In early November, 12 young people from Kyiv, Ukraine, boarded a train for Vinnitsa, a smaller city four hours away. Besides the fact that the trip was a wonderful team building and networking opportunity for the youth, the main purpose was to share in the ministry of their sister congregation in Vinnitsa as they minister to low-income families in their region.
The Kyiv team and the team from Vinnitsa, a total of 17 people, split into two vans, which were loaded with bags of groceries, clothes and banana bread loaves for the six families they would be visiting. The families they visited were glad to welcome guests and have a moment to pause and talk to them.
“What we saw was terrible,” shared Tanya Nikolaychuk, one of the Kyiv Sunday school leaders. “It was not even that families were poor, I’ve seen worse in Kyiv. However, the situation here was worsened by the fact that parents did not care for their children at all. When we came, all bundled up because it was cold, there was a two-year-old running around practically naked.”
After the group returned from the trip, one of the team members, Philip Masyuk, said “It’s not a matter of money that keeps them in that poverty; it’s a lack of love that keeps them from adequately caring for each other and their children.”
The local ministry leaders receive lists from the social workers in the region of families in need of help. One of the main intentions the Vinnitsa team has for this ministry is to work with the children. They are the future (or, actually, present) of the nation and if they see now that what they know as “normal” life is not all, it can be, and there are people who care about them, Ukraine has a chance of surviving. Not only that, but, even more importantly, these kids will find out God loves them, even if their earthly parents did not demonstrate His kind of love to them.
“While I’m glad we were able to take them things they needed, it is not enough to give them food or clothes. We have to learn how to be present to them; to invest in relationship with them in a way that brings about real transformation,” said Anya Osipovych, a young adult from Kyiv First.
Deeply impacted by the experience, the Kyiv First Church of the Nazarene youth has a desire to start a similar ministry in Kyiv, serving those who live close to the new church building so it is possible to invite the families to church afterwards.