The Big Picture

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.

The Nelson’s–A year in Ukraine

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

Smile House–Before and After

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.

Smile House’s New Roof

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.

November Dental/Medical Outreach to Zhitomer

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

Tragic Accident

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.

Watching God’s Promises Come True

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.

Using an Umbrella in the Bathroom

I wanted to share this story from our first weeks of living in Ukraine in April. Typically apartments here have two separate rooms for what Americans call the bathroom. The toilet is in one and the bathtub or shower and sink are in the next. I kind of like the arrangement.

A few days after moving to our apartment, we discovered water pouring out of the ceiling and straight into the toilet. The wallpaper on the ceiling was starting to hang down as well. For the next few days I carefully checked before using the facilities. Then one day, I was in a big hurry and sat down on very, very wet seat. Ugh! I didn’t know where the water was coming from and it was quite unsettling. In fact, there was water everywhere. We had our friend Yura get in touch with the landlord but it took him a week or so to come. The flow of water got worse each time this happened which was about every four days. So I started to use an umbrella each time I had to be in there.

When the landlord finally came, he visited the upstairs neighbor who said there was no problem in his apartment. Later that day, the man came down and explained to us that it wasn’t his problem. (This was all explained very loudly in Russian so I can’t tell you for sure that is what he said but it sounded like it.) So the next time it happened, Richard and I went upstairs together and knocked on his door. He again told us it couldn’t be his problem and threw open the door to his toilet room. We were greeted by about several inches of water on the floor. He was appeared to be very surprised.

Again we called the landlord and this time we went up and talked to our neighbor. He found out that this happened when the man took a shower. He had put in a new shower and hadn’t sealed it so it was leaking. Fortunately he only showered every four days. (We try never to share an elevator with him.) He promised not to shower until it was fixed and eventually it was. We now have new ceiling tiles (instead fo the traditional wallpaper) and no more leaks.

My mom got a real kick out of the story (she wanted a picture of me using the umbrella but I declined) and I have giggled many times thinking back on our introduction to apartment living. It was definitely a unique way get acquainted with the neighbor.

Update on Smile House

Richard and I just returned from three plus weeks in the United States. It was wonderful to visit with our family and friends. We made some new friends as well. And our new grandson was born. What a joy to be able to be there. He waited two extra weeks to arrive so that we would be able to share in the joy of his arrival. What a kid!!!!!!!!

On September 8, Mr. S sent pictures of Smile House that he had taken that day. As you can see, the new addition is attached to the front of the building. The top floor has been raised a meter and a half. And the new roof should be started by now. We will find out more today. Funds are running low but we know that God has a plan for this building and in His time it will be completed. We are hoping to get it enclosed by winter so visiting teams and local volunteers can help us during the winter months. Windows and doors will be a large expense. Sasha, the contractor, estimates that windows will cost up to $21,000 and doors (there are 75 or more) will be around $16,000. If we make smaller windows in the ends of the building it will cost less.

Thanks for your interest in the project. If you know of anyone who might like to help with funds, please contact us at or Smile Alliance P.O. Box 240 Cle Elum, WA 98922.

An Amazing God and Fantastic Friends

Richard and I are in Washington State–we have been here for a week and a half. During this time, we have been blessed by the birth of our fifth grandchild, a grandson Wylie Scott. We have enjoyed the company of both of our sons, their wonderful wives, and beautiful children as well as our daughter, her great husband and darling daughter. Friends and family have showered us with love and support. And today, the Smile Alliance International board of directors is hosting a fundraising event for the ministry and Smile House in Cle Elum.

I woke up this morning realizing how very blessed we are. This is God’s ministry–not ours. We are very priviledged to be partners with Him. And I am so thankful for the very, very busy people who have commited their time and talents to support SAI emotionally, financially, spiritually and in every other way. Without each of them and everyone of our supporters (prayer warriors, friends, family, financial contributors, advisors, those who give their time and talents to gathering, sorting and shipping, administrators, and so many more), we would not be in the place we are nor would we be able to see the fulfillment of our dreams and be on hand to watch God work. So I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to each of them and each of you for your love and support. May you be blessed abundantly.