THE MENTAL HEALTH TOLL OF THE WAR
Greetings! No one knows how long this war will last. Some predict this conflict could go on for years, while others, like President Zelensky – say that with proper assistance from the West, the war could be over by the summer.
When Pastor Sasha (a regular contributor to HART Updates) is asked about this, he says, “My answer is simply this – everything could happen – bad or good.
We want to believe in good developments for Ukraine. I see people who want to believe… that the Russian army is getting weaker; that Putin is sick and will die soon; that new mobilizations in Russia are not successful, etc. That is what we want to believe, but I think that rosy picture is far from reality. The only thing I know for sure – Russia wants to occupy as much Ukrainian territory as possible, and they want to destroy as much Ukrainian heritage and identity as possible.”
Pastor Sasha then brings up a subject not often discussed. He continues, “The real issue of my concern is the emotional and psychological state of most Ukrainian people. We see all kinds of disorders – anxiety; insomnia; emotional breakdowns; conflicts; family issues and divorces (among Christians); depression; conflicts;
people with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) etc. Among my close friends, I have three couples in the process of divorce.
Sasha continues, “I was listening to the radio when traveling and heard a program on emotional health. They listed 15 signs indicating a person has issues and needs some help. I counted like 5-6 signs I have myself!
We’re a nation of wounded people, and this will be with us for years to come. People are trying to deal with issues they don’t understand. The situation requires actions – good Christian literature and good spiritual counselors are very much needed, but unfortunately, we have had many ministers who fled Ukraine.”
For us at HART, where reaching children/youth is at the core of our ministry, we need to be cognizant that children are particularly vulnerable to the psychological effects of war and are at increased risk for mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems.
HART will be facing enormous challenges as we go forward. We desperately need our HART community to keep our ministry, programs, and projects in prayer in the coming years. How we can best serve the National Church – for God’s glory – will always be our True North.
The war is horrific and tragic, and regardless of how long it will go on, we sincerely praise God for the extraordinary opportunities He has given HART over the past year to serve the Church and people of Ukraine and look forward to what He is planning for us in 2023.
GENEROSITY OF THE POOR
Throughout the duration of this war, most HART programs and projects with our National Church partners have continued.
For example, our partner churches participating in HART’s Senior Care ministries (Sponsor-a-Baba) continue to look after the elderly and provide lifesaving food and medicines. The number of seniors YOU in our HART community is supporting increases monthly.
Our Child Sponsor program (just under 1,000 kids) has also continued during this conflict, providing desperately needed food packages for families and experiencing God’s love through our caseworkers and volunteers.
One caseworker shared the following story, which brought her to tears: After distributing food to one impoverished family, the father pulled her aside and, in a soft voice, said, “Next month, instead of bringing us these food packages, please give them to soldiers fighting on the front lines for Ukraine.”
Alina – age 7
Caseworker: Alina’s mother has been struggling since her husband and the father of their children passed away. Alina’s oldest sister tries her best to look after the younger kids, but she is still young herself. The family struggles financially, living off a small children’s allowance. There are no jobs in their town, but in the summer, the mom earns some money working in the gardens for local residents. They live in a one-room house. It is cold all the time because the mom did not buy enough firewood for winter. The children don’t have enough food and are often hungry. They have no funds to fix up their living conditions or buy enough food or medicines when the kids get sick. Alina and her family really need your support which will open their hearts to the Word of God.
Denys (Dennis) – age 10
Caseworker: When I met Snizhana she was pregnant with her fourth child (several different fathers.) She wanted to have an abortion, but we persuaded her to save the life of her child, and since then, we have been trying to help her little by little. Snizhana is bringing up her children alone, and the family is very poor. Their main source of income is child allowance from the government. Snizhana cannot work yet because her youngest daughter Milana is only two years old. The family lives in a tiny, one-room apartment in a dormitory for lowincome families (shared kitchen and bathrooms). Denys and his family really need your support. What joy it will bring Snizhana when she hears that you are Denys’ sponsor.
