Who doesn’t remember playing “Connect the Dots” as a child? We played. Our children played. And our grandchildren will soon experience this classic. As we drew lines connecting the numbered dots a pattern would emerge. In the end, we would recognize the pattern and color in the details.
Sometimes our ministry feels like this.
Several years ago we met a woman named Suzette Davie at church here in Ukraine. Her family was adopting a child, and as for many other families, our church served as a spiritual oasis during the process. Like others, her heart grieved for the children left behind and she committed to do something about them. She began an orphan-hosting ministry for the children she had grown to love so that others might have the chance to meet them and even offer them a forever family. She visits Ukraine several times a year, and 2012 was no different. The visits allow her the opportunity to deepen relationships with children, their caregivers, missionaries on the ground, and local government officials.
Suzette and Marianna have stayed distantly in contact with each other through blogs, facebook, and mutual friends. And in the fall, Suzette would have a full day in Kyiv before heading to Lugansk to the orphanage. She asked to get together and was excited to find out that if you want to get together with the Peipons on a Wednesday, that means you go to visit hospitalized HIV+ children. Conversations en route to the hospital began to connect hearts, and playing with the children all together helped us each see that we had much in common. Suzette shared that on this trip she was going to visit a special needs orphanage near Lugansk for the first time. We quickly ate dinner and the team dropped Marianna off at their flat and they went on to Lugansk.
After Suzette returned to America, she could not forget the special needs orphanage. She knew that she had to do something to help the staff and the children. She was struck by the lack of knowledge of the staff in how to help these kids. The staff, despite being over worked and underpaid, still loved the kids. But how to help improve the care!
She expressed this concern to Marianna who wrote back and asked her, “Did you know my husband helps to set up conferences to help medical workers understand the value of each child and to improve the care to those kids who are disabled?” She had no idea.
The dots are beginning to connect; the picture is becoming clearer. Thanks to Grace to Ukraine (Suzette’s ministry), we flew on a snowy night last month to meet with government officials. While Jim explained what is needed to organize such a conference, Andrey, the governmental official, began calling doctors. “Please come to my office in 5 minutes.” Before long we were sitting across from the chiefs of Family Medicine and Pediatrics for the region and planning a conference.
Next we were off to the special needs orphanage. Because of funding, the staff consisted of mostly caretakers as opposed to trained professionals. They did have one physical therapist on staff, but she just went on maternity leave for the next 3 years! They have looked to hire a replacement but this orphanage is so isolated and the pay so little there is not much interest in the position.
The staff proudly told us about their sensory integration therapy room. “Could we see it?” I asked. “Sure but I don’t know if we can find the key.” After a few minutes they were able to open the door revealing a well supplied room. “How often do the kids get to use the room?” “The only one who knows how to use the room and is licensed to do so is the physical therapist and she is on maternity leave.” So, this translates that during the next three years there will be no physical therapy for these children.
The dots have been connected leaving the details to be colored in. This month we have been trying to follow up with our new friends to develop some concrete plans. While initially suggesting a conference with two days of teaching and three days of workshops, we settled for a three-day event. Now this may even disrupt the work schedule too much. We’re still trying to color in the picture.
We are excited about the opportunity to work in eastern Ukraine, but need God’s direction and wisdom in how to proceed. In the meantime more dots are being added to the picture. Just this week, we received e-mails regarding the care of children with special needs in other orphanages in the eastern part of the country. Please join with us in praying for how to use our time and resources for God’s greatest glory.
Oh, did I mention while in Lugansk we were able to have dinner with Tim, a medical student from Uganda? We met him at the airport when he first arrived in Ukraine 5 years ago, and our daughter Jeanne and her husband Kolya gave him a quick tour of downtown while helping him purchase tickets to Lugansk and also a SIM card for his phone. We connected to him through Healthcare Christian Fellowship International and the International Saline Partnership, other connecting dots. He is now in his last year of study to become a doctor.
Another dot in the ever enlarging picture of God’s plan.
The finished picture is going to be so very amazing.