May 26 marks the end of the school year at the Children’s Day-care Center “Bethany” of the Evangelical Lutheran congregation in Novogradkivka village. For our congregation, this ministry has been a priority for a while. Our small congregation invests in being useful to children and their families.

The center has been in work for 12 years, and every year is different from the previous one. New children come, their level of abilities decreases, which means their knowledge and motivation decrease as well. Moreover, curricula are changing, which according to our teachers, each time only complicates the lives of children, as well as themselves. Some children, even with the help of an individual approach of teachers, remain unable to master the basic knowledge of elementary school. Their parents do not help much in this process either. But “the icing on the cake” of the past two years has been the pandemic (COVID-19) and the invasion of Russian troops.

But in the midst of all these difficulties, we see small children with their needs for good treatment, as well as courageous, patient adults that are giving their time and sharing God’s love with the little ones. This living history inspires and gives strength to others, filling the heart with gratitude.

Our children’s day-care is a place were kids come 4 days a week. This year, at first, we had 16 children and by the end of it only 12 stayed. Children have time for games and communication. To do this, we have a playground and a trampoline during the warm season, table football, LEGO constructor and many other helpful board games. After that, it’s time for lunch. Children receive freshly prepared meals every day. As life shows, they like food, because everyone is sure to come for a second portion.

After lunch, it’s time for a Bible story. Here the work is always mutual, because we try to teach children to tell stories. The story should become part of the children and may someday influence their life choices. After that, the children go to their classes, repeat the school material and work on their homework. During the pandemic and war, when the school is closed, we did and still are taking their place: both teaching new material and doing all the necessary in-class and home work with the children. That is how we gave them a chance to continue their studies.

Spending 4-4.5 hours in out center is not much, but after a year we witness significant changes. Children learn to help, endure, take turns speaking, learn hygiene and politeness. We feel that our work is not in vain.
So, we do not lose hope to hold one or even two children’s camps in the summer!

After 12 years of work at the Children’s Center, Lyudmila Keksel left our team. Moving to another country is a difficult choice. We are very grateful to Lyudmila for everything she did together with us and for us. She most of all influenced the current Bethany Children’s Center. We wish her more rest and a peaceful life. God’s blessings!

I would also like to thank the main supporters of our center – the organizations “Martin Luther Verein” and “Martin-Luther Bund” in Bavaria. Thanks to you, so much more became possible! I also want to thank all our Ukrainian friends who helped with donations. You are our real inspiration and faith in solidarity and help!

Pastor Alexander Gross