®International Charitable Fund "GIFT OF LIFE"

The Way It Is

Ukrainian Culture

Ukrainian Culture

We’re writing this on July 4th and celebrating 246 years of USA independence. Ukraine has been free only since 1991, though it’s been fighting for it for 1100 years. Ukraine has its own distinct language and culture and, like so many other nations, it just wants to live in peace. But, as we know, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…” (Matt 24:6–7).

Our trip back to Ukraine started out with the bumpiest transatlantic flight in living memory. We made it back to Ternopil exactly a week after leaving Wisconsin. Our first impression was that Ukraine had been set back 20 years, but more than that, it’s been changed forever. The Covid plan-demic ended abruptly on February 24, the same day all airports were closed. Festivals and large gatherings are banned, fuel prices equal $9.00 per gallon, and all city lights are turned off at 11 pm, curfew time. Almost every foreigner has left (except a couple of crazy ones) including thousands of students, taking their money with them. A lot more people are on the streets walking aimlessly; a quietness hangs over the city except when air raid sirens blare.

Gift of Life (GoL) pro-life centers in Kyiv had to close. Anna, counselor at the Kyiv city center, moved abroad. Inna, at the center east of the river, fled her village which was under attack. She is currently living and working at the Ternopil center. Laryssa, a Ternopil counselor, also went abroad. We wait for their return. The Ternopil and Kremenetz centers (counselor Nina remains at Kremenetz) are busier than ever with increased crisis counseling, food aid and clothing distribution. Thank you, Lord, for compassionate Christian counselors. We are so grateful.

Due to martial law and fuel shortages, the buses remain in the big garage in Ternopil. Our staff keep busy providing free services to displaced persons, demonstrating God’s love in Jesus. We plan for the clinics to begin traveling to nearby villages later this summer. Meanwhile, the operation has been disrupted. The orphans, the mentally and physically challenged, and the poor that GoL normally serves each year have not been seen. Blame the war! It’s not our original mission but we are providing for others who are truly needy.

Seven and a half million Ukrainians–one in five– have left the country. Already, two months ago, nearly 40,000 displaced persons were accepted in Ternopil. Some of them have moved across the border, but the vast majority have remained here. Schools, theaters, and institutions house the displaced. For that reason, schools may not reopen this fall.

Regina and family

Regina and family

GoL now plays a major role in the procurement of food aid and other supplies for the displaced. This is a deviation from our Mission Statement, but it’s war. And it is, after all, pro-life work. The originator of the food aid connection, Regina Kolbow (an ELS member of Abiding Shepherd Lutheran, Cottage Grove, Wisconsin) writes, “…this is God’s story. He knew this war was coming, that Gift of Life would be well established to distribute goods inside of Ukraine to the glory of God!” Aid is brought in from Poland purchased there at wholesale prices and trucked to Ternopil. A fifth shipment just arrived. Regina’s friends in the States and their relatives in Poland willingly volunteer. Most of the aid is distributed at the life centers but also to the shelters housing the displaced, hospitals with injured soldiers, maternity hospitals, and recently to the front lines near Kharkiv. GoL has been able to implement and finance this project through the “Ukraine Crisis Fund.”

Two pastors, Andruntsiv and Tytsky, are available to assist with our traumatized clients providing gospel outreach. Pastor Tytsky and his family had to flee their village in southeast Ukraine, which was under fire. So, they themselves are displaced and stay in Ternopil. Pastor Tytsky’s wife, Natalia, has been working at the Ternopil center. Christian tracts, booklets and bibles are available and distributed by the deaconess at the clinic and counselors at the life centers. In addition, a flyer was developed to accompany our aid. The flyer is a simple explanation for our contacts about salvation, information on Lutheranism, Martin Luther, GoL, and the crisis fund.

Trees are loaded with fruit, the weather is soft, warm, and pleasant adding to the absurd reality that at any moment a bomb could drop. We all live in that reality, knowing life is temporary. Things are a long way from normal here; only uncertainty is certain. It’s a test of faith.

I’m but a stranger here; Heav’n is my home.
Earth is a desert drear; Heav’n is my home.
Danger and sorrow stand Round me on every hand.
Heav’n is my fatherland; Heav’n is my home. [Christian Worship, Hymn 417]

We thank you for everything you have done so far, including your prayers. Our prayer is that you “will not become weary in well-doing” (Gal 6:9).

Nicholas and Kerry Laper, Gift of Life—Ukraine


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