Jeff meeting with farmers in Ukraine

by Jeff Rutt, Founder & Board Chair of HOPE International, Founder & CEO of Keystone Custom Homes, excerpted from the foreword to Created to Flourish

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine faced a debilitating economic crisis, leaving many without enough food to eat or clothes to wear. Along with others in my church, I felt compelled to respond. There were people who were hungry, who needed shelter, who didn’t have the hope of Jesus Christ. As we read in Isaiah 58:7, God has a specific idea about how we should translate our faith into action:

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

We couldn’t turn away, so my church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, established a partnership with Pastor Leonid Petrenko and his church in Zaporozhye, a city located along the Dnieper River in southeastern Ukraine. We wanted to respond not just with money or donations but through building relationships. We greatly desired to join together as communities of faith seeking mutual encouragement.

Eager to respond to pressing needs, we began transporting containers of flour, rice, canned meat, clothing, and medical supplies. It seemed like a way we could care for the physical needs of our global neighbors, following Jesus’ command that if you have two tunics, you should give one away.

Before long, distributing the donated food and supplies to the people of his church and community had become a regular part of Pastor Petrenko’s job. Continue Reading…

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by Grace Engard, Graphic Designer

“None of this was here a few years ago.”

This phrase and variations of it would be repeated again and again during the six days I was in Ukraine. This particular time, my group stood in the center of a small mountain town called Khust in western Ukraine. Down the middle of the cobblestone street, a perfect line of trees dotted a strip of lush green grass. Wooden benches lined either side of the strip, and ornate lampposts towered above. As the afternoon sun filtered in, I imagined the otherwise drab, gray street without the grass and decorations—the way it would have looked only a few years ago.

Ukraine has had a turbulent history, being divided and conquered by various countries for centuries. As a post-Soviet nation, Ukraine’s economy has struggled under the weight of corruption and conflict since the early 1990’s. Even after much economic improvement starting in 2000, the country’s GDP plummeted once again in 2014 following the civil unrest and later conflict in eastern Ukraine. Still today, jobs are scarce, uncertainty runs high, and the average Ukrainian lives on only about $240 per month.

And yet … Continue Reading…

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by Annie Rose Ansley, HOPE Trips Liaison

Most days, Chrismene makes and sells traditional Dominican snacks and dulces, or sweets. A client of HOPE’s partner in the Dominican Republic, Esperanza International, Chrismene also uses her loans to maintain a side business selling accessories and household goods. Most days, when she makes and sells dulces, this is what her day looks like:

5:00 a.m.

A 45-year-old mother of nine, Chrismene starts every day around 5:00 a.m., when she heads to the largest market in the Santo Domingo province, Mercado Nuevo. The first part of her day is in fact the hardest: since Chrismene’s neighborhood can be dangerous before dawn, she often has to wait for neighbors, wasting valuable time, so they can walk to the main road in a group.2016-Market_buying peanuts

Despite the overwhelming size of the market, Chrismene knows the best stall for each item she needs—coconuts, ginger, sesame seeds, peanuts, sugar, oil. An hour of bargaining, weighing and bagging later, Chrismene departs with her purchases.

Continue Reading…

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Nestled in the mountains of western Ukraine, the small town of Khust boasts some of the country’s greatest mountain biking trails. Tourists from all over the world come to experience the region’s beauty. For Lesya Login, a native of Khust, biking is a deep passion—something she and her husband, Nicholai, dreamed of sharing with others.

Early in their marriage, Lesya worked as a coach at a school while Nicholai worked as a bike repairman. They dreamed of one day starting their own business selling bikes. After Lesya purchased and sold several bikes to test out their idea, she was convinced that the business would work—but the Logins lacked the capital needed to get it off the ground.

As Lesya sought a solution, commercial banks repeatedly denied her loan applications, doubtful that someone so young—just 22 years old at the time—and with no business experience would be able to repay. Determined, Lesya continued to search for a bank that would give her a loan. That’s when their neighbor, Michael, told Lesya and Nicholai about the organization he worked for: HOPE Ukraine.

Continue Reading…

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On International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, we honor women who courageously love, serve, and invest their God-given skills and talents into their churches, families, workplaces, and communities.

In Rwanda, HOPE serves over 520,000 people—63 percent of whom are women—through microfinance and savings services. To hear how Rwandan women are tackling the challenges of poverty for their families and in their communities, we asked members of HOPE Rwanda’s savings program a few questions.

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Working as a team, Feresiya and her husband own and manage three small businesses—a barber shop, small corner store, and wedding dress rental business—in addition to their vegetable garden.

What makes Rwandan women strong?

I think it is because they have known their worth! They love working and improving themselves, and they love taking responsibility for their families just like men. … [women] can be a big support in the community and in their families. Continue Reading…

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by Luke Harbaugh, HOPE Church Representative

In March, the Church has the opportunity to celebrate the season of Lent—a solemn and wonderful time of preparation for Easter. In the early church, Lent was a season when new converts were instructed in the basics of the Christian faith in preparation for baptism on Easter Sunday. Even today, it is a time set aside for self-examination and repentance as we ponder what it means to live as both a crucified and resurrected people.

I grew up in a church tradition that didn’t observe Lent. In fact, I attended my first Ash Wednesday service during my first year of seminary. I still remember the first time one of our chaplains imparted the ashes on my forehead and said to me those traditional Ash Wednesday words: “From dust you came, and to dust you shall return.” Since then, Ash Wednesday has served as a yearly summons for me to take serious inventory of my life in light of my own mortality.

In a pastoral care class in seminary, we had to write our own eulogies. And the content—especially our causes of death—were diverse. Some chose to die as martyrs, others from natural causes, while one student met his end by way of a flock of angry ducks! This exercise challenged us with a weighty question: What will be said of your life once it’s over? Continue Reading…