Valia Returns

Friday  8/22/14 – Valia has returned!!!!  WooHoo!!!  I have known Valia for about 12 years, and she is a dear friend, and wonderful translator. I so desperately need her.  We go and pay bills today, then off to the baby hospital to see the shelter children as they are staying there.  Then we go look for boxes, which has become our new daily destiny!  Boxes for food!  We’re always on the look out for them.  Anyway, it is so great to have her back!!   She loves to go visiting too, so it is a ‘win – win’ situation. Andrew calls that the shipment will arrive late in the afternoon as the driver just showed up and that he is leaving shortly and should arrive Saturday morning. We work on food boxes all afternoon, and prepare for Andrews shipment which is to arrive tonight. The kids arrive and beg us to take them to the river.  Valia is an expert swimmer, so she can assist in the teaching of them to swim.  So we agree, as long as they listen and continue to try to learn to swim. 

Swimming goes well, and the kids try the new approach with Valia, thank goodness she swims and knows how to teach swimming.  The kids listen, and try, but they just don’t get it…but maybe in time.   We return to the children’s center where Sasha is waiting for us.

We now have 65 boxes, if we put together from Andrei, and we contact other churches to see if there is a need.  There is a need, but the problem is, getting the food ‘to’ to the people.  The food is heavy, and to lift and move it, seems so ridiculous, but we will probably end of doing just that because few have any form of transportation.  Andrew calls around 4, confirming that the truck won’t arrive today, but tomorrow.   Knowing this, we go ahead with Sasha having a Bible study, and then we enjoy milk and cookies, courtesy of the UA army.    

I take the opportunity to talk to Sasha about the food and he makes a few calls.   It is decided that Lena’s church can take 13 boxes, but I insist that we take much more, we take 28 or so, bags and boxes.  We are off to deliver leaving about 8p.m., as finding these houses is difficult as it is, now it is dark, and I must be able to turn around…it is a recipe for an accident; to me, it is too late, but I guess we go when we can go.  

We first go and pick up Lena, who is now at least 350 lbs, in my car with all this food, and myself, Aloysha, Valia and Sasha…too much weight!  Poor car!   Anyway, house after house, we distribute and as we go, she remembers others…(I’m so glad I insisted on bringing more boxes)…we finally wind things up around 9:45 p.m., my back is killing me, and we are all very tired.  We have 2 boxes left, but it is just too late to go to anyone’s house now.  I drop everyone off and I get home, get the van put away, and call Rich briefly, shower and fall into bed, exhausted.    Food truck from Kyiv is supposed to arrive tomorrow…we shall see.

Saturday – 8/23/2014 – I wake at 6:45 a.m.  I don’t know why, but I can’t sleep and then I wake early.  I finally fall back to sleep,   since Angie W. gave the funds for the lunch, I decided to start the fellowship lunches tomorrow, after church.  I had the time in the morning, so I was off to the market to get food, and more yellow paint, for pole painting later.  I decided to just go with sandwiches, due to the food situation, as the time involved to make the lunch.  I didn’t want to start off so big that later I would regret that, as what if the funding stops, and then we go back to tea and cookies, which isn’t bad, just not much.  So egg salad, sausage, tomato and cucumber, carrot salad, pickles, and tea and cookies, simple, yet at least something.  So I’m busy cooking today until the kids arrive. 

 I’m excited to think that the shipment may be here today, but at the same time, thinking ‘who’ are we giving this food to.  We know people need it, but we can’t drive it all over town…getting them to come to the center may be difficult, since it is so far from the main road where the busses flow.  There are definitely +’s  and –‘s about our location.  Being where we are had the + of NOT being so visible to the separatists.  They didn’t see our attractive building, and just come in and take it, which they probably would have.  But on the other hand, being so far off the road limits people’s accessibility to the center also.  But, it is all a trade off.   

