I was thrilled to return to Ukraine again this summer to serve at Hope Now’s Kid’s Camp. I wanted a break from my normal routine and to be with my Ukrainian friends again. I desired to be in a different culture and to see the children I’ve gotten to know over the years. I was excited about the normalcy of going to Ukraine again in the summer. But I wasn’t necessarily ready for conviction…
So often I fail at loving people the way Christ calls me to. I am quickly thrown off by my own selfish desires, focusing on my own agenda rather than the needs and wants of others. Truthfully, as Christ followers, we should be constantly in a state of loving others. Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to dislike people who are different from us rather than love them. But Jesus told us to literally love our enemies (which is way easier in theory than in practice, but yet I am called to do this). He modeled what real love looks like; He is love. If I’m honest, I fail every day at loving people like Jesus did.
When I volunteer in Ukraine, God often uses the people around me to demonstrate this love He’s talking about in Scripture. I think specifically of Inna, Lena and Luda, three of my Ukrainian friends who often give up their personal time to be with children from Shpola Orphanage and spread the Good News to those who haven’t heard it. They model effective discipleship by bringing orphans into their homes when they need a place to stay for the weekend.
They accept phone calls at all hours to have conversations about random things that children like to discuss. Their lives are oriented around selflessly serving others. Through the simple observation of how they live their lives I am encouraged to implement these practices in my own life. God used this trip to instill in me, again, a heart for the nations and a love for people. I left encouraged by this and simultaneously saddened to leave my Ukrainian friends behind. But I always leave knowing that the God of miracles shifts my heart time and time again through my experiences in this beautiful country.
Flying back home, my heart was broken once again for the kids at the orphanage, children made in the image of God. Children who are neglected and put to shame by their own parents. I look in the faces of my little friends and I wonder how anyone could abuse or neglect such an innocent, precious face. I am reminded of the brokenness of the world. Yet I am also reminded that Jesus Christ promises us in Scripture that He will one day make all things new (Rev 21:5). He will restore all broken things and He will redeem the ruins we have piled up. Through Jesus we can experience this redemption. I want these children to know this, to know Him. To know Him is to love Him. I fly away thinking how privileged I am to have relationships with kids at Shpola and with the Ukrainian volunteers that minister to them regularly. I am incredibly grateful that God has provided me yet again with an opportunity to love these children and take these practices back to America with me.
One of my favorite worship songs says this in one of the choruses: “I can see Your heart eight billion different ways, every precious one a child You died to save. If You gave Your life to love them, so will I.” God convicted me on this trip that I need Him to help me love others effectively and the way Jesus taught, even those who are hard to love.
If you haven’t heard this song yet, I urge you to go listen to it. It’s called “So Will I (100 Billion X)” by Hillsong Worship. This song describes the majesty of God as we experience Him through His creation. I love this song because it describes the character of God in His creation, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and how we as believers are called to respond to Christ’s love for us. This specific lyric reminds me not only of my friends, coworkers, and neighbors back home in Charlotte, but it also reminds me of each precious child I encountered this year from Shpola Orphanage. I think of Alina and how God is redeeming the scar on her face with a story of hope and restoration through the relationships she and her mom continue to build with our Ukrainian volunteers. I think of Toma and how after graduating from the orphanage, she became a believer and is now ministering to orphans in Hope Now’s Christian Club. I think of Tolik’s sweet and gentle spirit, and the kindness he showed at Kompas Park camp to those he felt were overlooked.
I think of Dima’s excitement and wonder in trying new things, and the joy he showed when reading a letter from his sponsor. What a gift it is to love these children and to be in their lives, through serving orphans in Ukraine with Hope Now Ministries.
Hope Now & Kompas Park Volunteer
Danny and I had the opportunity to go back to Kompas Park Youth Camp in Ukraine this summer, and it was an encouraging week for many reasons. Both of us have volunteered at camp multiple times over the years (this was Danny’s 12th year!), and we praise God that He’s allowed us to be a part of this ministry over the years. There is something truly relaxing and peacefully familiar about driving through Khreschatyk Village into Kompas Park.
As we reflected on this year’s Youth Camp, we both felt encouraged by how we saw God at work - through the volunteer leaders, campers, staff, and activities. This isn’t to say there weren’t challenging moments, as well. Lack of sleep, a lot of vigorous activities (especially for Danny), and the ever-present language barrier led to moments of frustration and the increased recognition that our bodies are getting older and less resilient every year! However, we left camp feeling encouraged and spiritually revitalized.
Today, this simple verb is treated with a degree of tension that is often quite palpable. We live in an age of self-identification where knowledge of your personal story and self-awareness are perceived as strong character traits. Modern themes about being your own self, saving for retirement and looking after Number 1 resonate throughout social media as though our ancestors never really knew what was important.
Hidden within the disturbing meme is the emerging truth of who we are becoming as humans while the fabric of society wears thin.