Category Archives: For the Sake of 1

God, showing up…

March 6, 2017 –   Seems we are in a famine here, a God famine.  The shelling was very loud into the evening.  Uliana and I sat and talked for a long time, and after retiring, I decided to fervently pray for the ‘noise’ outside.   I thanked God for His continued grace, mercy, iron clad protection; He is a good God, faithful God, and I begged Him to stop the noise,  jam the guns, stop the killing, stop the madness, and the noise immediately Stopped!    It didn’t trail off, it didn’t trickle, it STOPPED.   Shocked, but reassured I praised God, thanking Him for His promises, answered prayer, hearing little ole me.  God just showed up, amazing.   I decided to get some rest,  laying down meditating on ‘what’ just happened.  Dozing off, it wasn’t but about 20 minutes the shelling started again, I immediately popped up from resting, and started to pray again, the same prayer; and the shelling immediately, stopped….and didn’t begin again that night! Thank you Lord!    

Tires, tires everywhere…

March 4, 2017 – leaving early to pick up Oleg and Lena, we headed to Block post 1 to drop off food.  The men are glad to see us and thankful for not only the visit but the food.  War transforms people into an image of their former person.  There is a new normal for the person, because no one can see what they see, do what they do, and feel what they feel and not be changed.   Men who were once computer programmers, once college students, bank executives, teachers, miners, fathers, mothers, brothers, husbands, uncles and the list goes on, but they places their country, the freedoms in their country more important then their comfort and safety.  Courageous men and woman, fighting the ultimate David and Goliath story, that they are out gunned and out ‘manned’..but they perservre.  After our visit, our next job was to find tires for the men at the Blockade for Coal trains.  Seems that the UA gov. is hauling coal to the occupied areas to help those still there, but the fact is that it is being resold to Ukraine.  The whole situation is crazy, 5 km. are russian troops that shell the area, and then we have Ukrainian volunteers blocking Ukrainian trains, against the UA government.  There is a ‘crack’ in the unity of this country and it isn’t fixed, the crack will become a wedge and then a total split.  To survive this war, UA must reunite and work together, otherwise, it will implode and russia will just take over.   So the railroad tracks are being blocked by volunteer soldiers, veterans, and just civilians, so that the trains can’t get through to the occupied areas.   Blocking the coal filled trains is the objective, they don’t want violence, and actually, they are quite peaceful men and women.  Barbed wire surrounded the area, and their only weapons were chainsaws, sticks, and a few brass knuckles.  But again, they aren’t about violence, but a peaceful resolution to stopping the coal from entering occupied areas, to the military responsible for the deaths of so many UA citizens and soldiers.  They were in need of more barricades so we decided to get tires.  My first thought was my friend who owns the local tire shop, and he gladly gave 12 old tires.   Then to my next automotive friend, where he had a huge pile, giving us 15 more.  Collecting those, the van was full, and we headed to the rail blockade.      Arriving, the men immediately unloaded the van and started to make barricades at the tracks.  They thanked us profusely with shaking hands, and hugs.  The men were not drinking, or anything like this, they were serious volunteers, protesting the situation with coal being trained to occupied areas to be sold at a very high prices, or even sold BACK TO UA…the whole thing is crazy.    We were offered replenishments, but refused, seeing that they had many mouths to feed, and 5 more wasn’t something they needed…We decided to go and get more tires, with the assistance of our friend, Alexander and his trailer.  Meeting him back in town at the same repair shop we had been to previously, it seems that the manager isn’t ‘for’ the blockade, and seemed to think that we were providing tires for the protestors, and at first refused giving us this old, useless tires.  After some talking, and convincing, we were able to get 10 more from him, then going to a few other places I knew of, we were able to retrieve 10 more.  Returning to the blockade, the men were very surprised, and insisted that we part take of some borscht with them.  It was a pleasant day, and a time to meet and make new friends.  

Uliana is helping me at this time. She is a lovely girl from a very large family in Kyiv. Her heart is for children, and love of Ukraine. She is very glad to be in Dzerzhinsk, and enjoys being literally at the front line of the action. She constantly says how she had, ‘no idea things like this were happening in her country, because in Kyiv you don’t know about these things. ‘ I’m not sure if I should attribute this to the country not wanting others to know what is happening, ignorance, apathy, youth, or just exactly is the reason for this lack of knowledge…

Lost 2

August 16, 2015  Sunday, we are up early and off to Kostyantynivka to pick up our guests for the week.  We go by the store and pick up a few items, and then back to church.  Sunday is relatively quiet,  and leader of #43 comes by to take Sema and I somewhere…I don’t know where, but he says, ‘get in the car’.  We aren’t afraid, just concerned…we know we didn’t do anything wrong, and he is overall a pleasant man, but rough around the edges.   We drive for a long time…out of town and to the Kostyantynivka check point, where then we turn off to the direction of Karmadufka.  Humm, interesting, this is not a safe area, but he assures us all is fine.  I can tell, as I know the landscape, as to where we are,     I can see men ahead, pacing the road, thus, I can imagine that we are coming up to something…’what’ is the question.  We veer off the road to a driveway, which leads to literally a shack, ‘who, or what’ lives here???   Alexander explains that their outpost was bombed and gutted, they lost all their equipment, and the men lost most of their clothing and belongings.  It was an artillery compound, so once ‘hit’, the warehouse repeatedly exploded, and the inferno was so hot that a lot of the metal melted.  We go up to the house, and meet another man, seems he is the actual commander of the entire group of over 400.  A polite man, but very stern, he gets right down to business as to ‘what we want, and how we can help the army’.  I’m alittle taken back, as it wasn’t me that called the meeting, but ‘he’.  I start with a question back to him, ‘what do you need?’  He covers the whole warehouse explosion, and the needs of the soldiers, as fall is approaching and he needs 400 fall/winter uniforms.  He wants to know ‘what’ he can count on from me.  I start to go over what we have supplied, and that I’m not real sure where those items are, thus, I’m little unsure about supplying more.  He seems agitated as 2 men walk up, and he ‘barks’ some order at them, ‘what are you doing here…you have work do to.’  They reply that ‘they finished,’ and he barks back, ‘no one told you to come here, get out.’…  Seems something else is going on, but I’m not sure ‘what’..but there is tension in the air, for sure.  He then asks me about ‘what they can do for me.’  I say that I want to be sure that Dzerzhinsk isn’t going to be given to the DNR, and just like that, he slams his fist to the table, and gets up and abruptly leaves.  I’m sure that he didn’t care for my comment, or that it was translated incorrectly, but I’m later told that he wasn’t upset at me, but that he had a wounded soldier, that needed attention.   When going back to the SUV, indeed there were 4 medics and 3 other soldiers and the commander at the road, talking.  We left, without saying good-bye, or even finishing our conversation at all.  Once on the road again, we head toward Kardumfka, little did I know we were going to the old brick factory, which was their former ammo depot.  Arriving, we walked around and could see the destruction, melted metal and more, buildings with huge holes, gutted vehicles and piles of rubble.  We were off again, heading for the Artomosk highway, as we approach there is a big check point, but with Alexander at the wheel, we are flagged through to the highway.  I’m nervous, as we get closer to the highway, I know that means closer to the enemy.  We stop at the road, and then Alexander goes across the road to show us ‘Ziagsava (the bunnies), where Svitaslav was sent..they point out where the enemy is and where our guys are…I just pray that God plants an invisible hedge of protection around our guys.  We get to ‘0’, and since Alexander is with us, there isn’t a problem…and we head towards #1, when we see a train on the overhead tracks.  Seeing that train means that a train coming from Gorlovka, filled with who knows ‘what’ is crossing over into UA territory.  The train is up on a high overpass, so no one can see what is in it, soldier’s, explosives, ‘what’???   Someone needs to question this.   We drive on to #1 then head home as it is getting late, and we don’t want to at a blockpost anywhere close to 6 or 7.

7ish, and the bombs start…it gets earlier and earlier each night…we hear the booms, and go to the house and stay inside, shades pulled, and supplies gathered.  We hear from Kolia that things are bad at #1, and they are being hit hard.  We are being hit from all sides… Two hours go by and it seems like it will never end, we continue to have internet, so this is nice to talk to others…but I don’t want to ‘alarm’ anyone to this very difficult situation we are in…  We can see the splashes of lights, then hear the resounding BOOM of the incoming, or the boom, and then BOOM of the outgoing.    Finally, things subside, but only after we get a call from Kolia that 2 have died at #1.  Katia, a 25 year old radio repair tech. from Rainbow had gone out to try and fix their radio.  She climbed up on top of one of the 2 bunkers covered with the camo netting.  Somehow, maybe they saw her, who knows, but she was hit with a shoulder missle.  The other was, Oleg, one of the new rotations, only there 3 weeks, he was in his early 20’s.  Kolia had been asked to go to where they were and look for them, as they didn’t answer when called.  He went, and found Katia; her left chest blown to pieces, and one leg gone, she was dead…when he found Oleg, half his head was gone, yet he was still gasping for air, then died in Kolia’s arms.  Katia leaves behind her husband, who is fighting in Lughansk region, and her 3year old son.  Oleg leaves behind a wife and a small child.  Kolia repeated to Sema over and over the story of what happened, obviously, he was in shock… As he repeated the events of the night, his voice would race, then slow in pace.  To make matters worse, they have only one car at the block post, and it isn’t reliable, so Kolia loads the bodies in the car, along with another soldier who is wounded, and then a group ‘push start’ the car…Kolia drives them to the hospital and morgue, but just as he gets to the hospital, the car ‘stalls’, and he is stuck in the road.  The car refusing to restart, Kolia  sees some military Dr.’s standing outside and asked them for help pushing the car, since he has these people in it, and he doesn’t want to ask any others on the street.  The Dr.’s refuse to help him.  Frustrated, yet still in shock, he finds some local police men to help him push the car off the road.  There are no words that can resolve the issues…there are no words that can soothe, there is no therapy, no counselor…just frustration, and pushing it down, moving forward, desensitize yourself to what you are experiencing…numb out….Kolia returns later to the blockpost, but he is clearly ‘shaken’, and not over this experience at all. 

