Open Arms Ukraine – January 2009

Graduation Dresses

For a kid in high school, prom is usually a highlight. For the children at the Pravda orphanage their graduation is their time to shine. The girls wear prom dresses, the boys in shirts and ties, and for that day, they are the stars. This year, economic crisis in Ukraine has escalated the prices of dresses even more than usual as orphanage support from the government has decreased. We have decided to see how we can help make this day special for the children at Pravda and are looking for your support. If you have a used prom dress, jewelry or dress shoes that you would like to donate, please contact us through e-mail ( or by phone [(510)435-3625)]. Monetary donations are also greatly appreciated as they can help us buy dresses here in Ukraine for these beautiful young ladies. Together we can share God’s love in this way and help make this graduation a day they never forget.

Aids Talks/Abortion

Ukraine ranks #1 in all of Europe, which includes 43 countries, for the prevalence of AIDs among adults. According to the UNAIDS report in late 2008, Ukraine and Russia are stated as the region with “the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world with prevalence doubling since 2001″ ( as quoted from UNAIDS statistics). With this reality, we have seen an increasing need for awareness among the children we work with as many turn to sex at a very young age. On January 16th, we held a two part lecture series for the oldest classes at the Pravda orphanage and we are set to do the same for the next classes in the coming weeks.

We have also received permission from the Sambir Juvenile Colony to hold the same lecture series for the young men there who are preparing for life outside those walls. Every day decisions are made, but we hope that with education some of those decisions may be altered for the better.

Alongside the AIDs lecture at Pravda, we will be holding an abortion program January 24th with a young pregnant woman from a local Sumy church as the speaker. She will work with the oldest classes and share with them about the realities of pregnancy and what takes place with an abortion. Our goal is to inform these children of the truth behind the terminology used while shedding light on God’s truth in these subject areas.


Ever year we are faced with a new class of graduates from the Pravda orphanage and therefore our relationships there are of the utmost importance. If trust is not built with the children before they are placed in the trade school system, it is hard, if ever, to build trust to bring them to help. With this reality we have been building a team of Ukrainian volunteers from the local church who will be traveling with us monthly to the Pravda orphanage. They will focus their time on creating programs and building relationships with the 2 oldest classes that will hopefully lead to continued relationships beyond the children’s time there. Our goal and vision is to see long-lasting relationships developed that will lead not only to tangible help and support when the children are released from the orphanage, but also to a personal understanding of salvation in their lives. * PO Box 277, San Lorenzo, CA 94580-0277 * (510) 435 – 3625


Hi friends!

It’s officially a new year and I thought I should take the time to write you guys and let you know how things are going. We got back to Ukraine in the beginning/middle of December and have been busy getting settled back into life since then. Getting settled and getting used to the cold weather! It was over 90 degrees for about a week when I was home and I don’t think it ever got lower than 73 degrees… so I struggled a little with the cold here. There has been snow on the ground and pretty much constantly in the air since about the 23rd of December I think. It was 10 degrees with a windchill of -4 outside this morning, when I looked up the weather online and watched the snow falling down [or falling sideways rather, thanks to the wind] from the not-so-warm-comfort of our 63 degree apartment kitchen. The heating in our apartment isn’t all that wonderful. It’s gotten probably 15 degrees warmer inside since Melissa and I self-insulated our windows with cotton and tape one day, but it’s still decently chilly. We enjoy watching our thermometer at night as the bedrooms get down to the high 50 sometimes.  : )

Cold weather aside, things have been good here. Something we really felt God calling us to when we were home is sharing our knowledge and experience in orphan ministry with the local Christians. We’ve had meetings with a couple different churches about getting more people involved, not just in our ministry, but even in their own orphanage ministries. We are actually going to be sharing with a church on Sunday night about what we’re doing and how they can be involved. We have been able to gain a lot of wisdom and experience through all our time spent at the orphanage as well as with the kids that have graduated, and we really are hoping to be able to use that knowledge to help start more substantial and lasting ministry with Ukrainian Christians and their orphanages. Please keep us in your prayers and we dive deeper into this venture and try to share what we know of Ukrainian orphange sub-culture with native Ukrainians. Pray that we are received well and that God would be working in the hearts of His people to move to action.

