Chris and Chirsty’s Summer 2015 Trip Report:
Summer Camp for our kids, Refugee work, a trip to Kharkiv with 2 orphan boys, a baptism, renting a house to extend our orphan ministry and EEM camp! Wow! The 2 months we spent in Ukraine this summer flew by!
Our trip began with a weeklong bible camp where 56 of “our kids” from two orphanages along with Christian adults and mentors from Ukraine, PHA, and Youthreach International met at a facility along the banks of the Dniper River. We enjoyed a time of praising God and learning about His love. It was such a special time filled with Bible lessons, hugs, smiles, and of course a little swimming! Camp offers these children the opportunity to be away from the orphanage, with Christian adults, in a positive and caring environment. Thank you to all of those who “sent a kid to camp” this summer!
After camp we were able to spend time in Zaporizhia with Andrey and his family and be a part of serving the now 4 refugee centers. Sometimes it is easy to think of the humanitarian aid crisis in Ukraine as “old news”. Sadly, the reality is that the needs are ever present and ever increasing. As we accompany Andrey on his weekly visits to the refugee centers we are met with anxious faces waiting for the milk Andrey and Tanya bring along with their warm smiles and hugs. The people housed here need the nutrition, need to know they are not forgotten, and need to know someone cares about them. The refugees here need the hope found through Jesus Christ.
Losha and Yegor. These two “true orphan” boys who live with Andrey and his family on weekends and holidays (including the entire summer) are a joy to be around! We were able to spend a few days with them in Karkhiv where they were able to see what life is like outside of Zaporizhia. We spent time at museums, an amusement park and most importantly strengthening relationships and showing them the hope of a better future. The Christian influence in their life is obviously having a positive impact on them. What a treat this trip was for us! I think we enjoyed it as much as the boy’s did!
While we are in Zaporizhia we are a part of the community there, especially the church community. The church in Zaporizhia is growing and is a positive force in the lives of the kids PHA ministers to. Sunday’s are the best, when most of the congregation comes to Domik after services to enjoy a meal and fellowship. It is a surreal experience to be in a room filled with Christians who don’t speak the same language as you but who you defiantly consider friends. One Sunday a lady in her young 20’s decided to be baptized. Yura the preacher there often says “the Dniper River is warm.” After lunch at Domik we all went to the river where she was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ!
Possibly one of the most exciting changes to our ministry happened during this trip. PHA is now renting a house! This house will serve as a home for Andrey and his family and will also provide for a place where several orphan children can stay as their needs arise. Please pray for this latest development in our ministry.
Our trip ended with EEM camp in Poltava. We were able to work with many of the same orphan kids that we worked with last summer. On our final day there Maxim, the kid’s counselor from the orphanage, who also grew up in that orphanage himself, shared this with us. He said that his whole life as an orphan Americans would visit. He always felt that they were simply there to “make a check mark”. He told us that last summer he stated to think that our work was more than just a “check mark”. Then he went on to say that after this summer he knew that we came to Ukraine not to make a check mark, but to serve the orphans there and to share Jesus with them.
We learned a new statistic about orphans during this trip. 75% of orphans will never see their 25th birthday. It seems that we spend a lot of our time sharing the statistics that face older orphans. While in Ukraine we minister to these children. Knowing the numbers is one thing. Seeing the faces, holding the hands, and getting hugs from the kids who face those numbers is heartbreaking.
This summer’s trip allowed us to serve as well as to assess our ministry. How PHA’s ministry is doing can be summed up in two words. “It’s working”. This is not due to us. The success of work in Ukraine is the product of hours of love and labor by Andrey and his family and the product of God changing lives through the hope and love found in Him.
To God be the Glory!!!
-Chris and Christy Hill