August 17, 2015, Monday, Kolia asks to come over and just ‘see’ us, he needs to see ‘his family’, and to see people that care about him.  ‘Of course’ we reply that he is welcome anytime.  He and 3 other men arrive for showers, and a meal, and just some time away from the ‘front’.  He is far from his wife and daughter, he has no one, just as all the others, have no one to talk to, just to give them a hug. That is one thing that I try to do every soldiers leave the building, first, they walk under the wall hanging we have of the Lord’s Last Supper we have over the entry/exit door, then in the corridor we all pray for the men and lastly, they all get a hug. Days are long and nights are short, with most of the ‘activity’ going on at night, but after a boring long day, where many men are drinking and sleeping, they unfortunately usually aren’t so alert to the enemy.  The enemy counts on this, and then have surprise attacks.  We must ‘cover’ our defenders in prayer.

Life goes on…

July 2015 – Saturday, finally a day off, rest…I’m so tired, weary, exhausted…people don’t get that, who don’t live here…you never get a good nights rest, or just when you start to sleep normal again, the shooting and bombing starts, and you are woke in the middle of night with flashes of lights and crashes of bombs!  You’re shaken to the core.  You never know when it is coming…but that is the pan, that is the motis oprendi for the enemy…keep them on the edge, keep them wondering when I will fire on them again…the not knowing is the difficult part.  But today, right now, it is quiet…so I must do some of the work that needs to be done, that gets neglected through the week.  Tomorrow we have guests,  Sema’s father and Tanya arrive for the next weeks camp for physically and mentally challenged people.    Sema and I need to go today and make sure that all the kids remember the camp, and know to be up and ready for us to pick them up.  We need to clean, as you never know when there is going to be bombing, and they can hit the water canal, and we may be without water for a day, a week, or a month.      There is a lot of preparation for the camp, from curriculum to craft activities, music, physical therapy for those that need; special diets, drinks, juice, snacks…so much to remember, yet there is such joy on their faces when they accomplish a tasks, make a bracelet, clap to the music; all the work and preparation time fades away. 

Oleg V.  stops by with sheets…200 of them, from the ‘Rainbow’, headquarters, telling us that they have a rotation, and that they all left.  Alarmed, Sema makes some calls, and sure enough, most have left, and the rest will leave Monday.  This isn’t good; we have formed relationships with these people, connections with them, that if there is a problem, we can call them, and they will come over…in addition, if there is ‘something’ that may happen, they will call us, and give us a much needed warning.  Without this connection, we have no one to call if we were in desperate help.  We make a few more calls to see who we can meet with, as yesterday when we were at ‘rainbow’ and got the bread, one of the commanders, Alexander walked up to me and introduced himself.  When I went to say my name, he said my name, and said, ‘I know’…not sure how to respond, I just said it was good to meet him.  He then, to my surprise, started to speak in English to me.  He talked to me about the situation, and said that he was part of the new rotation and that they would not leave for 2 months.  He gave us his number and said that if we needed anything, to call him.   All I could think was, ‘hummm, time will tell…’  In light of the recent news, we call Alexander to ask, ‘what is going on??’  He confirms that there are some leaving, but NOT from his group.   He assures me, if we need anything, he is here to assist us.  This news, eases our minds that we continue to have familiar faces to help us.

Back to the laundry, 12 loads in all, 3 bottles of bleach and loads of soap…still they don’t seem to get very clean, but we did our best.  The afternoon was spent just cleaning and preparing for the night of bombing…we try to go to bed somewhat early, as the shelling usually starts around midnight, but for the past few days, it is getting earlier. 

Goodness, 10 p.m. the bombing starts, and I didn’t get any sleep at all.  I just lay, think, pray, and try to think that I need to go home, I miss the babies, Rich, the rest of the kids…but I’m so pulled about being here, I’m needed here, but this NOISE, I can’t deal with it. God help me.

War is a place you lose who you were and not sure who you will find at the other end.

A New Normal

August 2015 – living in a war zone is not easy, what it is, is unpredictable, scary, and a real test of faith. It is a total faith walk. God has shown up over and over. Comforted me when I ask, performed literal miracles when needed, provided when there was no obvious way for provision…His faithfulness surely out gives everyone…and for this, we are forever grateful. God protects: 

Today we decided to give Random Acts of Kindness.  We have so much rice, and we have access to bread, so this is what we will do; drive around and give away rice and bread to anyone that wants.  First stop is the headquarters to pick up bread.  We stand at the front of the entrance, and talk to some commander.  I notice there is a very sweet dog wandering at the ‘stop’  He is larger than Happy, and Rich and I have talked about getting a replacement for Happy, if I take her to the states.  This looks like a very sweet dog…so I ask if it belongs to anyone… and no one says.  One soldier  says that he doesn’t belong to anyone, and we ask if we can ‘have’ him.  He offers another dog, not so nice looking, and I say that I don’t want ‘that’ dog.  Sema and II try to get the dog in the van, but it won’t come to us, but he seems like he wants to come to us…The soldier then just picks him up and puts him in the van…so NOW we have a new dog!  He looks at us, so sweetly, and he will be perfect as long as Sema stays at the center, or someone is there to feed him.  So now he is in the van, and we still have all this food to deliver.    The dog settles in, and we decide to try to get rid of the food quickly, thinking of a neighborhood that is easily accessible, and lots of people. 

We venture out to the gypsy area of town…there are usually people in their yards, so we don’t have to look too far for ‘customers’ to bless.  We head that way, and it was a great experience…people never expect what you are going to do, and they are always so surprised.   Few people turn away free food, but some do…but over all,  it was successful.   The gypsies asked for diapers, which we had forgot, so I promised to return today.  We finish giving out all the rice and bread, and head back to the center.  

After Bible study, we know that we must go back to the gypsy area of town to deliver diapers.  We hear gun fire, which seems very close…over and over, it seems very loud and close..  I go in to get the diapers, returning and getting the van through the gate, when I hear an extremely loud boom and ‘crack’.  Sema jumps in the van and yells, ‘GO’…as I step on the gas, I hear more booms, sounding VERY close.  I’step on it.’ And we head away from the center; where we left windows open, as we had no idea this was going to happen.    We head towards the gypsy area, and we can hear the bombs and see smoke in Zabalka.  We must stop and get petrol, and we can actually see bombs hitting the slag mountains.  Next we see fire, and 2 slag mtns. are in flames.   All we can think is ‘how did this happen…where are our men…how did they reach those mountains?’  We can’t go home, the shelling is so loud, and so close to us, it isn’t safe…so we go to the gypsies and give diapers, and then the shelling starts there.  We go to the Pastors house to drop off a load of cardboard, Marina invites us in, but I tell her that we need to get back to the center, as soon as possible.  We drive to ‘Christina’ (small grocery store), and watch this unfold.  Repeated shelling of Zabalka, there is so much smoke, we can’t see houses, or even the slag mountains, only the fire on top.  The smoke is all over the area, we have no way of knowing if our property is safe, gone…no information at all.  Thank you God for your continued protection that Sima and I left the center, just as this was starting, only You, God, know what could have happened, you are the holy, you are lovely, you are mighty, you are the only one worthy of praise, and we praise you for putting in my mind to deliver these diapers, otherwise, we would have been there, during this terrible shelling.    This shelling was louder and closer then any other, it was like they were in our back yard!

Forty-fine minutes we are able to return home and see that all was fine.  We hurried to get the van put away, and get the van cleaned out.  We hurry inside, and clean up and prepared to go to the house, when we can hear bombs.  They are further away, but that gives no guarantee that they won’t be closer very soon.  I hurry Sema, and I run home.  Even though I know a bomb would ruin my house, somehow I feel safer there than at the center.  Maybe it is due to the sheer size of the center, that it seems like a very large target; I don’t know, I just know that I feel safer at the house.    I get home, and Sema arrives later…we don’t eat, we don’t do anything, but communicate with our loved ones, that we are ‘o.k.’ since Dzerzhinsk has made the news since end of July.   We get showered, and though it is quiet, that can change at any minute, that is the fear…that is what they ‘bank’ on, that is the strategy…terror, boredom, terror, boredom… it is  constant. One needs to be really prayed up, because your life can be gone with just one ‘coordinate’ off; like the time they hit School #2, just 4 blks. away…we were told they got the coordinates wrong.  I lay and pray every night thinking about my prayer perspective and focus on Gods glory, His protection, His continued love…and then I drift off to sleep. 

Back into the Abyss

July 27, 2015 – My 3 week rotation is over, and I’m back to Ukraine with 120 uniform sets, 35 pair of boots, 100 t-shirts, and a lot of other misc. military gear.  The airport was shocked when we brought in so much luggage, 12 bags in all.  Sadly, they refused to help us on the bags at all, and I had to pay $2260.00 in fees!!   Got through all the airports, and then off to Kyiv, where we expected a ‘search’ at customs check point.  Nicholia (SBU) was to call ahead and make arrangements for me to get through without ‘issue’, so we shall see.  The luggage takes forever to arrive, and I line up the 5 carts at the ‘customs’ area, and there are 3 customs agents waiting…so I wait, after about 15 secs of silence, I look at them and ask, ‘do you need to check this?’….they all look at me, and one woman replies, ‘no, you can go.’   I about fell over!  Never have I seen this, with all this luggage, just walk through customs.  Nicholia ‘came through’, as did God!!   Amazing.  

A fellow volunteer, Alexander is picking me up, and after a search we find one another, as I could not leave this luggage unattended.  Alla was completely past the point of exhaustion, and was not any help, she could barely walk, and had had 3 nose bleeds on the flight, so she was weak too.     After loading all the luggage, we stopped for a soda and had the chance to meet Alexander’s wife and son.  Alexander would like to spend time with us in Dzerzhinsk, but his son has an eye problem that keeps him in Kyiv driving him to and from the Dr. for appointments.  Maybe in August, he will be able to come and stay for a while. 

The Abyss – after a very busy day of soldiers at the center for showers, taking them back, and then taking a tour of the ‘front line’ encampment, clearly, we are under ‘gunned’.  The living conditions are o.k., but primitive to say the least.  The men have done a VERY good job of building with the tools and materials they have, but still, it is what it is.  They even have a garden!!  As we leave, the men ask if we are interested in really helping them.  We of course ask, ‘how’…and they explain that they would like us to have a radio transmission over their walkie-talkie’s in English…seems the enemy has been able to hone in on their frequency and listen to their conversations, so we decided to give them something to listen to!   We agree, and they ask us to return at 5 p.m. for the conversation.  Paul, Sima and myself practice what we say and how to say it…  We get the call to head towards the block post, but 1/f way there, Kolia calls and says that they are being shelled, and to ‘wait’.   We stop on the road and wait for about 10 minutes, we can hear the shelling from the 3 pt. crossing…  Paul would like to move closer, so I agree to move down just past the electric train post.   The shelling is much louder there, as is the machine gun fire.   The firing continues, but Paul urges me to move closer, so that if we get the ‘go ahead’, we will be close enough to make it quickly there.   I move again to the last house before the ‘white cross’, and we sit and wait.  The fighting is intense, and loud.   We sit quietly, as we all know what is going on, and each of us deal with it in our own personal way.  All of a sudden, we hear a very loud hit, seems to be behind us, thus they went over the top of us, hitting past us, meaning we are in the ‘line of fire’.  I move quickly to turn the car around and go back towards town…we can hear the firing out the open windows, and it is all around us, and God just gets us back to the zone where they may not reach us.  At that point, I make the decision that this isn’t going to let us, and we need to return to the center.  It is just too noisy and we don’t see a ‘end’ to it. 

We return to the center, where Vika is waiting with open arms for Paul, Sima and myself.  She was, and rightfully so, worried, and praying for our safe return.  We aren’t there 10 minutes, and Kolia calls saying that it has calmed and wants us to return.  We eat very quickly and then back in the van to the block post.   This time, it is almost dark, and I need to turn off the lights as we approach the post.  I can’t see, and I know there are trees in the road, as they put them there for barriers.   I flash my lights just once so that I can see the road, and pull into place, the guys are at the block post, and they come to escort us to the block post shelter.   Once at the shelter, we talk with the commander about the dialogue, what to say, what not to say.   We can hear shelling in the distance, and it is a very intense situation..  My adrenaline is running very high.  Finally, we receive the ‘go ahead’ and Paul starts the dialogue.  We become Alpha 1 (Paul), Alpha 2 (myself), and Alpha 3 (Sima).  We had rehearsed, so that we could be clear and concise.  The talk was about getting people in place for a ‘mission’, thus there was a lot of ‘check your position…are you in place….move forward 50 yards….retract your team.”  We went on like this for 15 minutes, back and forth.  At the beginning, things were quiet, it was as though they were listening to us, and maybe they were…  that we will probably never know, but we tried to made our point…’we are here’.  As we left the block post all the men thanked us for ‘trying’ to side track the enemy.  ANYTHING we can do to help. And I never really feel we do enough.   They asked us to return the next night and do it again.   As we drove home, we could hear the bombing start again…praying our guys are o.k., praying that if they heard us, they may a little fearful of ‘what’ may be out there. 

7/29/15   my hands are trembling as I type this, 2:34 a.m. I was woke by a ‘flash’, and a huge bomb, seemed like it was outside my window, though it was probably more like in the fields to ‘New York’.  BUT nonetheless, close to us.  This was repeated over and over, lots of whizzing of bombs or bullets, or something.  I decided that I needed to pack and also wake Alla and have her pack.  There was a huge bomb and we lost electricity, so now packing by flashlight.  I’m upset with myself, as I meant to do this about 3 nights ago, and didn’t.  So now I do this in the dark and probably forgetting ½ of the stuff I intended to take.  Most will get left, just some clothing, shoes, and a few personal items.  It is all too much.  I’m trembling, as I wake Alla, trying hard NOT to alarm her, but the flashes out the window and bombs are intruding on my ‘calm’ approach.  She gets up and starts to pack, hearing the danger, no one has to say a word. 

3:20 a.m. we walk over to the center to check on Sima and Kristina and see if there is any news from any of our men at the front.  There is a HUGE full moon and it is beautiful.  So very sad of the devastation that I’m sure was inflicted by those bombs.   The girls are up and say that they have heard nothing from the men concerning ‘leaving or  staying’….etc..  Sima tries again to reach them, and they say that all is ‘under control’….we are questioning that!  The noise is out of control, and flashes of light, look like a lightening storm.    Sima also was woke by the flash, and had been up since we had been.

We talk for a while, and then prayed, and decide to wait till morning to figure out what, if anything, to do.   Alla and I return home and try to sleep.

4:10 a.m.  more rockets and bombs, whizzing noises and seems ru is telling us again that they are ‘out there, and not giving up.’  !    After about 10 minutes, it is over, and now quiet.  4:21 a.m..


Each morning is a re-assessment of the night before.   Because all is fairly quiet in the day, we have a false sense of security.  We go about our day to day activities, with hearing a few bombs in the far distance, but for the most part, we move without consequences…but then night falls.   I hate the night…we just never know what is going to happen.  The enemy uses the night to lash out in the darkness, so that their victims are faceless, nameless, innocent civilians.  Cowards, all of them…

I finally drifted off to sleep probably 5 a.m…, waking at 10 a.m., which is so ‘not like me’, but the sleepless nights, and interrupted sleep is getting to me.  We push the days with camp for 4 hours, driving campers to and from the camp, and then kids in the afternoon…then no sleep at night.  I keep thinking, if the group had stayed, they would have definitely left after last night.   And what will tonight bring…

2:10 a.m. I wake, I’m not really sure ‘why’ except that maybe my body is so used to it by now, it just wakes by itself.  I drift back to sleep, but at 3:20 I spring up, woke by a CRACK of a bomb, and boom so loud that I immediately go into panic mode.  My breathing is short and my hands are shaking, my adrenaline is shooting through the roof.  I can feel my heart racing, as I try to decide what is the best option.   I go and check Alla, but she is already up, using the restroom.  That is one thing that we do, is use the restroom, in anticipation of having to go in the cellar, and maybe losing water, flush all toilets.  You never just leave dishes in the sink to be done the next day…everything is clean and put away before bed, as at any given point, a bomb can hit the water station, electric station, and we can be without a utility for days or weeks.  A person needs to constantly ‘think ahead’, having water, supplies, and clothing, near the entrance to the cellar.

We stand in the corridor of the house and listen…boom, boom….silence, then a HUGE BOOM when it hits.  Over and over, we talk about going in the cellar, which would be very difficult, if not impossible without Alla putting on her shoes.  I can’t imagine other invalids with no one to help them, or that it is impossible for them to go in the cellar.   We decide that we ‘wait’… we stay in the corridor, and wait.  

Waiting is always interesting, because it is like, ‘what’ are we waiting for?  Because if you wait to the bomb hits, that is too late…but few want o go in the cellar, where it is damp and cold, and a very small space.   But waiting is a 2x edged sword.

Thursday night  – Sima, Alla and myself, we leave for Kyiv for a conference on working with people with post traumatic stress syndrome.  I really need a break, but I’m thoroughly exhausted and want to sleep.  Alla and I have top bunks and Sima is next door with some family.  The fellow in our compartment is from Donetsk and is slowly moving his things out of there.  His father lives in Gorlovka; staying to protect property, but he is moving from the area, taking small amounts at a time.  Said that he spent 7 hours at the ‘border’ control that the line was like 2 kilometers!  Said prices are about 3x those of Dz. and 4x those of Kyiv.  Few people are on the streets, and things are somewhat unpredictable.   We had a good train in to Kyiv, and I was able to sleep, though it was how, but I was so exhausted, I rested well. 

7/31/15 – Arriving in Kyiv, we have the day to shop and gather supplies as the conference begins at 6:30.  The transport to the place is 1 hr. 45 min…a long way there, and a long way back, but we go via public transport and then walk the rest of the way.

