I Have Something to Say

If you are looking for hope, read on.

Here are stories of faith, courage and vision. These are Ukrainians whose lives radically changed. How? One thing. These are the Faces of Ukraine—and voices.

In 2005, I made my first foray into the Breadbasket of Europe (Ukraine). (The Nazi’s liked the soil so much, they bulldozed the soil by the train loads and sent it back to Germany.) And before Hitler, Stalin had annihilated millions from this country that never was. Just recently, the BBC reported the discovery of a mass grave containing five to eight thousand bodies and there are estimated many more mass cover ups just like this one.

My invitation was to help in a rehabilitation center. I travelled with some other volunteers outside Odessa. It was in the country. It reminded me of an old farm community in Alabama where I lived during WWII when I was three years old: dirt roads, horse drawn carts, large potholes in roads. The Ukrainian destination was a house in village-type environment with other houses, all with their homegrown whatever’s. The house was called, “The Ark.” The name fit. It was a rescue ship for addicts of all varieties. I didn’t know what to expect.

But it was like Ruth gleaning in a barley field. Surprise! I fell in love with Ukrainians—the four helpers at the rehab (who had been addicts themselves), namely, Tanya (eight months very pregnant), her ex-husband, Sergei), Angela and Vova, as well as my translator, Snezhana (“Sneezy”). You can read their stories later. I got to know these compassionate helpers deeply and quickly. I was told Ukrainians (especially, men) do not share their feelings. Wrong! (By the way, when I became a professional counselor, I was told that Western men don’t share their feelings. Wrong!) I have found over the years that Ukrainians are often more willing to share more deeply than Westerners. I suppose it’s been a long time since Ukrainians could trust anybody about what they thought, much less, felt. Seventy years under communism made them keep their thoughts and feelings close to the vest; after all, “Big Brother” was watching with AK47’s, Siberia, mass burial plots--not to mention the fear into which children were indoctrinated since kindergarten.

My counseling with the residents and the staff convinced me that I can do more. Not only could I do more, but the workers wanted more—more practical information and applied counseling training in knowing how to help others better. They already had the vision, love and compassion. They wanted someone who cared.

So, I started a journey. Flying from Birmingham, Alabama two times a year, conducting seminars, meeting with counselors (called “psychologists” in Ukraine), psychiatrists, professors, pastors, layfolk, students and other professionals. I visited different counseling sites, taught counseling classes in Kiev, Odessa and other cities, and did a lot, I mean A LOT, of one-on-one and couple counseling. If a Ukrainian knows you’re confidential and trustworthy, they’ll talk openly. They did. And I continue to add to my nineteen mission trips to Ukraine. In 2007, we started a counseling center in Odessa, which now has expanded to Belgorod-Dnestrovsky. I usually would take a team with me to teach, work in orphanages, teach Bible Studies, help with elderly, conduct VBS, and other opportunities to serve. In one case, a salon operator from Alabama conducted a pedicure shop in a church. There, a line formed…by men, to get a pedicure. Then they brought her ice cream! We visited a refugee camp where we took basic supplies for families fleeing the war zone in Eastern Ukraine. We visited a military hospital where one soldier showed me his video of his tank battle in eastern Ukraine: He said after a Ukrainian tank was blown up, the only thing left of his friend was part of his collar bone.

Our goal is to serve our Lord through bringing hope and healing of emotional, relational, mental and physical wounds to all who are hurting. Our spiritual goal: Watch men and women and young people restored in the image of God through faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

I have a lot to share. There are so many stories of healing. I would rather you from some of the people yourself.

This segment begins a series of testimonies from Ukrainians who have something to say. What each has to say to challenging and comforting and life-changing.

Each person will tell you: “I have something to say.”

Since writing this, the war of Russian aggression is in it’s 7th Day. I am including an update from the Director of the Springs Counseling Center, Odessa and Belgorod-Dnestrovsky. Her husband is Sergey, a physician and pastor of the Presbyterian church in B-D. Lyuda and the counselors of The Springs (Rodnik) are offering trauma counseling for victims (adults and children). Do not hesitate to contact them in Ukraine. Their website is still open at: