Thursday, June 29, 2017

Project expansion women's home, Belarus (2)

Meeting up with Sergey and Joseph
In the previous blog post, we shared the story of Svetlana. She serves in the women's house in Baranovichi. In September 2015 we visited the building (formerly a school) and at that time the renovation of the ground floor was still in full swing.

During the Europe Teen Challenge conference in Italy last May, we sat down with our friends from Mission Return in Belarus, Sergey and Joseph.

They told us about the daily happenings in the center, which has been divided into a homeless shelter, a drugs and alcohol rehabilitation program for men and for women and a women's crisis center (an overnight home).

Ingang vrouwenhuis
There is an urgent need for the expansion of the crisis center for women. The plan is to completely renovate the 2nd floor, quite a job. Whether we want to help with fundraising...

Well, you probably already know the answer, of course we want that! They are doing such a great work there: providing a safe and warm place for women who have been abused and/or have no place to go and to share the love of Jesus with them.

Stairs to 2nd floor
We received a list of materials needed for the renovation, from cement and tiles to wash basins and electricity. The calculation is that they will need about 8,000 euro for the entire renovation. Well, we'll see how far we will come.

If you have a heart for the work among women in crisis situations, you can send your gift to St. Traveling Light, Papendrecht IBAN: NL91RABO0118582275 BIC: RABONL2U. Make sure to mention: BELARUS.

We have seen with our own eyes how Mission Return works and how well they have spent the previous gift (for the kitchen). We have full confidence in the social and spiritual work they are doing there.

We trust we can make them happy with a generous gift!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Project expansion women's home, Belarus (1)

My name is Svetlana. I am 42 years old and I was born in Belarus in a family of common people. My father was a hard-working man, he repaired houses and furnaces and after work he brought alcohol to our home. My mother worked as a weaver and in her free time she sang in a local restaurant.

In the evenings my parents drank alcohol and usually they started to argue about «who took the money». They screamed, cursed and beat each other. Several times my mother beat my father with the knife. My mother was an aggressive woman, she beat us so we afraid of her. Several times she tried to commit a suicide but every time she was saved. As children we were waiting until our parents went to sleep so we could do our homework for school. My brother Slava said: "when I will grow up, I will destroy all shops with alcohol”. Now I understand that these words were said because of despair.

When everything became quiet I looked through the window up to heaven and asked: “God, if you are somewhere – do something”. Teachers from school sometimes visited us but we never told them what was going on at home – we were afraid to be sent to an orphanage. When I completed the basic school I entered the music school (to learn to play accordion). My parents were not interested in my education and I was not a good student at all: often I missed the lessons and I started to visit discotheques, drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. At the age of 17 I became pregnant and people advised me to do an abortion. Often I wept in the nights. I couldn’t see my future. 

Svetlana and her family
But one day Valentin (the father of my child) and his mother came and took me to their village. I had turned 18 and we got married. Our healthy and beautiful daughter Viktoria was born. When Victoria was 3 years old I entered the Specialized School of Culture in a big city in our country. I brought alcohol and cigarettes and offered it to my friends to celebrate my birthday. One girl, Elena, said that she did not drink alcohol or smoked cigarettes but that she believed in God. Elena invited me to the service in an evangelical church. People were greeting each other and smiling. I had never seen such sincere, kind and loving relationships between so many people. For me it was amazing. It was interesting for me to observe the faces of people there. I could see the sense of hope and future in their eyes. I heard songs about God and tears appeared in my eyes. I understood that God Himself was in that place and that He touched me.

Women's home in Baranovichi
The thought came to me: He is the One I need! There was a call for those who wanted to accept Jesus in their hearts. I went forward and was prayed for. I began to visit a small group of believers and on Sundays I visited a church in a neighboring village. After three months I was baptized in a local river. My relationship with Valentin and his parents was not good, but when I believed in Jesus it became even worse. After 6 years of marriage he divorced me. I did not wanted to go back to my parents so I moved to another city and started to work there as a teacher in an art school. I visited church and gained many new friends, who supported me in a difficult times. I continued to communicate with my parents, brother and sister. I told them about the love of God for mankind, about the sacrifice of Jesus. From time to time I visited my parents.

Every time I visited them I remembered the scenes from my childhood and I felt again like a defenseless, helpless child. God touched my brother Slava and he opened his heart for Jesus, but living with my parents he also drank a lot of alcohol. Looking at him I remembered how he told me in his childhood that he would destroy all alcohol shops when he had grown up. But he also became an alcoholic. My mother kicked me out from her home and cursed me. My father and mother died in one day because of alcohol. Later Valentin and his parents also died from alcohol.

Group studies at the women's overnight home
I moved into the flat of my parents and started to work as a music teacher in a school in Baranovichi. Nothing was functioning in the flat, no gas, electricity, water or plumbing. Brothers from the church came to help me with this and so I met Evgeniy who had been in a rehabilitation center where the Lord had set him free from addiction. We got married and the Lord gave us three children: sons Michael and Ilya and a daughter Vasilisa. My oldest daughter Viktoria helped me in everything.

