New Purposes

I am writing today’s blog post while sitting on the marble steps of a World War II memorial within walking distance of today’s clinic in the town of Loboikovka, Ukraine. The memorial itself is in great condition especially in comparison to one of the three buildings in the complex that is now a nearly abandoned soviet house of culture building.

Statue at World War II memorial in Loboikovka.
Statue at World War II memorial in Loboikovka.

Peering in its windows I can see Ukrainian posters now on the walls, a basketball court and on the second floor books or records that appear to have been forgotten. In the same area stands a modern playground where two fathers sit watching their children swing and slide.

A little boy no more than 7 or 8 ran over to me just now and said in perfect English, “Hey!”. I quickly and surprisedly replied the same in return and he headed back to the playground. The people here are very friendly and very accepting of us as Americans coming and being in there country.

Steps leading up to clinic.
Steps leading up to clinic.

Our clinic is being held on the abandoned second floor of the local town hall. On the bottom floor you’ll find your normal government officials and the police station. Once you ascend the worn cement steps to the second floor you’ll discover rooms that have been forgotten. Evidence of water leaking through the ceilings, chalky white walls that will quickly leave evidence of your leanings, and old wall paper rolling in surrender from the walls. Once used by communist as an assembly center, it is now being used by Christians to show and tell of the love of Christ…a new purpose.

The organizer of today’s clinic, our last clinic, is a former alcoholic who professed Christ nearly 15 years ago and made a total change to her life. She spent many hours preparing and cleaning these rooms for our arrival this morning. When looking inside the other rooms on the second floor, you can clearly see the sweat equity that has been applied to the three rooms we are using today.

Sharing the gospel in the warm sun outside of the clinic location.
Sharing the gospel in the warm sun outside of the clinic location.

Outside of the building, old movie theater style wood seats connected together, sit in the grass allowing their occupants to soak in the warmth of the sun on this cool spring day. In these seats and even more inside, members of this church along with volunteers recruited by Vlad Voznyak, a local representative and church plant specialist with Campus Crusade for Christ, share the Gospel with people seeking free medical care.

Ukraine’s national religion is recognized as Ukranian Orthodox. It’s roots run deep in the local society and even the politics of the country. People are drawn to their beautiful ornate buildings and it’s traditions. Even as Christ is shared today Lawrence Phipps is told by one, “I’ve read my bible once, go to church and I make the sign of the cross daily.” He replies through his translator Nadia Morokhovetz in an analogy, “Going to church makes you a Christian about as much as standing in a garden makes me a tomato.” A play on an American phrase that he has altered for his audience today.

Most seem to understand, but their replies aren’t always positive but seeds are being planted. By the end of today’s clinic we had seen 145 people. Of them, 140 came for the medical clinic, 130 came to improve their vision. 19 accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

I returned outside later in the day to continue more interviews for a documentary I will share at a later date and began to hear music fill the air. I turned and saw the sisters of the church singing a song. They sang two more afterward including “How Great Thou Art” and a traditional Ukrainian prayer song asking God to protect their land. I’ve shared their songs below for you to hear.

Our group returns home tomorrow changed people. A group that loves the people of Ukraine even more now than we did just 7 days ago. It’s with a sad heart we leave, but with excitement we return home to see our families.

Continue to pray for the people of Ukraine. Pray for peace in their land. Pray that those who accepted Christ this week will follow His commands and become involved in a body of believers. Pray that the seeds that were planted will take root and become fruit bearing themselves. Pray for our IMB missionaries supported by our Cooperative Program dollars as they continue to serve on the field here: Mike and Linda Ray, Ross and Kasey Lewis. Pray for our team as we return home tomorrow, that all flights will go well and that we will continue to have safe travels.

Pictures from today have been added to the photo stream: