Returning to Ukraine

Agape Rehabilitation Center residents and staff gather firewood in the midst of frequent power outages in Ukraine.

After a short trip to the U.S., CHSC Physical Therapist Carrie Moss recently returned to Lutsk, Ukraine to continue treating those with muscular issues and disabilities, including injured Ukrainian soldiers, at Agape Rehabilitation Center.

At the end of September, I left my Ukrainian home to return to my U.S. home for four blessed weeks with family, friends, supporters, and new acquaintances. My return to Lutsk near the end of October was not a day too soon. We immediately had a series of situations that required me to substitute for therapists on our team one after another for about two weeks. As always, God’s timing is perfect!

Several of our therapists continue to reside in Europe due to the war, so the number of patients at Agape is still limited to 11-12, but we have no shortage of people seeking our services. We continue to receive average citizens, soldiers wounded in combat, and we currently have our first civilian wounded during an attack on his city.

In light of the ongoing war, however, there are also notable differences and nuances that have become part of a new “normal” for us:

  • Signs now hang in the hallways of Agape to direct people to the designated “bomb shelter” locations in our building.
  • Electricity goes out frequently. Thankfully, several years ago Agape purchased a powerful generator that can operate everything at Agape, including the elevator. So in a power outage, the guys only need a few minutes to get Agape back up and running. God is good! We hope to be able to assist others in our village soon by designating a newly constructed room at Agape that has direct outdoor access as a place our neighbors can come to warm up, drink tea, charge devices, and use the internet when our village is without power.
  • Three rooms at Agape are occupied by refugees who will remain with us for the winter. Among them are three ladies with disabilities and a mom (Irina) and her adult son who has a disability. They have now become familiar to us all and even pitch in around Agape wherever they are able. For example, I walked into the kitchen this week to find my former patient, Natalia, peeling potatoes. And Irina has taken on the responsibility of doing any needed sewing and also cleaning the rehab gym daily, which is no small task!
  • Construction is moving forward on the Resource Center. This 3-storey building will include an underground bomb shelter, a ground-level storage area for large equipment such as electric wheelchairs, and an upper floor for storage of smaller items such as nonperishable foods, hygiene and personal care supplies, etc. This a large and expensive undertaking, but it became apparent that it was necessary to construct this building even in the middle of a war
Agape Rehabilitation Center residents and staff gather firewood in the midst of frequent power outages in Ukraine.
Agape Rehabilitation Center residents and staff gather firewood in the midst of frequent power outages in Ukraine.

So what is going on in our personal lives and the lives of Ukrainians? If you have been keeping up with the news, you know that Russia has been targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure for some time now. Even as I write this (on Wednesday evening, November 22), I am working by candlelight and staying warm thanks to a fire in the wood stove.

We, like everyone else, have stocked up on candles, batteries, water, and firewood. Agape was blessed with funds to provide firewood for 15 families and we were among the recipients. On Friday, men from Agape stacked it up nicely for us and also for another Agape family, finishing just in time for snow!

Wednesday evening’s power outage left basically all of Ukraine in a blackout and was the result of missile strikes across the country in the afternoon. It is difficult to describe the feeling of walking in our neighborhood or driving through the middle of the city and being surrounded by total or near total blackness. Our electricity was off for a solid 24 hours, but others experienced even longer outages. At our house, electricity is required for everything – light, water, and heating. The wood stove, however, provides us the opportunity to warm ourselves and food. We are also blessed to live near Agape and therefore have access to water, electricity, showers, and Wi-Fi for communication when needed. We know many other Ukrainians are not as blessed as us.

Agape residents and staff celebrated Thanksgiving this year.

Despite the current challenges each person in Ukraine faces to one extent or another these days, the spirit of the people is not shaken. In fact, Ukrainians appear more defiant than ever, certain that Russia cannot and will not win. The will of the people is to stand strong, even in darkness and cold. A quote by Ukrainian President Zelensky a few months ago has been appearing in various forms on social media in recent weeks and goes something like this:

Without gas or without you (Russia)? Without you.
Without electricity or without you? Without you.
Without water or without you? Without you.
Without food or without you? Without you.
Cold, hunger, darkness and thirst are not as terrible and deadly for us as your “friendship and brotherhood.”

“Without you.” This is the sentiment of the Ukrainians I know and fuels the spirit to fight through the current difficulties in order to experience victory in a free Ukraine.

There is so much more I could say, but for now I’ll close with some ways you can join us and support us in prayer:

  • Pray for those who have lost loved ones in the war. Just this week, a labor and delivery hospital in Ukraine was hit and a 2-day-old baby was killed. Residential building across the country continue to be hit with civilians injured and killed. Soldiers are injured and killed daily.
  • Pray for comfort, peace, and an end to this loss of life.  Pray for the energy infrastructure of Ukraine to be able to be repaired after the repeated missile strikes so that thousands of people will not experience a winter without heat and electricity.
  • Pray for us to recognize and seize opportunities to share the resources we have both personally and at Agape with those in need. As mentioned above, we at Agape are seeking ways assist our neighbors and also our employees and their families. Pray we have wisdom and adequate provision of resources to maximize our assistance to others in need.
  • Pray for the construction of the Resource Center to continue to progress through the winter.
  • Pray for thousands of Ukrainians who have inconsistent access to basic utilities, such as electricity, water, heat. Pray for government leaders, but also for churches and Christian organizations that are seeking ways to help their neighbors and communities.

Visit Carrie’s blog for this and other stories from Ukraine. 

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