The conference is useful, though if you are going to speak about something, do a little research on the country, culture, the military situation; as the speaker talked about many ideas to implant, but that without the support of leadership, those great ideas, committees, services, support help, can’t become a reality.  I found most of the information things I already knew, but that it was good to hear again.  Now our job is to find someone to implement these great ideas in Dzerzhinsk.  That will be the next task.  God is able, if we pray over it. 

New Volunteers…

JULY 6 , 2015 – MONDAY – Sergei calls early to the nurse about Tonya, as we have guests arriving today, and if we can get this document, we could feasibly get Tonya and Olga on the train today to Kherson.  The Nurse says that she won’t be able to do the form till Tuesday morning.  Hummm, not good, as the longer she is alone, the more possibility that she will drink. 

Our guest from Kyiv arrive today! And we have soldiers arriving in the afternoon for showers.  We will need to go to K. to pick up  Aloyna and Sema from pastor Keith’s church in Kyiv.  We drive to Konstanivaka but in my haste, I fail to bring my car documents.  What a mess… we get to the border, and I realize that I have forgotten my car documents!  I’m so mad at myself.  And we think if it is best to call Nickolia (SBU) and get help from him.  The border guard doesn’t believe me, and thinks that the van isn’t mine.   He keeps, my license until I return with the papers.    Because we had to sit and wait at the block post over 30 minutes, and then to be detained even more…so we didn’t get any shopping done, so we will do now.   We get to the train station, and the girls are waiting for us.   We need to buy boots, and we get to the place to purchase them, but she is closing, but she agrees to stay open for us, to purchase 10 pr. of boots.    We run to ATB and purchase some items and then we are off.  Going down the straight way, we hear something break, and there is a noise, and then a light on the ‘dash’ goes off, and a slight electrical smell.  Not good!   We make it to the block post, and one of the patrols recognizes me, and gets my license back, thankfully, we don’t need to go back to the block post today!  I instruct everyone to pray for the van, so that we get home.   

Nice girls, it seems we are on the same page for vision for the ministry.  They really want to serve soldiers, orphans, IDP’s, the church…just be a worker for the Lord.  All good!  We have 5 soldiers coming today for showers…I leave to pick them up with Sema while Aloyna and Sergei cook.  Arriving at the block post, they men are ready and carrying food and dirty laundry to the van.   Sema is mesmerized by the equipment!  We need to leave, have a lot to do…  So we get them back, and they all go and shower, while I finish preparing the food.  One of the men asks to use the guitar, and he starts to sing, Let It Be, by the Beatles.  You would never think that ‘that’ voice came from ‘that’ person…he has a very unique tone, but we all enjoy it, and he is very happy to play the guitar. Julia drops me a note, that we are feeding hospital men today, so I’m shocked, but Sveta can’t do it…so we agree, and we pack food for when we take soldiers back to the post, we will stop on the return at the hospital and feed soldiers.  The girls are a great help with preparing food, and the men enjoy everything.  We dash back to the post, but the van won’t start when we go to leave.  Seeing that we are in distress, all the men from the post run towards us to help push.  In no time, I pop the clutch and the van starts, and we are ‘off’.  At the hospital, we decide that I will stay in the van while they go and serve.  There are only 4 men… They are gone about 20 minutes while I drive around the streets near the hospital.  They finally come out, and tell about the delay, that there were 4 new men…2 were ambushed in a tank, and were shot, one in surgery, one badly wounded (head mid body, and leg).  2 other men with wounds also.  We leave, and run past the ‘big letters’ so that we can fix the ‘R’ in ‘blue’…  NOW the sign is complete. 

July 7 – Tuesday – We are working on the plans to get Tonya to rehab.  The problem…we find out this morning, that she has had her baby, …  1 kilo 900 grams!, tiny, tiny!!!   Darina.  The bad part is that really, Tonya should wait to go to rehab. Due to the baby and her recovery.   We go to the hospital and visit this tiny sweet baby, and she is just so very small…  Sima gives her a stern talk about the effects of alcohol on her baby, and that she must be sober and alert to have such a baby, as she is going to be a lot of work and care.    We go and try to find the part for the van, and end up having to order from Kyiv, but at least it will be ‘in’ by tomorrow.   While at the hospital, Nicholia calls and asks if he can meet with us concerning Alyona’s schooling.  We have another set of guests arriving from Zap. today, and we call and let them know that we can’t meet them, to please ‘take the bus and then a taxi to the center.’  They are fine with that, and understand the situation.  We had left Alyona at the center, as she wasn’t feeling 100%, and that way kids could come to the center if they wanted.  We go and pick up Pavel and Nickolia and we go to the Route 20 for a coffee and talk.  We call Alyona and ask her to join us.  It is a good meeting, but long.  Sima is there, which is a good thing.  As we go to leave, I mention to Nicholia that we need a ride to the train station tomorrow.  He immediately picks up the phone and makes a call.  He looks at me and says, ‘tomorrow, 3:00 car will come to center and take you 3 to the train.’  Just like that, he fixed our problem.  I think the men like Sima.    With Alyona and Sima, it will be tricky, as the men will probably WANT to come to the center and see them… they will need to be mature about this.    Personally, I think they are up for this, but I feel I need to be there to over see this.   We finish up and get back to the center, where we greet Olya and Vovo , an ATO chaplain.  Olya is who recommended Sergei to me, as she does some work with Andrew Kelley, who mentioned to her that I was in need of a translator.    Olya is very nice, and great in the kitchen.  She is great with the kids, and is ministry focused.   Vovo, a trained ATO chaplain is great with the men.  He works with them one on one, and builds a relationship with them.  I think he would be very good to work here…but a back and forth, probably won’t work.  God, send us workers.

Wednesday –  Whirl-wind –  It is always interesting to me that God puts things in our path when we least expect it, and when we really don’t have time for it.  Today is the day we leave for Kyiv, and our day is jammed packed.  We are up and out the door to the Children’s Shelter at 10, unfortunately, Anya isn’t there, she arrives for work at 1, but there is no way we can be here at 1… We go to the auto parts store but the part hasn’t arrived, they said they would call just as soon as it arrived.  Then off to the hospital to take food to Tonya, food to soldiers, and shorts to another soldier.  While at the hospital, the blockpost calls and says, if we want to come, need to do it ‘now’!   We load up and speed out to the block post.  Everyone is with us, so it is good that Olya, Vovo, Sima and Alyona all made it out there before we leave.    

Thursday July10, 2015, my trip begins to return to the U.S..  Not sure what to think about all that, but I will certainly miss the guys, and miss this work.  I only wish I could speak the language…it would really make things so much easier and complete.  The day is jammed packed by starting the day with trying to get the part we need for the van..but it isn’t ‘in’ yet…so we dash to the children’s shelter , and visit with the kids to 30 minutes.  The director comes out, reminding us that we can’t take any photos (((((, then we leave for the market, then hospital, then out to the block post.  We want to give boots, but when we arrive, they say that the boots are too hot for summer….we are discouraged, and aren’t sure what to do, but we can’t leave them…there is no point.  It is great to see the men again, and give them last blessings, and hugs…praying for each of these guys…keep your head in the game, and as Rich would say, ‘keep your head on a swivel.’   We are off to the auto parts store and to purchase cake for Aloysha.  Pick up the part, and head for the mechanic, but he is not able to do this for 1.5 hours…which isn’t going to give us the time we need for preparing to leave, and leaving by 3.  There is not enough time, bottom line.    We give up on the auto repair and head to Rainbow to meet with the commander about having a Bible study.  Vovo doesn’t seem real sure on his fee when conversing, so Semi steps in at times. 

Finally finishing up, we head to the center, to finish packing and load up, as the army is taking us to the train station.  Alyona and Sima go with the military men to the center, the only problem…they have idea where they are going and get lost for 20 minutes.  Simi is very fascinated with the guns and Range Rover..  They finally arrive, and get my bags loaded.    Sergei is still insists that he goes to the train station with us…but we tell him, it really isn’t necessary, and he needs to stay behind to be with our guests and kids.   He seems offended, and we try not to offend, but he is silent. 

We take everything outside and take some photos, pray and then make the ‘hug’ rounds.  I hug Sergei last, and it is like hugging a child…he squeezes hard, like he will never see me again.  I assure him that ‘everything will be o.k…he will do fine’  He has so much self doubt,  it concerns me, but I can’t do much about this, at this point.  I must go, I have so much to do, so many supplies to buy.   We start the journey to the train station.  On one side of me I have a gunner and the other is a sniper.  In the front is Sima and Alyona.  It is a crazy ride, and the guys are great.  We arrive, and they get us to the train, and then leave. 

Once on the train, we have about 15 soldiers in our wagon.  Sitting next to me, is a woman from Donetsk.  She doesn’t want to talk about the war…she is afraid, but finally towards the end of the trip like a last minute thought, or maybe she finally realized that we were ‘safe’… she tells us that she is pro-UA.

Life on the edge…

July 17, 2015 Saturday – Months of silence, and tonight we are under heavy bombing.  God protect our men, and friends.  God keep us safe, and remove the enemy.  The cracks and booms are very loud and unnerving.  Aloysha called and asked for prayers, says that it is very loud in the center of town, and he thinks he saw something ‘whiz’ by in the sky.   The shelling has now gone on for 3 hours.  The sky is still lighting up…I finally drift off to sleep at 2 a.m..

