Sowing Seeds in Faith

Run by Inna Illinya, her sister-in-law Mika, and a wonderful team of helpers, Blagodatne Day Centre is a vital ministry serving children and families in the village. Inna explains how the work began and what God is doing through it.

When and why did the Day Centre start?
The Day Centre started in our church in October 2022. The impetus for its opening was the lack of full-time education for children, who began studying remotely due to coronavirus, and then continued due to the war. Having children of our own, we could see how much they missed in-person time with their peers. The war brought a lot of terrible, negative things into people's lives, a lot of stress. It is hard enough for adults, and it is even more difficult for children at this time.

At the beginning of the school year in 2022, God put a desire in our hearts to open some classes at the church for children to do their distance learning together, but we did not know how to implement this and the church did not have the financial means to do it. So we opened this desire to God, and then a friend helped us start the ministry, first with children from non-Christian families, in order to show the gospel in action to them and their parents.

The aim of the Day Centre is to provide a place where children can feel an atmosphere of love, acceptance and support, and can develop spiritually, physically, intellectually and emotionally. We also aim to build relationships and reach parents through our work with children.

How do you discern which families need your support and which children to invite?
At the beginning, we only invited children from large and low-income families, and helped them with distance learning and homework. However, as we are on social media, news about the Centre quickly spread. Since there is a war going on and everyone needs support, we started accepting any children who want to come, and we now have more helpers and two separate groups: ages 5-7 years and 8-15 years. Once we know the children, we also try to find out the needs of their families, and help them if possible.

What do you do with the children at the Day Centre? Each meeting of the Day Centre includes prayer; singing (we sometimes perform a song at the Sunday service, praising God and encouraging the church); games or quests, such as a treasure hunt; some academic learning, such as multiplication tables, geographical facts, English words and phrases; a creative activity; a Bible lesson, when we talk about how God works in real life and what He teaches us; and a meal, as the children need to eat during the day (some are already very hungry when they arrive). We see that the children love being together.

Have you seen an increase in the number of children and families with problems since the war started? How do you help them?
Of course, since the war started, more and more families have been experiencing problems. First of all, Ukrainians have become poorer due to low incomes and high prices. Many have lost their jobs, many IDPs (Internally Displaced People) have moved and lost all their property, and people are also trying to help the army, buying medicines and food for soldiers. The war has affected every family, and every family has someone in the war. From the very beginning, the church has been involved and has tried to help people with housing, medicine, clothing and daily essentials. We also try to take care of the needs of families at the Day Centre, and look for opportunities to help.

Have new children started coming to come to church since attending the Centre? Do they bring their families?Yes, that has happened, and we also noticed an increase in the number of children attending the holiday camps after the Day Centre was established. Two older girls started attending the youth group and have now become our assistants at the centre. One large family with five children became regular visitors and participants in church services, and the mother and older sister accepted the Lord in their hearts. We focus a lot on building relationships with parents, and we are very happy when they come to church with their children. We believe that the seeds we sow will sprout.

What can we do?
We see how God blesses and cares for this ministry and it gives us strength and confidence that we are moving in the right direction; we have many more dreams and plans for the future. We ask for your prayers for the children of the Day Centre and their parents, so that this ministry can bear even more fruit for God; and for an end to the war and for peace in Ukraine.

Ukraine Christian Ministries Registered Charity No 1061221