A House That Changes Hearts
As I reflect on my journey to Hope House in Odessa, Ukraine, I feel it prudent to share a bit of my back story. See, I had no desire to do global missions work and felt that my calling was to whatever community God would call me to in the Maritimes. As an intern in 2016, two pastors on the team I was serving with were headed out on short term missions projects and as I listened to their passion and excitement, I wondered if something was missing in my heart. I sought God on the matter and spent time praying and seeking His will for me.
It wasn’t long before I sensed the nudge of something very specific. It was clear God wanted me to go “in or near Russia and help with young women”. Well, I tucked that in the back of my heart and mind thinking, “There’s no way that will happen – short of a miracle.” On February 29, 2020, I began the journey to Odessa, Ukraine.
When we landed in Odessa, we were met at the airport by Larissa – the Hope House Mom, Valeri – our driver, and Nik – one of our interpreters. We were greeted with much excitement and I personally sensed a great love and kinship that no language barrier can hide. We grabbed our bags and headed to the vans.
As we drove from the airport toward Hope House 2, you could see the remnants of Communism and it was obvious we were no longer in North America. There was an oppressive feeling in the air and the litter that was strewn about seemed to reflect an oppressive attitude and a poverty mindset. The moment we arrived and were welcomed into Hope House, the feeling of oppression and poverty mindset lifted. In this home, there was a great sense of peace and overwhelming love. There was no question that the Holy Spirit was present and at work.
While we were in Ukraine on this Vision trip, we had the opportunity to see the Hope House Ministry in action from start to finish. The girls who come to Hope House, generally come from orphanages. Seeing where these girls come from and the institutionalized life they grew up in, opens one’s eyes to the great need for Hope House. Hearing their stories about how they ended up in the orphanages and that some of them believed that being in the orphanage was the safest and best place for them made my mama heart sad.
When we visited the orphanage, it was hard to think that all these kids were there because they lacked a “family” to love and care for them. Knowing that each of the girls had been in a place like this (there are 25 orphanages in Ukraine with an average of 100 kids in each) opened my eyes to the great need for the Hope House Ministry.
From the conversations I had while in Ukraine, my understanding is that orphanages are full and will remain full because the next generations – generally speaking – are not learning how to break the cycle. This is where Hope House comes in. At Hope House, the girls are taught about Jesus and all the necessary things needed to take care of themselves and their future families.
Sergiy and Larissa prepare the girls for life. They learn how to cook, clean, do laundry, and all the things necessary to keep a home and raise a family. Most importantly, they learn the love of Jesus. As new girls come in, they are paired with a girl who has been there and she helps the newcomer adjust and get acclimated. This buddy system works very well and the girls become very close.
We happened to arrive at Hope House at a time when one of the girls had only been there for a couple of days. There was a distinct difference in the attitude and demeanour of the new girl in comparison to the girls who had been there longer. To witness the love of Jesus as demonstrated by Sergiy, Larissa, and the other girls, transform her heart and attitude over the next five days is something that will never leave me. She went from being stand-offish to being part of the family and even hugged us before we left. Hope House is more than a home for girls, it’s a family!
As someone who had no desire to leave home to take part in world missions, I must say, I have been changed. My heart and desire to see Jesus taken to the world has grown from being words and a mission for others to becoming very personal.
It is my desire to see this ministry grow far beyond what it is and to see many more lives changed for the good and glory of the Kingdom. I don’t know when, but I know I will be going back.
Since 2005, WHI Canada has run Hope House, a program in Odessa, Ukraine, which offers a home for girls who have aged out of orphanages or who are living on the streets. These girls can stay at Hope House for as long as they are in school. Once they graduate from post-secondary education, they graduate from Hope House.