I join all of you in acknowledging that 2020 was a strange year that presented unique challenges. We here in Ukraine, and specifically at the Agape Rehabilitation Complex, were also challenged in new ways and yet we also continued to witness the faithfulness and goodness of God.
Due to the pandemic, Agape closed for nearly 3 months in the spring and another 2 weeks in November. Despite these closures, we were still able to provide inpatient rehabilitation for over 130 people, conduct over 60 one-time evaluations, complete two sessions of the PT Training Center and provide temporary residency for another 20-30 people with disabilities. Our work system has been altered more than once, but God has protected, provided, and sustained, and for that, we are so grateful!
Here is a brief year-in-review of the work at Agape in photos:
PT Training Center sessions…
Beautification of Agape with a new outdoor lighting system…
The pictures do not adequately portray the beauty and light that Agape now shines into our village – it truly is a beautiful sight! But those of us who get to work at Agape seek to shine a much greater Light, one that has potential to reach far beyond our village to all of Ukraine – the Light of Christ. Let me share a couple of the ways I have witnessed this Light being shone into the lives of people with disabilities and their families members over the past year.
One-on-one conversations: When our therapists spend 1-2 hours daily with a patient for 3, 4, and even up 6 weeks, relationships are developed and conversations about many topics inevitably take place. The opportunity to share truths from Scripture often come up naturally in the course of conversations. Not long ago, Katya shared her testimony at church about how Christians intentionally built relationships with her to share the Gospel with her, leading to her eventual repented. Near the end of her testimony, she talked about her work as a PT at Agape and the opportunities it provides for evangelism. One comment particularly stuck with me: she said she doesn’t have to go out looking for people to share the gospel with because they come to her from all over Ukraine and are waiting for her to come to work every day. That is so true! The people who come for rehab (sometimes also accompanied by a member of their family) are hurting and in desperate need of hope. They are seeking physical restoration, but over the course of rehabilitation we also have the chance to share with them what their souls need – Christ! And our therapists are doing just that…
A few weeks ago, I was working with my patient on the mat next to another PT and his patient. They immediately engaged in a conversation about God and this conversation lasted the entire 50-minute session and even continued for another 20-30 minutes afterward (it was the last hour of the day). The patient never even transferred out of his wheelchair or began any physical rehabilitation. But he was given spiritual truth for his soul, which is eternally more valuable than any rehabilitation.
Bibles: Since Agape opened, we have sought to give a Bible or New Testament to each patient on their day of discharge. One of the therapists writes a note in the front and presents it to them along with encouragement to read it. Obviously, we do not know how many people actually read them, but we recently heard a story that encouraged us all. Mykola was a patient at our center this fall who came to us straight from the hospital following a spinal cord injury. He had also been an alcoholic and the resulting memory impairments meant that he retained little to nothing from day to day of the new skills he was taught during his rehab sessions. But he did make some progress over the time he was with us and on the day of his discharge he too received a Bible. His wife called this past week to tell us that he was hospitalised about a week after leaving our facility. Every day, when his wife or daughter visited him in the hospital, they read the Bible to him. Mykola heard Scripture daily for about a month before he died and his wife has continued to read the Bible at home and found it to be encouraging! We don’t know the state of their souls, but we rejoice that we do know this:
“For the word of God Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
May God open the eyes of people as they read His Word and may He grant them repentance and eternal life!
And so, I look back at 2020 with gratitude for the challenges and the blessings God brought our way! And I look forward to 2021 with great anticipation for how God will continue to use Agape and the godly men and women who work there to shine the Light of Christ into the lives of people with disabilities and to then watch that Light spread out from our village to all of Ukraine as patients return home having heard the Gospel and now carrying it in their hands!
If anyone is interesting in financially supporting the work at Agape on a one-time or on-going basis, we now have a non-profit organization in the US, Agape Ukraine, Inc, that can receive tax-deductible donations. Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] for further information. We would be extremely grateful for your support!
Please be in prayer for Agape as we resume work on January 11 after being closed for the holidays. We will immediately be conducting the 3rd session for the current class of PT Training Center students, as well as resuming rehabilitation. Please continue to pray for protection for both employees and patients and wisdom for the best ways to continue our work.
Happy New Year and may God abundantly bless you all in 2021!