Report from Sasha Kohen our manager in Europe:
For many long months the attention of the world was focused on the plague named COVID-19. Country by country, like a falling domino house, went into the lockdown, sealing the borders, cancelling travel, closing schools and dramatically slowing down economies. No one could have imagined such drastic and sudden changes.
As of today, almost 5 months into the “New World” over 525,000 people have died because of this unknown virus, leaving a bleeding wound that will take long time to heal. Probably the world we knew before COVID-19 will never recover to its full extent. Possibly things will never be the same again.
Today, with light at the end of the tunnel and the brief hope that the pandemic is controlled, countries are cautiously lifting the quarantine limits and opening borders for travel. With billions in rescue packages invested into the local economies, the leading countries are once again focusing on rapid rebuilding what was damaged.
Rebuilding, regaining and restoring is certainly an agenda for most of the countries, there are these whose focus is still very much on “SURVIVE another day”. Many poor people across the world are faced with this dire reality.
UKRAINE was barely managing before the COVID-19 crisis. Political crises, economical crises, war crises, and financial crises were already red-hot topics on the table of this country. Orphanages were barely managing with a day by day existence. Orphanages for special-care needy children could not afford even basic medicines and simple hygiene products. Thus, we were introduced to the Odessa Children’s Cancer hospital and donated funds for IV systems, serum to boost immune systems, syringes and basic medication.
Then came the COVID/19 pandemic. This struggling country had no choice but to follow the guidelines and go into lockdown. The quarantine was implemented fast and furiously. Borders closed, flights cancelled, domestic travel limited to minimum, and then it was schools, orphans boarding schools and other institutions that had to close down.
Now the country faced an enormous challenge again. A call from the local Child Protection Agency came as no surprise to Peter Emelianov, the pastor and the head of a small charity organization in Odessa. He was already heavily involved in helping orphanages, orphans boarding schools and hospitals. But even he, with all his experience, was not ready for the news that followed. The director of the Child Protection Agency in Odessa, could not hide her fear. “1452 children, many of them orphans, are being sent home, with no homes to go to”, she said. “They have no homes. We have taken them out of some homes because it was not safe for them to be there. There they will have no food to eat, and no medicines or hygiene products”.
That was the beginning of the impossible, but yet is this not what serving Christ is all about? Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless. But the need was overwhelming even to consider. Virtually impossible.
There is an old parable about a small five-year-old boy walking on the beach spangled with dying sea stars, thrown on the beach after a heavy storm. The boy, moved with heartfelt compassion, was carefully rescuing one sea star at a time, and placing it in the water.
An old man was standing in the distance observing the boy. Finally, his patience ran out and he screamed: “That is useless. That is stupid, and what you are doing does not make sense. Look around, there are so many, you will never be able to save them. It does not make sense at all.”
The boy quietly listened to the old man, and whispered to himself “They are so many, it does make sense”. Then he looked at the star fish he was holding in his hands and he said, “It does make sense for this one” and he placed it in the water, seeing life return.
The need was overwhelming and impossible, but it was always saving at least some. One step at a time, one day at a time, one gift at a time - providing food for one at a time. It was like the bread that Jesus was breaking. It was never enough, but it was not ending as he broke it and gave it - it was multiplying one at a time.
Thousands and thousands of kilometers have been driven to remote villages over 4 months, in the old worn out vans, bringing the survival food packages to needy kids and destitute families. Physically, emotionally, spiritually it was like being on the front line of a war. Seeing the need, the dire situations, the poverty and hunger of these remote, forsaken villages and ghettos was heartbreaking.
Now, four months on, these families are still very dependent on the food, medicines and hygiene products Peter and his team have brought to the orphans and poor families.
Four months later the impossible is - 1,510 Families in 145 villages have received an essential food supply. 4,675 children have been helped to stay alive. 16 000 km were driven in old vehicles that were kept “alive” by the Lord’s grace. How was that possible, we don’t know? It must have been His hand that made it all possible. Simply 4,675 little “sea stars” have been noticed by Jesus and we are grateful.
The need is still dire, the “war” with the pandemic is not over, and there are still so many “sea stars on the beach” gasping for life. Would you please consider coming alongside us and taking one “sea star” at the time? That would mean the world to that little “sea star”.