Posted Jul 16, 2010 by 1 Comments

As I’ve spent time here in Ukraine, I’ve noticed some differences between what I grew up learning and how that contrasts with the average Ukrainian. This can be applied generally, of course, but I saw it especially in regards to the abstinence program led by Mission to Ukraine’s crisis pregnancy center.

When I was first told that I was going to go with the ladies to another village to listen in on one of the abstinence talks, I almost felt uncomfortable. This word had an interesting tinge to it in my mind. It was a slightly different take on the well known ‘no sex before marriage’ mantra that has been drilled into my head since birth from various Christian communities. But at the same time I knew that, at least in the United States, abstinence programs were often ineffective and dull (and occasionally received a good eye-roll).

I was confused. It is obvious why a crisis pregnancy center would speak about abstinence. That seems completely logical to me. But is this really the most effective way to be teaching about sex to a group of people? Won’t everyone snicker and become bitter about being told what to do?

The counselors from Mission to Ukraine travel around to local villages to inform women on the harmful medical affects of birth control and abortion.

I decided to figure out the reasoning behind the program by talking to an important group of people that the program is aimed at – the youth.

My camp interpreter and I have become friends.  She is my age, so I decided to sit down with her and her friend and ask them some general questions to get a feel on the cultural ideals floating around young people in Ukraine.

Now, I realize that I can only look at this from the perspective that I know: my own. And whether or not Ukrainian ideals are the same as the American ones, it still seemed an interesting comparison to make and a good way to sort out my thoughts.

So, as we sat around on the beds in their room, I asked them different questions about what they believe.  For example, what does the general public think about different things such as birth control, STDs, and abortion?

Most schools here have a sex education class every year, but most kids get their information from the Internet and television. My interpreter said that people are interested in the process of sex, but not in any of the consequences because no one thinks anything bad will happen to them.

Several MTU billboards and posters can be seen around Zhytomyr, getting the word out to the whole city.

She said that overall, people are not well educated because they really don’t care, taking on the mindset that ‘it will never happen to me.’ She threw in an interesting phrase that explained where this mindset might have originated (apparently it’s a common one used throughout Ukraine and the surrounding countries): “There was no sex in the Soviet Union, there was love.”

She then explained what it meant.  There were no movies, music, books, information or talk on sex in the Soviet era.  While it is not the same anymore, many people here still consider anything related to sexuality a conversational taboo.

My interpreter and her friends explained that most girls are okay with abortion, even though they might think that they’d never do it. In Zhytomyr, abortions are readily available, only needing parental consent if you’re under 16.  They only cost $25.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I remember hearing the talk that was given to the group of women I visited in the village. Instead of Sveta standing in front of everyone and condemning them to hell if they have sex outside of marriage, she was actually helping them.

She talked about the consequences of different birth control methods, and explained the lies and myths that float around society about women’s health and other issues. She was aiding women in making better life decisions, not commanding them from on high.

So much of what we learn as children growing up in the church becomes cliché and lackluster as times goes on.

That’s when I realized why MTU takes this approach and how it is effective. Educating women on the medical effects of abortion and various birth control methods is a way to not only reduce the number of abortions, but to improve these women’s lives.

Since I’ve come to this understanding, I’ve realized that MTU’s mission is quite remarkable. Thought it may seem hopeless at times, seeing someone fight for what they believe in has given me a new perspective on hope. Their odds don’t deter them, they only push them further, to go above and beyond in how they love and care for other human beings.

As I see the effect that this mission is having on the community here in Zhytomyr, it is continually becoming clearer that God is at work in people’s hearts. He has the power to drastically change lives and He uses His people to do so. He’s doing it all over the world. As I watch this play out before my own eyes, I can only hope that He would use me in a similar way.

And if you choose allow God to use you, to work and serve for the same cause, you’ll be able to feel the encouragement and the truth found in spurring each other on.

And when the body of Christ is fighting for something as a whole, who on earth is to say that it can’t be overcome?

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About the Author: Lauren Schneider was a summer intern with World Next Door in 2010. She is a Journalism/Mass Communications major at Samford University in Birmingham, AL. Lauren loves writing and photography and could eat Chick-fil-A every day for the rest of her life.

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  1. Jonathan Pomazon said... 


    July 16th, 2010 at 11:20 am  

    A thoughtful and well done piece, Lauren – and why it’s so critical for us to GO and not just talk about cross-cultural missions. If you hadn’t gone to Ukraine and seen this for yourself, how would you be equipped to speak to this issue without likely putting it into an incorrect social and cultural context? You also put your finger on why MtU is such a special ministry. I have such admiration for the staff there – many of whom have become close friends – because they are determined to stand for Christ right where He has planted them. They aren’t trying to change all of Ukraine (although they would certainly like to) but are working to impact a growing circle of women and children one at a time. I believe God had honored that commitment and is bringing the miracle of changed lives as evidence that His kingdom cannot and will not be overcome.

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