UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSSITORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Winter Mission Team Returns Home!
The Winter Mission Team to Znamianka orphanage in Ukraine organized by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA returned on a flight from Kyiv, Ukraine. The pictures give some idea of what they experienced during their ten days working at the Znamianka orphanage for physically and mentally handicapped children. The group was comprised of the following members Katya Carman of St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Boston, MA; Charissa Sheptak, the former encampment director at All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Camp in Emlenton, PA; Tabitha Houck of Holy Ghost Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Coatesville, PA; Katherine Stecyk, a Fulbright Scholar from Parma, OH; Protodeacon Ihor Mahlay of St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma, OH and His Grace Bishop Daniel, the Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the UOC of the USA.
The team worked hard at projects that help keep the orphanage compound facility working well so the staff can perform all the many functions that are necessary to the functioning of the missionaries. Feeding children, participating in educational classes, organizing and sponsoring St. Nicholas and Nativity of our Lord plays, playing with children – these are just a few schedule events that took place during the team’s presence at the orphanage. In addition, the Team members traveled with the children of the orphanage to a local Orthodox monastic community, teaching the children of the orphanages about the sacredness of the Holy Place as well as the precepts of Orthodox Christian worship.
Tabitha Houck of Holy Ghost Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Coatesville, PA upon the conclusion of the trip reflected on the ministry of the Church in such way: “Man was created in the image and likeliness of God. As such we are instructed to live our lives in accordance to His wishes and commandments. Through attending Liturgy and other church services, receiving of sacraments, being able to praise God through song, etc. I am able to become closer to God. I am able to learn the way in which He wants me to live and minister His word. When the opportunity to participate in a winter mission trip to the Znamianka orphanage in Ukraine presented itself I was determined to participate. I saw this as an opportunity to come help improve the lives of children "less fortunate" than myself. I could come as a representative of the Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, and with my Christian beliefs, help children who may not know God as I have had the opportunity to know Him.
When I arrived at the orphanage I was very eager to start working with the children. I also was curious to find out the level of their religious education, knowledge and experience. I was questioning whether or not the children had an understanding of God. I learned that the children do not attend regular church services, nor do they pray on a daily basis, but they do have priests who come to perform sacraments. Some have also had an opportunity to visit a monastery or church on occasion.
After spending a few days with the children, I read again, "Man was created in the image and likeness of God." It had a newly profound meaning to me this time. The physical, developmental and intellectual differences are obvious upon first seeing the children. These are children who are not capable of understanding God as I am. They cannot and do not attend liturgy, they do not revive communion, they do not engage in daily prayer. However, when looking into the innocent, trusting, naive eyes of each child, I saw someone who had a closer relationship to God than I may ever have. These children, just like me, are created in the image and likeness of God. God's presence is in each of these children without having to "teach" them of God. They contain all of the characteristics that Christians strive to learn and attain throughout our lifetime. They are not jaded by society, they are not bombarded by immoral and unethical images and actions on the aily basis. They do not have to fight off the temptations that so many "more fortunate" people struggle with. These children are the pure image of Christ, unsoiled, unburdened believers in the love that Christ provides.