Carrie Moss Update: Reflections, Rest, and Restart

Last month marked a year since my arrival in Lutsk, Ukraine as a full-time missionary, so I spent some time trying to reflect and analyze the year from a variety of aspects.  I looked back at previous blog posts, scanned through pictures, and read letters.  I spent some time in thought about the events of the year and the lessons I have learned.  Instead of documenting all of my conclusions in detail, I will simply say that through all of the ups and downs I am thankful for a faithful God who has provided for my needs and the needs of our ministry.  From wheelchairs for kids like Mark and Polina, to the finances needed to conduct camps and continue construction at the Agape House, to steadying my heart through His Word and the encouragement of others during periods of loneliness and difficulty, to granting me understanding and retention in my Ukrainian studies, to using members of His body to support the work and my presence here through generous financial contributions…the list goes on and on.  As I look ahead to the next year and whatever it may hold, I am grateful that I can look back on the past year and be reminded that nothing is outside the watchful eye and controlling hand of our faithful God. 

So what have we been up to here since camps? Well, our rehab center remains closed and everyone in our ministry has vacation in August, so I filled my time with a trip to the Carpathian Mountains, trips to Kiev, and some relaxation here in Lutsk.  Krista was able to stay after camps ended, so we seized the opportunity to go to the mountains together.  We enjoyed 4 days of hiking and relaxing, taking in the beautiful scenery and fellowshipping together. 

 
 
 
We had one day all together in Kiev!

For Ukraine’s Independence Day, we went to the center of the city to participate in the various events.  One annual tradition in Lutsk is a “Flower Holiday” in the park, where different organizations enter their flower creations in a competition.  They were unique, detailed, and beautiful!
 

 
Our rehab center reopened toward the end of August and is now back in full swing with lots of new patients.  Please join us in prayer for additional staff at our rehab center.  We have more and more patients, but less and less staff.  We also need wisdom for how to best organize the work load with our current staff and their various levels of education and training.  I continue to work primarily on the PT training center preparation and my Ukrainian language studies, while assisting at the rehab center on a part-time basis. We are praying for God’s provision of qualified physical therapists to join our team and that we can be ready to open the PT training center some time next year.
 
In the last bit of news for this post, I got to travel last week to Switzerland with my friend Tanja, who is a quadriplegic.  We participated in the our second and final working conference as part of a European Spinal Cord Injury Federation project we joined last year.  In addition to doing the work of our groups, we had opportunities to share with individuals from other countries about how people with spinal cord injury live in Ukraine and about our ministry and rehab center.  We were able to further develop some contacts and are hopeful that some of our new friends will partner with our ministry.  One man in particular suggested that he can gather used wheelchairs and bring them to us.  Obtaining an appropriate wheelchair in Ukraine can be very difficult and sometimes impossible, so we are always grateful to have wheelchairs at our disposal to distribute to those in need.  After the conference, Tanja and I were blessed to enjoy a couple of days of sightseeing in Zurich before heading back to Ukraine.  
 

 
That’s it for now! I hope and pray that all of you are doing well and also having opportunities to testify of the faithfulness of God in your lives!

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Carrie Moss Update: “Decision”

“Decision” was the theme at our camp for adults with disabilities this year.  Forty-seven people with disabilities and 20 of their family members joined our team of volunteers for 6 days of rest, fellowship, small and large group Bible studies, and various activities.  We used road signs and rules to name our teams and open the theme of each day’s Bible study.  To welcome people to camp, we had stoplights, honest and corrupt police, a car, traffic controllers and road markers.

Kolya – the good cop!

Our live stoplight
 
Taking pictures in this car was a hit for many people

Historically, the majority of people with disabilities who come to this camp are wheelchair users, and this year was no exception.  We assign a volunteer to every person who requires physical assistance and we are blessed to be able to serve their needs for this week.  Typically, volunteers are side by side with the people they are helping day and night.  But this year, people with disabilities had great freedom to independently move around the campground whenever and wherever they desired!  One HUGE blessing for our ministry in recent years has been the donation of over 40 electric wheelchairs from generous believers in other countries.  Unlike home environments, the campground is fully accessible and anyone unable to propel their own manual wheelchair had an electric one for the week.  For some, it was a freedom to move that they hadn’t experienced in years.  For others, like Kolya above, it was a prolonged opportunity to use the electric wheelchair that has been designated as his, but can’t be used at home due to architectural barriers.  For both volunteers and people with disabilities it was pure joy to have them zipping around the campground!
 

