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Vova’s first birthday party

“If I give all I possess to the poor… but have not love, I gain nothing” (I Corinthians)

Advocating with a doctor, renovating a home, tutoring for college exams, or other kinds of help have the most healing power when love is their source. Our staff aren’t checking off a list of good works or flaunting their charity. Orphanage graduates need genuine compassion, hearts open to their joys and distress – the “reparative mentoring” we talk about in our Core Values. That’s why the fun, purely relational events are so important, including birthdays.

When Vova was three, his dad killed his mom and went to prison. Vova was taken to an orphanage. When he was six, another family took custody of him, and the mother of that family died recently.

In healthy families, birthdays can be an affirmation of personhood, a tangible reminder that you’re loved. Your friends and family say, “I’m glad you were born!” But until last month, no one ever celebrated Vova’s birthday. No one told him, “You’re unique, you’re somebody, you matter.”

So we wanted to make Vova’s 18th birthday special. Staff member Vasiliy took him out in a rowboat, where he learned how to row for the first time. He also tried sushi – a big treat!

Learning to row

Vova really enjoyed his birthday. But deep healing requires loving care over many months and years. Vova needs to be enfolded in our loving community – which includes you! Thank you for bringing your prayers, donations, and volunteer efforts to this healing work.

Photos: Ira visits her childhood home

Visit to Cholovichi with Ira

Orphanage graduate Ira moved into our Shelter facility last year, and baby Sophia was born in September. Recently, our Mobile Unit took Ira to the region where she grew up to help her establish safe housing. She applied for a housing grant in her hometown and completed other paperwork. Then we drove to her old home.

Staff member Sasha shared that the house was “wooden and cold.”

While she was in town, Ira was able to reconnect with some of her family. Her uncle was happy to see her, and introduced her aunt and cousin.

L-R: Ira’s aunt, Ira, Ira’s cousin, Ira’s uncle, and Sophia in the stroller

Ira’s aunt brought out a newspaper clipping all about the death of Ira’s mother, her father’s drinking, and her siblings. Ira’s mother drowned, likely under the influence of alcohol. Ira’s sister was adopted out of country, and her new family doesn’t allow contact. 

It’s not uncommon for orphans’ family tragedies to be written up in the local paper.

Ira’s dad wasn’t home, but we did visit her mother’s grave.

We love helping our youth reconnect with family, when possible. Orphans often need logistical help and emotional support to do this. Since her visit, Ira has been talking to her aunt on the phone. Her cousin will soon be a dad, so she’s been gathering things to pass along for the baby.

The resting-place of Ira’s mother

Right now, safe housing is Ira’s big project. She’s waiting to hear about the grant. But when Sophia is old enough for kindergarten, Ira wants to find work assisting children with disabilities. Your support allows us to help Ira with her education and career, so she can end the cycle of poverty and abandonment and plan a bright future for herself and her daughter!

Camp prayer requests from our staff

Thanks again to everyone who helped make summer camps possible! Our first camp begins in just a few days. Would you pray by name for our staff leading camp, and the requests they’ve shared?

August 3rd – 9th is our Stop the Cycle camp for orphan-parented families. This cohort will celebrate their graduation from the program after returning, so this is their last camp. The staff include Andrey & Oksana, Yulia S. & Sasha A., Sergei & Anna, Anya H., and Lillia.

  • Sergei asks for prayer for good weather, for God to preserve life and health, and for some campers to come to know God during the week.
  • Sasha A. asks for hearts to be open to Jesus, and for positive change after camp – to see moms, their husbands, and kids attending church. 
  • Stop the Cycle director Oksana asks for “the Lord to work in hearts and plant His truth… We also ask that the Lord protect from illness and injury, and give beautiful weather.” She also asked for prayers for traveling, since the drive is eight hours one way with mothers and small children. “But it’s worth it!” she added. “Camps are always a special and very important time.”

August 10th – 16th is our Educational Outreach camp for orphan students. The staff leading this camp include Lena V., Lena A., Yulia N., Sasha T., Vasya & Luba, and Vitaliy.

