Dental outreaches

The past eleven months were so busy that I did not blog as often as I would have liked to. I don’t want to bore those of you who are actually reading this so I will add a quick list of the outreaches Richard and I went on in the past few months. It’s always a treat to meet many new children and sometimes heartbreaking to hear their stories.

Drs. Richard and Inna spent many hours in meetings and working to set up the dental room at the Emmanuel Clinic. Then on the weeks there are no outreaches with Mercy Trucks/YWAM, they try to work on children on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Jan. 4: We delivered 65 presents for the widows that Good Samaritan Ministries in Zhitomer works with. We had the privilege of visiting several of the ladies in their homes.

Jan. 6-8: Vicki was excited to be able to help distribute presents to children who came to the play that CBN/Emmanual Ministries puts on each year. 18,000 people viewed it over the 8 days it was in production.

Jan. 17-19: Richard partnered with Mercy Trucks Dental Van at the Kamarivka Orphanage. There are approximately 130 children in this facility.

February 3-March 6: Trip to America. While there talked at a number of churches and service clubs from Spokane in the eastern part of Washington State to Joyce on the coast. We took post-graduate courses in Southern California and enjoyed time with our oldest Todd and his family, visited my mother and sister’s family in Oregon, and spent some time with our other son Jacy and his family in Renton. A very busy trip. Oh yes, we also got caught in a major snow storm on Snoqualmie Pass after visiting our friends and the SAI board in Cle Elum.

March 11-18: Dr. Ed and Pauline Steudli stayed with us and we there were several meetings with Ukrainian dentists and others who are involved in the dental hygiene project that is being implemented in Ukraine. The Steudli’s have great expertise and experience in starting hygiene education programs.

March 29 & 30: Drug Rehab Center in KievApril 18-20: Another trip to Kamarivka Orphanage

April: Vicki spent several days helping friends pack for move to America. Also, distributed numerous boxes sent from donors in the US and Canada.

May 2-5: We went with the dental van to Ivanivka village and worked with villagers in connection with the Methodist Sisters. This was the second outreach with these dedicated women.

May 15-18: Richard–Kamarivka Orphanage with Doug Stoddard’s team from the US

May 25: EEO Orphanage near Chernobyl Zone/ Richard pulls teeth and Vicki, Charlene and Jen do crafts with kids and deliver presents to them from a the Windy Valley Pathfinder Club in Washington State.

May: Friends from Zhitomer visited for a few days and stored items at our house while they went to America to pursue funding and decide on their future. (They will not be returning until September 2008.) Charlene and Jen Ellis visited for 9 days. Vicki helped another couple with movers and distributed their bounteous supply of food and other items to numerous places.

June 19-23: Camp Dream in Lugansk region (A 19 hour train ride from Kiev) See blog below about this trip.

June: Richard spent a lot of time trying to get dental equipment repaired

July 1-6: Camp outside of Uhzgorod (14 hour bus trip west and 18 hour train ride home) Partnered with YWAM team from Faro Islands–Richard worked on many gypsy kids while Vicki was very sick and spent a couple days at the hotel. and was only albe to spend one day at the camp.

July 8-15: Merle and Maria Jacobs visit for a week of R& R between their outreaches

July 15-21: Camp Karitas (Vicki) working with disabled children with Mission to Ukraine

July 22-27: Maukacevo—Richard worked with Mercy Truck in a gypsy village (More about this trip )

July 31-Aug 5: YWAM team of 6 from California plus Jacobs stayed at our house after their three week outreach in Lithiania and another in Odessa.

Aug. 10-Sept. 7: Vicki in America visiting her mom in Salem and son’s family in Renton

Aug. 15-22: Richard with Mercy Truck in Zhitomer Area Villages with Don Miller’s Good Samaritan Team from Oregon

Sept. 18-21: Kamarivka Orphanage with YWAM team from Pennsylvania R & V

Sept. 24-27: Gluhotvsy Village south of Zhitomer with PA Team

October: Month of meetings, receiving and distributing 42 boxes of humanitarian aid—several trips to Zhitomer and other places. Helping friends with move back to America—distributing some of their items. Another 20 boxes were received two weeks later.

October 31-Nov 2: Kamarivka Orphanage/Last team with Jeff Colker Richard

Nov. 5-6: Joined a Mission to Ukraine team from Indiana in a small village south of Zhitomer. Richard enjoyed helping out whenever he was needed and working with the three dentists on the team. Vicki helped Jan Young distribute 200 pair of glasses to villagers. Vicki also gave out toys sent from a VBS in Atlanta, Georgia, hats knitted by a retired couple in Sublimity, Oregon and socks knit by a couple in Milton-Freewater, Washington. The people were very excited to receive these things. Nov. 8: Potiiva School for Disabled kids (130 children) with MTU team. We had so much fun doing crafts with the kids and giving them all gospel teddy bears which were generously donated by Family Christian Book stores. Vicki had sewed buttons on all 130 bears so they children would be able to tell which one was theirs.
Nov. 20-21: Sunshine Center with Nathalie and Marek’s Sunshine Ministry. Used portable equipment and Vicki assisted–gave out hats, gloves, and scarves and gospel bears.Two more outreaches are scheduled next week and then we go to America for a month to spend the holidays with our family. There is a lovely, young couple who stays at our house while we are gone. We praise God for helping us find them.Looking back at this schedule, I realize how hectic the last few months were. No wonder we are often tired. These are just the outreaches. There were also a lot of meetings, gathering of supplies and equipment, distributing boxes and organization of things being stored at our place. But the stories that are behind all these events are the things that keep us going. It’s the kids, the widows, the lives that are touched on each of these trips that make the difference.

In the next few days, I plan to share some of these stories. Thank you to all who are contributing funds and donating humanitarian aid in support of this ministry. Without you we would not be able to share God’s love with as many children and adults. God has promised to bless those who are joining Him in His work.

This morning we returned from an outreach to Camp Dream in the Lugansk region of Ukraine—the far eastern part of the country. It was a long distance to go for such a short time but we really feel God had a reason for this to take place. We are not yet sure what it was, but in time God will connect the dots and we will probably know.The camp was beautiful and if you walked down to the river–200 meters or so–you looked across to Russia on the opposite bank. There were 150 kids attending this camp session. In the two days of working, our dentists did exams on 110 kids and finished 29 procedures which included many fillings, extractions and a several root canals–Inna loves to do these. They worked long, hard hours. It was difficult for them because we knew they would probably never see any of these kids again for treatment. And this is the first place where there were many, many children who were terrified to have treatment. There was one little girl that I watched Richard trying to give an injection to. I saw her visibly shut down emotionally–we could not get any type of response from her. She was incapable of opening her mouth or even moving. This is the hardest type of patient for our dentists because we know they have been abused–either physically or emotionally or both. He had to just let her go without treating her. It is so frustrating to not be able to help them. The mouths here were very much in need of treatment. Many of the children were from an orphanage of 237 children in a nearby town. We met the director, his wife and daughter—they had come for opening ceremonies of the camp. We have never seen a director that was as loved by the kids as this man was. We are very glad to know that they have someone who cares for them and has their interest at heart. Many of the girls–and there were several very small ones–wanted to sit by me, wanted hugs, or just wanted to hang out with me even though I didn’t always understand what they were saying. Some of them spoke a little English and wanted to try it out on us. Even some of the boys liked to get hugs. All of them loved to have their picture taken and see it on the digital camera. They wanted to know if I could get pictures for them to take home but I’m not sure how to do that from this distance.
I wish I had known that they didn’t have much in the way of craft materials etc. or I would have tried to take some. It is a Christian camp–the cleanest camp I have seen. We were treated royally and fed by a guy who is a professional chef, went through a rehab program and became a Christian, and is volunteering for the summer at the camp. All the staff are volunteers except the nurses who have to be paid $200 and the camp is struggling to find the money for that.

This part of the country is very Soviet in attitude and the gospel has not been received as readily here as in the west. It is a dark area. They are struggling with some problems with some of the older kids who have possibly been involved in some witchcraft. Prayers are really needed for them and for the leaders to know how to deal with these issues. It is so very hard to see this and not know what we can do to help.

I want to tell you about the boy in the picture. His name is Anton. He was often around the area in front of the dental van. When it was his turn, he never spoke and even though afraid opened his mouth and had a tooth pulled. I kept trying to connect with him but couldn’t even get a smile. He always just looked away. He left the van before I had brought the small gift bags out that we give to patients. So when I saw him the next time I asked him to come to the truck and I let him pick a bag out. He left but a minute later came back to the door and said, “Thank you.” Those were the only words I heard from him but I cherish them. Then just before we left some of the girls wanted a picture taken with me. Anton was sitting close by and I asked him to take it with my camera. I had not let any of the kids use it. I put it in his hand but he didn’t know what to do–he just held his arm up where I lifted it. So I took his picture. Then I put it back in his hand and showed him how to take the picture. Several other kids tried to take the camera away and take the picture because he was taking so long. I just took it back from them and handed it to him again. I told them that I wanted Anton to take it. Finally, he did it. I showed him the completed picture and gave him a thumbs up. There was a ghost of a smile on his lips. When we left, I believe I saw his hand move in a slight gesture of good-bye. He touched my heart. I pray that God will bring people to him to light up his dark world. Please join me in that prayer.

Pastor Ivan, who runs the camp, wishes he had people to provide programs for the kids but they are struggling just to have enough people to be with the kids. I am thinking that next summer it would be wonderful if we could get some teams to come and help. Please pray about this for us and if you know of anyone who might like to be involved, please let us know. I’d love to put together a team or two for this purpose. There are three camps of three weeks each taking place there this summer. One is for disabled kids and their parents and the other two are for orphans and some kids from churches in the area.Our two train rides have given me an appreciation for other types of travel. The trip out was 19 1/2 hours in an older train. But it wasn’t bad. We had a Coupay–a train cabin for four that you can make into beds. Dr. Inna and her daughter, Masha, (who will be 9 tomorrow) shared it with us and Rosen from YWAM slept in another cabin next door but spent the waking hours with us. It was fun even though it was a long ride. The trip back wasn’t as nice. The air conditioning in the room didn’t work and the attendant kept shutting the hallway window–which was the only window near us. It was next to the smelly bathroom and smoking was allowed in the area at the end of car with only a door between us and them. Although it was only a 16 hour trip and a newer car the whole thing was bumpy and swayed a lot. Several hours later we are still feeling the movement. I really don’t have a desire to repeat this experience again soon although we are supposed to go west in a week–an 18 hour trip. We are looking into taking a bus or flying. I think flying is out though because of the expense. The trains are fairly inexpensive–although our Ukrainian friends think otherwise. Round trip was about $40. Flying would be more like $250. I guess we shouldn’t complain because most people travel either in seats–not sleeping compartments–or seats that make into beds with no privacy–only a car with many bunks and no privacy. It was definitely an experience.

With a busy summer ahead of us, I want to again ask for your prayers for the safety of our dental staff, the YWAM and other ministry teams, and most of all for all the lives that will be touched in the name of Jesus. Thanks again for your support.

Here we are on a hill overlooking Russia. Without a visa we cannot enter it, but we look. It’s not quite the same as Moses looking into the promised land. I really don’t have a big desire to even visit again unless God sends us.


Vicki and Richard

Ministry opportunities abound in this beautiful country. The first six months we lived here, we wondered if we would ever get settled enough to be of use to God. Yes, there were many different forms of serving that we found ourselves involved in—in minor ways. But the whole scheme of things was oddly out of kilter. Yet, as I look back, I can see God’s loving hand, slowing things down so that we could become acclimated to our new surroundings, comfortable in a different culture, and somewhat attuned to a population still seeking its identity during the early years of democracy and freedom.Now, Richard is extremely busy with both the YWAM dental van and the CBN clinic. The van is going out on three day mission outreaches at least two times a month. At CBN’s Emmanuel Clinic our dentists are working three days on the weeks when the van is in hiatus and one day on outreach weeks. A recent trip to the village of Ivanivka near Zhitomer proved very successful with our dentists seeing 47 patients and completing close to 100 procedures during our three days there.

Last year, Richard pulled a tooth on a man who works with the sisters at Ivanivka. This year, some more teeth were treated and extracted. The sisters told us how Anatoly had been having toothaches during the past year and treating them only with pain killers. He had told them that he was praying that the nice dentist who had seen him last year would come again because he helped him without creating pain. I am very proud of the kind-hearted man I am married to and his devotion to helping those in pain and need.

I accompanied our dentists on this outreach and wondered why I was even along since I didn’t feel really needed. But on Thursday night I received a call from American missionary friends who lived in Zhitomer. They hadn’t realized that I was there but they called to see if we needed any furniture, etc.. To make a long story short, the ministry they were in had finished and without future plans they were thinking about returning to America for good even though they had previously felt called to ministry here. God helped me encourage them and connect a few dots in the big picture. Suffice it to say, they will be returning to Ukraine after a much needed summer’s rest in America. They will be preparing for future ministry by taking Russian classes full time. And I now have a houseful of furniture to use until they are in need of it again.

Because our dentists are so busy and there is a dental facility at the CBN clinic that can be used more productively, we have been praying that God would bring another Ukrainian dentist to work with us. Again, it looks like God has supplied a wonderful man with a heart for Him. A young couple—the man a dentist and his wife a dental student—were mentioned to Richard by two different individuals in a short span of time. They visited the clinic last week. Richard came home very excited about the meeting. He told me that this young man had said that when he first heard the plans for a clinic, he felt it was totally impossible. Standing in the clinic, he was amazed at how God had done the impossible. Richard told him that he should pray and ask God to show him whether he should be involved in the ministry. And his answer was that he felt God already had. By viewing the impossible made possible, he knew where God was leading him. We are now looking for donors who will be willing to provided monthly support so that this young dentist will be able to join Dr. Inna and Dr. Richard. (As of November 28 no funds have been received but this couple is still willing to work with us if funding is obtained in the future.  Also, funds for Dr. Inna are needed.  If you know of anyone who can help, please contact us through the contact page.  Thanks so much.)

God is so very good. I keep seeing a great big dot to dot picture in my mind. It is a BIG picture and for now, I can only see just a little part of the finished image. With each new contact and day, God is allowing another dot or two to be connected. Some of the parts that are taking shape are being filled in with colors and details but there are still many, many parts that are indistinguishable. It will be in eternity that the whole picture will finally be viewed in its entirety. How fun the day will be when together with my loving, heavenly Father, I will be able to gaze with amazement at the finished piece of art.

We have been living in Ukraine for a year now. Time continues to fly by. No more excuses for not updating this blog. Briefly, here is what God has wrought in our world during the past twelve months.

Our first six months, we lived in a three room, 7th floor apartment on the left bank of Kyiv. After twenty-eight years of country living, city living was exciting and challenging. Then in October, God graciously provided a house for us in a small village 60 kilometers from Kyiv. We are getting used to the drive (yes, God also provided a van) and enjoy a quiet, peaceful life away from the rat race in the city.

God also brought a wonderful, young Christian dentist into our lives and supplied money for her support. Jeff Colker who is with YWAM (Youth With a Mission) was impressed to take over Mercy Trucks International’s dental ministry here.

He is a fantastic organizer and the dental van is now being used on a regular basis at a couple of orphanages and on other outreaches. Just last week, the CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) Emmanuel Ministry’s clinic finally received all the government permissions to open our dental clinic. Dr. Inna and Dr. Richard have seen patients for two days now. All dental work is being provided free of charge. The focus is on orphans and other poor, under served children. Our dentists have also treated patients from two different drug rehab programs as well as many poor people in villages. We are hoping to find support for another dentist in the near future. I spent several days this week going through the 16 boxes that arrived through MEEST. This house has been an amazing blessing as a place to sort and store the humanitarian aid we receive from America and Canada . Several churches and individuals, Smile Alliance International, and others have sent many boxes for the children and widows as well as for us personally. Some dear friends are moving back to the US and they have been donating huge amounts of food, crafts, dishes, things for Smile House and items for distribution to orphanages. So my role of late is to determine what has been donated and with God’s help find the best place for each item. The picture on the right shows a pastor who is recently took these boxes of clothing and shoes to an orphanage with 300 kids in the Zhitomer region. I really love this work. It’s so fun to be able to bless other ministries, orphanages, widows and those in need with the great items which so many of you have lovingly sent. Thank you for your help and support.

Several times I have had the privilege of introducing people from different ministries and they in turn have been able to work together to provide assistance to those in need. I feel it is such a God thing when this happens. Recenty Gateway to Life in Zhitomer arranged for two wheelchairs through Joni and Friends Wheels for the World ministry. The chairs were custom made and delivered to needy individuals whom our friends at YWAM had been desperately trying to help. It is such a joy to be a small part of this and to watch God at work.

Richard and I are working hard to learn Russian but it is very difficult. This morning I put on my skates to get some exercise. Kids in the village often say hello to us but the adults have been more reticent. Yet when I skate I get smiles and waves. A whole family came out to meet me the other morning and I felt like we are finally being accepted here.

Dr. Ed and Pauline Stuedli stayed with us in March and conferred with the chief dentist in Ukraine, Mr. Suzdaltsev and Dr. Borisenko who have received governmental permission to start the first dental hygiene program here. They have permission to start it as early as this September. We appreciated all the information and help this wonderful couple provided and we enjoyed their visit immensely.The Smile House Project is progressing slowly. The builders are doing a fantastic job. A new roof and addition to the front of the building have been added. Interior walls for the top floor rooms have been built. A recent generous donation is making it possible for the project to continue for the time being. We ask your prayers for wisdom as to how to proceed with this, for us to be aware of God’s will in this matter and for additional funding. It is a huge project and we really believe that God has a plan for this building. We do want to run ahead not go to slow, just let Him lead.

This summer’s plans include helping at some summer camps, several long trips with the dental van, and many outreaches. If any of you would like to join us, we’d love to help you make plans and arrangements. We have room in our home for several people and in time hope to have a team or two come and help us complete the upstairs so teams or individuals can stay here.

This year has been a time for learning to depend on God in many ways. It has been a time of growth and joy. We miss our family and friends in the US but were able to make two trips back. The time spent with our five grand kids, their parents, our siblings, and my mom was very special to us. My internet chats with many of you have kept me sane. And your emails, packages and support are so very much appreciated. We have made many new friends, too. Without the help of our many Ukrainian friends we would not have made it through this year. There has been so much support from the American Christian community here as well. We are going to a couple of study groups each week and enjoy the fellowship immensely. We are so pleased that the ministries here work so well together. God is in the center of all this work and we are very blessed.

The political situation is a mess. Your prayers are desperately needed for this country and its people. The freedoms that they are just beginning to enjoy could so easily be snatched away. It makes us appreciate the freedoms we have lived with all our lives.

May God continue to bless you, may you have the chance to follow your dreams and heart’s desires, and may you find joy in our amazing God.

Vicki and Richard

September of this year, leaders of four organizations, Mission to Ukraine, Emmanuel/Operation Blessing, Youth with a Mission (YWAM) and Smile Alliance International, met to explore the possibility of combining their respective resources to create one large medical-evangelistic outreach to two villages in the Zhytomir region. The reason for this was that both Mission to Ukraine and Emmanuel had scheduled medical and dental teams to arrive in Ukraine on almost exactly the same dates in November, and that “coincidence” was felt to be potentially a God Thing.

During the week of November 5-10 the outreach became a reality. A team of physicians, nurses and therapists combined with one of dentists, a dental hygienist and assistants to bring much needed care to two outlying communities, Ivanopyl and Volytsya, both about 90-100 kilometers southwest of the city of Zhytomir in Ukraine. Physical exams, health counseling, eye exams and dental treatments were provided in community buildings that were provided through the efforts of Pastor Peter Levchenko of Central Baptist Church in the town of Chudniv. As part of the outreach, the people who came for treatment were invited to also listen to Christ-centered programs each day during lunch, which was provided. Reportedly, many souls were won to accept and give their hearts to Jesus during these meetings. Praise God for His blessings!

The dental van, operated by YWAM and staffed by Dr. Ina and myself, was brought out to both villages and was used to provide restorative care for many, as it is equipped for the more complicated procedures involved with that. Portable dental equipment was also set up at each visited facility to provide for emergency care such as extractions, and the one hygienist was kept busy doing cleanings and dental health care instructions.
This report is written by Dr. Richard Nelson, a dentist with Smile Alliance International, living in Ukraine and working to help establish the dental programs of both the YWAM dental van and the new medical building operated by CBN/Emmanuel/Operation Blessing.

My thoughts on this venture are this:

  • First, it is a joy to see the faces of those we are able to help. These people simply do not have either the money or even the access to the services we provide, and their appreciation for what little we do for them is always overwhelming to us.
  • Secondly, we had glitches, as always happens, especially when so many people are involved. But everything worked out, maybe not exactly as we had planned, but God’s name was lifted up, with our human efforts being covered with the Blessings of the Holy Spirit, and it was our privilege to be a part of this outreach. I do not know the exact number of people involved, but I can count up at least 24. Most were from the two teams from America. Mission to Ukraine’s team came from the Indianapolis, Indiana area, and the Immanuel team was from the Atlanta, Georgia area. From what I could see, we all had the same purpose, to bring praises to God through our work, and I enjoyed meeting and fellowshipping with those I had time to meet.
  • Lastly, we were only able to treat a small percentage of the people who came to us hoping for help. It is not easy to have to turn away any one of those dear people. The need is so great in this country, both for physical help, but also for their spiritual needs. We are here because our great God loves and cares for these people, and His love compels us to strive to help, not in our own efforts but in His power and in His Spirit. We know God is doing something here in Ukraine, and it is awesome to see. May God be praised for His Greatness, and for allowing us to be a part of His plan