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Ukraine: Profound Problems and Unlimited Potential

JCWillke   |   May 01, 2004

My dear wife Barbara and I have just returned from a two-week speaking tour of Ukraine. This was the 66th nation in which we have lectured, but it certainly turned out to be unique. It is a nation of grinding poverty and yet unlimited economic potential. It is a nation of intelligent, handsome, hardworking people and yet a nation that is rapidly committing demographic suicide. For every ten babies conceived, seven are killed in abortion. This is probably the worst record in the world, at least since Russia and Romania have been improving their numbers.

Our shepherd there was Pastor David Bentley, who has created the successful “Mission to Ukraine” in the city of Zhytomyr. Pastor Bentley has slowly built sponsorship so that today his mission center has thirty employees. He has a full-time dentist, physician, nurses, social workers and others who care for orphans and handicapped children. He also has a large mission to pregnant women and new mothers. He has created five units in other cities. We met a year ago in Budapest and saw that we had a great deal of common ground. Later discussions and meetings resulted in our trip to Ukraine. We were able to send to him pro-life materials in Ukrainian, Russian, Polish and English languages, at a sharply discounted cost of almost $4,000. These materials awaited us when we landed in Kiev.

He had rented a large van and had engaged the services of a driver and two excellent translators. The six of us began a two-week tour that took us from Kiev to the cities of Zhythomyr, Vinnitsa, Chernizshiy, Kamyanets-Podilsky, Lviv, Ternopil and back to Zhythomyr and Kiev.

Mr. Bentley had arranged a stimulating schedule of speaking. With a few exceptions, every one was at a college or university. Cooperation with their faculties and administrators was uniformly excellent to enthusiastic. Our subjects were students, undergraduate and graduate, including two medical colleges, ranging from 200 up to 1,000 students at an appearance. We were able to give every attendee a piece of pro-life literature. In every institution there were enthusiastic, authoritative people who wanted to continue to repeat what we had shown them and to spread the word widely. To eighteen of these we were able to give a complete “Love Them Both” slide set, two videos and Abortion Questions and Answers books.

Mr. Bentley’s centers are Evangelical but are open to and treat people of all beliefs. In Lviv, heavily populated with Polish Roman Catholics and Greek Catholic people, we had close cooperation. This included a lecture in the Catholic seminary with the warm encouragement of Bishop Buczek and Cardinal Husar. Joining us in Lviv, and then we in turn visiting them, was the staff of a very effective WELS Lutheran operation in Ternopil.

At Kiev we met six pretty young ladies who had come by train overnight from Odessa, way down on the Black Sea. A similar group came from Karkiv on the east Russian border.

The institution of the family had largely been destroyed by the Soviet occupation. The average wage for a full-time employee is approximately $30 a month. Wages were kept so low that both husband and wife had to work full-time while their children were reared in Soviet daycare centers. Vodka was plentiful. As a result of this, marriage, as we know it, is frequently a real struggle in Ukraine. Too often, a man moves in with a woman, for they must pair both salaries in order to keep a roof over their heads and buy food. Typically, this may last only a few years and he moves on. She must then find another partner in order to exist. Healthcare, except in the very large cities, is very inadequate, and particularly rural clinics have almost nothing to work with. As a result of this, people have not been having children. The population five years ago was 52 million. Last year it was 48. Villages are emptying out, with houses abandoned as people move to the cities.

The one bright spot was the impressive educational effort. This is turning out thousands of well-educated young people, but many have little prospect of employment. Therefore, the goal of many is to emigrate to the United States.

These are impressive people, almost Nordic in appearance, handsome young men and beautiful young ladies. They are intelligent and hardworking. Talk about “”the harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few”,” we have never seen it more truly demonstrated. Imagine giving one lecture to a hospital staff that does abortions. Then the next day that staff tells you that they have voted to stop abortions. Yes, it did happen and yes, it could happen more often. One pleasant, attractive young lady at one of the colleges mentioned that she was the only child of her mother, who had aborted her first seven pregnancies. This is not unusual.

Hopefully, our lecturing and the materials we left will have a definite impact. Finally, thanks to you who have financially supported Life Issues Institute. Without your help with our expenses and educational materials, this would not have been possible. Our profound thanks to our shepherd, Pastor David Bentley. The work he is doing is of immense importance.

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