During 2023 we are marking 30 years since UCM was founded by John and Janet Hendy, in collaboration with a number of Christians from the Cherkasy region of Ukraine. In celebration of all that God has done in that time we are highlighting some stories of people whose lives have been impacted through the work.
During the early years of the organisation, John and Janet (sometimes joined by other volunteers) would visit Ukraine three to four times per year, each time staying for a few weeks and filling their days with any number of different activities. There would always be meetings where they would share the gospel, teach from the Bible, and pray with people. Accompanied by an interpreter, they went to different churches; to libraries and schools; to businesses; even to factories, where production would be paused to allow workers to listen to them. The Hendys were encouraged to see many people come to faith and be baptised as a result of those meetings. But everywhere they went, they could see that communities also had many urgent and often overwhelming practical needs.
John and Janet were aware that many people in the region who struggled with poor hearing did not have good access to support with the challenges they faced. They felt sure there was something UCM could do help alleviate these difficulties.
John takes up the story. “I managed to get hundreds of hearing aids from a company in England, and I had a few lessons in fitting them. Then we would make it known around the villages that on such and such a day, we would be there, fitting hearing aids. People would come in their droves; some who had hardly any hearing at all.”
One such person who had a lasting impact on John was a young girl brought in by her mother. “She told us that her daughter could not hear at all,” he shares. “She demonstrated by trying to talk to her, but she couldn't hear. However, I had some really powerful aids, so I put some batteries in and started fitting them. I had been taught to keep talking to the person whilst you are putting them in, so that as you turn the volume up, you will see by the twinkle in their eyes, if they can hear. I could see that the girl was reacting.
“And I looked at the lady and I said, ‘Your daughter can hear.’ She responded by saying, ‘This is the first time she's heard my voice.’ So I told her to keep talking!” It was a joyful moment for both mother and daughter.
Similarly, it was also obvious that many people with physical challenges and mobility issues could not easily obtain resources that could help them. This was another situation that UCM could help address. They linked up with Wheels for the World, a British charity that receives old and broken wheelchairs, has them refurbished in prisons, and then donates them to places where they are most needed.
“We managed to get a whole container load of wheelchairs refurbished, and put it onto one of our lorries that went from the UK to Ukraine,” John explains. "We spread the word in the communities that we would be available and that anyone with disabilities and who needed help come and see us.
“One man came who had no legs at all; he had got an old car seat and put four little casters underneath, and then used bits of wood to get his body up on it and push himself along. But the roads and pavements in Ukraine were terrible at that time, so it was very difficult for him.
“Happily we had a wheelchair and a team of specialists to fit it for him. They altered the wheels for balance and taught him how to get into it. And there he was, getting in and out of this wheelchair. He was overcome.”
Most significantly, the UCM teams who provided theses services always shared the gospel with those who attended. John says, “We had a whole stack of Bibles; everyone that came in received one.” A man with one leg who came to be fitted for a wheelchair asked to take away two copies, explaining to John, “I have a daughter, I want her to read a Bible too.”
Although UCM’s work looks quite different now, it is our privilege to support our pastors and other partners in Ukraine as they faithfully continue this legacy of meeting both the spiritual and practical needs of their communities.
Ukraine Christian Ministries Registered Charity No 1061221