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Dnipro Mission Blog

14 July – Rain on the First Day Doesn't Dampen Spirits!

I couldn't believe it. In Ukraine in July the only weather-related concern that I had was that we'd have to endure several days of the usual scorching heat under the blazing sun. Instead, on this first morning of the camp, it started to pour with rain!

Not put off by the downpour, dozens of children began to arrive. By 10:00 we had a little over 90 children!

We had to improvise a bit by relocating the gazebos to offer a makeshift rain shield for the children. By lunchtime, however, the rain had cleared and we were able to run the camp according to the schedule. It was an incredible experience to see so many children radiating so much joy as they entered into the camp activities without any inhibitions.

It was a privilege to witness this spontaneous joy as the children watched creative reenactments of key gospel scenes or as they practiced speaking English with the UK group and as they learned new skills like crochet, drawing and dancing.

It was especially pleasing for me (Joshua) to witness so much joy in this place. This house, which hosted the camp, was the home in which my wife grew up. Just a few years ago, in 2013, my wife's father died tragically. He was only 53 years old. Back then, everyone was wearing black and there was much weeping and sadness.

Years earlier this house had been completely destroyed by a fire, which had nearly killed my wife's family. Even though everyone had survived, the large family was homeless in the middle of winter and had to endure several months of hardship, living in the burnt-out husk of what had been their home, as they had to rebuilt the house, brick by brick.

Therefore, to see so much joy on the faces of the children and the DHM team and to hear the loud laughter echo around the yard was very poignant.

In one of the plenary sessions, in which we mentioned the story of Zacchaeus in the tree, we asked the children if they could name people whom they'd like to see so much that they'd be prepared to climb a tree just to get a glimpse of that person. Expecting that the children would answer with the names of celebrities or footballers, instead the children all called out the names of close friends an family members ("Granny", "Granddad", "my friend Maxim", etc.).

We all went to bed that night, exhausted as usual, but deeply gratified that we were serving God by ministering to these children, most of whom were either orphans or from broken homes and dysfuncional families. They were also a great blessing to us and we learned a lot about what it really means to be great in the Kingdom of God.

 

 

 Three of the DHM Camp leaders, Marika, Darina and Hayley, enjoying a delicious Ukrainian lunch        
My father-in-law, Ashot Melkonyan (centre), in 2012. He sadly died in 2013. He single-handedly built the house that hosted us and the outside territory where we had the children's activities. Without him the DHM summer camp would never have taken place.
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DHM Summer Camp, 13 July

Consultation between the UK and Ukraine Leaders of the Camp

We arrived into Dnipro on the overnight train from Kyiv and after a quick breakfast in the waiting lounge at Dnipro Central Station, we boarded the eastbound train to Vasylkivka, the venue of the summer camp.

Arriving in the town after a fascinating journey on an old Soviet-style "elektrichka" train, we were given an incredibly warm welcome by our hosts from Vasylkivka Baptist Church.

We quickly set up the tents and spent some time getting to know our Ukrainian counterparts with whom we were going to organise the summer camp. After the final preparations had been made in the evening, we shared in a time of prayer and worship and a delicious meal, lovingly prepared by our wonderful hosts, Sonya, Liliya and Masha.

We went to bed feeling exhausted but exhilirated about the start of the summer camp, which had been so long in preparation and was now so imminent.

Liliya and Sonya helping Joshua and the group to put up the tents

 

It was great to be reunited with my wife's family, including Marika, her little sister...

 

 

...and with my other sister-in-law, Karine, and my niece, Darinka

 

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DHM Summer Camp Trip 2017, 11–12 July

Little Darinka was the Star of the Show!

We've just arrived back from an exhilirating week at the Dnipro Hope Mission children's summer camp in Ukraine. It's been quite a remarkable week and we are returning from Ukraine with so many memories. 

After flying from Heathrow to Kyiv on 11 July, we spent the evening on the central square in the Ukrainian capital. The following day we visited the spectacular Monastery of the Caves in Kyiv, followed by a walk through the grounds of the Ukrainian Parliament. In the evening, we went to the central station in Kyiv, where we took an overnight train to the city of Dnipro in Eastern Ukraine.

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Reflections on the 2017 Mission

I’m returning from this mission trip to Ukraine with an overwhelming number of impressions. I have gained a new appreciation for Eastern Ukraine as a land of heroes of the faith. There are heroic people doing essential gospel work in Ukraine. I was so impressed by the quiet and unassuming manner in which ordinary Christians go about their work on behalf of the gospel.

We never hear about these people in the news or read about them in the papers, but these are the people who are building God’s Kingdom of compassion in Ukraine. They are the faithful labourers who are planting gospel seeds of faith, hope and compassion in the way that they serve their communities. It was a privilege to serve alongside these faithful servants and to learn from them about what it means to minister in Christ’s name to the poorest and most marginalised people – the people that the world has forgotten about, but who are especially close to God’s heart.

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Mission 2016 Part 3 - Hope Even Through Tragedy and Pain

'I just want to return home when the war is over' - Donetsk

Another moving experience was our visit to a group of refugees living in a run down ex-children’s camp from the war-torn Donetsk Region of Eastern Ukraine. One of the refugees, Natalya, told us that she and her husband, Nikolai, became frightened when when the bombing started. Their son, aged 26, was shot dead on his way back home from work. Natalya and Nikolai fled, leaving everything behind – their home, some land, a car and a vineyard. Nikolai recently had a stroke and can no longer speak.

We asked Natalya what were her hopes for the future. ‘I just want to return home when the war is over. My roots are there – my vineyard and my rose garden’. She was delighted when we gave her a Bible, saying, ‘I left my Bible behind when I fled – I’m so glad to have another one.’

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