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Singing for the widows' outreach
After barely a week of settling in and exploring Zholty Vody, we left Thursday, October 1st, and drove to Dnipropetrovsk to meet Stepan Bokach who is the regional director for Gospelink.  Gospelink is a ministry which works with pastors and churches in Ukraine to reach out and minister to orphans and others in need of helpWe were given Stepan's contact information by Dean Kershner (the man who portrays Vanya) whom we met this past summer at Camp Dwight.  

During our initial meeting, Stepan invited us to go immediately to Nikopol, where a group of Canadians were doing a two-week outreach to widows, handicapped children, and other needy people.  After being treated to an amazing Ukranian meal, we headed south to Nikopol with our interpreter and new friend, Ira.

In Nikopol we had a tremendous experience, spending three days with wonderful believers from Canada and Ukraine.  We had the privilege of staying in one of two homes for foster families and had a precious time getting to know both young Ukrainian couples who live in these homes and care for the children.  Ola and Pasha (our hosts) have their own little girl and a sibling group of three in their home.  Sveta and Max, have three children plus five "born in their hearts" as Sveta told us.  We hope to visit them again before we leave Ukraine.  
Friday morning we met the Canadian team and sang for their outreach to widows.  The team expected 150 widows to attend, but almost twice that many came and filled the choir chairs, balcony seats and tables.   The team shared hymns, scriptures, songs, and testimonies with these widows and also served them lunch.  After the meeting, everyone in attendance was given much needed care packages filled with food and other necessities.  
Ericka, Ben, Ira, Sveta and Ola & Pasha's precious family

We didn't intend to be in the Nikopol area for three days, but our five speed van was not able to get into fifth gear because of a shifting linkage problem. One of the men in the church was willing to repair the problem, and he ended up working on it for two days and one night rebuilding the whole assembly with new parts, which had to be ordered all the way from Kiev!  This change of our plans was a huge blessing, which of course was no surprise to the Lord.   Because we were "stuck", we were able to take part in the widow outreach and also help out with a different outreach to special needs children on Saturday morning. 
 After a delicious breakfast and fellowship with Ola and Pasha, we walked next door to help decorate the church for the children's outreach.  We shared our testimony and music and some of our kids had roles in a skit about the Good Samaritan.  They did a great job of beating up and ignoring the poor traveler.  For lunch afterwards, the children enjoyed hot dogs, yogurt, cake and candy.  We handed out food care packages and had the opportunity to visit and pray with some of the children and their parents.  

After the children's ministry we loaded up the van, (which drove and shifted like new), and headed to another foster home/church about 40 km east of Dnipropetrovsk.  Again we were treated like royalty by the family who lives in the home. The parents, Ivan and Luda, have five biological children and seven foster children. Three of the oldest children, who are siblings, (twin boys and a younger sister) were discovered living in a cage in their biological parent's home, at the ages of three and one.  They were treated worse than animals;  malnourished, unable to speak or taste, and could not use their hands properly or stand upright.  These three children, now 15 and 13, sang and played beautiful music for us on the accordion and a mandolin-like instrument, and played volleyball like pros with our children.  How great is our God and how great is His loving-kindness!

Some of the children and church family.  Luda is wearing the gray dress with a white scarf.  The family presented us with a beautiful, handmade beaded picture. 

L to R: the deacon and his wife, the pastor and our host Ivan.  Check out the windex bottle in the pastor's hands.  He preached about true servant-hood and demonstrated this by washing our van windows before we left.

The next morning (Sunday), we enjoyed fellowship at the little Baptist church next to their home, where we shared and sang several songs.  It was a special Sunday for their church because they appointed a new deacon.  After the meeting, we enjoyed an incredible meal with all the church members, and conversed with some sweet babushkas (grandmothers).   With clean windows, full bellies, and overflowing hearts, we drove back to Dnipropetrovsk to take Ira home and then we continued on to Zholty Vody (our current home.)   A huge thank you to Ira for all her hard work translating for us for four days, and being willing to stick with us the whole way, even in the crowded van, over bumpy roads, stinky boys (they only brought one change of clothes. . .remember we planned to be gone only one night) and everything else, she still smiles! 

Through this unplanned busy weekend, the Lord reminded us that we should desire His plan, not ours and that He directs our steps, not us.   And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Selfie time!


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