Hard to Forget

Posted Aug 01, 2010 by 6 Comments

Last week I sat down with Ira Venglovska, Director of Mission to Ukraine (and my most wonderful hostess for the summer) to get her perspective on the ministry. Because she manages the day-to-day operations of MTU, she has a unique insight on the organization and all that it is.

Ira has seen the ministry grow and change since the beginning, and has witnessed firsthand the miracles that brought the organization together. Her words and stories tell of how the Lord is working through this ministry and how she can see it every day…

Ira has been with MTU since it first started. She interpreted one week for the Mission’s founder, David Bentley, and within that same week met the head of the maternity house who would later help them open a crisis pregnancy center.

World Next Door: How long have you been with Mission to Ukraine? 

Ira Venglovska: From the very beginning, since 1997.

WND:  Is there one thing, or one experience that you’ve seen or you see on a daily basis that keeps you coming back to Mission to Ukraine?

Ira: There is, actually. I have known, and I have felt, and I still know that MTU is the goal of my life. It is what God has given me His gifts for, because I can see exactly why I studied what I studied, and why I did what I did. And that’s really where I feel I bring glory to the Lord. That’s what He created me in Christ for.

Of course I’m prejudiced for sure, but I think once you come to MTU, it’s hard to forget about it. Because it’s a place where we see God at work literally every day. There is always a story happening, a life changed, a heart changed… something every day. Where the Lord shows his presence, so much will happen. So for us, work is not work. It’s really a ministry.

WND: How have you seen Mission to Ukraine’s effect on the community of Zhytomyr?

Ira: When we started, we were the first crisis pregnancy [center] in Ukraine. It’s still the only place in Zhytomyr that is trying to fight for the lives of babies. They cannot protect themselves.

Many staff members have spent several years working at the Romaniv Boys Orphanage. Each week they go and teach lessons, bring crafts and share God’s love with boys who don’t have the opportunity to see it every day.

And I know it’s the only place where parents with disabled children can find comfort and real help. And Mission to Ukraine does help them, unlike anybody else that I know.

And we are not just trying to serve the children and help them materially. It is a life matter for some of them. I mean, we are meeting with families that literally don’t have food to eat, diapers, don’t have money for medicines, and I don’t know how they would survive otherwise. And physical rehab and social rehab is just not available in the city [as it is at MTU].  Spiritual rehabilitation is not either.

That is what we are praying for – for the Lord to allow us to have a bigger impact and see how we could stir the churches to pick up the work and go to these people. Because we believe that’s what the Lord wants us to do – to go to those who are mostly broken, who are broken in their hearts and in their bodies. We see some of that happening already but we still have a long way to go.

Mission to Ukraine has had a new addition this summer! What used to be a concrete yard has been transformed into a playground, a garden and a beautiful outdoor patio and fireplace. The opening day and the chaos of the children running around was enough to know that this was a good idea.

Our goal is to affect the whole of society, at least in our area. And to notice these people, and see the value in them. View them as people with special needs, not disabled. You know, disabled is not their status. And you saw the kids at our camps. Remember at the closing? These groups of kids, they don’t feel their disabilities. They were singing! They couldn’t say a word but they were singing. And that’s what it’s all about.

We say that’s our big goal. But for the families that we serve, I literally don’t know how they’d survive [without MTU]. Not to mention the change of life that they’ve had once they come to our camps. Many of them became Christians, and that’s what it’s all about – trying to show the love of God in words, and not just in words, but in actions.

WND: I’m sure a lot of it is that you’re trying to help people holistically, instead of just materially or physically. You’re there to serve people spiritually too.

Ira: Well we don’t view ourselves as a social center. We’re trying to show God’s love in action. If we see a need, we’re trying to meet it. Then they ask, and we can answer why we do this.

Many volunteers give their time and love for many aspects of the Mission’s work. From camp leaders to interpreters to crisis pregnancy work in surrounding villages, this ministry flourishes because of all the members working together for the same goal.

For children with disabilities, it’s really rehabilitation in three aspects: physical, social and spiritual. Spiritual is the key, but we cannot get to the spiritual until we meet the physical needs, and we’ve seen it work very effectively. It’s the same with the women’s department. Again, they come in crisis and you cannot just tell them, “This is not a good decision, there is a better decision.”