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November 2008 

A Face of Open Arms

18-year-old Losha Yeremenko is a kid who simply loves to laugh, but behind the smile there are countless scars cutting deep after years of pain and abuse. Second born in a family of 6 sons, Losha quickly learned how ugly life can be. Electrocution in puddles of water was just one of the methods of abuse his alcoholic father would inflict on him and his brothers. At merely 7 years old, after his father’s death and his absent mother loss all parental rights, Losha and his brothers were left to the orphanage system. In his years at the orphanage, Losha watched two of his younger brothers get adopted, while he received twisted forms of punishment, such as being taken on more than one occasion to be drugged and “treated” at a mental hospital. The loses and pains of this time are hardly mentionable for Losha.

After finishing the orphanage, Losha was sent to trade school in the village where his mother still lives. His alcoholic step-father there has made countless attempts to end Losha’s life, even succeeding in getting a knife stuck in Losha’s leg only months ago. His schooling was one of the worst we have seen and his very situation put his life in danger. With this reality Losha made the decision to try for change by transferring to Sumy. We fought with him in the process, as multiple schools initially accept him only to kick him out simply because he is an orphan. Finally, God cleared the way for Losha to enter an upper division trade school in Sumy. This is far better schooling than anything he has received and it allows our team to work much more closely in Losha’s life. Now, Losha is praised by his teacher as one of her hardest workers, he gets up at 6:30am to make it to school on time each day, and no one is threatening his life.

It is continually surprising to watch as he opens his heart through years of relationship. The countless pains he has endured have made Losha one of the strongest kids we know. He is unashamedly loyal to those he holds dear and a protector at the core. In the midst of his strong, silent spirit resides a tenderness that is a rare gift to those he shares it with. We are completely honored to have him as a gift from God in our ministry and we look forward to the ways God will move in his beautiful heart.

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Anika is back in Bellflower! And she’ll be here until December 9th…  : )   

Somehow I managed to forget to post her latest letter. I’m sorry about that. Here it is (a couple week late):

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This video about Georgia’s head football coach, Mark Richt, and the two Ukrainian orphans he and his wife adopted, is well worth watching. The picture it paints of God’s grace and genuine Christian love is beautiful! Click here to watch it.  

HT: Justin Taylor

Hi friends!
I just wanted to let you all know that we are back, alive and safe. We’ve been back about 2 and a half weeks already [weird]. Sorry I haven’t updated sooner. Things are going good! Life rolls on in Sumy, crazy as ever. Literally, an hour after we got back into Sumy and to our apartment, we had a call and 3 kids showed up at our apartment and we were back in it. And we haven’t stopped since. 🙂 Always adventures, always doing things I never expected. I still love it, even on the bad days.
This is gonna be a super short update, mostly just because I wanted to let you all know that I actually blogged! Shocking, I know. But yes… is up and running. I’ll try to post on it somewhat regularily. If you want to keep up with what’s going on and hear random stories and things, feel free to check it out. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll still send out updates through emails every now and then, but this way, you can just get the main details and you don’t have to read all the little things unless you want to because I’l try to keep those to what goes on the blog.
Also, on the blog note… I have no idea what is going with our website right now. Mostly drama, if you ask me. But we also have an Open Arms blog if you didn’t already know. We have been posting on it weekly-ish keeping you all up to date on life here for us as a whole. if you want to have a look. Hopefully, someday in our lives, we’ll have a real website that can be up and running that we can really send people too… but the blog will be a little more informal way to let people know what’s going on with us. So yes, davi. [And on the website, if you or someone you know is interested, and I mean really interested in committing to actually getting our website up and running and looking somewhat decent, please let me know. We’ve gone through about 5 different people who’ve said they’d design it for us and have yet to get anything really up there. Oy.]
Ok friends… that’s it for now. Thanks for the prayers and love! Feel free to be talking us up to as many people as you possibly can! We could really use some more financial support. And if you want to help, ask me and I will let you know how! Thanks again! Love you guys!
For more posts on this ministry, click here.


July 2008

A Day in the Life…
Since our official move to Sumy we, as Open Arms, have been continually blown away by the work God is allowing us to be a part of. It is an incredible honor to work with all of you as His hands and feet in the lives of so many in Ukraine. We have been focusing our efforts on finding long-term and tangible support that will help the orphans who struggle in their post-orphanage transition in life such as education and job training. As we work to walk alongside the many children no longer at the Pravda orphanage, we have also established weekly visits to the orphanage to continue our ministry there. Not only are we able to visit the 200 children of Pravda weekly, but this gives us an opportunity to connect with the “Shevchenko” family of Ivanivka, comprised of children no longer at the orphanage, as we work to help them succeed in their goals. Visits have also begun with the various children from Pravda who are now in prisons throughout Ukraine. No support exists for these orphans and the mistakes of their pasts in no way define the future God has in store for them. All this has been taking place as we solidified a simple apartment on the outskirts of the city that acts as our central location of ministry for the time being – with daily meals being provided for these desperate children and a location of refuge available for them.

