work we do ourselves, some we plan to hire locals to help us get done, and some things will just be a series of purchases we need to make for improvements.

If you would like to contribute by purchasing or giving to any of these needs we would be so thankful for your help! Below is a list with estimated costs of some of the specifics we already know we need. Donations can be made with notes for specific items.

image-58c5ff0a74862d15e50e635916fae618908d50072a758f59765dc8b135d78e64-Vimage-cfca50a5597908d16eb16dfd34e1fb269e8d829e5b45026eb77ee2234e5d476a-VSome of the items we need are:
New windows ($400)
Garage roof (estimated cost $500)
Kitchen items:  hot plate ($40), hot pot ($50), table + 4 chairs ($165)
Outdoor items like tented bug net ($345), weed whacker ($100)

imageOf course this is not an exhaustive list; there is always more need than we can put in one place. (We did post the longer list here). And sorry in advance for when we get to the village and realize all the other things we need and ask for later. We are so thankful for any help you can provide and we can’t wait to keep you updated on how our summer village ministry goes!


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If you’re coming here, you’ve probably read our other blog about our house and summer village ministry. If not, go check that one out first. This is just the more extensive list of some of the things we need in the our almost-100-year-old house in Ivanivka to help us run better ministry/make it livable. Some items are necessary, some are more of a wish list for improvement that we don’t necessarily need. But here it is, listed with estimated costs. We’ll be updating this list as items are donated and we figure out what else we need. If you want to donate for a specific item please put a note on your check or use the PayPal donate button below and leave a note in there. (The * means it’s items we’d be better off buying in the states and bringing with us.) Thank you so much! Read More