One year ago today, life as they knew it changed forever for my Ukrainian friends. Their peaceful lives were upended by the invasion of the Russian military. Today there will be prayer rallies in many places commemorating the one year anniversary.
My concern has been for the refugees fleeing the war. Their homes destroyed and lives in danger they fled to Poland. My city is home now for many Ukrainian refugees. Several months ago, I felt led by Jesus to connect with one of the Ukrainian churches in my city to help new refugees with English classes and find other small ways to help.
For the past six months, it has been my privilege to meet many Ukrainian refugees. This morning in our class, we will have a birthday morning for three of my friends who have birthdays this week, We have shared many meaningful moments over the past six months.
It has not been a solo endeavor for me. People from my home church have donated gift cards to a local supermarket that I gave to the families to supplement their EBT cards for food. Fellow bloggers have donated supplies for my class. People have donated for a violinist and for a worship leader to have instruments. Many have prayed for my Ukrainian friends.
It has been one year and more refugees are coming to my city. They would have much rather preferred to be able to stay in their beloved homeland and homes living peaceful lives, but that is not their reality. My desire is to continue to help them in the small ways that Jesus leads me to.
How life has changed for my Ukrainian friends. Two years ago life went on as normal with no clue as to what would happen a few years later. Last year at this time, there were perhaps murmurs of Russia invading. Now here we are ten months after Russia invaded. In fact on Christmas Eve, it will be ten months to the day.
One year ago, my Ukrainian friends had no idea they would be celebrating Christmas in a new country as refugees. Yesterday afternoon I used bible gateway on the projector to have one person read in Ukrainian from Matthew 2:13-15 about the angel warning Joseph to take Mary and Baby Jesus and flee to Egypt.
Then I used Google Translate to share with them the thought that Jesus was a refugee as a young child, so he understands how they feel. I shared with them that Jesus being a refugee is part of the Christmas story.
This is their first Christmas in America. I am sure if they had their choice it would be for Ukraine to have never been invaded and their lives be safe in Ukraine, but sadly that is not their reality. They are fortunate to have a good church full of Ukrainian speakers to help them.
The Ukrainian church I am partnering with to provide English classes for them is having some special Christmas programs in Ukrainian. So they will have that blessing this Christmas.
Please pray for my Ukrainian friends during these weeks of holiday celebrations and for me as I serve them and seek to help them.
As a teacher, one of the stories I heard at the Ukrainian Appreciation Dinner that really got to me was when Tania Synia shared about her work as a photographer and one encounter she had. Tania had a photography studio in Ukraine before the war. She focused on weddings, families etc. After Russia invaded, she stayed in Ukraine to photograph the effects of the war on people.
She came to one town to a school that had been destroyed. Two boys were getting into the school to look for books. They were excited to share with Tania that they found books they could study biology with. Most kids try to get out of studying, but being deprived of school due to the war gave the boys a desire to have their education continue. Tania has a website where she shares her photos. It is tetianasynia.com.
More stories to come. I am still on the mend. I do nebulizer treatments at home four times a day. That is a first for me.
My little sister in Jesus Alicia of for hispurpose.com texted me yesterday to check on me because I had not posted in a few days. That was so nice of her. I am in the midst of my second bout of bronchitis in 5 weeks. It seems I can go a few years with no episodes of it and then get hit with repeated ones.
Monday I went to Urgent Care and had breathing treatments. The doctor was kind and she prescribed 10 days of prednisone and ten days of antibiotics. She also encouraged me to buy a home nebulizer and prescribed the stuff to put in it. I bought one and am using it at home.
Yesterday evening I felt good enough to go to an appreciation dinner at the Ukrainian Church I teach English class at. There is so much to share from that evening, that it will be a series of posts. I sat with my friend Alex who sometime between 7:30 last night and hopefully by the time this posts, will be a grandfather. His daughter went to the hospital to be induced for labor.
Prayers would be appreciated for this bronchitis to be healed up.
Last night I was blessed to be at the birthday party for my friend Alex from Ukraine. Amazing to think of how quickly we have become friends. We met five days after he came to my city as a refugee with his family on Labor Day this year. He has only been here for two months.
After we had dinner, there was a moment that caused everyone to tear up. His oldest son had been doing odd jobs for cash and saving his money to buy a cell phone, but he had a change of heart. He asked one of the men from the Ukrainian church, who has lived here many years, to help him go buy something for his dad. He decided to buy an Apple Watch for his dad instead of a cell phone for himself.
As the man who helped him to go to the store to buy it shared the story, it was a poignant moment. When Alex’s son gave him the gift, it was obvious how much he loves his dad. It was a moment that I will never forget.
When I think about what they have been through, it gives that moment even more meaning. They fled the war in Ukraine having left in March. They lost so much when they had to flee and their home in Ukraine is destroyed. They left not knowing where they would end up and how things would work out for them. My friend Alex loves his children very much, His children look up to him. They have stayed together through it all and kept their faith in Jesus.
It was out of love and that experience as a family that his son gave him the gift.
Yesterday afternoon I was enjoying time at a coffee shop with Ukrainian friends when it happened. We went to a coffee shop with a nice outdoor seating area and enjoyed our last afternoon of warm weather before the sudden cool down arrives tomorrow. We were having a wonderful time of fellowship and coffee to celebrate the birthday of the husband when a car sped by on the street, gunning it, that had no muffler.
The noise was loud and came suddenly. It startled the wife. She jumped a little from her seat. Then she laughed but perhaps not because it was funny as much as to release the emotion of it all. It was more of a nervous laugh.
She had just left the war of Ukraine in March making her way with her family through sounds of war to safety. Sudden loud noises are a trigger for many refugees.