Finally, the food is in Donetsk region, and we decide to take 40 packs to Novghorosk, before off loading the rest in Dzerzhinsk.  No sense in moving it twice.  The driver agrees to do this, and we meet him on the road and take him to Pastor Paul’s church, where they have 4 people waiting to unload.  The unloading goes very smoothly, and we agree to return Sunday for distribution, and photos.  Then, we are off to Dz.

We arrive in Dz. and our team of men, Sergey, Larissa’s husband, Alex, Roma’s dad, Roma and Jimmy, Vitalyi and Kristina are there to assist us, to unload, and start sorting.  Two tons of food is a lot of food to organize, but Andrew did a great job putting it all together.  The truck is unloaded fairly quickly, and we send the men on their way with a snack food package as their ‘thank you’.  They are grateful.  We now have food for 180 families, now to find families.

8/24/2014 – Sunday – the building is just a mess, with food everywhere, but it is great to see Roma’s family at church.  They say that they are going to come to church, or start back…time will tell.  But they are very nice people, and appreciate all we are doing.  They have 3 girls, and Roma, so their family of 6 is a lot to feed.   Sasha is supposed to cut his sermon a little shorter today, as Valia and I need to go to Novghorosk by 12 to distribute food and shoot some photos for donors.  Well, that doesn’t happen, and we don’t even finish till 11:40 a.m. yet, I still need to prepare the food table, I’m VERY glad I thought in advance to prepare the sandwiches, bowl the salads, and basically get everything ready but the actual table, because it was where we were meeting.  I’m able to get everything ready, and Valia and I leave for Novghorosk arriving around 12:20, yet, Pastor Paul continues to speak until at least 1, which is frustrating, because it took so much effort to ‘get’ there we needed him to be on time.  But we get the food distributed, and people are very pleased with the food.  

Valia and I finish up and dash back to the center.  The ‘noise’ in Novghorask is scary to say the least, and sounds like it just down the streets.  We also stop off at Nicholi house, a first in many years, and drop them some food.  It looked like all they had was bread, but I don’t know for sure.  I didn’t see any food at all, just some broken pieces of bread in a bowl on the coal stove.  They were so happy to see me, and it was nice to see them.  The war is literally just outside, as at the end of their street it backs up to an area that they are shelling.   The cracking noises were disturbing, and frightening. 

Back at the center, I had left the church members to bag up all the onions, carrots, and potatoes, which they did.  The food was not ready to go.   We had invited Lena’s church people over, but they never showed up, so we decided to go over to Start church and invite the other Assembly of God church near school 1.  Both places said that they would take 14 boxes/bags each.  28 down, and 160 to go!  

8-25-2014 – Monday morning – start of a new week.  I keep thinking I’m going to get home to the U.S. and it isn’t happening.  At this point, I must find an organization to help me with my registration.  I don’t know what to do.  Ludmilla can’t, she can’t even get out of her city let alone go to any office and sit for hours while her home and church are under attack.  It just seems ridiculous the bureaucracy of this country without any regard for those of us helping Ukrainian people.  If I were not here, these people would NOT get food.  Who knows what would happen.  Yes, they probably would survive, but Christ would not be preached, and food would not fill children’s and the elderly tummies.  It is just amazing to me the attitude of disdain towards those of us here helping.   Like we caused this war, or that if we left, people would still get fed.!   All paperwork is processed via the immigration office. After several tries, we finally get someone to answer, and explain the situation, that I need to renew our Charity Fund status, but our host church is under attack in Ghorlvka. Additionally, that we can’t get to her office due to the war. The woman replies, ‘war, what war…just go to Donetsk and they will process your documents” !!!!  Repeatedly, we try and convince her of the reality of the situation, but she refuses to agree that we can’t physically get to Donetsk to do this required paperwork. What planet is she living on?

 So this week, I need to find a sponsoring church, someone who will do this document so that I can get the visa.   

