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This past week marked the 18 month anniversary of this terrible war. Both Ukraine and Russia have suffered heavy losses, but the impact on family life and everyday living is taking its toll on people living in Ukraine. Currently, there appears to be an escalation in evacuating and fleeing for safety as stories below will highlight.
According to Ukrainian government data, Russia has lost 530 of its soldiers within the last 24 hours. This brings Russian losses since the war escalated in February 2022 to a total of 261,840 soldiers. In addition, Russia has lost some of its military equipment. According to Ukraine, Russia has lost 4,414 tanks, 8,579 armed/armoured vehicles, 7,909 vehicles and/or tankers, 5,450 artillery systems, 733 multiple rocket launchers, 500 air defence systems, 315 aircraft, 316 helicopters, 4,387 drones, and 18 boats. These figures have yet to be verified, but the cost both in lives and financial is extensive.
The team have been exceptionally busy helping people at the Centre and in the villages around with aid. They have been focusing on those who are effectively stuck at home suffering with disability. The aid was gratefully received, and there are a few photos below.
Svetlana held a service this week for families with very young babies. They were all given nappies and food as needed. Also, at the church on Sunday some of the children were prayed over seeking God’s protection over these young lives.
Last week I told you about a lady whose two sons who had died and one (Roman) was still missing. This week we found out more about this family as her daughter and granddaughter fled to Lebedyn. They arrived at the Centre for help (see picture below) from a village called Krasnopill near to where Pastor Andrew is operating. Sadly, the daughter’s husband was captured, along with her brother Roman, and in all reality it’s unlikely either are still alive. She was given some accommodation by the authorities but had nothing else, so the team gave away the last beds and gave them food and what clothes we could find. These are desperate times for this family, and sadly this is replicated thousands, if not millions of times over, across Ukraine.
Schools are due to return after the summer break, but with the recent missile attack on local schools, the government have said that homeschooling will happen at least for the first 2 weeks of term. The school bomb shelters are inadequate, but learning from home is not great either.
For the Centre we have been told that to run short clubs should be OK to do under the new regulations. However, to do the camp weeks in autumn and at Christmas we have to renovate the bomb shelter, install heating and specially strengthened doors, add toilets and air ventilation. There is to be an inspection of the bomb shelter soon, so Bohdan has asked for prayer for this to go well and that they will not be stopped from doing all the work with the children and youth, and this will not be too expensive to put right. He will have to get specialist quotes to do the work.
Meanwhile, the youth continue to meet at the Centre . Tonight I video’d into Bohdan’s youth Bible study and it was so good to see these young people happy and with Bibles open. Svetlana is still planning much activity for children and families. This next Monday she will do another service for families with slightly older children again in desperate need of nappies. They will be helped. Then she will have a few days off to go and see her parents in the south, right next door to where the heavy fighting is. Her father is a pastor of a church and they had a lovely building with the grounds adapted for doing camps. Sadly, it was bombed this summer. The church though continues to meet in another building. When she is back she has organised after-school (If they go!) clubs with computer and English classes. The “new” Sasha and his wife who have arrived on team as volunteers, speak fluent English having graduated with a masters degree, and will be helping with this. Parents are very keen for children to attend these groups. Children's clubs will also start again (9th September – local government permitting).
They are renovatiing the computer class area used for the drop in and also for the Bible School. New laptops have been ordered to help with all that is going on, and we are extremely grateful to a special donor who has funded these.
The last story to share this week is good news! We have been concerned for many months over the safety and well being of Bohdan’s friend Pastor Elijah. He ran a church in the new Russian occupied territory. He had been taken away 6 times and tortured for information. Eventually, he had his papers taken away and was put under house arrest, and then Bohdan was unable to get any contact with him at all for some time. During this past week he was unexpectedly given his papers back so he decided to flee the area. When he got to the region's border checkpoint the soldiers there put a gun to his head and asked for his papers. Pastor Elijah did not think he would get away, but suddenly the guard returned his papers and he is now over on the Polish border in safety waiting to leave the country. As you can imagine he is traumatised, but the family are safe. Bohdan again thanked us for the prayers given – they really have made a difference.
These are just some of the stories and issues the team face week in – week out. They have seen many people come to faith and witnessed answered prayers. Every day sirens still ring out, and whilst we were on a video call today they said the sirens were sounding out again, although they continued our conversation.
Lastly, many of you will be receiving a separate letter from me in the next week or so. Hope Lebedyn has now become its own charity and is now independent of Essential Christian. This has been planned for sometime to happen but we could not activate everything until we got a bank account open. After many trials the new bank account is open and therefore those that regularly donated or make one off gifts will receive a letter explaining the changes and giving new details. Our webiste has been updated also. We are so grateful for the long list of people who have donated and stood with the team. However, there is still much work to do.
Thank you for your continued support and prayers
Founding Director of Hope Lebedyn