During this time my brother wanted to become free from alcohol and nicotine. He went to a Christian rehabilitation center. Although he had been an alcoholic for many, many years, the Lord set him totally free. He married Lidia and today Christians come to their flat, they praise the Lord together, sing songs and testify about what God has done in their life. The neighbors see this and are astonished how much Slava has changed. Now Slava serves in the rehabilitation center and helps addicted people to find freedom.

My husband Evgeniy and I serve also in a rehabilitation center: the women's home. We have women who do not have a place to live, who came out of prison and who were refused by their relatives. When I talk with these women I learn that almost all of them come from a family of alcoholics and in their childhood they had the same experience as I had. I understand their inner feelings. I know that only Jesus can heal these wounds and I point them to Christ. I thank God for His love.

Gifts for the much needed expansion of the women's home are very welcome! St. Traveling Light, Papendrecht IBAN: NL91RABO0118582275 BIC: RABONL2U. Do not forget to mention: BELARUS.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Project relocation coffee house The Bridge, Tetovo

The Stoilovi family
Do you remember Jordan & Vesna Stoilovi from Macedonia? We helped them in the past with funding for a children's playground and their coffee house The Bridge.

We regularly receive their newsletters and so stay up to date with the developments in Tetovo, a city in the north western corner of the country, mainly inhabited by people of Albanian descend.

Jordan has a desire to reach people in his city who do not know the love of God. He is in coffee house The Bridge every day, to talk with visitors.

New location of The Bridge
In recent years, he has been able to build good relationships with various guests and some of them have now become believers and were baptized. They regularly meet in The Bridge for Bible Studies.

The Bridge will be moving to a larger building in a new location. That is of course great news. The new property used to be a (post) office until recently, but soon it will be the new accommodation for Jordan and his team.

Jacek & Magdalena
Yes, we are writing 'team' because after years of praying and waiting Jordan and Vesna are finally getting help from a missionary family from Poland! During the last few years Jacek and Magdalena have worked for OM among the refugees in southern Macedonia. They have now found living space in Tetovo and will help to reach more people with the good news about Jesus Christ.
Soon this will be The Bridge coffee house

Well, a new location for The Bridge it will be. Jordan has asked if Traveling Light wants to assist in fundraising for the kitchen and the purchase of tables, chairs and benches among other things.

Of course we want to help and we hope that you will come along as well. Together we can give them a nice donation so they can open the new Bridge soon. We hope to visit them again later this year.

Gifts (large and small) are very welcome! St. Traveling Light, Papendrecht IBAN: NL91RABO0118582275 BIC: RABONL2U. Do not forget to mention: BRIDGE.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

European spring tour 2017 (4)

Lunch time in the rehab center
From Sered, Slovakia it is about a 7 hours drive to the Teen Challenge men's rehab center in Nova Vas, Slovenia. The time we are spending in the car strengthens us spiritually for all visits. We pray and sing together, listen to preaching (yeah!) and discuss principles from the Bible. And then, time flies :)

We were welcomed warmly in the men's center by both workers, volunteers and the men in the program. There are currently more than 20 men in the house. They are eating in two groups now, because the kitchen is too small.

Andreas is now in the re-entry home and runs the tool shop
The men usually stay for a year or more and then they can move to the new re-entry home. They live there independently while trying to find work, but still quite near the safety of the Teen Challenge center. Slowly but surely they are preparing for reintegration into society.

Andreas is such a man who lives in re-entry. He takes care of the tools and machines. Do you remember how it started with 1 chain saw? Now they have six! We also went to take a look at a large piece of land where the men are keeping goats and pigs for the program.

In front of the new church
After that we visited the new church that was planted by Matjaz & Magdalena Horjak in the nearby city of Koper. It is great to see how the work among addicts and homeless bears fruit. There is no better investment than investing in human lives.

We were treated to a good night's sleep sleep in a bed-n-breakfast with beautiful views of the mountains and the sea. The next day we continued to Rimini, Italy where we participated in the annual Europe Teen Challenge conference.

Every year this is a great opportunity for us to speak to staff and students of the European centers. This way we keep up to date with developments and of course we receive many new applications for project support.

Russian edition for Ukraine
We also had the opportunity to present the Russian edition of Marja's book 'Grace of Giving' to many Russian speaking country representatives.

After returning home, we were able to

'Body guards' at our book table :)
Thank you very much for your generosity.

PS: Upcoming projects include relocation of The Brigde in Tetovo, Macedonia, the expansion of the women's house in Baranovichi, Belarus and the work among Roma Christians in Bulgaria. Keep reading this blog!

Gifts (large and small) for the various projects are always welcome! St. Traveling Light, Papendrecht IBAN: NL91RABO0118582275 BIC: RABONL2U.