  • Luba asks God to bless the road and the drivers. 
  • Lena V. asks for prayer that the staff would be “a good example of God’s love for [our youth],” and that they’d come to know God; for cohesion in teamwork; and for the health of all our youth and leaders at the sea.
  • Lena A. shared, “During this time we’ll have the opportunity to show God to our youth in various areas. Our dream is that everything sown in their hearts will germinate and bear fruit. We want their hearts to change, to be healed, and to receive peace.”

Thank you for praying. We’ll share email stories about camp in September, but be sure to follow us on Facebook to see photos in real time!

Christians join hands to house orphans

Andrey R.’s parents struggled with addiction, and his mother died from cold in the winter. At five, he went to an orphanage, where he became self-destructive and got into all kinds of trouble. But after he met Last Bell, he began to heal and redirect his life and his energy.

The Ukrainian government guarantees housing for orphanage graduates, though it’s often insufficient; a decrepit family home in a remote village might qualify. But Andrey didn’t have even that. So, one of our partners, Hope for Orphans, welcomed Andrey into an apartment program for a year. The volunteer mentor in Andrey’s apartment happened to be Vasiliy, a Last Bell staff member. Then, in January, government funds allowed Andrey to purchase a house near Zhytomyr.

Andrey (right) with the RP crew

Andrey’s new home

Andrey’s home needs repairs, so our Restoration Project crew will redo ceilings, paint floors, re-tile the kitchen, fix wiring and plumbing, replace the heater, install new windows and doors, and convert a closet into an indoor bathroom. And they’ll deal with surprises, like a rotten wall. Andrey’s been helping – in fact he began digging a ditch for plumbing a week before the crew arrived.

Housing is just one part of caring for Andrey. Right now he’s studying auto mechanics, but we’ll learn if that’s what he really wants and help him chart a path for the future. And we’re not the only ones! Hope for Orphans and other great organizations are also following the Holy Spirit’s lead in our city, reaching out to orphanage graduates. Praise God!

Andrey (L) with friends at the Day Center

Andrey (R) working on his home with RP crew member and fellow orphanage graduate Oleg

When medical advocacy feels like a miracle

Masha R. (above) is grateful to Last Bell for “helping her believe in miracles.” Compassionate advocacy can feel that way to young people who were alone for so many years.

Masha’s father died and her mother struggled with addictions; she went to an orphanage at nine years old. We met her during our life skills lessons at her social dorm. She graduated from trade school and now studies a technical trade in college.

Masha is an active, energetic, kind young woman. She’s close to our staff and involved in many Last Bell activities. But since childhood, her vision was poor – she tested recently at about 30% of “normal” vision.

This is not uncommon; orphans’ health – including vision – is often neglected, and orphanage graduates don’t have the knowledge or experience to advocate for themselves. So medical advocacy is a big priority in our model of holistic care. By herself, Masha couldn’t have procured a diagnosis, traveled to appointments, filled out the paperwork, or talked to doctors. And medical care is expensive. Meeting physical needs is one of the most foundational ways to show we care.

Staff members Lena Voznyuk and Luba and Vasya Yaroshuk were all involved in taking Masha to eye exams, including several trips to Kyiv (a two-hour drive each way). Finally, Masha had eye surgery. Lena reported, “I’m very glad that I was able to be beside her. It was painful, and Masha cried a lot.” Now Masha’s vision is at 90%. God sent our staff to be a miracle for Masha!

Thank you!

A big DYAKUYU (“thank you” in Ukrainian) to all our friends who gave to the summer camp fund! You met and exceeded our $16k goal. Every summer we witness God healing families and bringing hope to our youth. Thanks for believing in the power of camp!

Blessings from camp everywhere I look

A Week of Camp, a Year of Impact

Now that we’re reopening, I just have to look around me to remember the value of summer camp. I see orphanage graduates at meetings for moms, visiting our Day Center, and attending church because of camp.

At church, I see Dima (above). Last year, he struggled to make good decisions, was manipulated and used by others, and had trouble holding down a job. At camp, he was protected from hurtful people, and got to know our most faithful Day Center youth. After a healing week of camp, he began attending church with me and Oksana, where he confesses his mistakes and openly shares his worries and problems. He even met someone who will help him with vocational training.

At Stop the Cycle meetings, I see Dasha and her husband. They attended family camp last year and listened carefully in the moms’ and dads’ groups.

