Indianapolis resident on mission to help "forgotten" Ukrainians

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Despite the crisis in Ukraine, there is a Hoosier in that country right now.  The images Indianapolis resident Steve Znachko is seeing in Ukraine are unlike anything he has seen in previous trips.

"It feels like there's a lull before the storm," said Znachko.  "You still see the bombed-out buildings from where the fires were.  Memorials of the 100 who were shot.  Also, there are 300 missing.  Tents of makeshift warriors are still there but still living on the square.  It was still a surreal scene. It's an incredible site.  All of the blockades are still up.  They still have Molotov cocktails built in boxes.  They still have all the metal barricades to stop as much as they can automobiles or tanks.  They're very concerned about Russia's aggression," said Znachko.

What brings this Grace Community Church lay minister to Ukraine is "Mission to Ukraine", a ministry focusing on people most of this country has forgotten.

"They know all the names of the disabled and the babies.  They give physical therapy to these people.  They are a light in the middle of a very dark place right now," said Znachko.  "They really do minister to the least of the society of Ukraine.  So, it's an incredible ministry."

There is worry that more violence and more change in Ukraine could reduce the amount of funding these faith-based ministries receive.

"They're afraid when the pensions get cut, it's the poorest that get hurt first.  The previous government actually threatened to adopt some Russian policies on ministries which meant that ministries would be identified almost like foreign agents.  So funding would be limited.  These ministries are heavily dependent on funding from the west because of the poverty that exists in their own country.  So, their income stream had been threatened.  But, it's not the ministry that they're worried about as much as the faces of the these ministries," said Znachko.   "In Ukraine, when you're disabled or you are poor, the social net that is available to you is minuscule compared to what we have in the States," said Znachko.

Znachko says "Mission to Ukraine" began because two women wanted to prevent the high number of abortions in Ukraine.

"Women can have 6-8 abortions and sometimes 20 plus.  There were no options and it was very much a money maker," said Znachko.  "When communism fell, two women felt led to offer women options.  They went to the hospitals.  Some of these women chose to keep their babies.  The women looked and said of course, if we are going to ask them to do that, and they're going to be born in what is now one of the three worst places to be born as a child, they were going to support them.  They actually support the moms, the children with food, diapers, healthcare, and these two women have now grown into 34 full time staff right now.  They offer physical therapy on site to kids, who without physical therapy, their lives would dwindle because their bodies tighten up and they can't move.  They offer dental care on site.  They offer training.  So, it's this incredible thing that God has done," said Znachko.

Znachko comes to Ukraine to encourage the 34 full time staff members of "Mission to Ukraine" but admits he is the one being encouraged by what they are doing.

"I have never seen people of stronger faith and stronger conviction and more caring than these.  They rely on one answer.  They believe God is moving," said Znachko.  "They are finding an incredible resurgence and renewal to a faith answer to this and a peace answer to this.  We spent a lot of time talking about how God works through struggles and tragedies.  I think they see that.  There's a verse that talks about how God works through good in all these things.  But, they're believing for a nation that God will do something miraculous because this is a hurting place for a while.  They needed some change and they're hoping this pain and this suffering that God will make a big change in Ukraine," said Znachko.