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As 11 months of the war have passed, tensions are rising once again. What you will be reading in the news is happening in Sumy.
Today, I spent some time chatting with the team whilst sirens were going off as they have been for the past 48 hours, almost non-stop. Shops are closed and there are long queues for banks, sometimes taking over 4 hours to withdraw cash. People are starting to sell things to get money to be ready to flee, if necessary.
New conscription laws are coming into place to try and get those that have fled the country back to fight. They are only giving permission for males to be out of the country for 3 months maximum. If they do not return, they have threatened to imprison them if they go back after the war. Everything seems to be going up another gear now.
Power, and therefore heat and light, are becoming more sporadic which is dampening people's resolve. This has affected some of the work the team have been doing as numbers have been lower than normal. Parents will not let their teenagers come to the clubs (understandably) with no streetlights and sirens going off. That being said, around 30 will still come out and after school Alla has many that just come and meet, all arranged by the young people, and show in the picture above. Less people were also out at the teenagers homegroup, but again, those that came had a great time.
Food is now becoming more difficult to find, and this week we have been trying to work with the team to source aid and food supplies. We had the offer of 5 tons of aid from Romania, but we had to pick it up, and sadly we could not make this happen. We still have some supplies, but with shops closed things will get very tight soon. They still have supplies to help mothers with young children’s food, but aid is now going to be the next challenge given Lebedyn’s position in the country.
For Bohdan, and some of the team, they had the funeral of one of his close friends, Vyacheslav . He had been a lieutenant in the police until his call up to the army to fight, and was a massive help to Bohdan and the camps we have run over the years. He was actively involved in his church when not away with the army, and over 500 attended. He leaves behind a wife and children, and was only 47.
On the faith side of things, many are still coming to the church for help and prayer. New Christians are asking to be baptised and numbers are growing weekly with new believers. Bohdan said it is strange to be planning a baptismal service when sirens are going off! The team want to do a special Easter camp for the children. This year they only get one week off school. Musical Sergey is preparing a new theatre production of the Easter story which will be shown daily for everyone.
We have also had delivered thousands of packets of seeds. Each year these are given out to the needy families in the area (plus some for the Centre’s allotment patch!) to grow vegetables and fruit. For some this is an absolute lifeline, and the only way they will find food. A service is held where they are distributed, and then people come back in September for a harvest service to give thanks for their produce.
The team’s appetite for the work they do is just so impressive. They all look tired, but they are resolute and undefeated in their goals and mission.
Once again the team send their thanks for all the love and support they are getting. It is keeping them going - that is for sure!
Founding Director of Hope Lebedyn