Sighing, I picked up the list of poor children we were going to visit on the weekend. Listed were forty-seven children in twenty-one families. Yet the only thing I knew about them was the age marked beside their names.

Although the focus of Richard’s ministry is dentistry, my ministry in the country of Ukraine seems to be distributing humanitarian aid—mostly clothing—and gifts to widows, orphans and underprivileged children. Many friends, Smile Alliance International and several churches send boxes on a fairly regular basis. The sorting, organizing and hauling around of boxes is a lot of work but we definitely enjoy the smiles and joy on the faces of the recipients.

God has a strange sense of humor. When we sold our things and moved here from America I envisioned a new start—a home finally free of clutter and stuff. I would at last have the time and energy to be organized. Things would be neat and tidy. Right! God generously provided a house for us to live in after six months of living in an apartment building. Humbly I thanked Him for His provision. He bestowed on us this blessing and we dedicated it to Him and His work. That’s when the boxes began to arrive.I often laugh when I am in the midst of unpacking and sorting. During this time every free surface in our living quarters holds a stack of socks, shirts, pants, gift items, or some other thing. Sometimes I summon the troops to help but often I forge ahead alone. It is during this time I can pray for those who will be receiving each item. I can ask God for direction, guidance as to whom He has sent each thing. And it’s amazing what transpires.

I could tell story after story about this. But for now I want to share stories of some special gifts that touched my heart. Background information is necessary so you can see the scope of things and God’s love working through each person who has generously donated funds, time, and goods. We really believe that He cares about details, influences people to send various items and funds, and touches people hearts with a desire to help.

Our Visits
I picked up the gallon size Ziplock bags that have become my second favorite ministry tool. Slowly I began filling each of them with a toothbrush, comb, piece of candy, mini book filled with Russian Bible verses (sent by an anonymous donor), a slip of paper outlining the Gospel message with an invitation to accept Jesus, and other basic items.

Pastor Dima, a missionary to one of our neighboring villages, had asked us if we had some small gifts we could give to children they were going to visit. We told him we could do that but asked if we could go along when they visited the families. They were happy to have us join them and the date was set. The village social worker had provided lists of the neediest families. Dima had worked with some of them before but many were new to him.

The previous week I had assembled 110 plastic shoe boxes (my very favorite ministry tool) filled with gifts for Mostysche Orphanage and Sunshine Center for Street Children. The providing church in Ellensburg, Washington had generously included extra things in their twenty large boxes so I had enough to start filling my plastic bags. Then I added items from my reserves upstairs. The final step was to put in some age-sensitive items, something each child might need. I prayed for God to help me put just the right items in each bag.

I had kept in reserve a few of the brand new sleepers, jeans, and shirts for toddlers sent by a church in Cle Elum. So the bags for the 3 through 5 year-olds were easy to fill. Two different retired couples in Oregon had lovingly hand-knitted hats, mittens, socks and sweaters. These too were added to the packages. The older boys were a challenge but winter scarves, gloves and wallets purchased with donated ministry funds helped complete their bags. A box from my friend in Oklahoma provided some items for the older girls. But I was unsure what to put in the last of the baby and small toddler gifts. Then MEEST, the shipping company, called and brought four very large boxes from a church in Canada. Sent the middle of November, the boxes had somehow lost their way and arrived “just the day I needed them.” Now, the babies were very well taken care of. Grandma Rosa project blankets purchased and put together by friends in Washington State were put in large plastic bags for the children 12 and under. Then the zip lock bags for each individual child were added, each large bag was closed and the family name written on the outside. We were ready at last to begin visiting the homes.

Dima’s church bathed our day in prayer. I was profoundly glad about that when we encountered vicious, large dogs as we entered several of the yards. Although going door to door is not my forte, our advantage was that we were laden with gifts. Another plus was Dima’s previous work in this village—getting to know the people—showing them love and acceptance. Most of the homes we visited this time were ones he had been in before. Next week will be another story.