Valia and I are off to give out food, something that I said I wasn’t going to do, but at this point, we need to move this food, or it is going to spoil.  So we start with 25 boxes, got rid of all those, and went back for more.  Took a few more out; then when we returned the kids had come.  Andrew had donated bread, which had gone hard, perfect for French toast, so cooking class, was French toast, and then off to swimming.  Arrived at the swimming lake, but they told us, that after today, it is closed for the summer.  Kids had a great time, and I allowed them to stay longer since it was the last.  We had 11 kids go with us, and I had to refuse Angel, due to Zhenya being with us, and so many others.  I just can’t keep my eye on Angel too, with Zhenya.  Angel was disappointed, but Larissa totally understood. 

We returned to the center to find Sasha waiting for us, he has decided that he will go to Gorlovka tomorrow with much needed food, diapers, and medicine.  Valia and I do not feel led to go, and unless we got some revelation from God, he will go alone.   We pray over that, then he leaves, deciding that we will meet in the morning at 8 to load the car for the trip to Gorlovka. 

8-26-2014 –  7 a.m. comes very early when you go to bed at 1 a.m…but up and over to the center to meet Sasha and Valia and the Pastor from the church by school 1 had come for their 14 boxes.  They are very happy and appreciate the help.  Sasha calls Ludmilla and says that they need more baby food, and some diapers and gives a list of medicines.  Valia and I are off to the store to purchase more monka (cream of wheat), diapers and the medicine.  Returning to the center, Sasha has the car loaded with about 1 ton of food, which is amazing, as the car is a small Lada, just a little bigger then a compact Toyota and after prayer, he is off to Gorlovka.  Valia and I load up for our day of food distribution.  We take 25 bags, pick up Ira and are off to more places to see more people and bless them. 

Sasha calls throughout the trip to give us updates.  He arrives safely and drops the food with Zhenya (Ludmilla’s husband), and leaves.  The ‘drop spot’ is supposedly in a ‘safe zone’ near the train station in Niketocov.  He arrives back at the center about 12:30, and we join him for some much needed lunch.  About 2 we start hearing very loud bombing, for about 30 minutes or more.  Ludmilla calls and says that the very place Sasha was, is now being bombed.  Thank God that none of our people are there, though we don’t know how the food is…??   Guess we will find that out later when it is safe to venture in that storage area. 

Because of the bombing, we don’t have many kids today, just Nastia, Artum, Angel and Zhenya.  And Artum leaves after his grandmother arrives for her food bag.  It gives me a chance to take an inventory of foods we have left, and if we are to make more boxes, what will go in them. ?

Later in the evening, my friend Linn K. a reporter from Donetsk drops me a note about a food outreach from Donetsk, and asks if we need food.  I say, YES, and we agree to talk Wednesday about how and when to get more food, as the group in Gorlovka need more food at this point.  We will probably take some of what she has to offer and fill up our boxes (we only have about 12 bags of onions, potatoes, carrots, pasta, meat, cookies left), and then move on the rest of the shipment to Gorlovka.   

I’m exhausted by the work today…and it is strangely quiet…eiry I don’t know what all that means, but I hope that it stays that way!

8/27/2014 – Wednesday – I had been looking for airline tickets for this day, and it seems I won’t get home for my anniversary ((((((   I’m just sick that I can’t find any religious organization to help me with this letter of invitation.  I just don’t know what to do at this point.  If I don’t have the registeration, and go to the airport, passport check can stamp my passport that I can’t re-enter for 6-12 months, which would be terrible, so finding a sponsoring church is important.        

Valia and I worked all day on trying to obtain information on how to reregister, impossible!  Ridiculous people, ridiculous country, people were just rude to us to even ask.  From all the people we spoke to, which were about 15, 3 were remotely pleasant and helpful, though no results.

We formulate the letters for Ludmilla to sign and stamp, and now the case is HOW to get those stamps.??   Sasha isn’t feeling called to ‘go’ there, and if he doesn’t go, then the letters don’t get the stamps, I’m sunk.  So we complete the letters, and pray. 

Kids arrive and we are still working on everything.  Valia is so good to find a craft of using the egg cartons to make butterflies and we will hang them from the ceiling.  They are excited to do this, and everyone participates. 

Pastor Paul is to arrive in the morning with his thank you letter, and Start church is to bring their overs, and the other church by school #1, said they would not do a letter??   So  they won’t be getting more food or clothing, which they asked for.  Very odd.

