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Fighting Disability in Ukraine


Just before Christmas 2020, EMF launched an appeal for funds to help in a ministry to the disabled, based in the church pastored by Volodia Kostyshyn in Ternopil, western Ukraine. You may know that, thanks to the generosity of many of our supporters, we were able to purchase not only a much-needed minibus, but also attractive equipment for a sensory room in the church building. If you’d like to know how this project has progressed, read on…

Ukraine has been in the news a lot of late, understandably. (Editor’s note: At the time of writing, the situation in Ukraine is critical). But what of ordinary people and their lives?  Volodia and Oksana Kostyshyn are concerned, but calm. He is pastor of a church in Ternopil, western Ukraine. They find the situation strange, because unknown. They would like to prepare, but it is impossible to predict what will happen and therefore to prepare accordingly. They are wondering if they will suddenly be inundated with refugees, for example.

EMF ran the Happy Wheels Project at Christmas 2020 to replace a very ageing minibus.  Volodia and Oksana use this bus to support families who have members with special needs. The funds received were more than sufficient, so the surplus was dedicated to supplying equipment for a Sensory Room. Volodia and Oksana’s elder child, Zechariah, 17 next May, has profound disabilities, and in caring for him they have developed all manner of contacts with other families caring for special needs, as well as with medical staff. This has had a major impact on their ministry.

Questions you may have asked yourself about the project:

  • Is the new minibus still going well?

Yes, very well. Volodia occasionally drives it, but his brother, who is a church deacon, takes responsibility for it and mostly does the driving and maintenance. As well as transporting children and adults with special needs and their families during the week, it is also used for church transport on Sundays.

  • When did the Sensory Room equipment finally arrive?  (It was held in customs for a long time).

The materials reached them about a month before Christmas 2021, and the Sensory Room was ready to go at Christmas! Unfortunately, Covid has had quite an impact, so that at the time of writing, about half the twenty-five members of their church are unwell. This has obviously curtailed activities for the time being.  Zechariah and three children with neurological problems in a church family love it, though. Here is a short video of Zechariah enjoying the sensory room! It has a calming influence on some children and stimulates others, who have all responded well to it.  Strange to say, sensory rooms are available, even in Ternopil, but often the children are not expected or allowed to touch things! The new church facility may be the best equipped in the area. Just look at these photos!

Volodia and Oksana would love someone to take responsibility for this room, as a job; they would like this person to be a mature believer, able to support the children and to talk wisely with their families.


Family life

Oksana, Zechariah, Oleksy, Volodia at Christmas 2021

Oleksy, their younger boy, is now over two years old, and is learning his colours in English as well as Ukrainian! He demonstrated his athletic abilities over the furniture at the beginning of our Zoom conversation! Zechariah was awake in bed, having awoken at five that morning! He smiled and attempted a wave. Oksana’s garden (see an earlier article: is undergoing a rest period, as there is still snow around, even with a milder winter than normal.  She showed us some tomato seedlings she is growing indoors. Her English is obviously at a fairly high level, as although she didn’t say much, she is translating hymns, currently one of the Getty’s, into Ukrainian. It seems there are a number of books already well-translated into Ukrainian, but only one of these has been published.

We were able to pass on greetings from Chorlton Evangelical Church, a congregation which our mission director had visited the previous Sunday. It is one of a number of churches (these include Waterford House Evangelical Church, Strood, Needham Market Evangelical Church, and Hambleton Evangelical Church which, along with individual supporters, are partnering with Volodia and Oksana, enabling them to carry out their ministry in their needy town. The Kostyshyns have close personal links with their partners in the UK, and Volodia commented that he feels that the Chorlton Church, which he has previously visited and which is warmly remembered by him, is rather like their own). * 

We assured them that people are praying for them. Asked about matters for prayer, they point particularly to:

  • The need for a mature believer to take control of the Sensory Room.
  • The changing political situation and its implications for safety and planning.  
  • Of course, they are impacted by Covid, just as we are.

* This is a good example of what EMF calls ‘Church Partnership’. There are more details about this scheme here: Please contact either Phil Dunn, our Northern Ireland representative, or Martin Tatham, the Church Partnership Coordinator for mainland U.K., if your church would be interested in partnering with an EMF missionary in this meaningful way.

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