The days are busy, the stories are heavy, and we know that trials await us as we work to help these forgotten children. We continue to trust God’s will in it all and look forward to more triumphs and trials to share with you all!

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Hello Friends!

So I figured since I actually have real internet now, I thought I might take the time to write a good update and let you all know how things have been going since we got here. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to do a good job of concisely putting into words all of the thoughts, emotions, stories, misadventures and workings of God that are all running through my head right now but I will do my best.

Life. Oh life. Living in Ukraine has been beyond anything I would have ever thought or even wanted to imagine it would be. Every day is a challenge that stretches me further than I know how to go and with each new day I am more confident in the fact that this is where I am supposed to be right now. And also more confident in the fact that I might be completely out of my mind. At almost any moment of the day, if I stop and look at what we’re doing or where I am or who I’m with I just laugh and think, “What is my life?!” This country, the food, the culture, the people, the kids… it’s all pretty insane.

Yesterday marks 8 weeks since we left America. It’s funny because on one hand it feels like we just got here, and on the other hand it feels like we’ve been here for forever. The things we have already seen and experienced and dealt with and cried over and learned… it’s more than I could have thought possible in 8 weeks time. Some of it has been truly amazing. Some of it has been extremely hard. Every day’s emotions seem to often include every possible emotion. I wish I was good with words but I don’t feel like I can really communicate any of it. God is working here. Some days it is much harder to see than others. There are moments where I am so excited to be where I am, and then there are moments where I wonder what in the world possessed me to move to this country. I am learning to cling to the good moments and hold on to them when things aren’t going as smoothly as I might wish them to. These kids… There are so many scars on each of their hearts and sometimes, or more often then not, the hurt from those scars comes out in less than pleasant ways. We keep telling each other that this is going to be a long road with these kids and I keep reminding myself that nothing is going to change overnight, but wow… some days it just seems like the road gets longer every day instead of shorter. The abuse, neglect, hatred, anger and nightmares these kids have lived through is more than I could ever imagine. Every time I hear just another part of one of their stories I feel like I see just a little deeper into the pain of their hearts. And I feel an even greater need to love them. 99% of the time I feel so utterly clueless as to how to help them. I daily wonder if my pitifully frail example of God’s love will ever be able to help change them at all. Praise God that it is His love that is what will really change them and not me. Praise Him that I don’t really have anything to do with it and He can work through even the most helpless 21 year old college drop outs who are completely ill-equipped to do the job.

There are a thousand stories I would love to share, but I don’t know where I would even really start. So here’s the deal. I don’t feel like all of you will want to read my rambling attempts to communicate on a super regular basis… thus I have started a blog. As of right now, there is nothing there but a picture of my face but I fully intend to start putting some stuff there ÓËÏÒÏ – soon. Maybe even tonight… But right now it is 1:32am and I haven’t had a good nights sleep in a while, so I just might go to bed. So this is not the most amazing update you have ever gotten, but if you have made it this far congratulations, you’re almost done! Thank you so much for all of you who have been emailing me and praying and supporting! I am so thankful for all of you! And if you haven’t been doing that, maybe you should get on it. 😛

Prayer requests: We’ve had some issues with kids drinking while they are here at our apartment. We’ve set up rules and consequences but they aren’t really having much impact right now. We are trying to think about and pray about what other things we can do besides what we’ve already been doing. So please pray for wisdom and direction in that and that we would come up with a new/revised plan soon. Also pray for Roman Yeremenko – I don’t fully understand what is going on because of a lack of discussion with a translator, but I guess he’s in the early stages of TB. The doctor told him not to drink and not to smoke and he should be ok… He’s on medication but that’s about all I know. Pray that God would heal him and that he would do and have the strength to do whatever he needs to keep himself healthy [he, like most every other Ukrainian, smokes a lot and doesn’t really have any intention of quitting]. Pray for more financial support as we are being given more and more kids to minister to and thus, more and more money needed in our budget.