Friday, we will go to the Ovir office and try to get something done there.  

8/29/14 – Friday – Wake at 6:45 a.m., no internet, this is usual, and then it will turn on about 10 or 11 a.m…  it is just frustrating to say the least, as I have a lot of work to do, and can’t do it.  Anyway, it is what it is.   God knows my needs, and will supply as He desires. 

Valia and I go to the Ovir’s office, and they initially can’t help us, but when we go over to the boss, a nice man that knows me, he makes several calls, and gives us the direct name of a person that should be able to assist us.   So thankful for his kindness.  We get to the car and start making calls, which again is running around, but the people seem to be nicer.  The man is helpful, and gives us another number to call, where the woman (Victoria) is helpful, and asks that we call back in 1 hour, that they are in the process of MOVING their office from Mariupol to Slav’yansk and they are in transit.  Literally in the car….We gladly agree, and try back later, only they still have not arrived.  We continue on with the plans to leave on Sunday, and think about food, and what we must do and what we need.  Talking to Ludmilla, it is decided to go Sunday, but NO ONE tells to bring the stamps for my documents.  At this point, I’m worried about the documents, as we can’t get a hold of Ludmilla to bring the stamps.  I don’t know what to do, but I’m leaving Sunday, with or without them.     I received a sweet note from my daughter Haley, ‘missin her mama’, and I really just need to be there for the kids.  The babies need me, and right now, though we have some food, everyone is o.k., and we don’t have food to give right now.    I have been gone long enough from the family, and need to get home…God continues to protect the UA army, seems that RU has moved in full force, and many UA battalions have been trapped and slaughtered.   2 men just blew themselves up with their 12 Russian prisoners.  I can’t even begin to think what Andre and his kind men are going through.  But this is war…people die…innocent people die…

The kids arrive, and we play for a while, but the stress level is high, the noise level is high, everyone senses ‘something is going on, but no one really knows what is happening.  We try to get their minds off things, and make a craft.  They love crafts, but they are so expensive, and many times, they just throw them out.    We later have a good Bible study, just Olya, Lera, and Nastia, Larissa, Angel, Zhenya and baby Sasha.   

Saturday – 8/30/14 –  Up since 5:15, a.m.  I can’t sleep, I don’t know why, maybe nervous about the trip, idk. Maybe it is just thinking about the text I got from Andre, ‘we are in a VERY tense situation…pray for us’, and I just feel for those men.  Then, Valia lost her job, as there are no students, so she is over cleaning her office/class room out, and making a bizillion copies of things.  So many things seem senseless, when so many are suffering needlessly, all by the hands of some silly little dictator, who won’t stop his games.  He is really a sick little man.  God please have judgment on him, as so many innocent are dying at his hands, please come quickly and protect your faithful children. 

Praying as we go, Valia and I are off to big open-aire market early to purchase food for Ludmilla’s group.    We are able to purchase  90 kilo’s of potatoes (300gh), 90 kilo’s of onions (300gh), monka, cereal, buckwheat, green pepper, cabbage, flour, pasta with Dema’s money, and then we added it with what we had left from Andrew (toiletry bags, carrots, a few potatoes, and onions) and (military) Andre (sala, soap, oil, cookies, pasta), I also picked 3 kilos of apples from our tree,…Sasha’s car is packed and he will go Sunday, the problem is, we still have not been able to reach Ludimilla and now, have no internet.  We think that the DPR hit the cell tower which would knock out phone, and internet…but we must pray that we get through to Gorlovka.    Church members show up to help sort potatoes and onions, while Sasha systematically loads his car for the trip.  He says he will go regardless if he reaches Ludmilla or not…so that is fine, I just won’t get my documents.  I take Ira and Marina, picking up Lera on the way home, and dropping her at the bus stop near her grandparents.  Marina is first, then Lera, then Ira, who takes all the broken boxes to her house for the winter to stoke her fire.  I finally get back around 6, and Valia and Aloysha are painting the summer kitchen at the small house.  I mentioned to Valia I wanted to do this, so they went over and did it.  The houses look great…too bad we can’t sell them, but no one will come here, let alone buy a very modern house.~~  In the back of my mind, I keep reminding myself that I need to reserve my return ticket to the states, but without internet, it is impossible.   Valia and I finally sit down to eat at 9:45 p.m.  shower and fall into bed, exhausted.  My body just aches, and tomorrow will be a huge day with so many things that need to be done.

