Below is a post written by an Acts 29 church planter in Ukraine in which he tells a story of he and his church getting the opportunity to bless a “hopeless and broken segment of [their] society.” Their story paints an amazing picture of love and grace.
by Jake Knotts, Lead Pastor at Christian Bible Church in Chernigov, Ukraine
Over the weekend our church put on an event for about 14 disabled families in our city. This summer the Reimer Family of The Elisha Foundation is helping equip our church to more effectively reach the disabled community with both the gospel and practical help in raising kids with various disabilities.
This last Saturday was the first of many events we plan on holding this summer to build relationships and bring these families both closer to one another as well as closer to the faith.
The day began with a boat ride, lunch served by many volunteers from our church, a short word by Justin on his story of raising his son Eli with down syndrome and how their organization began, and then we played games with the kids and served ice cream.
The thing is that in our context (Ukraine), being mentaly or physically disabled means you are rejected in society, pretty much locked up in your apartment, and you and everyone else thinks this is a sign of God’s disfavor and a curse. Many of these kids are in wheelchairs and live in apartment buildings without elevators and make it outside rarely. These families are in many ways broken in spirit.
There is also no sense of community amongst the families themselves.
The Lord gave us this very unique opportunity to serve them and get to know them. They all consider us a cult (anything not Russian Orthtodox is) yet there has been a small amount of trust built and they are coming into our church.
It was evident that the families had a great time and were eager to know about when we can all meet again.
A few highlights for me personally were:
- Seeing our church joyfully serve all of these families on many levels. A desire to help and a sincere festive spirit made for a wonderful atmosphere.
- Anya and I were able to connect with a young family that has two little boys, one with Cerebral Palsy. I gave them a ride to the church and a ride home after the event. They expressed interest in connecting with our family and spending time together before our next scheduled event in two weeks. They seemed very open. The dad is a fire fighter and the mom loves gardening.
- There seems to be less skepticism about the fact that we are not Eastern Orthodox. It is natural for these families to be very suspicious of us but by the end of the afternoon it seemed like that deeply embedded cultural stereotype was less and less visible.
- I was very encouraged at how The Elisha Foundation is truly bringing our church into contact with people we would have other wise probably not ever met. Partnering with this TEF for the summer and, Lord willing, over the next few years is going to be a tremendous blessing for our church and our city.
I can’t think of a more hopeless and broken segment of our society that needs grace. We are already amazed at what God is doing amogst the disabled in our city and believe that he wants to be glorified through the redemption of this community.
Thank you Alyosha for sharing the photos.