Ok this is officially really long and I am going to stop, for all our sakes. I love you guys. Thanks for all your support!



For all our posts on this ministry to Ukrainian orphans, click here.


Hi friends!
So it feels like we’ve been here for forever already and a thousand things have happened. God is definitely moving and it is clear that we are meant to be here with these kids. 
We’re in an apartment in Sumy! Looking out our window, you can clearly see where we are – big communist flats all around. haha It’s very Ukraine. Its 3 bedrooms and a livingroom-ish place and we have it for 6 months technically. We love the apartment – it’s a little… um, shall we say old, but it’s good. There’s a soccer field and basketball court right behind our building which is wonderful for the kids! We like the owners and they like us so that is definitely a plus. The only problem is we’ve kinda got a crazy neighbor next door to us. Crazy as in… dirty cop who is an alcoholic who came to our door drunk around midnight a week or so ago and was causing some problems for us. We’ve talked to our landlord about it and they said they were gonna take care of it. But we’re praying for wisdom as to whether or not we should stay at this apartment. We will likely have drunk neighbors anywhere we go in this county… we’re just trying to weigh things out and figure out what is the smartest thing for us to do and what is safe. Please keep us in your prayers for this and we’re going to be talking and praying about our decision this week.
And while you’re praying for that, pray for this… There’s a kid we’ve been working with named Ivan Erimenko. He’s18 years old and he’s got 2 younger brothers we work with too. Ivan came to see us for the first time sinc we’ve been here about… 2 weeks ago. His right arm was obviously broken. To the point where the bone in his wrist was all but poking out of his skin. He broke it on the 1st of April and we took him to the doctor once he got to us and that was the 9th I think. The hospital we went to was… well, looked like we were in 1940. Seriouly. And the doctor sucked. They had to re-break his arm to set it – twice because they didn’t set it right the first time. They didn’t finish the cast they put on him and it is all but disinigrated at this point [sorry I have no idea how to spell that]. It was awful. We took him to a different hospital on Friday and they x-rayed him again. His arm has been healing incorrectly now for 3 weeks. Not only are his bones really off but there are now calcium deposits growing on his bones. The doctor in Sumy said he would re-break it a 3rd time and hope it works this time… but on top of his arm, Ivan has a heart condition. All the doctors have ever told him is that he has a weak heart. So to re-break his arm, they won’t be able to give him pain medication. So all of this news and the unsure-ness of the doctors has inspired us to take a trip to Kyiv. We’re leaving tomorrow, Tuesday, morning at 9:40 and we’ll be there till Friday most likely. Our goal is to get his heart checked out by a good cardiologist and get a diagnosis on that other than “weak.” Once that is figured out, we’ll get his arm looked at by a good doctor and he will likely need to have surgery.
So that was a long paragraph… here are the main prayer requests. Ivan is really nervous – pray for him to trust the doctors and us. Pray for us to be able to work out everything with the translator we are meeting up with there and that she will be able to understand the situation and help us find the best places to go to help him. Pray for wisdom for the doctors with both his heart and his arm. Also, this trip is going to cost us money… $100 a night to stay in this church/hotel – boo. And paying a translator there. And about $100 for our bus tickets. And hospital bills – which will be expensive if we take him to a good doctor at a private practice in Kyiv. If you want to contribute to this whole thing and helping get Ivan taken care of, please let me know! You can send checks with Ivan hospital in the memo line. And please, please just pray a lot! Your prayers and so essential to helping us in this ministry!
Um… I feel like my English is struggling right now… too much Russian/Ukrainian lately. And I’m tired. And it’s really hot in this room. And I haven’t actually typed much in 2 weeks. So sorry guys! [: I’d love to hear from you about what’s going on in the good ol US of A and in all your lives… feel free to shoot me an email!  Thank you for all your love and support!

PS. Also pray a lot about our kids coming to the Easter service with us next Sunday! I forgot to mention that… Easter is the 27th of April here this year – it’s Ukraine… they do everything weird and they follow the Orthodox calander. But a lot of kids have said they’re gonna come to church with us. Pray that God would speak His truth so clearly in the church we’ll be going to and that we would be able to communicate the message of the cross and ressurection of Christ to the kids! Thanks guys!
For other posts on this ministry, click here.
For their myspace page, click here.  

The Open Arms girls need a new place to stay ASAP… Please be praying for a place that will meet their ministry needs, be safe, and be available right away.


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