Our largest ministry resource center in Ukraine is the Hearts of Love Center for disabled children. The 100-year-old building sits on a dirt road on the outskirts of central Konotop near the Russian border. This unique center is a community outreach and provides 50 children with resources, education, therapy, and the love of their Creator. Read One of the children’s touching story. Meet Dima:
11-year-old Dimitro sits at the computer and clutches the mouse. “Dima,” as he is called, does not speak. But today is a big day for him. He clicked on the mouse and learned that something happened on the screen. His progress is slow yet positive. He understands the connection between the mouse and the screen. “Our hope is that one day we can teach him to communicate using a computer or touchscreen device,” said Lena Yuschenko, director of Hearts of Love.
Lena Dreams of Expanding, and Dima Needs Help Dreaming
Dreams come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes our dreams cannot be fulfilled without the help of others. Lena eagerly dreams about expanding the Hearts of Love Center.
Dima’s teachers had a special dream for him. He has attended the Center since he was three years of age, and they thought it was time for him to learn to ride a bike.
“His parents obviously love him very much,” said Irina, the Ukraine MP director. “But they are not educated in dealing with a special needs child. The resources are mostly not available in our country. In Soviet times, we were told we could not raise a child like Dima at home. People were told to give their child to an orphanage.”
On a hot and humid summer day this past August, Dima’s teachers helped him climb up on two wheels. Something clicked in his brain. If he pushed on the pedals, the wheels actually moved. The more he pushed, the easier it became to balance himself. His father heard about the big event and came over to see his son.
He watched Dima actually ride the bike. “I didn’t know he could do it,” he said. Wiping his eyes through tears of joy and surprise, he said to no one in particular, “What an amazing day.”
Expanding Hearts of Love in 2017
The vision for the Hearts of Love Center belongs to its founder, Lena Yuschenko. She needed help 11 years ago with her dream and the Lord brought Mercy Projects alongside. It started with prayer, dreams, and a broken-down building. “Through Mercy Projects, God helped us to restore this building so we could serve children,” she said.
Today, however, it is time to renovate, renew, and add more space for the burgeoning ministry.
“Lena,” I asked, “what do we need to do?” I knew the answer already but wanted to hear her response. “Jeff,” she answered, “Mercy Projects has already done so much. I am afraid even to think about it.”
“I know we need a new floor, to move some walls, add a sensory room, and to add a bathroom. It all seems like too much money to me. I would love to have a meeting room big enough for our children and their families to sit together. As a staff, we pray about turning the backyard into a playground area with a small track for children like Dima to ride a bike. I met with the mayor and just the permits cost $2,000. We don’t have this extra money.”
I thought of 11-year-old Dima with autism and the progress he has made. “Dima is much calmer now,” said Vika, his counselor. “He understands spoken language and is friendly. He used to scream about any changes in his environment; he wouldn’t let his mom go anywhere without him.”
“He is not afraid to be around people anymore,” said his mother, Inna. “He is learning social skills. This is very helpful for our family. What a support the Center has been! Vika taught him how to tie his shoes and put on his socks. This was a big victory, like a miracle.”
The ministry at Hearts of Love is an amazing adventure of faith. Their expansion means more miracles of hope for families of children with special needs. Dima’s progress inspires us. Stay tuned for future inspiration.
Please consider giving to Konotop this new year and help continue and expand this wonderful ministry to kids with special needs and their families.