Tuesday – I love to learn something new, and today was a day of learning how to bake bread.  A volunteer, Alla, bakes about 24 loaves a week for soldiers, and she invited us over to watch and learn to make bread.  Her apartment is amazing, and she is a talented artist, and craftsman.  Basically, she turns ‘trash’ into ‘treasures’!   The walls are beautifully painted she has uniquely transformed her apartment into a beach resort, with shells on the walls, and doorframes to hide imperfections.  There are glass bottles everywhere, which she has beautifully decorated, painted, and adorned with all sorts of embellishments.  She even painted the chairs, and tables, and mirrors in the bathroom.  It is all very tasteful.  We start with the yeast and water, sugar, sale and then the fun begins.  The recipe makes 8 loaves, seems like a lot, but in reality, we could use more.   While waiting for dough to rise, Alla serves us a wonderful lunch of cutlets, jarred peppers, mushrooms, cabbage salad, and mashed potatoes.  We had wine and compote.  She is just a lovely person, and we had good conversation about the war, and really, just life.  Sometimes, it is nice to NOT talk about the war.    Ukraine is a place to build relationships, life is slower, and people sit and talk.  I would like to talk with Alla more, I just wish that I could respond, though I do understand a lot of what she says.  The bread is done, and we take 4 loaves with us, and leave, as we need to purchase paint before we return to the center and wait for kids.  We really have just 45 minutes before we are to meet the group for painting.  Sergei calls at 4:45 and says that the 2 men we met the day before, Pavel and Nickolia would like to pay us a visit.  Humm, well, another lesson in flexibility, as we need to postpone, or cancel painting for the evening.  They arrive about 5:15, and we offer tea and the rolls that Alla made for us to give to the soldiers…but these are soldiers too, so we offer them.     Nickolia and Pavel are BOTH very nice and respectful.  They want to talk with us about this ‘other’ Sergei fellow, as he was pro-DPR, and seen in several videos from 2014.  Now, thought he has switched parties, or so it seems… We made copies of his ‘book’ and I was able to put them on a flash drive and give to Pavel.    The men also talk with us about the military, and we ask their needs.  Seems the mismanagement of funds results in needs going unmet!  The frustration of this mounts for me, as I KNOW that countries are giving money, and yet these men have no boots, no uniforms, no gloves, just the basics!!  That isn’t even including things like night vision glasses, or scopes.  It is like fighting a war with your hand tied behind your back.  Pavel and Nickolia outline the situation, and suggest a few items in need of.  Nickolia is even able to find the items on the internet for me, as I’m clueless as to what to purchase.  I’m just not sure HOW to get these items and return to UA with them, but I can try. 

Thursday brings a day of yard work another day of painting.   We complete our grass and the center grass, and get started on the small house, when the trimmer runs out of line.  We cut everything we could, but all stores are closed to purchase any more line…Now time to go and paint.   Though I know we need to paint, as it does encourage the men and show our patriotism, but is is really infringing on the time with the kids.  We haven’t seen the kids in days.  They stopped calling and asking in the center was open.    I have seen several of our ‘regulars’ down at the soccer field, so if they get involved there, they won’t return to the center, as they love football. 

Painting is going well, and we complete Artuma district, like ‘mafia man’ wanted.  He said he wanted to see a lot of patriotism, so we ‘aim to please.’  We even went to fa as to paint flags on buildings.  We move towards Serverna, and the goal is to do every pole on the 5 major streets of Dzerzhinsk.  I want to do this before I leave!   Everything looks very nice.  Exhausted, we arrive home at 9 p.m.

Friday – I wake to heavy winds and blowing light rain…I just want to sleep, but I can’t, as we need to go and buy more ‘line’ for the weed eater, as that place may not be open tomorrow.   Of course, even if we do get the line, we can’t use it, as the grass it too wet.  We head out, and find the line and then run into Nickolia and he would like to talk with us.  It is good that he feels close enough to us, to ask us for meeting, call us to check on us, and just be a friend.  Seems he may have some sort of scholarship for Aloyna!  I can’t wait to talk with her about this.  We head home, and decide that we will go early painting so that we can FINISH today.  I’m really tired of painting, and at this point, we have 2 full gallons of paint left, see we will be finding some things to paint today. 

We complete Servana (the north side of town), and the main street, and even the main street by the city square.  It was really good to finish early, and the town looks so nice!!  We want the soldiers to feel appreciated, and know that Dz. is FOR Ukraine!

July 25, 2015Saturday – ‘Strange’ Sergei calls us wanting to know about the road rally, but we are not going to go, and be associated with him.  We just can’t risk this exposure.  In the morning, we have men (soldiers) to the center for showers and food, and then we are told that we have hospital feeding too.  It is good that I always fix extra, as one never knows what we need. I started fixing extra food, when the shelling intensifies, things go a bit side-ways and there are always more wounded in the hospital to feed. There is no way to calculate, so it is best to just fix more and if you don’t need, save for the next day. Better to have too much, then too little.

New Friends

May 26, 2015 – Tuesday  – I’m off to the hospital with pastor Sasha to feed the 6 soldiers that are there.  We pick up Sasha to feed the 6 soldiers and go into the main hospital, where we find a man sleeping, but we know him from BP #1.  We slip in and leave him a welcome gift on his bedside table.  We then go over to the surgical ward.  As we walk up, there are gypsey’s everywhere, probably 30-35!!  Something has happened to someone in that community, and I have no idea ‘what’, but we go to the second floor, and there are more gypsies up there in the waiting area.  The nurse appears at the door, and asks us to wear shoe coverings, as it is the surgery ward.  It is almost funny, if it weren’t so sad, that they are worried about such things as paint is peeling off the walls, dirt on the floor, people not wearing gloves…cat on the 5th floor, and they are worried about the soles of my shoes…but we comply, and Sasha goes to the pharmacy to purchase shoe coverings.  Just then 2 men walk up trying to get in the ward, and the same nurse that was fairly nice to us, ‘laid’ into the men, disallowing them entrance to the ward.  Demanding that they go and get the shoe coverings…the nurse shifts her eyes to me and then back at them.  Discrimination is rampant in Ukraine against the gypsy culture.   Sasha returns, and the same nurse, then escorts us to a room, and they tell my to ‘go in’, but all I see is a room of a gravely ill child.  I don’t want to go in, but they keep telling me to…so once I the room, I see that there is another room behind the first. And that is where the soldier, Dima is.  Dima is from BP #2, and he was near a mine when it exploded.  He turned just in time to NOT take the full force of the blast in the chest.  He had fragments in his chest, lungs, and a crushed arm.  He was obviously in a lot of pain.  Dima’s friend wanted to leave, but when Sasha asked if he could pray, he decided to stay through the prayer.  I was glad that Sasha was there to minister to Dima, and he talked with him for at least 20 minutes, then we left; climbing back over all the people in the next room, tending to this small boy.  As we left the building, I wanted to give them some of our food, since we had left over, but Sasha said that it wasn’t a good idea, so we went home.  I dropped Sasha off  at the Moscow market, and then went to the center, where Alyosha was waiting for me.  Seems his classes get out at 2, so he is free then to come over to the center.  We talked for a while, and then I mentioned about the boy at the hospital, and he knew all about it, as the boy is Nastia’s (his sister) neighbor.  Seems the boy was playing near a house that had been ‘shelled’, and a wall fell over on top of him, crushing him. I told him that I wanted to pray with them, so Alyosha suggested that we call Sasha and ask him to come along..finally after several tires, Valia reached Sasha and he said, he ‘could not go with us.’  So we decided not to go and just pray on the house for him hourly. 

Sergie returns – I was woke at 7:20 a.m. as Sergei was at the gate, but had no keys.  I stumbled over to the gate, and opened it, handing him the keys.  He went to the center, I went home, but I was up, so I decided to tidy up my house, incase the men wanted to come for a visit.  Food was prepared, so that wasn’t an issue.  I finally go over to the building, and prepare some breakfast for Sergie and I.  We leave at 11 to head to Konsytanivika to do a little shopping and then pick up the men at 12:45.

We get through the check point, just men anamoured at my US passport; and the many stamps from so many countries…they got so caught up in all that, they failed to ask Sergei for his passport, which was good, as he forgot it. 

The train has just arrived, and they are walking up the platform.  It is great to meet the men, Aaron, and Keith are pastors, and then there is Andre a student, and Cory, on an internship.

May 29, 2015 – I just can’t make this stuff up – Friday evening, I need to take food over to Lena’s grandparents and I remembered that someone had painted over 4 of the flags we painted with red/blue strip.  I really want to ‘fix’ that, so we took the paint with us, since it is literally on the same road.  Sergei and Alyosha paint several poles , then we deliver the food, and we go back to paint some more, since it is getting darker.  We are stopped at the corner by the turn to go the back way to the hospital, via the cemetery.  I’m parked on the side of the road, whereas Sergei and Aloysha are painting the poles behind me..  All of a sudden a car zooms up and comes to a screeching halt…and the guys are talking to Sergei and Aloysha, but I only can hear Sergei responding.  Words go back and forth, and then the next thing is Sergei is walking to the car, and puts some money down on the seat, and says, ‘those guys over there, just paid us money to buy the paint and paint all the poles on the street.’  Paint all the poles on the street!  Then I count the money and it is 1000gh!  Not completely sure what to make of this, as it could be a trap, maybe legit, just don’t know at this point, but it was decided that we are to meet them tomorrow night.  We head home, but I notice that I need gas, so we pull into the Route 20.  There are usually a lot of military cars there, and this night was like all others, and there was one car there.  Sergei decides that he needs to talk to the military men, and exits the van and goes to the side patio where 3 men are talking.  Sergei talks to the men, and Sasha the ‘leader of the group’, agrees to come out tomorrow night and check out the situation with the guys that gave us the money.  We can’t be too careful. 

Last night we also received word that we lost 2 men from block post 0.  Considering that this post is closets to the ‘front’, and the entry way from Ghorlovka, I would not be surprised, but then we heard of 9 more men that were wounded.  So we head to the hospital with food and clothing.  Stopping off to pick up Lena, and then to Julia’s parents for more items, Julia’s father joins us for the trip.  We arrive, and go to Zhenya on the 1st floor of the surgery unit, he is still waiting for appendix surgery.  Then up to the 2nd floor, room #3, where we are met by Oleg Odessa (2022, Oleg was killed in action), who is visibly upset, Andrew from #2, and 2 other men from another room, that came to visit.  I go about making plates of food, while the men speak to the soldiers.  Oleg starts to tell about what happened, when he just starts to cry.  Sergei unsuccessfully tries to calm him.  Andre returns from the restroom, and immediately climbs into bed and pulls the covers over his head.  I lightly rub his back, and he reaches out and touches by hand and softly rubs the top of my hands.  He so desperately needs the kindness of a nurse, wife, mother, sister, just anyone that cares, someone to sooth him, from this trauma that he suffered.  He continues to hold my hand, and then drifts into sleep.  Total sadness for this very broken man.  All I keep thinking is ‘what’ is going to happen to these men when the war is over, where will they go, what will they will they live psychologically with what they have seen, done…experiences???

Saturday – Mr. Toads’ Wild Ride!!! – The started with preparing food for the blockpost, and meeting people to pick up food for the post, and then off to Julia’s parents to pick the rest of the food up along with them.  On the way to the block post, we observe several DPR flags on the bus stops, and some buildings.  I mention to Sergei that those will need to be ‘dealt with’ tonight, he agrees….WE arrive to the post and the men are as usual happy to see us.  We unload and speak to the men for a while, when the commander approaches that needed the belt and cell phone.  I have nothing!  I feel terrible about this, but we needed to know if he needed the SIM cards to go in the phone, or if he has them, and we never could reach him, prior to today.  So now having the information, we can purchase the phone and return to the post with the phone.  He is very happy about this.  We leave promising to return with a phone!  WE get back to Julia’s and then we are off to the big market to get the phone, and some paint for tonights activities.  We purchase paint and brushes too, as this paint if very difficult to get off the brushes, and it is easier to just toss them.   While at the phone store, Andre calls, saying that everyone is ‘there’ and waiting on us, are we coming?’  Coming to what??  When he explains that the meeting and ‘road rally’ is TODAY, not tomorrow, as we were previously told.  So we race out the door and get to the center of town, and get in line for the road rally.  UA flags everywhere, it was great to see the patriotism of the people.  Granted, I would liked to have seen hundreds, not just one hundred or less, but we will be happy with what we have, and show the town that there are indeed people here that are pro-UA.  Many ‘lookers’!!  People need to know NOT to be afraid of being proud of being Ukrainian.  Putin has made ethnic Ukrainians feel bad for loving their country!  The rally starts with us all walking to the monument and singing the national anthem!  We sang that 4 times, with Oleg in the front, it was all very nice.  Then we lined up, with an armored vehicle in the front, we drone through the streets of Dzerzhinsk, blowing horns and raising UA awareness.  We had a police escort, and police at every crossroad to stop traffic for us.  It was great, and so very exciting.  Granted, it made it clear to all that I was pro-UA; but at some point in time, you must stand up for something.  All through the town, we trailed, and then circled back to the parking lot in front of the Moscow market.. People were everywhere starring at us…after photos, Oleg asked me to go to Rainbow and speak with a journalist, Tatiana C., from Kyiv.  She lost her husband at Mayden, and has since run for public office, and is in Parliament.  Her goal is to improve dietary needs for soldiers.  She listened to Oleg’s concerns about the currant mayor, and though that is a big concern, if the leader of your town is pro-ru, my concern was for the soldiers morale.  After our initial meeting with Oleg, his church member, and this Sergei (in question), I asked the others to leave, so that I could speak with Tatiana alone, as I wanted to speak about the soldiers equipment needs, and their morale.  She listened very intently and interested.  I just wish I had been given some notice about this meeting, then I could have been more thoughtful with my questions.  But that didn’t happen, do it is what it is…  We exchanged phone numbers, and she encouraged us to call her if we needed something.  Probably the best thing was that we saw Andre’, the summer commander, Andre Teturyuk assistant.  He is now the commander of Rainbow.  He is now the person that is to be working in Dz. to straighten out the local government.  Hopefully, this reunion will have me be able to reconnect with him, and this could be a good thing. 

June 2015 – Saturday evening, we paint poles on Artuma street, they look great, and Sergei (local mafia man) was very happy to see the work.  We completed the street, and had no hecklers.  Sasha, from Battalion 17 came for the entire time and stood guard for us.  That made us all feel much better, though it is sad that one must have an armed guard to beautify the town with country flags.    

Sunday – up early to go and buy paint for later in the day painting of poles.    Church was fine, though very long, Sasha just goes on too long,and people get restless.  He makes his point over and over and over, beating people over the head with the Bible…it doesn’t work, and people get aggravated…he goes on and one, and loses the momentum with the audience.  I would love to tell him all this, but I don’t see that happening, and Sergei, though feels the same way, he may not say, it in the ‘fight way’. 

Kids come in the afternoon, and Valia was with them, as Sergei and I left for painting the main street in Zabalka at 5.  We met the group up at the railroad crossing/street police, and worked our way down the street.  The people in Zabalka didn’t seem to care at all, they just watched.  We finished by 8:30, and all the poles were complete, I was exhausted, and covered in paint…I must figure out a way to get this paint out of my clothes.

Monday – 8:45, Oleg calls asking if I can come and get Lyuba’s food and take it to the block post, as his car is broken.  I need to get the food, take it, and then return with 5 men to the center, for showers and food, and the return them to the block post, then go to the hospital to feed soldiers there.  A lot to organize and remember details.  Additionally we have been asked to go to a rally for Nadia Savenchencko’s birthday, in the square down town.   I arrive at the center early and Sergei is up cooking rice!  Like that is important, since that is about at the bottom of the list, since that can cook while the soldiers eat.  Amist all that, the  water isn’t ready, tea isn’t steeping, details…just not awake to details.  We prepared lunch and the men arrive.  I ask Sergei if the upstairs is ready for them, and he says, ‘no’, and races upstairs to prepare the showers.  Valia and I complete the lunch, and I try not to get too upset.  All will be fine, God is in control.  We just have so much to do, and it is not getting done, due to disorganization.  Lunvh is ready, men are showered , and the men and Valia eat.  Valia is leaving today, so she needs to be well fed.   The men enjoy their meal, and then spend some time outside talking and smoking.  I don’t make a fit about it..they have few ‘vices’.  Driving back to the blockpost, I think about how it must feel to be in the comfort and safety of our center, and then be thrust out into the war and chaos again; safe >>>unsafe, warm and fed >>>>cold and hungry

We meet ‘Sergei’ in the square, and we stand with signs to honor Nadia S.  There are 7 of us…then 2 more show up, then 3 more.. so the numbers are few but she is unjustly being held, someone needs to be ‘her voice’.   We also paint a beautiful emblem of the Ukrainian flag in the center square,  with a blue and yellow heart!!   It is all very nice.  When volunteer Vovo came to the rally, he told us that reporters from the Kyiv Post were in town, and wanted to do a story on me, and our volunteer group.  I was amazed, and honored, so we arranged for a meeting.  We invited them to join us for painting. 

Tonight we paint again, we are getting this done, a little at a time.  We are clearly ‘marking our territory’! We do Myachofskya St. today, and happy to have Vovo, Diana, and the 2 writers from the Kyiv post.  We work our way down the street, and then to the police station, then to the Moscow market, and then back to the main street.  It is A LOT, but it looks great, and prayerfully, it encourages our men.   The journalists are very interesting, though I am concerned about the exposure of the story.    After painting, it is late, so I drive everyone home, and Vovo asks us to stay for dinner.  It is 9 p.m., but we agree to do this, as there has been many times, he has asked, and we haven’t been able to.  He and his wife are believers, yet they don’t go to any local church due to the persecution of protestant Christians.  Granted, they can come and meet with us, and maybe in the future they will.  The journalists, Oleg and Vlad. Join us, as they are staying with Vovo and his wife, Alla.  Amazing couple, and they have a lovely home.  I can’t wait for Rich to meet these people.  Alla serves us a humble meal of pasta and canned meat, and wonderful bread she makes herself.   The journalists ask lots of questions, and at some point, Oleg recorded me, though I wasn’t aware of it.  Oleg, is a very interesting person, and one of his friends was in Ghorlovka in an office, and they saw on a piece of paper on the wall, ‘Motoralla’ and a number.  Motorolla is the head of the Ghorlovka DPR unit, and a really mean, evil person.  He, like putin have, little man syndrome.  He is a small man, so he really likes to ‘show himself’ through his actions.  He even has a giant for a wife.  She is very young, and he is probably 35.  Anyway, Oleg’s friend gave him this number, he had no idea if indeed it was Motorolla’s number, but he called it and recorded the conversation.  When a person picked up, Oleg started the recording, and Motorolla admits to killing 15+ people, and one being the gunner from the airport.  The soldier was brutally beaten, and shot multiple times, after admitting he was the gunner, during the interrogation of all the men, and he could see that someone was going to be killed, if he didn’t admit to this position as the gunner.  Motorolla was very prideful about the killings, and cursed repeatedly, and said, that he would kill more.   It was all very ‘creepy’.

