Trip notes from Director Megan

Dear friends, 

As I began to write about my recent trip, Ukraine was marking 100 days of war with Russia. We were grieving 100 days of life in Ukraine without peace, 100 days of millions of children and women displaced from their homes, and 100 days of brave and enduring Ukrainians who hold hope in their hearts and fight to be free people. 

It’s important to us that you, our Last Bell friends, know how your gifts have impacted our community since the first missile hit Kyiv in late February. Even as many of our daily tasks and locations have changed, I can say with 100% confidence that this ministry is living by its guiding principles, even as the war rages on. We’re serving back home in Zhytomyr, where the majority of our staff have remained, AND we’re serving our diaspora, dozens of young Stop the Cycle Moms and children who have been displaced to other countries. The open arms of our mission have stretched out and we are prayerfully learning how to serve this wider distribution of our community.
Last month, our ministry saw an opening for Andrey and Oksana Pankyeyev to leave Ukraine for a short period of time and check on our refugee groups around Eastern Europe. We knew how vital their visit would be; they would encourage, pray, and bring boxes from home (special items left behind in last-minute evacuations). That gave me a surprising opportunity to meet them in Europe. I looked forward to bringing supplies from the States, having some key conversations, and spending time hearing our refugees’ stories and discerning next steps. 

During several days of driving to our refugee communities, and in conversations with Andrey and Oksana, I saw and heard firsthand how Last Bell’s staff members are living out our deepest values, whether in the Netherlands, Poland, or back home.
As they face their own decisions about safety and risk, our staff in Zhytomyr continue to live out healing relationships. At our Day Center they continue to love our youth boldly! It’s a safe haven for so many youth during this dark time, with caring relationships, food, and counsel.  

They’re living out dynamic community, joining hands with Christian acquaintances and even strangers in the Netherlands who are practicing extreme generosity. These new friends have opened up their lives and resources to house and care for our Shelter moms and children indefinitely, partnering with our team to bring justice to the lives of our youth. I had the pleasure of watching these new Dutch mentors cheerfully use Google Translate to communicate with our young moms and play board games outside their tiny homes, each finding their own way to connect.  

In both communities our staff is practicing the good news of Jesus by caring for holistic needs through counseling, Bible study, and in many other ways. Oksana is even teaching financial literacy skills via Zoom to those receiving refugee subsidies in the EU. We saw firsthand the need for those skills as we traveled and noted the high cost of living in a new country like the Netherlands. 
As we report on the “state of our mission” during this horrific war, I most want to share about the vulnerabilities and emotional cost I observed this past month as I sat with our Last Bell community in person. I look forward to sharing those stories in one of our upcoming newsletters. 

As so many of you are, we as a ministry are holding both atrocity AND hope at the same time. Please continue to intervene and pray for our people during these desperate times.

Together with each of you,

Megan Hershey
Executive Director

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