I think a miracle is when someone’s life changes, when someone’s heart changes. We cannot do it on our own, with our own effort, but God can. I think it’s the most beautiful thing to see.

We actually feel privileged, because it is God starting this ministry, and designing it and doing it. We’ve known it from the very beginning, and we just feel privileged to be a part of it. It is an exciting place to be every day. It can be hard, it is a spiritual warfare, in many cases, but it is very real. I think that’s what life is, living in the center of God’s will. It’s very exciting.

WND: Anything else?

Ira: Well, I don’t want to make it sound very easy, we can only do it because there are so many other people involved in the ministry, not just here. What you see here is just like a team on a battlefield. But it would not happen if it were not for the money, the resources, for the time, for the prayers from so many other people. The army the Lord has given us is actually much greater.

This mother and child is proof that God is working through Mission to Ukraine. See the way she looks at her baby? And to think that he’s only here because MTU helped her decide not to have an abortion…

There are so many brothers and sisters in the US who are helping us in all these ways. It’s not like we are sufficient and everything is great because we still have so many more needs.

It’s a continuous prayer for the Lord to do something. And sometimes He does, and sometimes He doesn’t. It’s hard to know how and when. But that’s how we operate I think. It’s a faith-run ministry. Which means if we see a need, we pray. We don’t have a [big] bank account we can withdraw money from, but we pray.

Sometimes the Lord just performs miracles because people cry out to him. And I think it’s interesting that the Lord has arranged this ministry to consist of people from different churches. It’s not about denominations, it’s about Christ. We can all work together for a good thing that the Lord has in mind.

I think it’s a very organized plan on the Lord’s behalf. We view ourselves as a place where people come in crisis and once we hopefully introduce them to the Lord, then they need to be surrounded by the Body of Christ. So our next step is to take them to church. And that’s why we need all the churches to be ready, to just grab this person and surround them with love.

This can be hard, because sometimes churches lack training or finances or something else, so we’re still just moving into that direction. But that’s how we are trying to do it. And this way, they get served from all different perspectives.

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Next Steps
    • Become a donor! Support Mission to Ukraine and all they are doing through your giving. Visit www.missiontoukraine.org to find out how.
    • Donate baby items for needy families in the Zhytomyr region. Check out MTU’s website for contact information.
    • Pray for the churches in Zhytomyr as they are challenged to reach out to those in need in their city.
    Next Steps

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. Leah said... 


    August 1st, 2010 at 12:58 pm  

    Lauren, I love love love the photo at the bottom of the mom and her baby. How incredible to think that, at one point, she was considering aborting him, and that now she looks at him with such love and adoration. bringing THAT kind of love to people’s lives, the love that God has for us, is truly the Kingdom at work. Thanks for sharing what Ira had to say, and for being there to share what God is doing through MTU. great work this summer!

  2. Kris Schneider said... 


    August 1st, 2010 at 2:02 pm  

    Ira, I hope I get to meet you someday. :) Thank you for giving all the glory to God in your ministry there at MTU. You remind me that to minister to some people, first you have to meet them where they are. p.s. Thank you for taking such great care of my daughter this summer. She will never forget you.

  3. Ken Ney said... 


    August 1st, 2010 at 5:44 pm  

    Great interview with Ira. I am so glad you were able to share her heart and vision for MTU. Thanks for all you did not just for MTU, but for our kids, moms, and mostly for God’s kingdom this summer.

  4. Jonathan Pomazon said... 


    August 1st, 2010 at 10:30 pm  

    Ira epitomizes the servant heart of a great leader – always holding others up and reflecting glory to God. She, like the other staff at MtU, make this ministry what it is through hard work, determination even in the face of difficulties, and a conviction that what God promises He completes, even if it isn’t what we ask for. I think we all thank God for her heart, passion and zeal for the work of ministry being carried out daily at MtU.

  5. Nickson Kirongo said... 


    August 2nd, 2010 at 2:07 am  

    Good work Ira, your passion is God send.

  6. Virginia Baldwin said... 


    August 3rd, 2010 at 10:56 am  

    Thank you for sharing. You so such a good job of telling it as it is. Ira , God bless you . God has blessed you for a special love for people. It is great.

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