June 19, 2015 – Friday, I received a message from Valia asking us to take food to Tonya, Vanya’s sister.  Saturday, we went over to her place, but no one was home.  We talked to the grannies, and they said that she ‘comes and goes’, but drinking a lot.  I was concerned when she didn’t show up for church for several weeks, as she was coming regularly.  The ladies agreed to call us if she showed up.  Sunday afternoon, I decided that we really need to try again, and we go over to her place, looking for her, but can’t find her.  I remember Valia sent me her number, so I call, and we finally get a hold of her, and she said that she is staying at her boyfriends’ house, providing the address.  We drive over to the address, but have some difficulty finding it, until we see a group of kids, and I recognize Olga, Tonya’ 6 yr. old daughter.  She is covered in dirt, looks terrible!  We ask her to show us where her mother is, and she walks in front of the van,
walking us to the house. 

I have lived in and out of UA for 17 years, and seen some pretty terrible
conditions, never any like this, where children were playing.  Walking
through the gate, front door wide open, glass in the windows broken, piles of
trash outside, broken glass everywhere.  Sergei and I go in and I see
Tonya getting dressed, and some man naked on the couch.  Sergei yells to
Tonya to get dressed and come out, and she does, and I follow that up by
telling the man to get dressed too.  They both eventually appear at the
door between the kitchen and the living room, where a T.V. is blarring
cartoons!  It is like, ‘grow up’, your kid is out playing in the garbage
and you are in here having sex with this piece of trash, of a man.  Just
disgusting, truly.  Sergei ‘unloads’ on the man, questioning him about
their relationship, his honor, or lack of any honor at all to Tonya, being
totally drunk.  Her face is red, hands are shaking, if I would have really
thought about it, she looked like she was in ‘labor’, but it isn’t time…she
looks to be 4-5 months along.  We continue to question Tonya about her
commitment to Olga as a mother. Olga is running in and out of the house, and
then the neighbor shows up.  Appears to be a nice woman, she too questions
the man about ‘what is he doing’ with pregnant Tonya drinking, and Olga playing
in the dirt.  They have no answer, Tonya is embarrassed, but the man wants
to beat Sergei, and repeatedly curses him, and gets in his face.  I ask
Tonya, if I can take Olga for the night…give her food, bathe her…Tonya at first
says ‘no’, but then we finally convince her…and then we are able to convince
Tonya to leave too.  The man isn’t happy at all.  He doesn’t want to
lose his free sex with  no strings attached…just disgusting.
  He sways between, ‘she is my girlfriend, you can’t take her’ … to
‘she is with me today, and with someone else tomorrow.’’   Finally,
they decide to leave, and Tonya and Olga het in the van and we go to the
pharmacy for some ‘medicine’ to help with her ‘drunk’..   Sergei
mentions that his church has a rehab. Center, and that he could see if Tonya
and Olga could go there, so I insist that he get the information.  He
makes some calls, so that we can let Tonya know if there is even a remote
chance that she could go to Kherson for rehab.  We aren’t sure she would,
but we need to know of there is even space available.

The medicine works.. I think… but she drinks a lot of water, used the rest
room a lot, and then she starts to shake.  Her face is very red, and hands
are almost blue, they are so red.  She is cold, then she is hot…I’m
thinking she is in labor, so I call nurse Tonya for help.  She totally
understands, but says that she doesn’t want to take responsibility for this,
and get her to the hospital if I really feel she is in labor.  We
wait..and see.    After about 15 minutes, she is feeling a
little better to eat, and then shower.  I take her upstairs to shower,
yet, I don’t think she does, as she is barely wet, and Olga is running in and
out of the room.  I’m glad that I bathe Olga earlier, and she is very clean.   
Sergei hears that there is space, and they welcome Tonya to the center. 
We need one paper, which we will try to get from the hospital tomorrow. 
We decide that the best place for them is back at their apartment, so I drive
them back, and Sergei and Aloysha take her upstairs, while I wait with the
van.  It is late, and no one is out on the roads, so separatists may be
lurking.  We take Aloysha home, as we don’t want him to walk either, and
we arrive back at the center exhausted around 10:30.  What a day.  I
continue to be amazed by what God challenges us with…all we wanted to do was
give a box of food to someone in need, and we end up in this mess.   Lord, please surround this little girl with love and peach; give Tonya a conscience to know what she is doing, and putting her child through is not good; and help her to receive the help we so desperately are trying to give her.  


Exposed and Civil Disobedience #2

MAY 14, 2015 –  Today the article in the Kyiv Post came out.  It was a great and humbling article, but to say the very least, I have now been exposed for my political position.  Photos, and 2 articles, one on me, and one on the other volunteers.  It is all over the internet, and I get good comments, and some ‘slams’.  One fellow writes that he wants to help, but then repeatedly writes that I exposed myself and put myself in danger.  It is very upsetting, what he writes to me, and Sergei is upset that any man would write such things to a lady whose protection is so far away.     I know that FEAR is never from God, always from the evil one.  I decided that I can’t pay attention to such negatively, though I need to be vigilant, consider what he is saying in the situation, and be very careful.  As Rich frequently reminds me: “Head on a swivel” my new life motto!

May 16, 2015 – My first act of civil disobedience was repainting the ‘Dzerzhinsk’ sign back to yellow and blue, from the DPR colors of black, red and blue.  Aloshya and I did that in August (check date on that), along with painting several utility poles around town.  Tonight the group was painting poles with UA flags.  Thank goodness, it is an easy flag to paint, as Andre isn’t an artist and after 2 poles, Julia promptly removed the brush from him and instructed him to only ‘hold the box with the paint’, while she and Diana painted poles.  The unfortunate part, was that Julia had no intention of even going, or painting, she decided to go to translate, and now is stuck painting.  I’m driving, so painting is ‘out’ for me, though the desire is definitely there…  Pole by pole, they jump from the van, leaving the passenger door open to block on-coming traffic view.  We drive with the side sliding door open for quick exit and entry.    It takes a few poles for them to figure out that they MUST blot the paint, as it is running all over the place, and not looking good.  One goal is that it must look good, and not sloppy, otherwise the city may come along and paint right over it.  We creep down the main street of Dz. And it is looking good, few people on the street, and few cars, though one white car with a crashed front, has driven by very slowly…so that is a suspicious car.  We move through the bus stop, ‘marking’ it accordingly…and down to the building just before the ‘home ‘depot’ store’.  There is a huge flag painted on the building, and the yellow looks bad, so I suggest that they paint over that.   Andre goes and starts on that, while Julia and Diana start on the poles.  As Andre is painting, the white car reappears yelling out the windows at Andre…the unfortunate part is that Andre yells back….Julia is livid at Andre’s stupidity…we don’t need ANY trouble or attention brought on us…  they all run to the car, and we slowly pull away, heading down towards the hospital, where there are too many taxi’s, so we continue to move towards the ‘water company’ area, there is a bus stop there, so we pull off, and they are painting 2 poles on one side of the street, and run to the other…As I sit there in the car, I can see in the distance fluorescent vests…which means ONE thing, police.  I can tell they are sitting on the left side, and flagging incoming cars to Dzerzhinsk…  I can’t risk that, and must do a U turn and go back, they will stop us, and then they will smell the pain, and then the problems…  So I tell Yulia what is going on, and everyone gets in the van, but Andre fails to close the door, and I’m doing a ‘U-ey’ in the middle of the road.    I go 500 meters, and see a car right behind me, then I hear the siren, and flashers…I yell at Andre to ‘close the door’, and every one is scrambling to get their gloves off and paint hidden..   The officer walks up to the van and I’m searching for my purse, as I had hid it under the seat.  I finally find it, handing over my passport, and then the car documents.  Then he asks for my license, so glad that I have everything with me.   He looks and says, ‘from America?’….. I reply ‘yes’.   He had already asked for the others’ documents, but never took them.  Seems he may think that all are Americans too…  He looks at everything, then  handing me back all the docs.;  then says, in English, ‘have a nice night’.    I can’t get the van started quick enough, and I drive off, trying not to hit anything.  We plan to go to Artuma, so there is a back way, and I’m trying to find the road, but totally cracking up.  The car wreaks of paint, there is no way he didn’t smell that, so he may just be ‘o.k.’ with what we are doing…but I didn’t want to stick around and ask more questions… we laugh and laugh at our ‘close call’…and I continue the way to Artuma.   We pass no one at all…streets are deserted..  Arriving in Artuma, the road is just black…so I turn left towards Servna (north), and edge down the road.  The group jumps out and starts to paint poles on both sides of the road.    Slowly moving without lights, as to NOT draw attention to ourselves, we see a light in the distance, a flashlight or cigarette.   They all slip back into the car, and I move slowly down the road, and we see it is a UA soldier, alone and walking down the street.  Maybe he is doing a night patrol, but alone, seems odd…but he passes, and we continue on.  Painting quickly, we move down the street, watching for people.  There is no moon, so being inconspicuous isn’t terribly hard, as there are no street lights either.   We paint several more poles, then head back to Artuma to paint more, going towards ‘New York’.   Each time there is a car, they dash to the van and just sit and wait.. we also drive with the side door open for quick departure and re-entry.  We decide that going the back way is the best thing, so I turn back towards the cemetery, and we decide to paint some poles back in there.  Quiet and calm… then out of the darkness comes a big truck…it is the UA army, and they slow down to ‘take a look’.   We then decide to head towards the big market, as it may be safe on that back road out of Dz..  We hit several poles on that street, and then it is getting late, we decide we have had enough adventure for one night, and call it a night. 

