A special gathering was held Oct. 9 at the Kutuzovka Mennonite Church. Eight different Mennonite agencies working in the Zaporozhya Oblast met to exchange ideas and to learn from each other. We were inspired by the variety of projects and approaches that became evident as representatives from each agency shared about their work. Projects are numerous, but they include services for seniors, camps for children and youth, training for orphans, education on HIV/AIDS, assistance to schools and medical facilities, scholarships, and the list goes on. Questions were also raised about financial support and how to enable these efforts to become self-sustaining. Another concern is the necessity to teach and encourage volunteerism, a quality that seems to have been lost during the communist time. We were encouraged to engage not only young people, but also those on pensions to become involved in voluntary service. A widespread problem is the lack of employment opportunities and the need for loans. This is an ongoing challenge. The various agencies work in different locations using a variety of approaches, but our purpose is the same: to demonstrate God’s love to the people of Ukraine.
Last week we received an impressive tour of a long-term care facility for mentally challenged individuals in Orlovo (formerly Ohrloff). This is a large compound with various buildings surrounded by well-tended gardens for 186 men. The patients (aged 18 and up) are involved in helping with animal care, fieldwork, and gardening. We were impressed with how well the buildings were being maintained. At present, they are adding a smaller residence for some of the more capable clients in the style of a family dwelling. The director tried to impress upon us that they consider the patients as their family, feeding them tasty meals and treating them with respect. A soccer team had even participated in an international competition and done very well. We were pleased to see such a positive treatment program. The Mennonite Centre has purchased new flooring for their administrative area. Further requests were to have more trees planted on the grounds.
A quilting group gathers at the Centre every Wednesday. We are reminded of the groups who gather at the MCC Thrift Stores in Canada, converting used clothing, etc. into colorful patchwork quilts. The women enjoy the opportunity to work together on a project and having fellowship with one another.
This week the two schools in Moloshansk, the Russian and the Ukranian schools, celebrated their 70th anniversaries. At one time the Ukranian school used the current Mennonite Centre as part of their facility. We attended both events and were well-entertained by the performances of talented students, including a well-tuned girls’ choir, colorful dances, and a well-rehearsed gymnastic display. There were, of course, many speeches from various dignitaries, and presentations of gifts and flowers. Mennonite Centre assisted with lighting and sound. We appreciated being part of their celebrations and participating in these cultural events.