It’s rare for men to join our monthly meetings, but ever since camp, Dasha and Sasha have both attended.

I can see that their commitment to life together became real and solid after camp.

The pandemic restrictions are easing now, and we plan to hold youth camp and family camp. I have faith that in every plan we make, God can do a great work in the hearts of our youth and our moms and dads. All year I look forward to seeing how their lives will change!

Due to logistical changes, our 2020 camps will now cost only $16,000, and we’ve raised $12,000. Our $5k matching grant has been met, thanks to many generous gifts! 

Will you help us reach our goal by making a donation before July 1st?

God bless you abundantly!

Thank you for seeing and caring about our youth,

Andrey Pankyeyev
Executive Director in Ukraine

PS – Will you help us provide a life-changing camp experience for orphan youth, moms, and dads? You can make a secure donation by clicking DONATE above, or you can mail a check to Last Bell Ministries, PO Box 30671, Indianpolis, IN 46230. Thank you!

Testimony from a camp donor

A donor shares: Camp “changed the trajectory of my family’s life”

Good news! $4389 has come in toward our matching fund for a total of $8778 raised for camps so far. Our deadline is July 1st, so it’s not too late to give – and right now your donation will be matched to double your impact.

This week, we want to share a word of encouragement from an anonymous donor who gives toward camp every year:

“I personally have a heart for Last Bell because I was adopted as an infant. I guess you could say I can relate to the emotional needs of the orphan graduates in Ukraine (at least at some level). I believe God is using Last Bell to change one life at a time by bringing hope to orphan graduates in very real and tangible ways.

“I accepted Christ at summer camp as a young boy. I’ve seen the Holy Spirit move in powerful ways at camp, not only in my life, but in the lives of my children and family, and others. God has used camp to completely change the trajectory of our family’s life, not only through youth camp, but also family camp.

“I hope and pray generous donors will send kids to camp so they can feel the love of Christ and allow Him to come into their lives and change them forever. Christ loves them and wants to adopt them and give them a family.”

Amen. That’s our deepest prayer – for each orphanage graduate to become part of our Last Bell family, and God’s kingdom. Camp helps us plant the seeds of faith.

Right now, $82 doubles to send one orphanage graduate to youth or family camp. Will you help us make these special days possible?

Matching grant & Sergei at camp: “I saw that God loves me”

Valya and Sergei at camp, 2019

Good news! A generous friend has offered a $5,000 matching grant for summer camps. Every dollar will be doubled to make an even bigger impact on young people like Sergei.

We met Sergei through his little sister Valya in late 2018. He’d graduated from the orphanage and was finishing college, so he’d been struggling by himself for many years. He shared this testimony about camp last summer:

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to go to summer camp at the sea. For the first time in my life, I saw the sea, which I’d only heard about. But the most important thing I’m grateful for is the team that organized this camp. Every day I was inspired….

“I’ve never liked being ‘taught’ or people imposing on me. So I loved the unobtrusive, friendly atmosphere with smart people surrounding me… people who for the first time in my life I felt I could trust.

“I began to live with great desires for my life. I abandoned my previous lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, and constant partying. I really saw that God loves me very much and wants me to have order in my life.”

At camp, Sergei deeply connected with loving Christians who’ll walk with him through every challenge he faces as an orphaned young adult.

Now, just $82 doubles to provide a week of camp. Would you prayerfully consider donating any amount toward this life-changing experience?

With our gratitude and trust,

The Last Bell Summer Camp Team

Camps in the Era of Coronavirus: Living by Faith

Dear friends,

Life has changed dramatically for everyone – whether you’re working from home or on the front lines, caregiving, applying for unemployment, keeping your business afloat, or just trying to buy groceries. I’m grateful you’re reading this letter amid all these challenges.

For us, the pandemic means adapting our daily work with orphanage graduates, and our plans for summer as well.

