Planting the Seed
Each year, HOPE celebrates a client who demonstrates HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity with the Thurman Award. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, the Thurman celebrates clients who have not only experienced change in their own lives but have also extended that transformation to others in their community. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting the stories of this year’s winner and four honorable mentions to the blog. Today we celebrate Denis Hrystychenko, honorable mention from Eastern Europe. Denis Hrystychenko was only 9 years old when his father died, leaving his mother to support 10 children on her own. Many of Denis’ older siblings went to work to support the family, and when he turned 14, Denis joined his brothers in the construction industry, proudly using his earnings to help meet the family’s needs. He planned to make a career of construction, moving over 100 miles from Berdichev, Ukraine, to the capital city of Kiev and sending money home to his family—but God used a documentary film to plant another seed in his heart. When Denis saw a film on the development of agriculture in Ukraine, he felt called to cultivate and expand this industry. He loved the land and believed in its potential to produce bountiful harvests. Though Denis had no farming experience, he began studying agriculture. Remembering the words of Proverbs 13:10—“Wisdom is found in those who take advice”—he consulted more experienced local farmers. Heeding their wisdom, Denis leased three hectares (about 7.5 acres) of local land, built a greenhouse, and began cultivating green onions and potatoes. He also arranged to plant and plow other farmers’ fields to supplement his income. Farm as ministry With the seasonal variability of his income, Denis wasn’t able to expand his farm to include more crops and livestock. To pursue his dream, he sought a loan from HOPE Ukraine and invested the $1,250 in improving his greenhouse and buying fertilizer for his potato crop. Denis views his farm as a ministry, a model of hard work in a community where many have given up hope. He hires five to six people during harvest, explaining, “I want to change people’s mentality and give them opportunity to work!” A leader within his church, Denis organizes evangelistic outreaches in his community. His hard work and strong character lend credibility to his message, as others see him as an example of a man whose deeds live up to his words. A good name Last year proved particularly difficult for potato farmers like Denis, as supply outpaced demand. Many farmers were devastated by the poor return on their hard work and investment, but Denis persevered, explaining that his faith lies not in the ground—or what it produces—but in God. Though he could have defaulted on his loan or withheld payment from his workers, Denis again turned to the words of Proverbs: “A good name is more desirable than great riches” (Proverbs 22:1). And God was faithful to provide an idea that helped Denis repay his loan, honor his commitment to his employees, and provide for his family. Denis realized that while supply exceeded demand in Berdichev, he could transport his harvest over 300 miles to Odessa, Ukraine, and sell the potatoes for a more competitive price. The harvest didn’t produce “great riches” for Denis, but his response to the difficult circumstances did cement his reputation in the community as a man of great faith and character: a man with “a good name.”
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