"…to the praise of the glory of His grace…" Ephesians 1:6

Christ if Risen, He is Risen Indeed!

Another blast of winter greeted Ukraine during the weekend of Palm Sunday, making it seem more like Christmas should be approaching than Easter!

But the weather improved throughout the week and we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord last Sunday with beautiful spring weather!  Like several other eastern European countries, Ukraine follows a different calendar, so Easter typically lands on a different day than in most of the world.  At Fimiam Church, we had services on Passion Thursday (much like a Good Friday service in America), Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday.  We typically have two services on Sundays, but for Easter we had only one, resulting in a packed sanctuary with overflow into the foyer and outdoors.  It was a wonderful service – we even sang “Up From the Grave He Arose” in Ukrainian!
From the back row of the sanctuary
After church, over 40 people in our ministry for people with disabilities shared a meal and fellowship together at the rehab center.  It was our “family” Easter celebration!

On Monday evening we attended a beautiful Christian concert put on by churches in our region and a few famous Christian singers from around the country, with the proceeds benefiting the more than 60 children in our region who are now fatherless as a result of the war. 
I also spent some time observing how orthodox churches celebrate Easter.  On Saturday afternoon I went our central church to watch the events in the courtyard.  It is a beautiful church and hundreds of people came and went in the short time I was there.
I tried to stay on the fringes, but soon realized I was anything but inconspicuous.  I had no head covering, was in jeans, had no jacket on (it was 70 degrees after all, but you wouldn’t have known it by looking around me), and was not carrying a basket.  What I observed was that when the courtyard had a full circle of people, the head priest and several other men stepped onto the porch, said a few words, then proceeded around the circle to “bless” the people and their baskets by sprinkling water on them.  Every family had a basket which contained hard boiled eggs, meat (symbolizing the sacrificial lamb), Easter bread, and other contents of which I couldn’t ascertain.  Maybe the pictures will give a better understanding:




Late that night, a friend and I returned to the same church – this time with our head coverings and skirts – to observe a portion of the all night service.  We were there through the midnight hour when the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection begins.  Although my friend is Ukrainian, she has also never been to an orthodox church so we were both a little lost as to what was happening.  At midnight the priests went outside with a parade of people behind them carrying various items.  Many people followed but we lingered while my friend asked a few questions of a women who clearly worked at the church.  This woman could not give us any answers regarding what we had seen, what various items symbolized, etc.  All she could say was “it’s our tradition.”  When the priests returned indoors, one brought out a large candle and informed us that it was a holy fire brought from Jerusalem.  He said the people of Lutsk were so blessed to have this flame as now they could speak directly with God themselves. 

This same type of service occurred all throughout the country last Saturday.  Thousands of people sought the blessing of God on their lives and their baskets last weekend, but so many of them are still blinded to the truth and hope of the Gospel.  Please pray for the truth of the Word of God to be spoken in all churches across Ukraine and for the light of the Gospel to penetrate hearts.   

In rehab news, we are grateful that God has provided some of our youngest patients with new equipment to help meet their needs.  Sveta brought back a generously donated pediatric wheelchair from the US that we hoped would work for Mark.  Unfortunately it did not meet his needs, so we put it in storage, having no doubt that a child would come along that would need it.  But we were disappointed that Mark still did not have a wheelchair and his mom was still having to carry him.  Then a few weeks later Polina returned to our center.  Her family lives over an hour away, so they come to Lutsk intermittently for 2-week periods of rehabilitation.  Sveta tried unsuccessfully for several months last fall to locate an appropriate wheelchair for Polina in Ukraine.  In the end, she traveled to Kiev with Polina and her parents and they came home with a less-than-desirable, but adequate stroller.  So when Polina came back to our center this spring, we decided to try the donated wheelchair with her – both she and her parents loved it!  So we adjusted the wheelchair for her and she will be able to use this wheelchair for several years.  Then we asked her parents to consider allowing Mark to use the stroller, to which they immediately agreed!  So now both children means of mobility and can easily go outside with their families!  We are so grateful for God’s provision! 

Mark was also blessed with a wonderful standing frame which came through a humanitarian shipment to another church in Lutsk.  We couldn’t have ordered a better fit for him if we had tried!

And lastly, meet Anya, a 13-year-old with severe scoliosis.  She went in for corrective surgery last fall and came out with no sensation in her legs.  The surgeon took her back in and she came out with sensation but no movement, which is still her condition.  She and her parents believe the surgeon who has told them she will walk within 6 months…she is at 5 months now and there are no signs of that happening.  She has been reluctant to accept a wheelchair, believing she would not be needing it for long.  Recently we received a few wheelchairs in a humanitarian shipment and among them was an active wheelchair just Anya’s size. Please pray for her as she continues rehabilitation and faces the reality that she will likely remain a paraplegic.  Please pray for Katya (her therapist) as she works with her and has opportunities to share the Gospel with her. 

Would you please join us in praying for:
  • Summer camps for adults and children with disabilities, including the finances necessary to hold the camps, the organization of the camps, and the volunteers needed to serve the people with disabilities and their families.
  • Additional therapists for our center.  We are particularly praying for male therapists since Vadim is our only male therapist and he is part-time.
  • Anya, Mark, and their parents who are unbelievers.  Pray that we will be faithful to share and show the light and truth of the Gospel and that God would open their eyes and save them.
Thank you once again for all of you who pray and support the work here!  I am SO grateful for you!



via: Christ if Risen, He is Risen Indeed!“>Advancing with a Limp