The Pillar

Posted Apr 13, 2009 by 9 Comments

So far in my time with Mission to Ukraine, I’ve had the opportunity to explore their ministry to disabled children, which has been moving and powerful to say the least.  But until now, I have not written about the other half of MTU’s ministry: abortion prevention and crisis pregnancy counseling.

Currently in Ukraine there is an unspeakably high rate of abortions.  Because of widespread poverty and a lack of education, many mothers here believe that abortion is their only choice when faced with an unexpected pregnancy.

To make matters worse, many doctors here rely on abortions as a steady source of income.  When a scared teenage girl is told by her doctor that she is pregnant, it is not uncommon for the doctor to immediately suggest an abortion.  He explains that it is a simple medical procedure, removing a bit of tissue, that will save the girl years of financial struggle.

And why wouldn’t he?  For the doctor it’s another $40 in the bank (the average cost of a clinic abortion in Zhytomyr).  He doesn’t make a dime if she decides to have the baby.

The Zhytomyr Statistics Administrative Department states that in 2007, there were 42.8 abortions for every 100 births.  Think about that.  In this city, one out of every three pregnancies ends in abortion.

When I saw that statistic for the first time, it literally took my breath away.  I stared at the page in disbelief.  Then I saw the next one and I didn’t know what to think.  In Zhytomyr, a city of 277,000 people, officials estimate that there are 50 abortions a day. Every day.

One of MTU's counseling rooms where many pregnant women receive hope for the first time.

One of MTU's counseling rooms, where many pregnant women receive hope for the first time.

And this is the culture that MTU is trying to change…

At its core, MTU’s women’s department does crisis pregnancy counseling.  Skilled staff and volunteer counselors receive pregnant women with wound up emotions and no idea what to do.

I’ve seen a few of these women sitting in the lobby waiting to meet with a counselor.  It’s obvious why they are there.  They look uncomfortable, confused, helpless… desperate for someone to help them make one of the hardest decisions in their lives.

The counselors gently teach and love these women, explaining that abortion is more than simply a harmless medical procedure.  They tell about the joys of parenting and the deep fulfillment that can come from raising a child.

MTU offers a sewing group for new mothers to meet, talk and share their hopes, fears and challenges.

MTU offers a sewing group for new mothers to meet, talk and share their hopes, fears and challenges.

And for those mothers afraid that they are too poor to raise a family, Mission to Ukraine offers up to 18 months of assistance with food packages, clothing and baby supplies, as well as education about available government subsidies.

Now, I know that abortion is a really hot-button issue in the U.S. right now, and that taking a side in the argument is bound to make you enemies with someone, but here in Zhytomyr it really seems so much more simple.  So much more tangible.

When I look at what Mission to Ukraine is doing, it makes me wonder why there is any argument at all… And not because of the overwhelming statistics.  Not because of the vast ignorance about the issue here.  But because of a simple pillar in MTU that I pass by every day.

This pillar stands as a constant reminder of why MTU exists.

This pillar stands as a constant reminder of why MTU exists.

On this pillar hang pictures of children.  They vary in ages but all have one thing in common.  Because their mothers were counseled by MTU, they were not aborted.  These happy, healthy and beautiful children are alive today directly because of Mission to Ukraine.

And get this… the pillar is only a representation.  All told, Mission to Ukraine has saved the lives of over 350 children!

Five full school buses of kids.  Alive.  And not simply alive.  Cared for.  Provided for.  Loved.

Yet again Mission to Ukraine is walking into the night, torch in hand, trying to shine the light of the kingdom into a place filled with darkness… trying to bring life into a place of death.

Yet again, I am humbled to see how God is working here.

But it definitely leaves me wondering about the battle raging back home… I mean, with all of our signs and marches and rhetoric, where are our pillars of children?

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About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

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  1. Jill said... 


    April 13th, 2009 at 8:18 am  

    I’m in tears…again. Thanks, Barry.

  2. Dave Rod said... 


    April 13th, 2009 at 8:40 am  

    This is the story that is not told here in the USA…lost in the ideology…lost in the politics…lost in wanting to be right (pun intended) is the story of lives lost and saved (both children and women). Do we want to save human beings or win an argument?

  3. Brad Ruggles said... 


    April 13th, 2009 at 10:08 am  

    Awesome post Barry.

    When you see pictures like that the arguments for and against really boil down to something much more simple: saving lives. That is so awesome that the ministry has been a part of saving over 350 children!

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Sharon said... 


    April 13th, 2009 at 4:26 pm  

    Once again, Barry, you make the foreign tangible and the complex simple through your writing and pictures. shaking me from my comfort zone. Thank you.

    (I just need to remember to have Kleenex with me when I get on WND!)

  5. Susie Bennett said... 


    April 13th, 2009 at 6:06 pm  

    Barry, this story is unbelievable. The pictures of the children are a reminder that there are faces that go with each one of the statistics. Thanks for bringing new light to this ministry and this issue.

  6. Brad Ruggles said... 


    May 25th, 2009 at 9:00 pm  

    What an awesome post.

  7. Brittany Thompson Cooper said... 


    May 26th, 2009 at 1:21 pm  


    I just got back from a weekend at a funeral for my little niece who was born at five months and only lived for an hour. It was truly incredible to see pictures of such a perfectly formed little baby, with fingernails and eyelashes, and it made me even more sickened at what our country considers a freedom, the right to choose. Thanks for working to shed light on this issue.

  8. Jo Nading said... 


    June 8th, 2009 at 4:44 pm  

    far, far, far too many thoughts – to collect, organize, and attach feelings/emotions. I am numbed by statistics. Saddened at the loss of life. More sad that those who choose most likely have no idea who is the giver of Life. It is the same in this country. Really. We just make it look more elegant and polish it with politcal angles and propaganda. So sad to not know when life begins….and more that we think some human has the authority to decide for all of mankind? Gosh – my wheels spin in frustration…my heart sags. So WND helps us to see what we, in this country, can help another country ‘fix’ when we cannot begin to approach the source of the same issue in our own country. Mission fields? Mine fields? The least of these? Brave? Safe? Safer to be brave in another country? hmmmm. so many thots.

  9. Leah said... 


    September 13th, 2009 at 2:28 pm  

    Barry, I read it, I love it, and I’m even more excited about working with MTU during weekend of service. I can’t wait to share this with the volunteers in my group! Thanks!

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