I spent a very interesting, and often moving week, visiting many different places in eastern Ukraine. The people were amazing in their welcome and hospitality. They were so pleased to see us. It was very humbling to realise that our just being there, meant so much to them. They said they knew they weren't forgotten, and that seemed to be very important to them. I have set up a prayer station in order to remember the people of Ukraine regularly in my prayers.
During our trip to Eastern Ukraine we met church leaders, young and old, who told us the story of the church's struggle and we witnessed the work of the church in so many different facets: giving hope to the lost, food to the hungry, leadership to the young, comfort to the old, refuge to the forgotten. We experienced a wonderful, gentle and genuine sense of hospitality wherever we went. We witnessed the enduring strength of the local church, a wonderful sense of family, and couldn’t help but compare the education system to our own at home, as well as the medical and welfare facilities available. You don't return from a trip like this unaffected in some way, and it’s not easy to define in what way, the sense of wanting to help never leaves you.
The mission trip to Ukraine has left me overwhelmed with impressions. It was a special experience to meet all the people in need. Seeing the orphans, the homeless, the disabled and old people has left an imprint on my mind that I don't think will leave me. At the same time as it was hard to see so much suffering, it was a joy to be able to help and to give out food and medicines. Jesus said that what we did to one of the least we did to him, so in that sense it felt like we were doing what is on God's heart. The local Christians in Ukraine are doing a wonderful work to help people in need, and it was very touching to see how they offer time and money and even put themselves in danger to help others. A big thank you to the leaders of this trip for making it possible to participate in such a meaningful mission. And most of all a big thank you to God.
A commendable aspect of the trip is the collaboration with the contacts and pastors in Ukraine. This helped to facilitate contacts with institutions such as the home for disabled, the school and the Children's home and the buying of goods and equipment from the local industries. The whole experience of ministering to the disabled, children and needy families was surreal. I acted as my normal self but on reflection, the presence of the Holy Spirit was active in overshadowing and guiding us as we fulfilled the Mission of God. The poor conditions in which the disabled people lived gave cause for concern and it made me reflect on how I would develop my ministry to address those issues. For example, conducting regular visits to the facility, providing a one to one visiting service to the residents, setting up a befriender's scheme and making arrangements for befrienders to take those who are mobile out for a walk. Overall the trip to Ukraine was a great experience and it was wonderful to bond with others in the group.
Challenging. Many asked me about my experiences on the 2017 mission trip and that is the best response that I can give. One experience that stands out especially was our visit an abandoned adults home, where we were able to converse with some of the most disadvantaged and forgotten about people in Ukraine. Fortunately, due to the donations from many of our friends, colleagues and family members we were able to provide the home with medicine and other aid. Despite the very real poverty that the people lived in, there was a very real yet incredible sense of hope for the future and thankfulness in many of those that I met. This thankfulness was not only to God but also for what they had, even if it did seem inadequate in contrast to British standards. I thank God for our Ukrainian brothers and sisters who never cease to amaze me; in the face of inequality, corruption, and the human cost of war they continue to be hopeful, resilient, faithful and joyous. This one week mission trip has deeply challenged the way in which I lead my life, and will continue to do so for as long as I live.