 
My group for the week was given the road sign “SOS.”
 

And I was privileged to help the Novatsky family, who are our friends and fellow participants in the ministry.  Alik organizes all of the transportation to and from the camp and Larisa organizes the craft groups. Since Alik had to work most of the week and Larisa’s health prevents her from giving Ira any physical assistance, I got to serve them all by being with Ira.  We had great fun learning to drive her electric wheelchair, singing at the bonfire, and laughing often. 

God blessed us with wonderful weather so we could be outside all day and enjoy all of the camp activities.  Afternoons at this camp are some of my favorite times of the whole year in our ministry.  The schedule lightens and gives us the freedom to sit and fellowship for extended periods of time.  You could look all over the campground and see small groups of new and old friends just enjoying time together.  Sometimes groups were continuing the discussions they began in their morning Bible study groups.  Other groups were just getting to know one another.  All were completely informal, relaxed, and welcoming of new faces. 

 
Another highlight for everyone this year was having the evening programs around the bonfire.  The last night we even extended our time at the bonfire by cooking and eating dinner there too.  The forest backdrop made a beautiful setting to enjoy the evenings together and everyone stayed until at least 11:00 every night. 
 
 

 
Several of our rehab patients from this past year were able to come and all seemed to enjoy it.  Oksana was in my group and was not able to sit through the small group on the first day, which meant that her husband also did not participate in his group.  Later we figured out what we could do to keep her calm throughout the group time and therefore allow her husband to be a participant  in one of the men’s group, so we were grateful.  Oksana was not our safest electric wheelchair driver, but she sure enjoyed trying and she kept her husband on his toes!
 
 
This mother and son duo, Marianna and Ilya, repented at separate times during the camp.  Also Pasha, a young man with cerebral palsy, repented after he returned home.  Please join us in praising God for His work of grace in their lives and praying for their spiritual growth.
 
 
Our week at camp was such a joyful, God-honoring time that we were able to serve God and people with disabilities. God answered many prayers for financial provision, health, physical stamina, weather, and the teaching of His Word.  Thank you to all who prayed!  I’ll finish with more pictures to help tell the story of our camp:
 

Small group session



 
Kolya (above) was my patient in 2009 after a massive stroke.  Before his stroke, he was completely against God and the church, refusing to allow his wife to go to church or to go himself.  Now, he consistently comes to church, home church, camps, and clubs.  He still can express very few words, but he understands and remembers many things.  Please pray for God’s work in his life. 



Taras and his volunteer during small group Bible study



Nelya enjoying the horseback riding

Team SOS taking a “musical” photo for a game
Morning exercises

 

Team SOS!!!
 

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Carrie Moss Update: “Love is…”

“Love is…” was the theme of our family retreat this year, which we hosted for 31 children with disabilities, their siblings, and one or both parents.  The 6 days we spent together at a campground in the forest were blessed with beautiful weather, a multitude of activities, times of rest, fellowship, and Bible studies. 

On the opening day, we greeted the families with a festive, wedding-like atmosphere.  Many families attend camp year after year and we were definitely excited to see them again.  But for me, it was particularly exciting to have several families come for the first time whose children receive therapy at our rehabilitation center. 



Maxim and his dad participating in morning exercises

Welcoming Mark and his mom to camp

Oksana and her 2 daughters, Tonia and Katya, coming into camp with the help of a volunteer

 

“LOVE” – my group for the week included families with the youngest kiddos!
 