Sunday 8/31/14 –  Awake by 5 can’t sleep.  Too much on and in my head.  I just think about so many things that we got done on this trip, so many helped, new people met, lives touched I hope that God is pleased in some way, it is such a huge responsibility to bring the gospel to people, people who are in crisis.  There are no words for it.  They are stressed out, many can’t see that their only hope is in God.  They want a quick fix, and there is no quick fix to this at all.  Though it did happen over night,  and the only way it will be fixed, is if putin pulls back and retreats to russia; we I don’t see that happening.    It is 12:44 am. time in U.S. I can’t call and give a message, I just hope that Rich and I are ‘channeling’ and he knows that we need prayer to make this happen with Ludmilla, otherwise, I leave without those critical stamps on the documents that I need for the registration. 

Off to loading the van for the drive to Kyiv, as I will leave my van at Masha and Phil’s church parking lot, so that when I return I can load it up with supplies from Kyiv and drive it back to Dzerzhinsk, since flying to Donetsk is out of the question.

Sunday we still have no internet, but I rise and get things packed and pray for Pastor Sasha that he is safe.  Valia stayed at my place and she left early to go over to the center.  I’m thinking about all the things I must do, prepare, and deal with.  Money for bills, money for food for Happy (our dog), money for Valia to help me, money for food for Gorlovka people.   We get a message that Sasha makes it to Nikitocva but Zhenya isn’t there, and so no docs. signed, but he insists on going on to Ghorlivka to find Ludmilla and get the signatures.  He is risking life for this.  So ridiculous to me…that government can’t understand what we are dealing with here. I get the van loaded and feel it is ready to go.  I have a bite to eat, and go over and join church services.  There are 18 people there!!  WOW!!   So glad to see Roma’s family return.  We have just a few minutes of Vitalyi teaching, and Sasha returns.  We are all anxious to hear about his trip, and he tells about the snipers in the trees, and the DPR ppl everywhere….how he had to go to the bridge and meet Ludmilla there with the documents, hide and have her sign them.  Crazy.  They were afraid to get shot by the DPR, if they were seen with official documents…it is shoot first, and then if the victim is alive, ask questions later.    It all seemed really surreal that I’m living through all this,  violence all around and people just going to the market like nothing is happening 20 miles away.  People fighting for freedom, and people dying for freedom, and no one many people are just apathetic about the whole situation, they don’t want RU, but they don’t understand that the violence won’t just stop, they won’t just put their guns down and go back to RU, it doesn’t work that way.  I’m ready to leave, but I’d like the church to pray over the car., and I have one more bag at my house, that I need to go and get, without Alena and Lera seeing all this.     We finally get to pray, and we leave.  It is a bitter sweet for me, I know it is time, but it is so hard to leave all these people behind in this situation.  I feel God has used me, but to what extent, could I have done more, should I have done more, I certainly WOULD have done more if I had more food to give away.  

We head over to the Start church where they do not have the stamp we need we must get on the road, so I go to the friend thatI’m giving a ride to Kyiv and pick them up, with their tearful good-byes’ to relatives, we load them, their suitcases, and their child in the van; place ‘child on board’ signs on the van and back to Start church where they have the documents ready for me.  They ask if I am able to help a church member out and we agree to take a large package to Kyiv for a family that fled and had no time to gather their things.  A common occurrence, people flee the fighting, and just leave most of their belongings behind.  The van is packed with the friends things, this bag I’m taking to someone, and I have 5 suitcases!! Yet I still have so much I left behind. !   But after all… it is just stuff…

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