At this time, we intend to continue with summer camps, while we anticipate shifting as needed. Faith is “our handle on what we can’t see” (The Message). I have faith that God can work in our adapted plans, helping our youth heal and experience His deep love. For now, here is our camp schedule:

  • July 20-26 is our Stop the Cycle camp for orphan moms, dads, and their kids at the Black Sea. We expect 25 parents and 30 kids.
  • August 3-9 is Educational Outreach camp at the sea. We expect 40 youth.
  • August 24-28 is our rescheduled English Language Camp at our own Day Center. Because of the uncertainty of international travel for our American friends, our backup dates are October 5-9. We expect 50 orphanage graduates of all ages.

We have backup plans, too. We can postpone further or create special day trips. Many of our youth are very isolated, and more than ever need something to look forward to!

The total cost for camps is $24,000. Just $165 sends one lonely orphanage graduate to discover a safe, loving community. (UPDATE 5/24: Thanks to a $5k matching grant, now just $82 will double to send one orphanage graduate to camp!)

I invite you to give with faith—that God will meet your own needs, and work through our adjusted plans. Nonprofits expect to see at least a 20% drop in donations, so if you’ve never given toward summer camps, this is the year!

Many thanks, and God’s peace to you and your household,

Megan Hershey
Executive Director

Zoom Conversations with Andrey and Megan

Dear friends,

We’d hoped Ukrainian director Andrey Pankyeyev would be in the States this spring to visit supporting churches and have those special one-on-one conversations. We love seeing you all in person!

That isn’t possible right now, but we still want to connect with you personally. So on April 30th and May 5th, we’re hosting Zoom conversations with Andrey and with Executive Director Megan Hershey. Andrey will share how Last Bell is adapting our service to orphanage graduates, and Megan will share about current operations and finances (15 minutes all together). Then we’ll open up for questions. We’d love to hear from you!

We’ll have two options:

Thursday, April 30th, 2 PM
Tuesday, May 5th, 10 AM

Please RSVP to emily@lastbell.org, especially if you might need technical help. The day of each session, we’ll email the link to the Zoom call. This will go out to our whole list, so please feel welcome to join us even if you haven’t RSVP’d.

See you soon!

The Last Bell Team

Reaching Orphan Teens During Quarantine

Dima T. (above) lost his regular job because of the quarantine, and already hadn’t been paid for weeks. He’s moonlighting as a loader at the market, but can’t get many hours. When we reached out, he’d run out of food and everything he needed for hygiene and cleaning, even garbage bags and dish soap. And he’d been walking everywhere. So we brought him groceries and other supplies, and offered help with transportation to job interviews or medical appointments.

Most of the youngest orphans we know are students, so they’re not dependent on income from work. But some of the scholarship money that pays for food, toiletries, and other essentials has been delayed, and medical care is delayed because offices are closed to non-emergencies.

Many teen orphans are staying in the villages with different relatives. But many are still at their trade school or social dorms with nowhere to go and nobody to help them. One staff member shared the names of seven teens to whom she’d taken food packages in just a couple of days; even during quarantine, we helped someone pay for medical tests. Our food packages are especially important for growing teen guys who are always hungry!

Investing for the Future

As we get to know them, orphan youth will become more comfortable reaching out. Our persistence right now lets them know we truly want to help and they haven’t been forgotten.

Orphanage Graduates Give Back During Crisis

For fourteen years, Last Bell has been investing in orphanage graduates. One of our great joys in the midst of this crisis is watching men and women we know and love give back to their communities.


Tanya grew up in an orphanage in Zhytomyr, and was part of a Last Bell residential program before she got married and moved to a village.

She’s now a mom of two little girls and faithfully attends our Stop the Cycle program. Tanya’s been sewing masks from medical gowns and cloth diapers, and distributing them to her neighbors and her husband’s colleagues.


Victoria, one of our Stop the Cycle moms, turned to us for help. The father of her daughter Vlada lost his job during the quarantine. They can’t pay rent and will move in with his parents.

We brought diapers, food, and baby food. But in the midst of her need, Victoria also passed along books, prenatal vitamins, and Vlada’s old clothes for other moms.

She’s part of a real community, where we take care of each other!


Anya (left), a doctor and part-time Shelter staff member, also grew up at Orphanage #4. She’s working at the hospital in Zhytomyr, at the front lines of the fight against this disease.

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Last Bell Ministries

Loving and restoring orphanage graduates toward life and community.


PO Box 30671
Indianapolis, IN 46230