Each home told its own story. Some were relatively neat, others cluttered and messy. Most had foldout beds in the kitchens and living rooms. Some were really dark. Most were not very warm. Several had sick children or adults. Children and adults with sad eyes and downcast faces were the norm. All had a need for God’s love and joy. Dima, Vadim and Lada are recovered drug addicts who are now in ministry. They put their hearts into sharing the message of a better life and they were living proof that it can happen. Our friend, Tanya, interpreted for us. People listened. Vadim played the guitar and they sang songs for the children, others for the adults. Lada, a lovely lady who was addicted to drugs for fifteen years, has a passion for sharing how God can change hearts and lives. She invited and encouraged each person to ask God to help them and to come into their lives. I shared that we lived in Ukraine now because we felt God had sent us here to proclaim his love. I told them that God had given us many gifts, the best His Son, Jesus, and friends in America had sent presents to them to remind them of this love. When they cuddle with their blankets and enjoy their gifts, I asked them to remember how much God loves them. I then asked them if Richard could take their pictures to send to my mother who had the idea for the blankets, and to those who sent the gifts. I am going to get copies made for them.

Three Stories
I saw joy on most of the faces of the kids as they received their presents. Many quietly took them away for opening. I could tell something about each child, but I will limit this to three profound stories.

A symbol of God’s love
Dima jumped out of the van and started to open the gate at a house he had not visited before. This set the watchdog to barking angrily—this works in place of a doorbell. A thin lady dressed in warm clothing (including a hat on her head) came to the gate. Her expressionless face led to speculation as to whether we would be invited in or not. But she grudgingly beckoned toward the house as she stood guard in front of the dog house. The standard Ukrainian house is different than those in America. The door often leads into an entry room—sometimes with chairs—or a kitchen. At this home, the 17 year old son led us through a small dark kitchen which also had a bed in it, through a hallway with two more beds, and into a room lighted by sun through the windows. We sat on the bed there and some stools that were brought in. The lady stood leaning against the door, arms folded tight across her chest, listening to Dima. Her three boys came in. The eldest, Valeriy, had quit school and now repaired cars.. The two smaller ones, Dima 6 and Olexi 11 were talkative and friendly. Vadim asked the question about what they wanted to do when they grew up (this was the only place this question was asked.) Olexi’s desire was to be a policeman but Dima dreamed of being a “footballist”. In America we would say “soccer star”. We discovered that Luda, the mother, had cancer which had returned after a five year remission. She was barely holding herself together.

Eagerly I opened the bag we had prepared ahead for this family. While packing them, I had asked God to help me select the right blanket for each child. In my heart I knew what I would find—sure enough—one of the blankets was purple and covered with soccer balls. (There were only a couple of these blankets in the box I had unpacked.) When my turn came to give out the gifts, I looked at Dima. Smiling with tears in my eyes I told him that God loved him very, very much. I told him I knew this because God had me put this blanket in the bag just for him. God knew his desires. He knew his heart and he cared. I was rejoicing inside.

Lada began telling about our need for God and then Vadim broke in and said he felt we were supposed to pray for the mom—for her cancer—for her health. He asked her if we could lay our hands on her shoulders as we prayed and she consented. She stood very stiff but as they prayed she relaxed. It was as if a very large burden had been lifted from her shoulders. And then she smiled. I’ll never forget that smile. It transformed her face.As we climbed into the van, she was there—smiling. I had told her I would continue to pray for her. I am. And I feel a need to go back. Just to be there for her, if she needs me. We will see if that becomes a possibility.Despair
My friend’s four year old granddaughter had picked out a special blanket to send to a little girl. Yvie prayed for the girl. She told Mimi that she loved the little girl. They sent the blanket. I found it at the top of a box and chose if for a four year old on my list. Halfway through our day, I told Dima that I would really like to see if we could deliver it since I knew Yvie was waiting to hear about the little girl that would receive it. Dima knew the mom. Her latest boyfriend had just gone to jail. We found the boarding house where she lived. The outside door was open and several small children sat on the table and the stairway. One had a dress and nothing else on—not even socks. This was Natasha, sister of the four year old, Ira. There were socks and warm pajamas in the bag I had prepared for her. We went up the filthy, cluttered stairway to the room where the mother and her four children lived. It was tiny with a double bed at one end and bunk beds on each side. There were stuffed animals nailed to the wall above the bed. The two little girls, Ira 4 and Natasha, along with a boy about 5 and a baby 7 months old were on the bed where the mother lay beneath a blanket. She said she had a headache. She was lethargic. In the past she had attended Dima’s church and now they tried to talk to her about her life.. She told them she had no desire to change. She was going to live the way she wanted.

Richard had gone to the van to get some things for the little boy since we only had things for the girls—fortunately I had thought to put extra things in just in case this happened. I heard a man’s voice in the kitchen and footsteps on the stairs. The man was swearing. I asked Dima to go meet Richard and as he left the room, the man stopped at the top of the stairs and started swearing at us. He told us to get out, that when people visited bad things happened. (We found out he didn’t even live in this place.) It was obvious he was swearing even though I don’t understand the language. I started praying for all our safety. The man descended the stairs after Dima and continued to yell at him. Richard came in—Dima told him Richard was American and couldn’t understand him. The man stopped yelling. They came up to where we were. We quickly gave the presents to the children. I told them that God loves them. I told Ira that Yvie had sent her the blanket and that she loved her. We left. I felt very sad. I know that before long those children will probably end up in an orphanage. They may have a safer, better life there. Tanya, our interpreter, said she had never seen such a place. It was an eye-opener for her. I think we all felt a measure of grief and knew that we need to pray for this mother and her children.

A Need to Understand
After the boarding house incident, we decided to visit one last place and then continue our visitations at another time. As we entered the final home, we went through a room with dirt floors and into the kitchen. The grandmother welcomed us into her living room which contained a large bed. It was neat and clean. Our list said Yura was 10 and his sister Nastya 9. They looked much smaller and younger to me. But it’s often difficult to tell. I wished I’d asked them. They knew Dima and go to his Sunday school when he can pick them up. (His car has not been running so they haven’t been able to go recently).

The friendly grandfather came in while we sang some songs. Lada began telling Grandma Olga that God could help her. Grandma took over the conversation. The kids live with them because their mom is a prostitute and has disappeared from their lives. She told us that she had her children baptized and she felt that was the worse thing she had ever done. I don’t know why. She told them a lot that didn’t get translated. Finally, I had Richard tell a bit about how God had brought us to Ukraine to share His love with people and we gave the kids their gifts, then we prayed with the family.

Before we left, the others engaged in conversation with the kids and Grandpa while Grandma tried to talk to me. I grabbed Tanya to find out what she was telling me. She told me she thought she was cursed—her life—her daughter being a prostitute. I usually don’t know what to say in circumstances like these but I immediately said, “No. It is not a curse. A loving God does not curse people’s lives. It’s a matter of poor choices. God loves you very much. He loves you with His whole heart. He cares for you.”

I don’t know where the words came from but I firmly believe them. She said she was so much older than me but I told her she had only three years on me. She’s had a very difficult life. As we got ready to leave, I hugged her. She just kept hugging me. I want to go back. I liked her. I’d like to get to know her, find out what makes her go on, see if I can do something to encourage her. I wonder what God’s plan is in this. I pray daily for her as well.

What’s Next?
During our visits we tried to evaluate how we could help people. At the first home, the 2 year old had on a pair of worn, summer sandals. Our latest box shipment contained many toddler shoes. Tanya wrote down the need and we plan to take them some shoes. There were other needs as well. But I think the biggest need is something that each of you can help us with. Please remember these families in your prayers. These are just a handful in the village down the road from where we live. But the needs are everywhere. In Ukraine, Africa, China, America. Pray for those in need. Be aware of where you can help. Ask for God’s guidance.

And last of all, thank you, each one of you who has provided the goods, the funding, and the prayers so our ministry can continue. Thank you for your hearts for the children of Ukraine. Thank you for your encouragement, for your emails, your calls, and for your interest. You are as much a part of this ministry as we are. We are just privileged to be here and to see some of the results.May you be blessed each day and recognize those blessings,
Vicki and Richard

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.

Praise God! He is so very awesome and He is smiling, rejoicing and laughing with us today. The Smile Alliance International board of directors, its supporters, and friends and our workers in Ukraine are excited that through many small and two large donations in the last few months it looks like God is giving us the okay to proceed with the Smile House Project. It was been on hold for several months because of lack of funds but we have all felt it was a matter of timing and that eventually God would give us the direction to continue with it.

We are so thankful for the generosity of all our supporters. Many of you support the work each month and I know it is a big commitment from often limited funds. Without your steady, committed support our ministry would be unable to continue. I want to thank each one of you—every penny that is invested in this work is important to us and we strive to use it wisely for God’s glory. Luke 21:1-4 tells of the widow who placed two small coins—her last—in the offering plate. Jesus commended her and her story lives on over the centuries as an inspiration to all of us. In the same way we are inspired by each of your contributions to the ministry—spiritual, emotional, financial and physical.

On Monday, June 25, I told a friend that I felt God was telling me that it was time to step out and go forward with plans. Many have fasted and prayed for this project and for some kind of confirmation as what direction to go with it. In the meantime, unbeknown to us, Mr. S and the contractor had been getting bids on windows and doors. A generous donation of $20,000 had been sent to SAI a couple months ago for the use of the ministry in Ukraine. It is being used for dental needs, some much needed items for poor children in the villages, and some basic ministry needs. Yet there is still a large part of it which can be used to put in a well and possibility some plumbing in the building.

The past few months have been very busy (see so we took a much needed break from ministry for three days to visit some castles and historical ruins with a Ukrainian friend, Yuliya. I will post pictures and commentary on this afternoon. Anyway, when we got home and I checked my email yesterday I found a wonderful confirmation that we are to continue to move forward. But let me go back three years before I continue with this thought.

At a Commission for Children at Risk conference in Rome, Georgia in November 2004, I met a very nice lady named Karen Jones. We spent time praying together and have kept in touch over the years. At that time, she told me of an estate which had been designated to help the orphans and poor children in Ukraine. She suggested that SAI apply for some of the funds. Through a set of unusual circumstances the people appointed to administrater the funds were unable to do so, and it went back to the drawing board. Last September, we received a call from a man, Greg S., who was helping the judge determine the distribution of funds and he asked for information on the organization. Sherry Longbine, Patty Radzykewycz, and I sent him information about SAI, Smile House and other projects. There were many months of silence and then in January we heard that SAI had been selected with two other organizations to receive funds from the Estate of Merritt Orr in the state of Texas. We had no idea how large the estate was or how much SAI would receive. It’s been interesting waiting and wondering. We all knew that whatever the amount—whether small or large—it was just what God had planned. So we waited.

Back to yesterday, the check came to P.O. Box 240 yesterday—mailed probably on Monday—about the time I felt we should step out and go forward with the project. The amount: $107,710.43. SAI received 40% of the estate. Praise God! We are so thankful that this person whom we were never able to meet had a heart for the children of Ukraine. Through his kindness many, many children will be blessed. We are all rejoicing, seeing God’s leading, knowing that He is in control. This amount will help finish the windows and hopefully the dental portion of the building. Estimates for the final finish work on the whole building are around $450,000 but volunteer labor and donated materials, it could be a lot less. This is just the amount needed at this point in time and we thank God for it.

Richard and I wanted to share this with each of you so together we can all send our thanks to a loving, heavenly Father who has dreams much bigger than any of us can imagine. This huge project is often daunting but it is His project. Our motto is Psalm 115:1 and will continue to be. May each of you be truly blessed as well and be able to see the plans He has for you.

Not to us, Oh Lord, not to us but to Your name be the glory and honor because of Your love and faithfulness. Ps 115:1

Vicki and Richard

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.

In the above pictures pictures you see Smile House as we first saw it in October 2005 and again in November 2006 after the new addition and roof were added. We are excited to see it emerging with a personality of it’s own. There is so much potential for good in this facility. Below the front of the building is shown again in the before and after format.

Richard points to the graffiti we found on the wall. It depicts a smiling boy with words that say something like “You are welcome here.” Of course, we both instantly thought “It’s a sign”.

This is the building from the back.

Below is pictured the top floor with the old roof before the walls were raised and after the wonderful new roof was put on it. The construction is entirely different. Yura, our main builder, is making sure that his crew do quality work and they are using very good materials.

Our friends Tanya and Yura and their two boys visited Smile House with us soon after it was purchase in February of 2006. We all joined together as Yura prayed a blessing on it and the people who will come here. The next day Valeriy and Allah Suzdaltsev, our Ukrainian partners, bought us to the building and they sprinkled holy water on it and prayed a blessing over it.

I thought it would be fun to post some pictures of the Smile House Project as it looked when we first saw it compared to the present with the new addition and roof. It is amazing what God has accomplished in a year. We are waiting in anticipation to see where He leads from here. There are so many ways this building can be used to help others in addition to the planned dental clinic. Please that it will go according to God’s agenda and not any of ours. Also, pray for the people who will be helped here in the future.

We were at Smile House over the weekend and the roof is just about done. We are very excited and it really makes the building look LARGE. I guess it actually is. It has gone over the proposed budget by about $6000 because of some extra winterization that needed to be done. We need to hire someone to stay there throughout the winter to protect the building until more funding is obtained. The builders have agreed to take turns there—I wouldn’t want to stay there myself—for a nominal fee. The head builder, Yura, looks very sad—he was the one driving the car. As mentioned previously, the second builder died a couple of weeks ago. Please keep Yura and the others in your prayers. The work is top quality. I am posting some pictures this morning of the new roof and I will do some comparison photos tonight. Just wanted to get this posted for those of you who have been praying for and supporting this project. Blessings.

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

On October 14 several of the builders on the Smile House project were in a traffic accident when their car was hit by a bus. One man was killed and another seriously injured. It has been a bery difficult time for the head builder who was driving and for the whole team. They were all close friends and/or family.

Update November 22, 2006: During the second week in November the second young man died from massive head and internal injuries. Please pray for the remaining builders, their families, and the project. Thank you.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. Ephesians 3:20

Wow! So many things are happening here in Ukraine. Where do I begin? I am going to share the opening of the CBN/Operation Blessings building on the dental blog But because I shared in an earlier blog about looking for a house we could afford, I have to now share how our Amazing God has blessed us far above what we could ever hope for.

While we were in the US, I received the monthly email newsletter from the Christian Women’s group in Kyiv. Listed in it was a house that sounded wonderful but when we looked at the map we found it was about 35 miles from Kyiv–even though it is on the west side where Smile House and Mostysche Orphanage are located. It was northwest of both of these. Plus, we were in the states and figured it would be sold when we returned.

About a week after returning, we decided that if it was still available we should at least look at it since there are two orphanages near that village–one which YWAM works very closely with. Because it was still available, we hired a driver and went to see it. At first I didn’t want to like it–but I did. An American couple who are missionaries who were working with gypies had purchased it as a shell and finished the first floor in American style–open floor plan, water heated floors, cheerful colors. It’s about 1345 square downstairs and the second floor has heavy insulation and some sheetrock. It has a lot of room to store our boxes–which are still at Mostyshce and have been rifled through–another story. J.D. and Sherry have lost funding for their work and need to return to the states because of some family problems. We could feel that it was a blessed house and that God is very familiar with the address. But the distance from Kyiv and Smile House prevented us from making a decision–even though an electic train runs within walking distance from the house. Best of all, the price was in our range. Unbelievably, the asking price was $85,000. When all was said and done, we purchased it, paid all fees, bought some of the furnishings and a car-23 year old LADA-, and now are once again home owners.

It is exciting in some ways and very, very frightening in another. I am thankful to our wonderful God for providing us with another house. Last year when we sold our home and “things”, I thought we would never have another house and I was willing to give that up for what I felt God was calling us to do. And now, He has so generously provided for us-including a vehicle. But on the other end of the spectrum, we are both having “panic” attacks, worrying about being so far out, fearing having to drive on the Ukrainian roads, wondering if we will be able to communicate with anybody–both in America and with our neighbors. There is no phone or internet access at the moment–although we still have cell phones–and our lifeline is the internet. I have been able to handle this whole thing because I knew I could use my Vonage phone if I get lonely or need something in America. I have the internet and first thing each morning look to see if there are any new emails–I am even beginning to like forwarded things (as long as they don’t say something bad is going to happen if I don’t send them on to hundreds of friends)because it is a form of communication from someone.

Later, I will share more thoughts on the whole move but for now, let me say, we are excited but it’s been an extremely difficult week-starting with a terrible case of flu for Richard and a milder flu for me. We are very sad about the tragic death of one of our builders and injuries to another builder in a traffic accident. (Again consult the Smile House blog for updates.) The house purchase and the news that our Russian daughter finally has legal status in the states were highlights of the week. Our denied visa applications with the accompanying stress is one of the lows. A few minutes ago while jogging, I tripped and although nothing seems to be too damaged, I am already getting sore. So, we just ask for your prayers as this new stage of our adventure unfolds. Slava Boga! Praise God for His continuied plans and grace.

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