Displaced Children in Ukraine

Matt FergusonGeneral

Recently, I was in Ukraine working with our partners at Nehemiah House. We had provided money to pay for orphans from the war zone to go to their summer camp. They refer to the children from the war zone as IDP (Internally Displaced) because they are Ukrainian citizens who were forced to move from their hometowns when the war of Russian aggression began. In effect, they are displaced refugees in their own homeland. It’s a difficult situation. Many of them were already being raised in orphanages and foster homes, but were then forced to leave from there because of the many civilians being killed—it was not safe for them to stay.

Some of these children we have supported were present for Summer Camp that week at Nehemiah House. At the conclusion of a typical camp day, I would do a short evening program with them. We played games, practiced English, and shared stories together. It was a breath of fresh air for these children.

That Thursday evening, Pasha, one of the leaders who was translating for me, couldn’t stay for the evening program so many of the kids went swimming at the Nehemiah pool. A few, however, stayed back to watch “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” with me on my laptop (I have the Chronicles of Narnia movies with Russian subtitles for use at our Belarus Camps).

Then it started to happen.

Late Thursday night and during the day on Friday the kids began leaving unannounced. I guess it was a breakdown in communication, because even Pasha and the director of the camp weren’t aware of their departure. Their guardians had simply come and picked them up—many of us never had a chance to say goodbye to them. By the time we were planning to take a group photo on Friday afternoon only a handful of them were left.

I then realized a sad truth, that this is their normal life. They had to move from their hometowns because of the war and may not have been able to say goodbye. Being orphans, there’s no telling how many times they’ve had to move away to new environments unexpectedly.

I was hearbroken. There were no goodbyes, no hugs, no high-fives, no telling them that God loves them and has a plan for their lives—and for me, no closure. If you know me well, you know that I always want closure with things. Unlike the children in Guatemala who I always plan to see again, I don’t know when or if I’ll see these little ones again. I have to trust that they are in good hands with their guardians and that, ultimately, they are in God’s hands. If, like the song says, “He’s got the whole world is in His hands”, then I can be assured that they are as well.

Join me in praying for the work Nehemiah does with orphans and IDP children. If you would be interested in learning more about who they are and what they do you, please contact us. In addition, we would especially love for anyone to join us on a future trip to Ukraine to work with our partners at Nehemiah. God is doing great things through them, and I am happy to continue our partnership with them in the future for His glory.