Update 18th November 2023

People queuing in the Centre to collect bread from a table

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Dear Friends,

It was good to have a long discussion with Bohdan on Thursday where he spoke about conditions in the Lebedyn area. This past week has been a very difficult week. The intensity of sirens continues to increase, with Wednesday having very little break from the sound of them.

The loss of lives is becoming greater...

What is evident is the increased number of funerals. One of Bohdan’s close friends, Edward, was killed this week down near Avidiivka. This region has been in the news a lot as it appears to be the epicentre of the heaviest military activity. It is where we believe most of the soldiers that come from Lebedyn are fighting currently, thus the increased number of funerals. Bohdan text me when this happened as he was struggling to come to terms with the loss of his friend. They have been friends since school. He leaves behind two very young daughters, the youngest of which has never had her photo taken with her father.

As the cortège went from the main Orthodox church in the town centre through to the cemetery, people line the streets and kneel out of respect to those that have given their lives. Bohdan himself has seen friends, ex-classmates, and over 60% of his class from Bible college, killed since the start of the war. Please do pray for Edward’s family at this time, and for Bohdan as he mourns a close friend.

Bread in high demand as families feel the strain...

Bohdan added that the economic fall out from the war is now hitting hard, and is made worse as winter is looming fast. Inflation is rampant on everything. A loaf of bread is nearly 300% more than the start of the war. Bohdan also said that the size of loaves people buy have reduced from 1kg down to 400g, so in real terms inflation is much greater. They have been distributing 100 loaves every Thursday, but now they have added a free loaf every Tuesday in addition, and this week gave away 180. On Thursday, they baked 200 loaves and so production will be at 400 loaves per week, such is the need. They will also be 1kg in weight.

People queuing in the Centre to collect bread from a table

There are no jobs available at the moment as many businesses have closed due to the war. There is little help from authorities, and many do not want to take what there is as it means if they register they will be called up to fight. As Sumy is a rural area there are many families hiding away in villages as they live in fear of being called up to fight. The breakup of the family is rising fast due to the length of separation of those fighting, and families having fled the country. The toll this war is taking is immense. The team are doing all they can to help those in need.

More positive news...

Good news is that we have heard from the German charity that provided over 30 tons of aid early in the war. They have agreed to send another large lorry of aid to the centre. Sadly, this won’t get to the team until the end of January, but it will be good to have this when winter is at its worst.

The team continue to do all the other works within the Centre, and visit people in the surrounding areas. Over this next week, the team are planning the Christmas activities and have started to buy the presents to give to the children. Another centre run by Svitlana’s parents have an award winning theatre company, and they have agreed to come up to Lebedyn to do 2-3 days of shows for free for the people in Lebedyn around Christmas. The Christmas Story will be told in a unique and contemporary way. Thank you to those that have donated to the Christmas appeal to make this happen.

Lastly, below is a report from Svitlana, Lyuba and Bohdan which tells of the spiritual impact of the Autumn camp. If you have a moment to read it I know it will encourage.

My thanks again for your faithful support and prayers at this time. There is not much being reported about the war in our press, but in many ways there is more activity than ever. We keep pressing on to support the team out in Sumy where it is so tough to live!

Every blessing,

Peter Martin

Founding Director of Hope Lebedyn

Report on the Autumn Camp 2023

We never cease to be amazed at God's grace and greatness, because despite the war, we again had the opportunity to serve the children of our city – to hold an Autumn camp which had the theme "Good and Evil". God gave us 74 children. There would be many more of them, but in our city, not all schools were on vacation at the same time. But God knows what He does, we had enough "soil" to sow God's seed. The war is gaining momentum; air raids are becoming more frequent and longer, so it was important for us to prepare a shelter for children. The shelter itself became a good place where children opened up and asked questions that were in their hearts, or questions that they heard during the conversations of their parents. A girl named Maria could not comprehend how God is the Creator, and we all belong to Him, He is our master, He is a good God, but we are at war, and so many people are dying. These are complex and difficult questions, not childish at all. On the one hand, it is difficult to give an answer, but on the other, it is an opportunity to continue to speak the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the only hope.

About 20 children were in the camp for the first time. We gladly gave them Bibles. There were children from poor families. One girl asked our cook what was in the middle of these buns, to which the cook replied, "condensed milk". The child's follow-up question struck the heart of our cook, who has been preparing food for children in the camps for more than 15 years. The girl asked what condensed milk was, she had never eaten condensed milk. For some children, our camp was an opportunity to taste various sweets that they had never eaten.

A girl named Veronica, 10 years old, was in the camp for the first time. She and her parents moved from a big city during the war. She had never attended church, and she didn't know how to pray. At the end of the Bible lesson, she approached the leader of the group, and said "that she really wants to thank God for the wonderful camp and such good leaders, but she does not know how to pray", the leader (Tanya) very simply tried to explain that God does not need any memorized prayers, God hears everyone who comes to Him with faith and gratitude. Interestingly, the next day, Veronica said that the first thing she did when she went home was to teach her parents to pray. This is a wonderful testimony to how the word that is sown in children's hearts continues to be passed on. We pray and believe that one day we will see a great awakening among our people.

It is a big challenge for the team to tell the Gospel to the children of war, to the children who lost their homes, to the children who lost their parents, or their parents are in captivity and nothing is known about them. It's hard emotionally, it's a new reality for us that we can't and shouldn’t get used to.

Three Individual Testimonies:

Honey. This girl started attending our church through the camp. She goes to the puppet theatre, computer lab, kids club, and Sunday School, and sometimes sings at Sunday morning service. It's very cool that she spends her time in the church. It shows great potential that needs to be developed. Of course, she, as a child, has her own difficulties with character, she said it herself when I asked, "What would you like to ask God to fix in your life?" She said, "I want to have a better character." Sometimes I used to notice this "childish trick" in some situations, but now it is changing, and I believe it is God who is changing it. At the end of the camp, she asked Jesus to enter her heart and change her character. Please pray that this girl will stay in the church and glorify the Lord with us in the future.

Daniel. We have known this guy for a long time, because it is not his first time in the camp. We remembered him when he was very young, but now, Daniel has grown up a lot, began to understand a lot of things, and be an adult. Before the camp, by the way, our Valentyn noticed him in a clothing store, and he was sitting alone on the stairs and playing on the phone. It was raining outside and Valentyn asked, "why are you sitting here?". He replied "my parents said go for a walk, don't be at home". Of course, I was surprised, because at first he said that he was kicked out of the house, perhaps of course he was "exaggerating", but I don't know how it really is. Daniel liked the puppet shows, he became active in our ministries, he even agreed to learn the text and sing for our video. After the camp, he began to attend a puppet theatre. This is a good place to start to get to know Jesus in more detail.

Elvira. She is an Internally Displaced Person from the Donetsk region. Her mother and grandmother accepted Jesus as their Lord through our ministry, so she and her family attend our church. This girl has specific character traits, perhaps due to the trauma of war. Always during the camp, she sought attention. This can be seen in the fact that she always comes up to hug and stand next to us. But, at the same time, she has a very complex character. She can be offended very easily, even when she herself is wrong. She can provoke children herself and then cry. Therefore, our team has a special relationship with Elvira and a special approach. We tried to tell everything as clearly and gently as possible. This girl loves to pray. And to visit our camp, according to her, this is the only place where she is truly loved.

Thank you for your support.

Svitlana, Lyuba and Bohdan

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    From 17th - 24th February we are holding a week of prayer as we remember the 2nd anniversary of the war in Ukraine.
    To help you pray, we've created a PDF guide that contains some daily prayer points. 

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