Here in Zhytomyr I play with kids, shadow leaders, and ask enough questions to drive people crazy. Each of these things is teaching me about life for the disabled in Zhytomyr. But meeting Natasha was one of the most eye opening experiences I have had.

It was another hot day and I was honestly not motivated to even move, much less head out into the city to meet someone. But when Oksana offered to take me along on a home visit, I knew I had been offered an incredible opportunity. So I ignored the sweat dripping down my face and walked with Oksana up the street to meet Natasha.

A soviet style apartment.

Natasha is twenty years old, married, and has a baby on the way. She and her husband live with her parents because of her paralyzing disability which leaves her wheelchair bound. Her mother shares the same disability, so her father spends his days taking care of them both.

Natasha and her father pose for a picture.

It didn’t take long to arrive at the Soviet style apartment where Natasha resides. Her father wheeled her up the rutted pathway to a bench where Oksana and I sat down. He left us women to chat and Natasha’s bright smile and easy manner made me feel immediately at ease.

Natasha’s bright smile demonstrated her joy at having Oksana and I visit. Natasha does not have the luxury of walking up the street to meet with friends. And city transit is no help to those in wheelchairs. There are no ramps on any of the trams, trolleys, or buses here. Because of this Natasha spends most of her time at home in her family’s small apartment.

As the afternoon progressed we decided to all head up the street to MTU. As we neared the mission I realized what a beacon of light this ministry is in such a dark situation. With her brown eyes full of life, Natasha shared that she started participating in MTU’s ministries at age 15.

Natasha got her first Bible at an MTU camp. She came to know Christ at camp and was baptized there. She has also has gone to MTU’s classes for years and looks forward to any chance she has to be there.

One of her favorite activities at MTU is art. Natasha loves drawing, painting, and all the other creative activities MTU offers.

A ramp-less curb, one of many obstacles for someone wheelchair bound.

It was through talking with Natasha that I began to understand why MTU means so much to people here. MTU represents a taste of independence and acceptance for those with disabilities. When Natasha is here, she’s just another normal adult woman. She hangs out with friends and learns valuable lessons that help her grow in her faith.

Near MTU we came to a busy intersection and crossing the street proved to be a difficult feat. There were no ramps on any of the curbs. As we searched for an incline in the curb my heart broke. I realized that this ramp-less curbside represents a mentality, the mentality of apathy and ignorance. As long as people like Natasha are sequestered away out of sight, no one has to think about their responsibility to “do unto others.” Curbs without ramps are a demonstration of turning a blind eye to those in need.

Natasha faces these obstacles daily. She has to be lifted over curbs, pulled through potholes, and carried up steep stairways. And she’s not alone. I have met numerous people like her, who struggle every day just to get from place to place.

All it takes is sitting on a bench and having a conversation with someone like Natasha to open your eyes.

I cannot revamp the city of Zhytomyr to be more wheelchair friendly. I cannot get rid of all the curbs without ramps, pothole ridden sidewalks, and the world’s apathy toward such problems. And neither can MTU. But the people here are finding ways around these obstacles. They are making sure that girls like Natasha get out of the house, experience life, and meet others with the same problems.

Today as I begin another day here I realize even more how the people at MTU are truly living out the prayer “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” They are, every day, building ramps on the curb sides of life. My hope is that you too will start creating your own ramps. Check out the next steps below for some practical ways to do so.

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Next Steps
    • Pray for Natasha and her baby. She needs to have a c-section to have her baby and the costs are high. Pray her family would have sufficient funds and for God to alleviate her fears.
    • Check out MTU's website for ways you can get involved in their ministry to the disabled.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Krystallin was a summer intern with World Next Door in 2010. She is currently a senior at Moody Bible Institute majoring in Communication Studies. After graduation, she hopes to spend her life pursuing justice for the oppressed. She loves adventure and chases tornadoes on her time off.

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  1. Amy Sorrells said... 


    July 2nd, 2010 at 10:28 am  

    Beautiful article, Krystallin. Each step we take, each moment we choose to sit down next to someone who is hurting or broken . . . a blessing, indeed.

  2. Rob Yonan said... 


    July 2nd, 2010 at 1:47 pm  

    Walking. Running. Stepping up a curb. So routine…for some, but not all. Thanks!

  3. Jim.M said... 


    July 3rd, 2010 at 12:50 am  

    Krystallin, Yes, this is an eye opener, ramps and….., the unbelievable challenges this soon to be mother and couple face are mind boggling. MTU’s work where you are seems over run by the needs that exist, yet they continue one person at a time to break through the darkness. We will pray for Natasha and her family, that their needs be met.

    Thank you for showing us this. J.

  4. Yaroslav said... 


    July 7th, 2010 at 1:05 pm  

    Hello Kristalin.
    This is Natasha’s father. Thank you that you have highlighted the issue of disability in the Ukraine without cover.
    Use the program interpreter. Sorry for the inaccuracy of the translation.

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