The country of Ukraine, richly endowed in natural resources, has been fought over and subjugated for centuries. A short lived independence from Russia (1917-1920) was followed by brutal Soviet rule that engineered two artificial famines (1921-2 and 1932-3) in which over 8 million people died. Then, World War II caused another 7 million deaths. Independence was obtained from Russia in 1991, but freedom remains elusive because of the many Soviet elite still in government.
A sister from Northern Ontario, Flora Kancir (better known as Flo), has had a great longing for the Ukrainian people since getting saved, as her husband was Ukrainian but had died before her conversion. She has been accompanied by several different brethren and sisters on numerous occasions and has seen several of her husbands relatives saved.
It was decided in 2001 to have a Seed Sowers distribution in the second largest city in Ukraine, Lviv(1 million people), near the Polish border in the area where Flo had most of her relatives. On the 14th of September, 13 of us left to spend different periods of time in Ukraine.
Having been to Russia 8 times myself, and hearing of the great poverty in Ukraine, I was very surprised to see the progress and hear the excitement in childrens voices when they sang of the love for "their Ukraine." The streets were clean, the buildings repaired, the transit systems well maintained and running well. Everywhere there was the evidence that they were rebuilding their country with pride.
Many of the contacts Flo had made were by bringing used clothing and glasses to the less fortunate in the villages and orphanages which abound. It seems that no matter how small the village, it will have an orphanage. In many cases the children have parents or one parent but they cannot support the child and so bring them to the orphanage.
We were able to speak to the staff and children in a few of these institutions but were mainly involved on this visit to distribute New Testaments and Seed Sowers. We hope that these initial visits will have opened the doors to return and preach the Word.
I was able to get into a school of 800 children and speak to each class and give all the students and staff a Bible and John 3:16 text. The students were most attentive and answered the questions very well. We hope to speak in more schools and colleges when we return, God willing.
One door that opened for us was in a Military Academy. We were invited to go just before we left for home and spoke to a class of about 60 young soldiers. God gave help as we used our 2-Roads Chart and spoke of the importance of facing death, as they surely would. While speaking to them, an officer came in who was obviously one of their instructors, and sat and listened intently. As soon as I had finished he came to the front and spoke to the class. My interpreter told me that he told them that what I had said was exactly what they needed to hear and he invited me to come back again whenever I returned. The boys were then given Bibles and many stayed back to get them signed and have their pictures taken with us.
To the South of Lviv are the Carpathian hills, a particularly poverty stricken area to which Flo was drawn to bring some relief. Our particular target was a family of 12 children, mother and father, who had lost the use of their home due to a fire in June or July. We found the home in the village of Toolya. Some of the children were hauling sand with a horse and wagon (no mechanized equipment anywhere in this part of the country), the mother was working in the village, and the father was working in Moscow, trying to make some money to finish off his house. The 12 children were spread throughout the village in various homes.
We were able to fit all the children with clothes and shoes and to give the mother bags of food (flour, macaroni, tea). We then pooled some of our finances and were able to give them enough to put metal sheeting on the roof. Several needier homes were visited, and food and clothing given. A few days later Ross and Roger returned to visit the village and help the father finish up the chimney. We have since heard that the roof is now on.
I suppose that our most hopeful time was spent in the village of Nisnevachy, where a widow Stefka Kancir and saved daughter-in- law, Ola, welcomed us into their lovely village home to have meetings each Sunday afternoon. This was where the used glasses were most valuable, as the people in the village were invited to come and see if they could find a pair to help them see. They came steadily and were then invited to the gospel meeting. Altogether, 23 people came and returned for each of the three weeks we were able to be there. We made some very good contacts and feel that one man was either saved or restored. One young mother, who had been contacted out on a farm, came consistently and on the last day brought an iced cake on which she had iced John 3:16, a real work of art. But we trust it may be a work of the HEART.