Yes we are back at the Mennonite Centre in Molochansk Ukraine. Mary and I arrived here on Monday September 25. Our flights were all on time and thankfully uneventful.
During the last leg of our flight from Vienna to Dnepropetrovsk, I found myself intrigued with a group of my fellow travellers. I approached them as we were disembarking and commented that they looked like a bunch of Mennonites from Canada. This really startled one of the women and she asked, “How did you recognize us”. I never answered her question but I thought about it later on. My first clue was her husband’s cap, which was advertising a certain type of chicken feed in English. After that I guess it was their demeanour. The last clue was realizing that the only people flying into Dnepropetrovsk besides Ukrainians returning home and European business people, were Mennonites curious about their ancestral homeland. The couple I spoke to were from Abbotsford, British Columbia and the group was on a church mission trip. They knew all about the work of the Mennonite Centre. They had been there at the opening in 2001.
Our manager, Oksana was at the airport to greet us. She has become a good friend and we always look forward to seeing her. She updated us on changes since our last visit. Ukraine has made another small move in aligning itself with the West. The traffic laws have changed regarding how to enter traffic circles. The previous law was that vehicles entering the circle had right of way with some exceptions. The new law is that vehicle already in the circle have right of way with no exceptions. This is consistent with driving rules in the West and will reduce confusion with drivers coming into Ukraine from Western Europe. Drivers from Russia on the other hand will be confused as this is not consistent with their driving practise. Ukraine has made another small step in aligning itself with Western Europe.
We spent Wednesday morning planning our time at the Mennonite Centre. There were 12 items on our list. These included meetings we wanted to have, presentations we are committed to make, people we wanted to connect with, and places we wanted to visit. Our experience has been that it is best if we attack our “to do” list with a sense of urgency in the beginning, then there is a better chance of getting it done. Toward the end of our stay, local events always press in and distract us from our own agenda. We look at this list every day and are happy with the progress in either initiating the task or completing our part of it.
One of the items on our “to do” list was to visit Tyma and Vika and see the business that they have established. Tyma is from the neighbouring village of Kutuzovka (formerly called Petershagen) where he and his father had a small farm growing grapes and other crops. Tyma’s first interaction with the Mennonite Centre was in receiving a scholarship to study agriculture at a university in Melitopol. After a few years of putting this agricultural knowledge to use on his farm, Tyma and his partner Vika (short for Victoria) decided to branch out into the tourism business. With the loss of their traditional vacation resorts in Crimea, Ukrainians are going to new places along the coast by the Sea of Azov. Tyma decided to develop some land he owned along the coast, just south of Melitopol. He built some vacation cabins and came to us last winter for a loan to build a small store to cater to tourists. He built the store this summer, got it operational, and made his first loan repayment to us one year early. He and Vika are hard workers. It is great to see this entrepreneurial spirit in young people. It needs to be supported in Ukraine where too many people are waiting for somebody else to solve their problems. The Mennonite Centre is committed to using these loan repayments in a sustainable way to encourage other entrepreneurs.
|Tyma and Vika in their new Store|
Tyma’s location on the coast is about 12 km east of the new border with Russia in Crimea. The Sea of Azov is the shallowest sea in the world with an average depth of 14 metres (46 feet). It reminds me a bit of Lake Winnipeg, which is also a shallow lake. Because of the shallowness, storms can come up suddenly with very violent waves.
|Mary Walking Along the Coast of the Sea of Azov|
Mary always has her own outreach ministry. She knew that one of our staff, whom we refer to as little Tanya, likes to knit. The only affordable source of wool for Tanya is to buy old clothing and unravel it. Mary received a large quantity of wool this last year and brought it from Canada for Tanya. She was thrilled to get this gift. The next day Tanya came to work with a gift for Mary. It was a large bag of grapes from Tanya’s garden. There were 4 varieties of grapes and they are beautiful to look at and delicious to eat.
|Beautiful Grapes from Tanya|
If you wish to know more about the work of the Mennonite Centre, you can check out our web site at: http://www.mennonitecentre.ca/ or follow our daily activities on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Mennonite-Centre-Ukraine-735361069838076/