Without letting her know what I was doing, I did a few things to help bring her back into the present. I held up my hand and asked her jokingly, “how many fingers do you see?” Then I touched my nose and asked if she could do that and she did. Then I waved my hand and asked if she could do that and she did. She did not know why I was doing comical little things like that, but they brought her back into the present moment.
We continued on with our fellowship over coffee and I learned more about Ester the girl who received a violin. She told me that she plays music by ear as well as with written music. She told me she learns better by ear. I used YouTube to show her the song You Raise Me Up because it has beautiful violin music. I explained that the war and fleeing the war was a trauma but Jesus is raising her up. My friend Clark, Director of the Youth Symphony in my city and a viola/violin player, suggested that after she has practiced and feels ready that she could play with the symphony. We also talked about the two of them playing a duet.
Her mother was blessed to hear all of this. She recovered from being startled shortly before that. Such moments can bring healing to the souls and spirit of refugees. We will go out for coffee again this evening after our afternoon class. Hopefully no more loud noises.
Yesterday afternoon the 21 year old daughter of the married couple from Ukraine came with them to my class at the high school. They had just come from the doctor’s office for her check up before she gives birth. She is due any day now. The doctor told her that she is close. When she told me that, I thought-“I hope this doesn’t happen during my class.”
I am happy that the baby did not come during my class. I am also happy for the family that they can have something wonderful happen after having to flee the war in Ukraine, for her and her husband. the birth of their first child and for her parents, the birth of their first grandchild.
My only plan for if she had gone into labor during my class was to call 911.
The family is eagerly awaiting the baby coming,
It makes me think about the 2nd coming of Jesus. Is the 2nd coming of Jesus something we are eagerly awaiting? We do not know when he will return, but we can look forward to Jesus coming again. It is something we need to be prepared for as Romans 13:11 says:
And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
We do not know when Jesus will return, but one thing we do know is that each day brings us one day closer to his return.
Today I am grateful for two things, that Jesus is coming back-hopefully soon, and that my friend from Ukraine did not have the baby during my class. ::)
Yesterday evening after my Friday late afternoon group at the Ukrainian church in my city, I met the father, mother, and daughter of the family I have written about. We went for coffee and sat outside to get to know each other better. It was a wonderful evening of fellowship.
During the class, I asked Ester if it would be okay to share the photos from when she received the violin. I asked her to think about it, but she told me yes. I asked to to think about it a few times and suggested she tell me the next time she sees me, but she used Google translate to look up how to tell me I could share the photos. So today I am sharing them.
Yesterday evening we talked about how trauma like fleeing a war can cause creative people to have a block in their creativity. Ester being a singer and able to play both violin and piano is a creative person with a gentle spirit. When she received the violin, it broke through that block.
She is practicing her violin and after class she stopped at the piano to play a little. I suggested I could get some sheet music from my friend Clark who gave her the violin. My idea is that they can play during worship at my church together one Sunday morning in the future.
This is Ester receiving her violin. Look at her beaming smile.
This is Ester with her parents.
I wanted a picture too. 🙂
It is amazing how Jesus can do wonderful things to bring healing to our souls. Please pray for Ester as she welcomes the joy of music back into her life and also for her family. They have only been here seven weeks.
She fled the invasion of Ukraine by Russia with her family. She loves music, plays piano and violin and sings. She loves to share her talent serving Jesus. She was in a music school in Ukraine, but the war brought that to an abrupt end. Fleeing war one only has time to grab essentials to live, so she left her beloved violin behind. I learned about this Saturday night and felt compelled to do something.
Sunday morning I talked with a friend from church who is the Director of the Youth Symphony in my city and also a professor in the school of music at the university here. He had a violin he was willing to loan her, He needs to sell it, so I said, “bring the violin and I will raise money to pay for it.”
Yesterday he brought the violin for Ester the gifted musician who wants to serve Jesus through music. We surprised her. She did not just smile. She was absolutely beaming. I used Google translate to share this message with her.
“Evil tried to take music away from you, but it could not. This is from Jesus. This is your violin. Music is back in your life.”
The violin is a good one that has been kept in excellent condition by a musician. My guess is a new one of that quality would cost a lot more. The price is $1,200.00,
The look on her face was priceless.
What God can do through her music in the future-unlimited.
Even if I have to pay for it all by myself-WORTH IT/
A friend of mine receives slightly used laptops from people and works on them. Then he gives the laptops to ministries or people in ministry. I emailed him about a single mom from Venezuela I wanted to get a laptop for. Carmin came here with her son in August 2021.. She works hard at a Kawasaki plant here but has a thirteen year old son to provide for and also sends money to her parents. She could not have bought a laptop, but I knew it would help her practice English at home, make it better for her to video chat with her parents, and connect with her son’s school, so I wanted to see her have a laptop.
My friend had a laptop for her. I picked it up early last week, It cost me nothing and cost him only the time he spent refreshing it. I went a Walmart. Yes, for such a worthy purpose I walked in quickly to such a place. I got a violet backpack to put her laptop in.
To have a little fun with it, last Tuesday I told her I had a surprise for her but I could not tell her the surprise because then it would not be a surprise. That gave her most of the week to wonder what the surprise was. Sunday morning in our group, I gave her the backpack and told her to open it. The look on her face was priceless. Then I showed her how to access things for her son’s school.
It feels like a Christmas morning for me when I can see my friends blessed like a few months ago when Samuel was given a guitar by an older couple from church. Seeing the joy on the faces of my friends is wonderful.
Tomorrow my young friend from Ukraine will receive a violin. My friend from church who is the Youth Symphony Director/Conductor will visit my class to bring her the violin. I am SO looking forward to see my young friend Ester’s reaction.
Seeing others blessed is a huge blessing. When someone blesses one of my refugee/immigrant friends, I view it as them also blessing me.