I am writing this brief entry from Lutsk in the Ukraine. I have been here now for 2 weeks, working at camps for children with disabilities and their families. It has been rewarding, fascinating, encouraging, and heartbreaking. One of my responsibilities as "the professor in residence" has been to council parents about the issues they are facing with their children with disabilities. I suspect I have spoken with 25 parents, mostly individually, and at times in groups of 2-4. In general, they face the same issues as parents in the USA, frustration with government services, stigmatization and community isolation, issues of teaching their children and assisting them to behave appropriately. Some of their stories have been so sad, like the mother whose husband supports her financially, but will not live at home with her, her rebellious teenager who has rejected the family, her disabled daughter, and her preschool son, who because of the isolated village she lives in, has no peers his age, so he spends all his time with the disabled daughter, and has been learning her disability related behaviors such that he acts as if he is intellectually disabled. So hard to know how to help such people.
But on the positive side, there are people here very interested in reaching out to people with disabilities from a church context, who have been eager for information about how they might do so. They have asked me many questions and take up the information like very dry sponges. I feel like I am really being given the opportunity to challenge them and they appear to be up for the challenge! It is really exciting.
Future developments might include a conference in Western Ukraine for pastors from Ukraine, Poland and Romania that I might be involved in, another conference in more central Ukraine, and early discussions about a collaboration with a Bible college here for assisting with the delivery of coursework, and potentially other joint projects.
I am tired, but very encouraged by this visit. Exciting things are happening here, and Ukraine has the potential to be a leader in Europe in disability ministry.
More when I get back July 11th.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
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We pray that your strength, and those with you, holds out for the rest of your time in Ukraine. We also pray for the mother you write about, and her family, and the boy whose only role model is an older sister with disabilities, after whom, he naturally models his own behavior.
Persons with disabilities teach us much when they are engaged with, and welcomed, in community with the more typical population. I am frustrated by the difficulty in achieving that end here, in my neighborhood.
When disabled persons are rejected in this "enlightened" society, how much more difficult are the lives of disabled persons in places where life for the most privileged is challenging? Or in places where any blemishes make a baby less than human? of the world?
You are right; it is "so hard to know how to help such people".
Don't stop trying
I had heard from my husband that your family was away in the Ukraine. I hope God guides your days and keeps you safe. What a wonderful opportunity. We also read it in the church bulletin at T.E.F. Andrew loves the learning center there.
God Bless you on this noble mission. They are very blessed to have you. We pray for your safe return on the 11th.
It is very sad for this mother that she does not have much or any support, especially from her husband who only contributes financially. What happened to "through the good and the bad times"?? and this is for his children. That is very selfish that he does not live with them - assuming of course it is becuase of the disabled child. That is not a man, husband or father. That is just a finacial provider. He should be there for his wife and children. God will continue to giver her spritual strength to continue. Her two children that are with her are lucky to have a supportive and loving mother that has not abandoned them. God Bless them all!
Be safe and we look forward to yoru safe return and see you in class next week.
I'm excited to hear about everything that is going on in Ukraine and around the world. i like forward to hearing more about it all when you all get back. God Bless
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