Ivanka and her grandma 
Every year we strive to have a volunteer paired with each child with a disability and their family for the week.  The role of volunteers is to serve the needs of their child as much as possible throughout the week and, by extension, to serve the rest of the family.  I was blessed to be paired with Maxim, a 7-year-old boy with cerebral palsy and deafness who has come to camp for several years now with his mother, Marina, and sister, Dasha.  His father was unable to come due to work.  
 
 

I had a wonderful time serving this family by spending lots of time with Maxim, which included frequent walks in his stroller, sitting together on the big swing, and playing on a blanket during our small group times.  God blessed me with this precious little boy who breaks into a contagious smile or laugh at the sight of a familiar face, interaction with another child, or the vibration of a percussion instrument in his hand. 
 

 
Because Maxim is deaf, he really was a perfect match for me.  I’ve been in the little kids’ group at camp before and my broken Ukrainian is often very difficult, both for them and me.  But with Maxim, my language skills were not a hindrance.  I could use any method I wanted to interact with him and show him love without the concern for whether my words were right…so freeing! 
 
Please join me in praying for this family.  Marina has heard much truth from God’s Word over the years that she has come to camp – please pray for her repentance.  Also, I am excited to start rehab with Maxim in September and see what progress he is able to make.  Again, his deafness is helpful for me because it means I can work with him alone, which is something I haven’t been able to do with children since I arrived – so I’m looking forward to that.
 
We discussed the retreat theme of “Love is…” more specifically each day with topics such as words, time, gifts, and help.  In the mornings, children and parents had separate small group Bible studies.  This is a really special time for the parents to spend only with other adults, knowing that volunteers are caring for their children.  We had a group for the 4 dads and then 4 small groups for moms.  We are grateful that several of the moms are believers now as a direct result hearing God’s Word in previous camps.  Please pray for God’s work in the lives of the moms and dads who heard the truth this year.
 

 
 
After Bible studies, we had various activities people could get involved in, including crafts, learning to play adapted harps, games, spa salon, and cooking classes.  Smiles were abundant during these times!
 

 
 

    

 
After dinner each day, we all gathered around the campfire for the evening program.  It was a beautiful setting in the forest and everyone enjoyed this time of singing, dramas, presentations of the groups, games, and hearing the Word. 
 
 
 
Thank you to all who prayed for this camp.  God met our needs in regards to finances, volunteers, weather, health, and all the daily logistics.  Please continue to pray for God’s work in the lives of those who attended.  I hope that this week I will be able to post blogs about adult camp and other summer activities, so stay tuned.
 
For now though, I leave you with this beautifully created boy enjoying the beauty of God’s creation and I trust and pray that you too have eyes to see our Creator’s beauty around you.
 


 


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One Hope Ministry: One Hope Online Giving!

ONE HOPE is glad to now be using “EasyTithe” – one of the safest and most user-friendly giving apps in the industry. Thank you for supporting One Hope Ministry, the Tulsa Rose Bowl Renovation Project, Hope 918, and/or Project 61 Camps. 

Please Click Here to give online to One Hope Ministries, thank you!

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Carrie Moss Update: Rehab Update

We had a flurry of activity in our rehab center over the last few months and have now officially closed the center until the end of the summer.  This week our team is devoted to making final preparations for the camps for adults and children with disabilities that begin next Tuesday.  After camps, all of our staff has vacation time before we resume rehab at the end of August.  We had many new patients find our center in recent months and the therapists tried to conduct as many evaluations and consultations as possible.  Our current rehab patients all received detailed home programs to work on during the break and we look forward to seeing many of them at camp!
 
Our children’s room has been blessed with many new toys and rehab items, some that we ordered and some that arrived in a humanitarian shipment to the church.  My personal favorite is the basketball goal!  Here are some of our kiddos (unfortunately, we didn’t manage to get pictures of several of our newest kids):

Ilya on our skateboard-turned-scooter

Anna- Maria working on her hoops skills

Mark loves to draw and play “guess that picture”



Maxim and Sveta working on the stairs 
 
Ivanka using another makeshift scooter

On the adult side, we have several new faces:

Viktor

Taras
 

 
Vasya’s spinal cord injury was 2 years ago and he started rehab about a month ago.  His brother drove him almost 2 hours one-way for rehab twice a week.  Expensive, but profitable trips as Vasya has made good progress.  We are particularly excited that Vasya has agreed to come to camp!  Please join us in praying for his repentance.  

