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Growing in Knowledge of God’s Love

A letter from Nadia Ayoub, serving in Ukraine

October 2017

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“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord… since you know that from the Lord you will receive your inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.”
Colossians 3: 20, 24

Dear Friends and Families,

Peace and grace from our Lord Jesus Christ for you all. It is with a glad heart that I give thanks to God for each one of you. I thank you for your faithfulness in continuing to pray, encourage and financially support me and God’s work among the Roma people in Ukraine.

A father did not have much chance for education when he was young, and that resulted in fewer opportunities for work. Like so many people here in Ukraine are forced to do because of inflation, the father travelled abroad to have a better chance of finding a job. He did find work in manual labor. It was very taxing, with long hours and few breaks. After a few months, he returned to his family, happy that he had been able to save money to fix the roof of their home.

Because he does not want his children to struggle as he has, he instills in them the value of education, emphasizing that educated people are not stuck in such strenuous work. He encourages his children to keep going to school and to seek higher education.

The PC(USA) and our church partners in Ukraine are committed to ensuring that children in the Peterfolvo area have better opportunities than many of their parents. Thank God that the 2017-2018 school year has started well. On September 1, the preschool program’s leaders gathered with the parents and children for orientation. All children who provided a birth certificate and medical card record were accepted. Parents who did not have their documents were given one week to complete the requirements.

The 2017-2018 class consists of 15 children who are 3-4 years old and 10 children who are 5-6 years old. Eight children in the older group will graduate in the summer of 2018 and enter first grade. The children are picked up by the program’s minibus from five locations: three settlements and two small Roma communities.

This education program started in 2011 in the Peterfolvo and Tecobokeny settlements. Classes were held in two separate locations—a garage that we converted to a classroom and a bedroom that we used for two hours twice a week. Then God provided a house for the Roma Mission Center, which was purchased with donations to the PC(USA)’s Presbyterian Women organization. Since the preschool program began in 2014, I have seen positive developments in the involvement of the parents, the ability of the children to learn. and in the children’s love for the program. Every day, 19-23 of the 25 children attend. They are clean, full of energy and ready to be trained and molded. They are growing in knowledge of God’s love for them and God’s plan for their lives. They are being educated to become good citizens in their communities.

Here is an example of students’ daily schedule:

8:00 a.m: Bible story, prayer and a breakfast of tea and bread with butter
9:00 a.m.: Lessons in reading, writing, mathematics, natural science, art, crafts, physical exercises, singing and language study (Hungarian, Ukrainian and, occasionally, English)
10:30 a.m.: Break for a small biscuit, tea or juice
12:30 p.m.: Outdoor recess, if the weather cooperates
1:00 p.m.: Hot lunch
2:00 p.m.: Home via our minibus

One Thursday, I visited two classes. I noticed that Kristen did not want to follow the teacher’s directions. In response, the teacher took him to her table and encouraged him to do his work. When the children gathered in a circle to sing and dance, Kristen once more did not want to join the group. His teacher shared that his mother complained that Kristen is not obeying her at home.

I teach Kristen, his brother Joan and his sister Amanda in Sunday School. He is always happy and enjoys listening to the Bible stories, singing and learning about Jesus and his love for all people. When I witnessed Kristen’s behavior in the classroom, I called him to me and put my arm on his shoulder. I told him that Jesus loves him and asked Kristen if he loves Jesus. With a calm look on his face, he nodded. So I said, “if so, you are God’s child.” I reminded him that as God’s child you need to obey your parents and teachers and love your friends and enjoy learning with them. He agreed and went back to the group with a smile on his face and began singing, “This little light of mine, I am going to let it shine, shine, shine.”

Lord willing, in January 2018 I will return to the US for six months for my interpretation assignment. I look forward to visiting with you all, seeing you face to face and thanking you properly for all your great prayers, encouragements, and support.

My appointment in Ukraine ends in June 2018. I look forward with great hope and anticipation for the Lord’s next call for me.

I do not have enough words to express my joy and thanks to God for giving me the chance to witness to God’s love and the grace of Jesus Christ and his saving work that has started among the Roma people in the Peterfolvo area of Carpath-Ukraine. This was only possible because of Presbyterians, individuals and churches. Thank you so much for accepting God’s call to pray, and encouraging and offering financial support for a Presbyterian missionary like me so that I am able to share God’s love to the unreached Roma people in Ukraine. Please continue to walk alongside the Roma people and me through your generosity.

May the Lord be with you and encourage you more in your faith in Jesus Christ the Savior.

Serving the Lord with you,

Nadia Ayoub

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