Mykyta – age 1 (boy)
Caseworker: Mykyta and his family (mom and three siblings) are very poor. Their father doesn’t live with them, nor does he keep in touch with his family. The family’s financial situation is not stable. They don’t have money for clothes and food and cannot fully provide for themselves. They live in a dilapidated fiveroom apartment that has no power or gas supply. This family shares the apartment with nine other people. Mykyta and his family really need your support, which will show them how much God loves and takes care of them.
Anna – age 8
Caseworker: Anna has autism but never received any treatment simply because her family cannot afford it. When Anna started school, she didn’t have the necessary learning skills, and a couple of years later still cannot write or count and doesn’t know the alphabet. Although she understands many words, she can only say four or five. She likes to color pictures in coloring books and puts puzzles together. Unfortunately, her teachers don’t know how to work with autistic children. Anna’s two sisters also have mental issues: Tania has mutism, and Alina has cognitive disabilities. The mother doesn’t have a job but receives a disability allowance for Anna. They live in their own house, and their living conditions are not bad. Anna and her family really need your support for all three girls.
Artem – age 10
Caseworker: Artem is kind, responsive, and very sensitive, likes to play with his friends outside, and loves cats. He is also calm and shy around people he doesn’t know. The father left the family when Artem was three years old and visited his son on his birthday only a few times. He does not pay any particular attention to Artem, nor does he provide any financial support for him. Artem’s mother died of cancer when he was five years old, and since then, his grandma has raised him. They live on her senior’s pension and an allowance for parental abandonment. Artem and his grandma live in a house, and their living conditions are ok. He writes, “Dear Sponsor, thank you for your desire to help me and my grandmother.” Artem needs your support and will be delighted to know you are his sponsor.
GOOD SAMARITANS IN THE TRENCHES
..by Yana, HART ministry partner in northern Ukraine, near the border with Belarus.
Despite living in cold trenches in the forest, can you believe young Ukrainian soldiers are taking care of impoverished children?
“Here they are, real Samaritans,” I thought at that moment.
“Look, Yana, I have a new phone,” 10-year-old Andriy boasted. I wondered where he got it. “It was given to me by a soldier from the forest,” he continued.
Soldiers have become commonplace in our region. Tanks and other military equipment pass through our towns daily. The forests around nearby villages already have trenches constructed in preparation for a possible attack from Belarus.
“Groups of soldiers change all the time,” said twelve-year-old Natalka, a participant in one of our programs for kids. “Most of the time, the guys from the hotspots (front lines) who are sent here to quieter places for a short time.”
When possible, local people do their best to help the soldiers. They bring them homemade food, fresh milk, and warm clothes. The poor, however, do not have the resources to share much, if anything.
“These are our defenders!” shared Zhanna, Natalka’s mother, admiringly.
“There are many poor, large families in our village. Having learned about people like us, a group of soldiers began to bring food to us. But recently, they also brought a phone for Natalka.”
“Don’t they themselves need help?” I asked Zhanna.
“The last time they came,” she answered, “One of them said that they will soon be returning to the front lines, from where they may never return… and so they want to end their lives doing good deeds.”
There were tears in Natalka’s eyes. She made friends with the defenders, and those words brought her pain.
With every day of the war, with every story I hear, I am convinced Ukraine will triumph. –Yanna
Here are specific prayer points that can help guide our prayers for the situation in Ukraine. Please share these with your friends and family:
- Pray for and ask to see God’s glory amid this great struggle. God often uses dire situations to draw people to himself. Pray that He would be glorified through the people of Ukraine who are following him.
- Pray for God’s peace to be a source of strength for the thousands of Ukrainian workers/volunteers who will have opportunities to share with others about God’s love.
- Pray for God’s protection over Christian volunteers. Ask God for their physical and spiritual protection — ask Him to help people seek the truth during the conflict.
- Ask God for comfort. Many families lost fathers, sons, and loved ones during this tragic war. Millions have been uprooted from their homes. Their world has been turned upside down.
- Ask God to intervene. Pray for wisdom for world leaders. Pray that God would move in their hearts and guide their steps and plans.
- Pray for President Zelensky and the leaders of Ukraine to know God’s truth and peace and be transformed by his Holy Spirit so that they would seek to lead their country in the way of peace.
- Ask that this conflict would open doors of opportunities for the gospel. Pray that He would make his name known across Ukraine, Russia, and all the European countries that refugees are fleeing to due to this conflict.