Thursday, 9 October 2014

the cold is coming...

The lake near our base in Ternopil

We have been told this weekend will be the last warm one until next year, with winter moving in quickly. This worries me as we have already been wearing our winter gear and feeling the cold wind. The picture above is of a lake near the base, it's beautiful and very vast. My friend Tamara said it freezes solid each year and becomes a huge ice skating rink. 
Brits love talking about weather, it has been said (!) but I wanted to blog about this for another reason; a humanitarian crisis has been predicted when the cold weather moves in. 

During average years, vulnerable groups (homeless, elderly, poor, sick) are treated for frostbite and there can be deaths. This year, there is a country-wide gas shortage due to the crisis in the East. Over half of Ukraine's gas used to come from Russia, but prices were hiked up by 81% in April and political tension has now stopped the supply altogether.
Homes in many regions are without hot water supplies already. School children country-wide are going into school on Saturdays to make up time, as the schools will be closing for the coldest winter months to save gas on heating.


We are aware that the conflict in the East of Ukraine has dropped from news headlines recently, though
fighting continues and civilian vulnerability is increasing. Our base leaders went to the East last week to scope out how we can help. A second team is there now and we are praying for their safe return. The train they boarded (heading to Donetsk which is controlled by rebels) was packed full, with more families waiting on the platform. They asked people why they were going back (with their children) to the centre of the fighting. Many said the separatist/rebel forces are checking for empty apartments to give them away and they didn't want to lose their homes. Others said they had been told the rebels were promising a pension for elderly civilians that remain there, some simply could not find places to settle in safer areas. Our team members arrived near Donetsk to find civilians without any gas, electricity, and pitiful basic supplies, both sides of the front line. Many are staying in temporary accommodation run by volunteers and local churches, who are struggling to cope with increasing demand. One local church leader had lost everything himself yet had been shepherding people to safety without a break, owning only the clothes on his back. It shocked us all to imagine a flood of people returning to Donetsk in these conditions with winter coming, as the shelling and shooting continues.

So, what can we do? I am writing from a cosy room in our YWAM base, next to an electric heater. This building alone, is an amazing resource. We are ready to open the base up to people from the East who need a rest, especially the kind of heroes that have worked tirelessly so far. Our team in Ternopil is working out a way that people can rotate with church leaders in the East so that they can come to Ternopil to re-charge. We are aware of the need to send aid to the East, to both sides of the front line if there is any way to get it to civilians in rebel-controlled areas. When local schools are closed for the winter (possibly as long as 2-3 months) we have some serious youth work and outreach opportunities to get planning for. 

If you have resources or ideas that could help this winter in Ukraine, please let us know. Upon returning from the East last week, our base leader said; "If you have arms and legs then yes, I would say you can help"

When there is so much need, it would be easy to get stuck in a state of despair, or worse, apathy. We are praying regularly as a team and individually, to stay close to God, the provider of every ounce of strength, courage and compassion in us.

Please join us in prayer for this region as winter arrives. 

As for us, we have started our language learning (Ukrainian for me whilst Josh continues Russian). Josh and Joni are out celebrating a team members' birthday whilst I am battling pregnancy sickness and tonsillitis! 
We have been so uplifted this week (especially when Joni was poorly, too) by encouragement from friends. We are so thankful. We are only here and able to work because of our supporters, we are so thankful for having such an amazing team of friends and supporters.
Josh helped with 'English club' yesterday which went well and he saw quite a variety of people from around the town come to the base to practice their English. 
On Saturday there will be a boys day out for 10-14 year old from the local area, about 18 have signed up already. This is part of YWAM's Kings Kids ministries and will involve the boys doing a quest in which they have to write a worship song, feed beggars and tell them about Jesus, finishing with some horse riding and a BBQ lunch. I love the way this ministry empowers young people to be missionaries themselves, with living faith that they feel excited about. I really hope I am well enough by tomorrow to get baking cookies and snacks, after lots of planning we can't wait for Saturday to come around.

Lots of love from Nina, Josh and Joni in Ternopil


  1. Keep warm. Look after yourselves.
    God Bless.
    Jude (Shere)

  2. So good to hear from you. It sounds really tough and challenging, and having seen your stamina here last year (!) I have no doubt that with God's help you will be able to carry on. Lots of love to Joni - and so excited about the bump :) Keep warm and keep safe. Love and prayers from KTM xx

  3. Praying for you and those you have written about... we miss you and love you and are so blessed to call you friends! Stay warm, somehow...can't wait to meet baby and to see Joni with her long-desired "sister". :)

  4. You have been a refuge for the poor,
    a refuge for the needy in their distress,
    a shelter from the storm
    and a shade from the heat. -Isaiah 25:4

    Loved reading about this update! Much love from Kathmandu! - Jeremiah