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Happy New Year to you all! I spoke with Bohdan yesterday and he sends his greetings and thanks for all your support, especially over this past Christmas season.
As I write, the team are coming to the end of Christmas celebrations as the children’s work continues through to the weekend where the old orthodox Christmas has been traditionally celebrated. Due to the war, Ukrainian people now have transitioned to mainly celebrating Christmas on the 25th December, and pulled away from the orthodox timeline of it being January 7th.
Your support, both financially and prayerfully, has been overwhelming through this past month. Below you will see some pictures taken from the camps and activities. Fuller reports are still to come through so there will be more to share.
What has been evident so far is the hurt and pain children are going through currently. All have family fighting or that have been injured, and all knew of people that have died through this tragic war. It is scarring young lives.
On Christmas Day Bohdan text me to say he had gone down with a flu type virus with a high temperature, but he was still at the church and centre as there was much to do.
After the Christmas service they handed out aid to all those that had come along much to everyone’s surprise. Food stocks are not great in local stores and getting ever more expensive to purchase, so to walk away with food and supplies was warmly received.
Starting on Boxing Day was the camp for teenagers. They had prayed for 60 young people to come along but instead had 75. Costa, the husband of Lyuba, shared his story of how he overcame drug addiction and many asked lots of questions around this as it challenged them on their lifestyle choices. Yes, that is Bohdan dressed up in the photo at the top of the page narrating the Christmas story!!
They also had a lady turn up in army fatigues, which was interesting. She is a local lady who has been called up to fight and who had been based locally for training. She had no bedding or much equipment, and was told that there would be none given when on the frontline as there was simply nothing available. We were able to give some basics to her like toiletries, and included a sleeping bag to keep warm at night when not fighting.
During the Christmas period you will have seen in our news that Russia launched many missiles upon Ukraine. One rocket was shot down over Lebedyn, which created a loud explosion but little damage thankfully. Many parents were fearful about letting their children go out and so the next day they only had 45 young people. That changed as the week went on and they were back up to full numbers again. There was a lot of uncertainty around this time as you can imagine, but the young people pleaded to come back. Bohdan said that many were crying as they wanted to be there together and be normal again.
In the past you might recall us praying for Azat who was eventually found after being beaten and tortured by the Russians. He had been pastoring a church in Okhtyrka. This week many of the team went there to give out aid and help. The church is small but we gave as much support as we could give at this time, but they will be returning soon to see what else can be done. This area has been hit hard early on in the war with many missiles and rockets.
This week there is not so much a camp, but something going on each day for children and those with special needs.
The puppet show gives at least one performance a day and presents are given to all the children. We are hoping that every child in the city will attend through this week to hear the Christmas story and receive a present.
Below are some pictures of the children receiving their presents and enjoying the puppet show. Thank you to all of those who gave so generously to make this happen. Good conversations are being had to help the children through these war times. They have many questions which Bohdan asks them to submit, and then he answers them all. Some of them are very deep! The response though has been amazing.
These activities will run up to and through this next weekend.
In other news Bohdan has asked that we continue to pray for Misha. He has been sent to a rehabilitation hospital following the 2 strokes he had. He has lost all his balance so in unable to stand currently. Also Farmer Sergey has been laid up with a very heavy cold/flu type virus, and has had a high temperature for several days now.
Please pray for them both for a good recovery.
Over Christmas power was available a lot more, and since then they have had power at all the times they needed it for all the activities and work. Even at home there has been more regularity in receiving power which has helped.
On Christmas Day Bohdan wrote…. “We send our Christmas greetings to all those within Hope Lebedyn and the church. Christmas is an event and time of year that allows us to have hope in the midst of despair, joy in the midst of grief, faith in the midst of human disbelief and apathy, love in the midst of hatred and life in the midst of death”.
With your help the team have been able to bring and give some of that hope to the many they will have engaged with. We hope and pray that this will make a difference in their lives.
We do not know what 2023 will bring, but thank you for continually standing with us as we journey with the team out in the Sumy region, and with the work they are doing. There are lots of things being planned right now for the late winter/springtime, and indeed through all the year. Our next update will hopefully elaborate a little more on that.
So thank you again! May we all experience peace this year, and we all wish you a very Happy New Year!
Founding Director of Hope Lebedyn