CASSIE GRYPSTRA interacts with some of the Ukrainian children that she and several Terrace Pentecostal Assembly members worked with earlier this summer.

Youths meet Ukraine

Local teens from the Terrace Pentecostal Assembly meet children in one of the poorest regions

SEVERAL PEOPLE from the Terrace Pentecostal Assembly spent part of their summer working with children in one of the poorest regions in the Ukraine.

Reverend Lowell Holmquist, church member Linda Brown, assistant pastor Blake Holenstein and his wife Ashley, and four young people: Evan Arcadi, Cassie Grypstra, Marissa Sawatzky and Austen Holmquist took the trip, which is one of the projects to come out of the church’s 75th anniversary and the congregation’s desire to go beyond themselves.

They went to Sevastopol, Ukraine, which is in the southern part of the country on the Black Sea. It used to be a part of Russia.

Terrace Pentecostal works with a United Kingdom based organization called Next Level International that introduced them to  God’s Horizon, a Baptist church in Sevastopol so they could work together to start Inkerman Church, named for the village it’s in.

“It was my third trip into that area to help this new church,” said Holmquist.

The Terrace group, together with about 40 Ukrainians, held a children’s day camp in a field smaller than Christy Park.

There were sometimes up to 200 children there from six surrounding villages.

Holmquist said they would walk – sometimes up to an hour – to these villages to pick up the children, who would meet in their central market square, and walk back to the field to spend the day on activities, games, dramas, and three meals. The biggest meal was lunch and the cooks would make all the food on an open fire in a large pot, he said, adding that for some of the kids, it was the only meal they would get that day.

The program for the children included  some lessons but wasn’t overtly a Bible presentation, said Holmquist.

“It was more about life skills and treating each other with respect,” he said, adding there were some restrictions on the religious content they could have.

“We still talked about God being the source of a moral standard that is found in the Bible. We also knew that most of the kids were familiar with the church as it is the only organization in the area that does programs for kids.”

By about 5 p.m., they would walk the children back to their villages and then return to the campsite – in some cases, a two-hour round trip.

“It is one of the things we found: they walk everywhere,” he said, adding the team would suggest taking a taxi but the people would say no because it was only a 45-minute walk.

Some of that walk was through pastures, back roads, trails and on some roads.

“We slept in tents on the campgrounds and did it again the next day,” he said. And they repeated that routine five days a week.

The team did some work with local churches on the weekends.

Two translators for the eight team members meant the team had to learn Russian as the translators couldn’t be around for everyone at the same time. And they used a lot of pantomime, which added to the fun, he said.

“You make a connection with the kids. You can see they come from a simple and hard life and you give them a Canada balloon and they treasure it,” he said.

“You just get to see that they appreciate the little things in life. All the teens I took along on this trip, they all said they’re so grateful for our country and for what we have.

“We send out teams frequently to go do mission work and we find the greatest benefit is not to the people we’re going to, but to the people going [on the trip],” he said.