The Silver Lining of 2020
In this update:
Hello and New Years Blessings to you all!
We have celebrated the birth of Jesus! Now we look back on God's blessings this past year and ahead with excitement and gratitude for what He has in store in 2021.
I can almost hear some of you saying, Whaaaaat? This year has been tough, people are sick and struggling, and the political fighting drives us crazy!
I know... and so does God.
If you are reading this, you have your eyesight! That's a win! If you understood what you read… there's another win!
I'm not trying to make light of our situation here in the U.S, just wanting to remind us all that there is always something to be grateful for and that God is with us and in control.
I'm grateful for you.
The people of Belarus are also grateful for you. In this year of unprecedented struggle, they have felt the care of friends they have never met.
Belarus is a wild place these days. Of course, they were hit with COVID, prohibiting me from making my usual February and October visits.
In March, we lost our friend and partner, Ludmilla Kozovaya. Although our hearts are still broken, and we know that she can never be replaced, we are adjusting and continue the work to help the people of Belarus as she would have wanted. Lena, her niece, has stepped in and is doing a great job. She has her aunt's heart for the poor.
I'm excited to show you what your generosity has accomplished this past year and to give you a peek at our goals for the new year.
The CHURCH of ST. NIKOLI
A new project in honor of Ludmilla is underway. Last year she and I talked about the need for a small building right next to the church to use for Sunday School and a meeting place. This little building gives them a safe and comfortable space for the church family to be together. The work is moving along, and I'm hoping it will be finished by the fall of 2021.
KOBRYN FOSTER FAMILY
Our support of Ura and Olga and their foster family of nineteen continues. Although I missed seeing them this year, we provided funds to help with their ever-growing needs.
In 2021 we intend to help establish a house where their kids who age out of foster care can live and continue their education. Belarus has no assistance for kids once they reach 18. Ura and Olga continue to support them but must be careful not to jeopardize their agreement with the state.
There are plenty of abandoned homes in their village that can be purchased for very little money because they are in rough shape. The family is more than capable of doing the renovations themselves. Last year, anticipating their need to expand, we helped them purchase the lot next to theirs. If they don't support the children of Rhujany, there is no one else. The only solution remaining is to ship the kids to a larger town where there is an orphanage. We are excited to continue to be a part of their work.
HELEN, OUR INTERN
Helen, our interpreter, continues to work diligently on our behalf. She not only handles all of our communication but is a master of finding emergency needs and bringing them to our attention.
Your support has helped feed many single Moms and their children, one grocery bag at a time. She's excellent at finding the needs the church has no resources to fill. Helen also continues to supply us with pictures of the work going on there and builds her own ministry to the hurting. [top]
The SOUP KITCHEN(S)
Our artist friend, Sasha, the founder of the soup ministry we support, is now running a new soup kitchen. Our first kitchen is full every day, and the need to expand was tremendous, but the government wasn't willing to rent more property to him until now.
Each kitchen feeds over one hundred people every day, and a little miracle is happening in the hearts of the local people.
The government's position is that there are no homeless in Minsk. The police are told to keep them moving. There was nowhere to get any rest or get warm in the winter. When I met Sasha in 2010, he had already been feeding people from a tent for several years. In 2015 he found a local village official who was willing to rent him a dilapidated, abandoned school building. We were thrilled and immediately partnered with him to make it a safe, warm place.
The miracle I mentioned is that over time, the local people have seen the change coming to their community because of that building. Homeless people get food, showers, haircuts, clean clothes, and help with the paperwork needed to apply for jobs. Local farmers and restaurant owners now bring leftover food to help out. I'm amazed at the change in attitude within the community. The locals see the results of what love can do, and they want to be a part of it. All are hearing that God loves them, and this gives them permission to love themselves. Maybe there will be another soup kitchen in 2021! This is truly a miracle to hope for!
OTKLIK (Local Aid Partners)
MSW has always helped cover operational costs at Otklik (our partner in Belarus.) This includes office expenses and unexpected expenses related to the aid coming in over the border from Ireland and Germany. This year we had the privilege of helping Otklik out of a tough spot when some very generous Germans loaded a giant trailer to the ceiling with much-needed aid but failed to pre-approve and itemize each item sent. That's the law in Belarus!
When the trailer arrived, the volunteers discovered hundreds of things that had not been listed, so the government held up the shipment and began charging Otklik a daily fine for the mistake. The generous-hearted donors were unaware of the law. We were able to step in quickly to keep Otklik from paying fines they could not afford to pay while the truck was inventoried. The desperately needed goods were delivered, almost on time. Our support of Otklik and the crucial work they do continues in Ludmilla Kozavaya's honor.
USHACHI HOSPITAL: Dr. Sergei's Transfer to Vitebsk
We continued to support Dr. Sergei at the Ushachi Hospital by supplying some desperately needed equipment for his Ob-Gyn department at the beginning of 2020. Now women in labor or women having emergency gynecological problems no longer have to walk up a flight of stairs to get treatment but can receive medical attention on the first floor.
A big surprise came our way when in mid-2020, Dr. Sergei was transferred from Ushachi to a hospital in Vitebsk.
Ushachi is a small village, and as many of you remember, the hospital was in really rough shape when we started working there in 2010. Your generosity has allowed us to make improvements over the years that have completely changed how they provide care. There is a big piece of my heart at that small hospital, and there is still much to do.
I look forward to meeting the new Director and am hoping he has a heart as big as our good Dr. Sergei.
I assumed that because Dr. Sergei moved to a hospital in a much larger city, we might not hear from him again, but I was wrong. Upon his arrival, he immediately contacted us with a request for help.
He sent pictures that broke my heart.
This hospital is as bad as — or worse than Ushachi was when we first arrived. The same worn-out beds and furniture, the same old leaky windows, and lack of proper equipment, medicine, and medical supplies.
He is desperate for help. We immediately sent funds to purchase new furniture and some lab equipment needed for proper diagnostic testing. They received an extra Christmas gift from you when I discovered a little money in the fund at the end of the year. It's overwhelming, but God knows there is more we can do in 2021 to improve medical care.
HOPE FOR KIDS (My Father's House Congregation)
We continue to support the Hope for Kids program at Hope Church in Kobryn. This project offers much-needed hot meals to kids from dysfunctional and needy families. The after school program also provides kids with lessons from scripture containing the message of God's love for them. They play games, and the church volunteers make sure they have warm clothes and help with homework. You might remember that in 2019 I surprised the kids with several giant cakes. Many of the kids had never seen or tasted cake until that day. I look forward to the next adventure with this great congregation.
Wow… Despite the chaos in the world, so much progress has been made. People are being blessed with the message of God's love daily. I'm anxious to return, but God knows the timing of that. In the meantime, we work on with joy and anticipation and thank you for your prayers and support. Know that we pray for you and would always like to hear from you.
PS: You received an award and acknowledgment from the government last week, thanking you for your contribution to Belarus's needy. What a shock! They never do that! You got an award!
Blessings to you,