Crimea and Ukraine Headlines Crimea Trip Report - August 2014
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Trip Report for Kalanchak, Ukraine, August 2014.

In August, Gareth Benton, Mikey Francis and I went to Ukraine. We flew from Luton to Kiev, where we took the wonderfully sweaty overnight sleeper train from Kiev in the North of Ukraine, to Kalanchak in the South. After not much sleep, and some entertaining charades-like conversations on the train (with no Interpreter), we were delighted to be welcomed into the home of Viktor and Sveta, with whom we were staying for the week. Viktor and Sveta pastor the village church of about 80 people. This trip had been quickly planned, and due to Mikey and my involvement with Youth camp, we had been unable to meet in advance as a team to prepare the details of the itinerary of the trip. But it soon became clear that God had planned every detail. God had been speaking to Viktor and his church about reaching out to the children in his village and around. Viktor asked if we would be willing to share some of our heart for children and young people, which of course we were! We spent each morning doing a King’s kids-like outreach on some local land which Viktor’s church has purchased to build a kids playground on. The first morning we arrived at 9am, in the heat, wearing some crazy clashing clothes, and Gareth in a clowns costume, and wondered if any children would be joining us. Well, they did. We had 15 children on the first morning. We played games, taught them some action songs, told stories and taught them from the bible. Our themes were; You’re Special, God created You, God has a Plan for You and Jesus wants to be your Friend. By the end of the week, the children were bringing their siblings, neighbours and school-friends and over 40 children were there.

In the evenings, we visited other nearby churches that we prayed for and spoke with. Viktor had also organised seminars, for us speak to some youth workers from his and nearby churches, or people interested in becoming involved with the children’s work. We shared our testimonies, and how God has given us a heart and opportunity to work in our various capacities with children. I had a great prayer time at the seminars, and we felt the presence of God breaking our hearts for local children in difficult situations. We cried out for them, and felt God impart a vision of something new for the children of Kalanchak. Viktor shared a story of one of the children, a little boy, who had been attending the kids club in the morning As Viktor had finished tidying the site, and was on his scooter, about to leave to go home, the little boy shouted “Pastor Viktor!” and ran to him. The boy wrapped his arms around Viktor’s leg, as he sat on his scooter, hugged him and said “Viktor, you are like a father to me”. Viktor was struck by God’s prompting to provide a safe haven for the children, and we were able to make some practical suggestions about this may be achieved.

The evidence of the war in Ukraine was subtle, but consistent; from the passport checks at the train stations managing the new border between Ukraine and nearby Crimea, to the tanks and ID checks on each bridge we crossed, to the Ukrainian Army soldiers we saw uniformed on the streets in Kiev. On our final day in the country, we heard that fighting had broken out in the streets in a city to our east, as Russian forces had crossed the border with tanks and soldiers, ahead of talks between the presidents of Ukraine and Russia. We walked around the government buildings in Kiev praying into the spiritual battle that was so much deeper than the physical combat we were hearing about. We saw the helicopter garage built by the previous President in Ukraine, and saw photos of the golden toilet he had installed at his residence, and we prayed for the newly elected leader of Ukraine, that he would represent the needs of his people, and have wisdom in his leadership of the country in the coming struggle.

Overall, the trip was amazing, God spoken to me in many ways. I have been praying for our Christian brothers and sisters in Ukraine for many months, so it was a real joy to greet them in Jesus name, to serve, to share food, and to pray for them in person. Their situation is difficult, but God is clearly working in the hearts and churches of those we met. If God places something in your heart to visit Ukraine, I encourage you to do whatever you can to go, and serve with everything you have. God is so faithful.

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