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Firstly, a big thank you to those that came out to our service of prayer and thanksgiving on 25th February to mark the first anniversary of this terrible war. It was great to see such a large crowd gathered to pray for Ukraine and for the team in Lebedyn. To have some of the team present, to hear Bohdan speak, and to see baby Zoryana was a special treat. It was also a joy to welcome so many Ukrainian nationals to the meeting who joined us trhoughout. The service was recorded and we have a link to the recording if anyone is interested.
I spoke with Bohdan on Wednesday and there is a level of stability in the region due to the fact there is more power available to all. The villages in the region of Sumy, close to the border to Russia, lie empty and uninhabited with the destruction of buildings evident. Fear of a Russian attack has meant the people have fled from these more remote parts. The area commander has said that small incursions akin to scouting groups have come across the border, but so far they have not penetrated through the defences. Daily the sirens echo out, and even today the schools are closed, with gunfire being heard, sirens ringing out and drones flying around. Just on Wednesday night, a huge explosion rocked Lebedyn. Air defence brought down a large bomb on its way south.
The team in Lebedyn have been asked to do more for the families of the soldiers fighting. Many in the church and associated to the mission centre have family members that are fighting on the frontline. More services will be held, more aid sought, and more specialist first aid given. One couple that have been coming to the church regularly have their son in hospital seriously injured from the fighting. I have said we will pray for this family.
A few months ago I asked for prayer for Alla’s (children’s worker) mother-in-law. She was captured due to her role as chief administrator to the Mayor down in the south of Ukraine where the fighting is at its most severe. She was released a little while back, too traumatised to talk, but Alla visited her last week in Kharkiv where she is staying with her sister. When she was captured a hood was placed over her head and she had to wear this the whole time of captivity. Food was scarce and what she did have tasted foul and “off”. Prisoners were only allowed to go to the toilet twice a day; there were 20+ people crammed in a cell with only 9 beds, so most nights were spent on a cold, dark cell floor with no heating and sub-zero temperatures outside and in! When the time came for her to be released, they heard stories that when people left they were filmed walking out to prove their release and they would then be shot in the back. Thankfully this did NOT happen. Instead they were told to walk off across the fields to get to the Ukraine army. It was very dark with no light or even moonlight to direct her ways. Prisoners all split up and went across several fields. She could hear explosions so she knew she was close to safety as that would be near where the battles and Ukrainian army were based. When greeted by the Ukrainian army, they were astonished to see her, and they told her they did not understand how she was alive. The fields the people had been directed to walk through were mined, and the explosions heard were fellow inmates stepping on land mines. Alla explained that many people had been praying for her safety. Alla’s mum is not a Christian, but she is thankful for all the prayers. No wonder she was traumatised. We thank God for answered prayers.
The bakery is now getting going, and the team are learning how to bake as you can see from the pictures above and below. They bake for all the children’s and teen work, and for the parents that bring them. All of this is very well received.
The work in the area continues with all the clubs for children and youth. Aid is being given out where we can get hold of it. The work seems like it never comes to an end and there is always more to do at the end of the day than at the beginning.
Bohdan has asked that we pray for both Musical Sergey and Sasha. Sasha is down with a flu type virus which Bohdan had. Because his immune system is compromised there are always concerns when he gets ill.
Musical Sergey is recovering from his operation but still without much energy. He tried to do something at the Centre this week, but was sent home. He also asked for prayer for four young people that over this past week or so, have become Christians and want to be baptised. They are Sofia, Camila, Alexei & Vadim.
Again thank you for your ongoing support and it was great to see so many of you on the 25th February.
Founding Director of Hope Lebedyn