Surviving The Isolation of Winter

 

We have just received the following letter (together with photographs), from Pastor Misha who directs a church and humanitarian rescue in the Lviv area of the Ukraine. Because of your help, we have been able to support the work that he does for many
Diane and I never cease to be amazed at the degree of poverty and deprivation that is right on our doorstep in Eastern Europe. One does not have to travel to the poorest countries in Africa in order to see a squalid, grinding impoverishment that is never seen in our own country.
The prayerful thought that constantly crawls into my mind, and to which I do not have an answer, is: “Lord Jesus. Why was I born to reside in an environment providing me with warmth, peace of mind, social support, substantial food, medical attention and a secure roof over my head, when these people have nothing?” After all these years, my theological studies have not provided me with an answer. I can only bow my head and count my blessings.
To help you see the poverty that I have been referring to, it is best for you to read the letter that we received from Pastor Misha three weeks ago. It has been translated from Ukrainian into English.
Dear Philip and Diane, 
For two years I have been visiting four gypsy camps every day in the forest plantations around Lviv. The gypsies are some of the most obscure people in the world. Most of them are from the Zakarpatti region of the Ukraine. They strive to survive in very difficult living conditions without any water, gas, electricity, sewage and life’s simple, daily products. Most of them do not have work or study because they cannot find employment. Work can be very difficult to find in the Ukraine. It is a myth to say that gypsies do not like work and merely thieve and steal. I have been watching them for years. If they can get a job, they will work hard in order to provide food for their families. Their families can contain up to ten children. 
Every day the gypsies linger in the villages looking for scrap metal, weaving baskets from vines, tying brooms, digging horseradish in the fields and collecting what they can from council garbage heaps. The women resort to street corners in order to beg. You will see that during the winter, most of the gypsies live in the forest and nearby swamps because they do not have any secure form of housing. 
In most of the camps, not only the children but also the adults, are uneducated. However, most of them do want to learn to read. An added problem and one of the chief causes for them being marginalised in the country, is that they possess no official documents. Their accommodation cannot be called housing for they are ‘built’ from waste products that have been scavenged. Conditions inside these dwellings are pitiful. It is still strange to me how they manage to survive during our harsh Ukrainian winters. Their ghetto conditions are unsanitary huts without windows and covered in oilcloth instead of a roof. The floor is raw earth with maybe a carpet. 
The gypsies having no medication whatsoever, frequently become ill and die – both adults and children. Water is collected from puddles and the forest is used as a toilet. Surrounding them are big hills of city garbage. From these tips they scavenge anything that burns in order to heat their huts and tents with makeshift stoves. These huts and tents possessing no fire protection have often burnt to the ground destroying clothes, bed sheets and blankets. The family has ended up with nothing. 
Myself and our visiting team talk to these people every day, giving them our practical help and also telling them about our Lord who can change their lives and give them peace and hope. As a church, we are providing adults and children with clothes, and very often we cook hot food and take it into their camp. 
A huge problem for these people is a lack of drinking water. In the winter they simply melt snow. Every day I endeavour to bring them fresh water in plastic flasks. They also have a need for the basic utensils that we all use in our homes. 
Our desire in the near future is to open a school class in order to educate both children and adults. We also want to build some basic toilets, a shower and a playground for the children. We plan on teaching them hygiene, how to cook, wash and cut their own hair. 
So there are great plans for transforming lives in the gypsy camp. May the Lord help us. 
I thank you for all of the support of the kind British people. 
God bless each one of you. 
Pastor Misha. 
I often say that Diane and I shy away from the high-pressure money appeals of many Christian organisations. Nevertheless, we make a single heart-felt request for your response to this Ukrainian appeal.
We would like to forward a generous donation to Pastor MIsha’s work among these poverty stricken people.
In the warmth and comfort of our homes we ask you for your winter contribution. It is our ear-nest wish to assist and support this impoverished community before the commencement of Spring. In anticipation, we say “thank you.” 
In the Name of ONE who lived for a short time in the home of his mother and father.

 

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