You wouldn’t have to scroll down too far to see pictures from camp 2009, but in the spirit of updating, here’s the scoop:
Our church’s Ministry to Those with Disabilties (we do speak politically incorrectly here and call it, for short, ‘the handicapped service’ – a note on that another time) will hold its annual summer camp in a few weeks!
We’re already gearing up for this and are pretty excited to be here this summer for it. (Since we changed our furlough schedule to every other summer, we’ll miss camp every other year :-).)
What does camp mean? It is an opportunity to get out of Kiev for about 10 days, an opportunity to rest and just do things out of the routine, and to experience life (from a camper’s point of view) in a way that’s pretty much geared to a different speed.
We’ve mentioned in the past that life for the disabled is very, very difficult here.
With the exception of a couple of metal rails attached to the steep set of ordinary stairs outside of every residential building here (see photo of our building’s entrance below), there is almost no wheelchair access at all – not on buses, not on streetcars, not on the subway, nor for most other buildings. I say ‘almost’ because someone invariably points out the rare, rare exception (access to which is usually very restricted – kept behind a locked door).
Also, it’s rather unacceptable to be less than whole in any way. We were told many years ago that Kiev was the showcase city of Ukraine, being the capitol, and that the disabled were not allowed to live here; it would negatively impact the city. That is no longer the case, but that mindset is alive and well.
As such, there is little help, if any beyond an ‘invalid’ designation on all your papers, which should mean a very small disability payment from the government. So the exhausting, demanding life of being physically disabled is an endless litany of issues for the person and their family.
Our church not only holds services for those with special needs, but Sasha, as ‘pastor to the disabled’ spends his weekdays doing everything he can to fill in those gaps. He finds/distributes resources – anything from special shoes for a guy whose feet drag and wear holes quickly in the shoes, to medicines, to buying fans for a family whose apartment is really hot but can’t afford a fan, to helping pay for transport to get Yulia and her wheelchair downtown to take her exams.
So the church decided to go beyond meeting those needs to even providing a respite, out of the city, for the folks and their families. For 10 days there will be Bible studies, activities, crafts, singing, and just ‘down time’, where someone is sharing the care responsibilities and all are resting, to some extent. It is a tremendous blessing, and we feel privileged to be even a small part of it.