 

Miroslava came for a consultation last fall due to progressive weakness in her legs leading to falls and difficulty walking.  We ended up referring her to a neurosurgeon who discovered a tumor on her spine.  She had the tumor removed and returned to us about a month ago to work on her walking.  She is a joyful and kind lady and she’s so tiny that she gets to use the pediatric crutches! We are thankful for the progress she made in a short amount of time and look forward to seeing her again in the fall. 

Being able to help new patients is great, but it also presents challenges.  During this last month, it meant that our therapists had to have difficult conversations with some of our long-standing patients who have maximized their potential.  Unlike in America, we no insurance regulations that determine the length of rehab services for each patient, no physician who oversees patient care at our center, and no multidisciplinary teams to discuss and determine each patient’s plan.  Sometimes the absence of those things is a pro, but often it’s a con. 

You see, most, if not all, of our patients with spinal cord injuries arrived at our center with no realistic understanding of their prognosis.  It has been our experience that physicians in our region are not clear with them about their potential after their injury.  They either tell them exactly what they want to hear…”You will walk,” or they fail to tell them the information that we find later in their documentation…that the patient’s injury is classified as the most severe, indicating no potential for walking.  As our therapists conduct their evaluations and begin educating patients about the results and the goals for rehab, they often find themselves to be the first voice of reality and “negativity.”  They break the news that the patient’s leg movements are caused by spasticity and they actually exhibit no voluntary muscle control over their legs.  They have the challenging discussion about the patient’s goal of walking and how it is not realistic at this time and may never be, so we will start with simpler, more achievable goals.  Over time, patients often come to understand their prognosis and work hard to progress toward these other goals of rolling, sitting, transferring, and propelling their wheelchair. 

Some of our patients with spinal cord injuries have had rehab for years to achieve their maximum potential and some maximized it in months.  Either way, the topic of discharge is always difficult.  First of all, our therapists have to acknowledge that we don’t see more potential, that we can’t write any more achievable goals for this patient…that’s tough.  Then it can be even more difficult to face the patient and state the honest truth that their rehab potential has been maximized, that their current functional state is probably the best they can expect, and that we are discharging them.  It’s hard to be the bearers of this news.  And it’s harder still for those patients whose physicians and surgeons have been telling them the opposite.  God was faithful to give our therapists wisdom as they had these conversations recently and He answered the prayer that patients and their families would be understanding and accepting. 

Thankfully for us and our patients, discharge from rehab does not have to mean complete discharge from our center.  This is one pro to being on our own with no insurance regulations.  We have two categories of patients at our center: patients who receive rehab services and patients who receive prophylactic services.  Those who receive rehab services are progressing, continue to have achievable goals, and come 2-3 times a week.  Those who receive prophylactic services are those who have maximized their rehab potential and come 1 time per month.  We have this prophylactic category for several reasons.  First, our center is part of a ministry and our first goal is for our patients to know Christ.  We want to stay in their lives to show them more of Christ.  Second, many of their families cannot or do not perform physical tasks for them like range of motion of their legs or transfers to a wheelchair.  Bringing them to the center lets us keep an eye on their physical status.  And third, it give them an opportunities for activity and fellowship with people outside their home, something that can be very infrequent for some of them. 

Anya continues her rehab

Kolya comes for prophylactic services
Anya was discharged and will receive prophylactic services if she chooses

Anya, in the last picture, was a particularly difficult person to discharge.  I have mentioned her before – she had corrective surgery of her scoliosis and is now a paraplegic.  Her surgeon was telling she and her family exactly the opposite information we were about her prognosis.  Unfortunately, more than 8 months after her surgery she continues to show no signs of muscle activation in her lower body.  She is very independent in a wheelchair and in answer to prayer she and her father accepted the news of her discharge with understanding.  But please continue to pray for Anya, who is only 14 years old.  Pray that her therapists will be able to stay in contact with her and that God would work in her life.

