While in the Ukraine, I was given the opportunity to speak to four relatively young pastors about issues of church and disability. It was such a fun opportunity. I became friendly with two of them over the course of the week we were together. Yuriy is tall and thin, looks like a basketball player although he was quick to tell me that he plays football (ie. soccer), and Alexander, known as Sasha (a very common nickname) is also tall, looks more like an American football player with a great heart for people with disabilities because of a visual impairment that apparently runs in his family (parent and siblings) but that he has not been affected by. The pastors were very interested in the one hour presentation I was allowed to give to them and I was honored to be able to speak to them. It is so difficult to know how something is being received when provided through a translator. I could tell I was connecting to them as Sasha at times they had tears in his eyes. Please pray that they will run with the material that was provided. It would be amazing to see these pastors and others who are working on disability mininstry come together to impact not only the Ukraine, but larger Europe. Ukraine seems very open at the moment which is very exciting. As they move toward potential membership in European communities, there is also the potential for influence there.
After the training, we had many interactions about various issues of faith and disability, and at one point, Yuriy approached me about writing a brief article for a Christian newspaper they produced, I believe for a conservative Baptist denomination that two of them are affiliated with. I think they were very open minded about the information shared. Anyway, I thought I would provide a link to an English version of that article here in case you should be interested. It is very brief (about 4 pages). My hope is that I will have the opportunity to expand upon it in the future with other articles about other aspects of Christianity and disability, and that perhaps a broader group of people will have the opportunity to read it. I think an electronic version is going to be put online as well so when that is available, I will provide a link for the novelty of it.
Please pray for the article that it will reach the people who would benefit from reading it. I don't think it has a very large circulation, perhaps 2,000 copies printed, but it may be one of the few pieces of literature produced that addresses church and disability issues. In each of the camps. parents were provided the book Joni, which is basically Joni Eareckson-Tada's biography so hopefully that book is being circulated as well.
While there, we also discussed the possiblity of a pastor's conference on disability. Kathi had the idea of inviting pastor's wives as well so we can talk to both groups. Women are quite often more open to disability issues than men, and they would have the potential to influence their pastor husbands. Other opportunities are also on the horizon in Ukraine, but we will wait to see what the Lord develops there. I think Kathi and I are available for further involvement.
One final note. I have heard from several people about groups going to Ukraine from America specifically to work in the orphanages. Our experience and the discussions we had with people in Ukraine tell us that this is very critical work. Children in orphanages are considered the equivalent of trash by some and we were told of cruel practices that sometimes occur there. The outcomes for children growing up in orphanages are at least as challenging as those in the US for children going through the foster care system. May God bless groups who are going to work in the orphanages. It is such important work.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
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