June 2023 – Natalia led us through the gate into the small farmyard. Her friend and former co-worker, 80-year-old Halina, was in the house resting. Natalia showed us the chickens we had provided, the pig delivered the day before, as well as the greenhouse that was installed a few months earlier.
Pastor Kolya of the local church had chosen them to receive support. He knew they struggled to survive. What he didn’t know, however, was how Natalia was going to respond and come to the church.
“I thought to myself, this church is helping us; I should go and find out more information. I was Orthodox but now God has changed my life,” Natalia said matter-of-factly. “Now, let’s go see the pig.”
Pastor Kolya smiled. He works in the local mine already for 23 years. “Natalia came to me after you brought the chickens last time,” he said. “I explained who Jesus is and she prayed to receive Him. She was ready.”
Halina Nikolaevna struggled to come outside and gazed intently at me. She was so happy! She has Parkinsons disease, and her hands are swollen, but nothing was going to keep her down. She explained that she met Natalia when they worked at a dairy farm milking cows.
With shaking hands and damp eyes, she reached up to give me a hug. “Thank you, thank you,” she whispered.
Halina was really thanking you, the prayer warriors and supporters of Mercy Projects. Pastor Kolya later asked if we could help connect their small farmhouse to the water system. He thinks it will cost around $2500. “They have no running water,” he said.
I agreed and thought now Jesus is their Living Water.
Lena reports from the Hearts of Love Center
Several times each day, the staff and children at the Hearts of Love center take shelter in the corridor during air raid sirens.
“This is the safest place in the building during attacks because it’s away from any glass windows,” Lena said. “Our team tries to keep the children calm by bringing in mattresses and blankets and praying with them.”
“Since the war started this is our reality. We must be determined to continue to serve these children and their families,” Lena explained with a serious look.
“I think the main challenge is to overcome fear and accept what is going on. We must adapt to the situation. I tell the staff that we must see the danger and trust God that He will protect us.”
She continues, “In the early days it was hard to take responsibility for the kids. Their families were afraid. Our region has had more shelling recently and they use more aerial bombs.
Almost every day in our city we bury the killed soldiers and many were our friends. So we must hold on and trust in God.”
Lena went on to tell us how the kids need to come to the center, sometimes just so the parents can have a break. She said their calling from God is to be love and light for special needs kids and their parents. “We believe that this is our calling for this time,” Lena said.
“Our newest child is five-year-old Katya, adopted by a family here in Konotop from a children’s home in Kharkiv. For the first month, she did not talk and they thought she was mentally disabled. They brought her to us. We gave her lots of love and care, worked with her, and helped the parents understand her. She started getting better. She needs a lot more help, but with every day here she becomes more active, less scared, and more eager to learn.”
Needs at the Hearts of Love Center
As well as keeping the center going, Lena shared some of their needs. She said they stay in contact with local men serving to defend Ukraine to know how to pray for them and how to help.
“We look for things our young men need like used cars, medications, medical stuff, power banks, clothes, boots, etc. Mercy Projects helped us with wood-burning stoves, first aid kits, and food, so we try to help them as much as we can.”
“The ongoing stress of bombs and air raid sirens is great. Some mothers and staff workers have symptoms of PTSD. We need to be strengthened in our faith. Pray for us. We need you. Without the Lord, it is impossible to survive what is going on. Thank you.”