Lastly, please pray for these folks:

With the exception of my mom and the addition of a couple of others, this is our core ministry team.  Please pray as we head into 3 weeks of camp: for love, joy, wisdom, endurance, and the truth of the gospel to go out.  Pray for those attending the camps, helping in the camps, and all the logistics involved when 150+ people are in camp, many of whom have disabilities.  Pray for God’s Word to be spoken clearly and for the Holy Spirit’s work in people’s hearts.

I hope you are all having a wonderful summer and I look forward to telling you all about camps!

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Carrie Moss Update: Summer kicks off…

It’s been way too long since my last post and so much has happened that it will be difficult not to overwhelm this post with information and pictures!  In mid-May, my mom came for a month-long visit.  It was a wonderful time of getting to introduce her to our lives, our friends, our work, our church, and our country.  She jumped into our daily routine here and even had her own assignments at the rehab center.  But it definitely wasn’t all work and hopefully telling a bit about our activities while she was here will give you a better taste of our lives in Ukraine!

We celebrated Kolya’s 40th birthday with a surprise outing for pizza, bowling, and a walk in the park. For me, the greatest joy of the day was watching Kolya in his electric wheelchair.  We’ve known Kolya since 2008, when he first came to rehabilitation following his spinal cord injury. He was depressed and completely dependent on his aging parents for all of his care.  I remember how he learned to do some things independently, like feed himself and work on the computer.  In time, he began attending church, camps, and other activities in our ministry and God granted him the gift of salvation. 

 
Due to the extent of Kolya’s injury, he still has very little independent movement…he can’t roll, sit up, or propel his manual wheelchair more than a few inches.  Physically, he continues to depend completely on others.  His mother was his primary caregiver until she died a couple of years ago.  His apartment is not wheelchair accessible, so at home he is constantly in bed.  He longs for the opening of the Agape House…and one of the joys awaiting him as a resident of the Agape House is the opportunity to use this electric wheelchair daily! 
 

 
Our ministry has over 40 electric wheelchairs that have been generously donated from other countries..and they will be well-used next month at camp!  But unfortunately, accessibility issues in Ukraine prevent them from being readily used in daily life.  The Agape House will change that for those who reside there and on Kolya’s birthday, as we watched him zip around when and where he wanted for hours, we had a little taste of what that would mean.  Freedom. Independence. Joy.  For Kolya and many others!

Our next celebration was a wedding!  Alla, one of our therapists, was a beautiful bride and we all enjoyed celebrating with her and her new husband.

Sveta’s mom, Nadia, with my mom

We visited friends, including Sergiy and Natasha Bolchuk, the leaders of our ministry:

Three mother-daughter pairs (plus Sergiy Bolchuk)

We traveled to the village to visit Lyuda (our former roommate) and her family:


We took Julia with us to a replica village outside of Lutsk to see how Ukrainians used to live.
 



We toured the Lutsk Castle, which was built in the 11th century, and walked the streets of Lutsk.
 
 



We traveled to Sveta’s hometown of Zhitomir for a weekend with her mom.

The statue of Lenin that previously stood on top has been removed and now a banner hangs with the faces and names of men from the region who have died in the war.
 
 
We drove and walked in the countryside around Lutsk, enjoying the fields of poppies and wheat and the sunny, warm days.
 

 

Mom was a welcomed 4th member to play the harps at church on her last Sunday!

And rehab goes on, of course, but since this post is long already I will write a separate onet soon about rehab.


Our team, minus Vadim.
 

Vanya, pictured above, is a new addition to our team.  He is Katya’s husband (she is between me and Vanya) and is now a volunteer at our center in the mornings.  He has expressed a desire to attend our future PT school and join our team as a  full-time therapist.  For now he is learning to work with prophylactic patients and, since he has no medical background, he is also my “guinea pig,” letting me test the clarity of the material that we are preparing for the PT school on him.  A male PT for our center is an ongoing prayer request and Vanya seems to be on track to be an answer to that prayer!

The last bit of news I will share in this post is about the Festival of Hope crusade that we attended yesterday in Lviv.  It was put on by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, with preaching by Franklin Graham and music by various Ukrainian and American musicians.  Over 35,000 Ukrainians were in attendance at the large soccer stadium built in recent years.  We traveled in 3 buses with people with disabilities who are unbelievers or who brought a friend or family member who is an unbeliever – our group totaled 26.

We traveled 4 hours in the cold rain, praying the skies would clear before the outdoor event.  In Lviv, we were welcomed by Christian family into their spacious home so that people with disabilities could rest for a couple of hours and eat before the event.  It continued to rain all afternoon, but as we arrived and unloaded at the stadium, the rain eased up and then stopped.  There was not another drop of rain until we were headed home!  We brought electric wheelchairs for people with spinal cord injuries and had to go to 3 entrances to find an accessible way to the stadium. 

Waiting to find out if this entrance will work for us

Eventually we not only got into the stadium, but were taken onto the field for the closest seats in the house and an unobstructed view for people in wheelchairs.  During the event the crowd grew and we were eventually joined by many others on the field.  In the end, the report is that around 3,000 people went forward to repent, including two 16-year-old boys who were part of our group.  Please pray for the Ukrainian churches as they follow up with all of these people and for God’s continued work in the hearts and lives of His new children. 

I apologize for the length of this post.  I’ll try to write soon about rehab, but until then here are a few prayer requests:

– Camps for people with disabilities next month (Adults: July 14-19, Children: July 22-28) – people to accept invitations to come, finances, program preparation, preaching, preparation of group leaders, salvation of people who come to camp, volunteers to staff the camps adequately
– Final 2 weeks of work at our rehab center before camps and vacations – pray for the education of all our patients for home activities during this extended break and that we finish these 2 weeks strong
– People who repented at the Festival of Hope, particularly Anton and Lubomir from our group

I hope you are all having a great summer and I would love to hear about your lives as well! More to come shortly with details on rehab…

 

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Carrie Moss Update: Our Rehab Center Turns 8!

Earlier this month we celebrated the 8th anniversary of our rehabilitation center! Some of our current and former patients gathered with their families and our staff for an afternoon of celebration in the park.  God gave us a beautiful day to spend together in His creation.  We enjoyed shish kabobs, played volleyball, and fellowshipped together.  Patients shared about when and how they started coming to our center, their impressions, and their progress.  It was a time of rejoicing for all of us. We are so grateful that we have been able to provide physical therapy at our center for the past 8 years and look forward to seeing how God uses our center in the lives of people with disabilities in the future!

Natasha, Ira (therapist), Anya, and Tanja (the first patient at our center)

Mykola and Andre

 

Vadim was in charge of the meat

It was no small picnic!

Sergiy Bolchuk, leader of our ministry, sharing the Word of God before we eat

Enjoying the sun!

 

Dima and Oksana

 
 
 
Please join us in rejoicing over the 8 years of rehabilitation and the lives that have been affected and please pray with us for the future of our center.  We continue to have a waiting list of people wanting to receive therapy.  We continue to pray for another male therapist to join our staff.  Sveta, our director, recently returned from 3 months away and has a desire to implement some of the things she learned at our center.  Please pray our therapists will be receptive to change and that we will have wisdom with discharging patients and beginning new ones.  And please pray that God will be glorified each day as we work and for the repentance of our patients and their families. Thank you to all who pray and support the work here! 
 

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5/17/15 – Guest Speaker: Rex Blankenship

Rex Blankenship, 5/17/15

Text: 2 Corinthians 1

Download the MP3 here


Elder Minute – Doug Fry

Elder Minute – Jared McCoy

5/17/15 – Adult Bible Study

Pastor Jared Tabor, 5/17/15

Text – Acts 4

Download the MP3 here


A word from Pastor Joe

5/10/15 – “A Strange Group of Followers”

“A Strange Group of Followers”

Pastor Joe Blankenship, 5/10/15

Text: Mark 15:16-47

Download the MP3 here

Download the PDF here


Elder Minute – Pastor Joe

Elder Minute – Jared McCoy