What two words can you use to describe a mission trip? Stress and blessings! Begomel, Orsha, Ryacno, Bogyshevsk, Rechetsa, Dyatlova, Druya… the distance between these locations is several hundred miles. Hundreds of children. Over 40 volunteers from America, Belarus, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan; all from different cultures, all different ages, but all united in one desire: to surround children and those less fortunate with love.
The most stressful work took place in the camps for the handicapped. The volunteers who found themselves in such camps found it necessary to check their emotions and tiredness at the door, along with any feelings of apprehension that come along with being in a new and unfamiliar place. In one “Home for the Disabled” we had 250 children and young people to minister to. This building has no handicap ramp. To take those unable to walk outdoors, we had to lay down wooden boards across the steps and push the wheelchairs down the makeshift ramps. Because of the incline of the steps, the boards are laid down at a very steep angle, and so it is extremely difficult to transport the invalids outside. There are not enough caregivers, and so at times months may pass before the children see the outdoors.
In one of our tent camps we made time for a special three day camp for other disabled children. This was very complicated to pull off… but a blessed time nonetheless. It’s hard to fully describe the joy and thankfulness expressed by these children and young people who have spent a large part of their lives in closed-off rooms and wretched courtyards. A river, forest, tents, evenings spent by a campfire… even those of us in good health are not opposed to spending time in such settings. For those children, it was almost all they had ever wished for.
We’re thankful to God for everyone who supports this ministry and its work with the children of Belarus. For many years young people (and some not so young) have traveled to Belarus and Russia to help abandoned children. This year was no exception—by God’s mercy we were able to host 11 camps in Belarus, and two in Russia. Almost 1,000 children attended these camps.
For the past several years we visited ‘Home for the Disabled,’ but only during our Christmas trips, when we would hand out gifts and put on a small skit and program for the children. These stops were relatively short, because once the program was over and the gifts passed out, it was time to move on to the next orphanage. This summer, however, God began to reveal to us a new branch for our ministry: work among disabled children and young people.
And today we’d like to turn to you for help. To work with the disabled is to work with those who have limited means. In order to expand their means, horizons, and independence, it is necessary to provide them with the right tools: love and care, two aspects of life that they are so short on. But they also need wheelchairs, walkers, and physical therapy equipment, and these require funds. Our primary desire is to show them that they are needed—by us, and by God, who gave His life for them.
Our other need in the year ahead is to obtain a new large tent. This past summer we had three waves of campers and one camp for the disabled (the campers and counselors live in small tents, and eat and gather together in one large tent). Our largest tent has begun to rip (it is 15 years old), and though we are constantly trying to sew up those holes, time has still taken a toll on it.
We would be grateful for any help, and we ask you to continue to pray—not only for Hand in Hand, but for the children and adults that we have worked with, and for those we have yet to met. May God bless you, and your participation in this ministry.