Wednesday – we continue to have quiet in Dz., not really knowing what to make of all that, but we are very glad that UA army is here with fortifications and we are happy to feed the men.  Haven’t had any men at the center so far this week…guess Oleg is busy, but it has given me an opportunity to plant the gardens, mow grass, and get things generally cleaned up.  There always seems to be something to do, and I stay very busy.  I can’t imagine how people are bored.  If I could speak the language better, I would really be loving communicating with more people with something much more meaningful to say then, ‘hello’…  

Thursday – Up early and off to Konstanivka to buy food for the IDP’s.  Ira and Volodia go with Sasha and I.  The trip there is fine.  We get to the market, and the seller remembers us, and agrees to the discount on the food we need.  He was very nice, and asked that if we call before we come, he will have everything ready for the next time.  We head to ATB and Eko Market, and the van is packed.  We had back to Dz., needing to stop at the block post.  Arriving to the checkpoint, the patrol asks for my passport and he review it.  Then he asks for the others…while sitting and waiting, I see in the distance, Yuri, my friend from summer.  I call out to him, and he immediately turns around and comes walking towards the van..and reaches through he window with a big hug.  It is funny, as the patrol then just handed back our documents and said, ‘you can go.’   So my conversation was quick with Yuri, but it was great to see him and invite him over to the center for tea.  God’s timing again is so perfect…our shopping timing, Yuri’s timing, everything works together for the good for those that love the Lord. 

Alyosha has been coming to the center everyday, I’m thinking that Sergey ‘put him up to this’ to keep an eye on me.  It was fine for a day or 2, but now, it is getting creepy, and annoying.  I have so much do to, and I can’t babysit him.  I love him to death, but he is unpredictable.  But I can say, he LOVES Ukraine, and will paint!!   We decide to have an adventure and go painting.  We gather all the paints, and brushes, and off we go.  We decide to head out of Dz. towards NewYork via Zabalka area.   We are able to paint several poles on the road out and in to Dz…and with little trouble.  Few cars, and since that road is a ‘divided’ road, people leaving can’t see those on the opposite side of the road.  Alyosha really wants to paint the posts along the road in Zablaka, as they aren’t done very well… So we decide that it is best to let him out with all the paint, and then I would go and park and wait.  He doesn’t get many done, as there are many ‘walkers’, and cars on the road.  Each time a car approaches, he sets everything down and pretends to be peeing in the bushes…a familiar sight here!   We call it a ‘night’ after a few ‘close calls’, and exhaustion has taken us over.   Tomorrow is May 1, and if something is going to happen, at least we know that we tried to show our support of UA.  !! 

Going to the block post is always an adventure.  Never know what you may encounter.  Saturday is blockpost #2 day, with Julia and her family.  Early in the morning is the best time for feeding, as it seems the Russians get drunk frequently, and need to sleep off their drunk, so mornings are usually quiet.  I leave early, as I must meet a woman in zabalka with food at ‘Start’church.  She must take food away from her house, as to not let her neighbors know what she is doing, in fear of persecution.  It is hard to believe that people need to fear fellow Ukrainians because you re helping the army protect them from the enemy, and to regain their homeland.   Just really hard to wrap my mind around that, people ‘hating’ on their neighbors for helping their own army..??  $*#^$^%     I decided that I wasn’t going to apologize or make excuses any more for helping.  If people don’t like it, then to bad, and I will reap the consequences.    I arrive at the church and wait.  After about 10 minutes, emerging from between the apartment buildings, there is a woman carrying obviously very heavy bags.   She is on the other side of the parking area, so I race over to the other side to try to get there quickly to ease her heavy burden.  She is very friendly and happy to see me.  We move quickly, as I can tell she wants to hurry and leave, as she doesn’t want people to see her.  So very sad, but understandable.   Next stop is to pick up Andre’, Julia’s boyfriend, and then to Alla’s to pick up bread and other food.  Alla is an amazing baker, and has baked 12 loaves of lovely bread, 4 of which are still WARM.  Oh, would I love to devour that bread with some butter, but I will refrain, as others need this more then myself. ~~   After Alla’s we go to Alvera’s to collect more food.  Ukraine is a place of ‘hurry up and wait’…and so it was with this stop.  I waited, waited and waited, and after about 20 minutes, Andre emerges with buckets of food.  7 totes later, we leave to go to Julia’s and pick up her parents and all their food. 

Going to the blockpost, many people know what we are doing, and many don’t like it.  So sad, and I’m probably very naïve about this, but I just don’t care.  I’m sad that we don’t have MORE then 34 volunteers in Dz. That want to cook food and help the soldiers.  I can see why they are discouraged, though I will say, they are very grateful for us ‘few’.  I think about what they will do when I leave…not that I’m no important, but the van is…it is their way to so many remote blockposts, and a way for men to come for showers and food.  I won’t be gone long, but it is still time away.  I’m torn between 2 continents.

Arriving at the block post we meet another group from Kirvo Rog/volunteers that have brought things also.  I feel like we are not communicating enough so that we don’t duplicate efforts.  Food is difficult enough to make for such large quanities, and some block posts are not getting anything at all, like #7, and then you have this one which has locals, and outside the oblast volunteers helping them.   I’m upset that I didn’t get the belt for this man at this post….I didn’t have a size, and he kept saying, ‘all are the same’, but they are far from the same…so I will look tomorrow, and for this cell phone.  He needs just a plain phone, with 2 cards.  But I can’t buy this without help…so I’m waiting for Sergey to return.   Some things I can do alone, others, I can’t.  Anyway, the men are very glad to see us, and when I pull out the gloves, it goes wild.  And, I don’t have enough for even a fraction of the men.  It is terrible, and terribly sad for me.  I give away 9 pr. And save the rest for #1, as those are ‘my guys’.  I’m torn between countries, and I’m torn between block posts…it is all too much.  !   I give away a few more masks, as those are essential for protection, and staying hidden from the enemy.  All goes well, and the men are very friendly and kind.  I go to the kitchen and see how things are going there.  The men are eating the food we brought, as it is fresh and hot.  They are very appreciative, and that is great, but wish I didn’t even have to do this, and they were home with their families.    We hear some shooting in the distance, and decide it is time to leave…give everyone hugs, and load up.  Americans are the ‘huggy’ ones, something that Ukrainians are not used to at all.    As we are leaving we get to the forest and a car is coming towards us, and they flag us over.  It is 2 men that know we are volunteers and want to talk with us.  They greet us, and thank us profusely for our help.  The one man speaks some English, so it is good to talk with him.  He is very kind, and kisses my hands as we leave.  I have now learned that this is a gesture of thanks for my ‘kind and working’ hands for others. 

I return to the center, and start to prepare for tomorrows food give away, church, and after church party with the volunteers.  We have at least 14 coming at this point, but could be more.   I clean up and get olivre’ salad made, and an apple/nut cake.   Kids start to come, and we have a good afternoon.  Difficult that I don’t have a translator, but it forces me to listen more, speak less. 

May 24, 2015 – New Friends – Sunday!!   Today is food give away, and we have just 38 people present at church.  Voludia shares and then Sasha shares.  More people mingle in, and we wrap up the give away, and I prepare tea.  With the clock ticking, as 3:00 the volunteers are arriving for the get-together.   Yulia and her family arrives at 2 and we set up…she now informs me that she thinks the ‘numbers’ are up to 22.  I rush home to grab a few more papergoods, and another tablecloth.  Yulia and ‘mom’ prepare sandwiches for the oven, people start to arrive right at 3:00.  It is really great to meet other ‘servants’.    Not all are Christians, and actually, I don’t think any are except for me.  There are some volunteers from Kyiv, but I don’t get to speak to them at all, as one local volunteer, Sasha basically dominated the conversation, pulling myself and Yulia away from the group to talk about ‘town’ business, and what ‘I’ was going to do to help…I’m one woman, who doesn’t speak the language, I basically can’t do much of anything.  But Sasha seems to think that I need to ‘know’ this information, thus for 20 minutes he tells me all about this, all the while Yulia has to translate.  Oleg is there too, and he gets all excited that he has been given a task!  He is a real ‘go-getter’ I will say that much, and he loves helping the soldiers.  We finally return to the group, and have time to eat.  The next thing I know, a woman who was with the ‘Kyiv group’ comes over and starts to talk to me in English, saying she is a reporter from a paper in Sweden.  She wants to interview me, and just starts asking questions about ‘my’ work here.  How long, how did I get started, why Dzerzhinsk, what are we doing, why are we doing this, who do we help, etc. ‘ The same questions, asked and answered.  The questions are endless, and I’m eating between ‘thoughts’.  Elvira’s little girl is just out of control, screaming and carrying on to the point, that we can’t continue the interview…Elvira seems oblivious to the noise, so we give up.

People are sharing their experiences, their concerns for the future.  The stories that they can tell, many have ended up on very dangerous situations, us included. 

……Long day, and soldiers enjoy ‘left overs from Sunday’ (thought they don’t know that, since I can reheat, and add to, and it all looks fresh…but, they feel the need to get back to the block post, and leave.  As we depart, every man gets a hug, that is how I roll.  In war, one never knows, if they will ever come back….