Being a mom is a hard task. It requires love, dedication and bravery. Being a mom of a child with a disability requires even more of these things.

It takes love to say yes to keeping a child with a disability. It takes dedication to give up your own freedom to care for your child. And it takes bravery to face it all alone. Many moms of children with disabilities here in Ukraine are abandoned by their husbands and extended families due to the shame attached to disabilities.

Camp is a place where moms get to spend time away from their children and get some much needed rest.

MTU’s summer camp is a place for these moms to find the love and care they need. Cindy, an American volunteer who leads a small group for moms at camp, shared with me her simple goal: to help moms understand God as a God of love. With a look of sadness on her face, Cindy explained that every single mom at camp has been told numerous times that their child’s disability is a punishment from God for their sin. Because they hear this so often, they struggle to see God as a loving Father.

Moms are cared for at camp by people who take the time to hear their stories and pray for them.

Hearing this astounded me. Mothers who had been abandoned by their families were also blamed for something they had no control over. Knowing they had been told this for so many years, I wondered if there was any hope for these moms to understand the love of God. I found my answer in small group time.

Small Group

Small group took place outside under the shade of a tree. Cindy asked the women to share something about how camp had changed their lives. The stories I heard blew me away and made me realize what a beacon of hope MTU is in the lives of these moms.

First, I heard the story of a mom who has been to camp many times. Although she loves every year at camp, she remembers the first one the most. A volunteer offered to help her by taking her daughter to the bathroom. To this day, that small act brings tears to her eyes. She shook her head almost too choked up to speak, “No one had ever offered to help me with my daughter before, ever…”

The kids aren't the only ones who enjoy craft time at camp. Beading is a favorite past time of many of these women.

As she finished her story Cindy told the group, “When you see someone loving your kid like that, remember it is the love of God. We are just humans; we aren’t somehow superior to other people or more loving. That is God at work.”

Next, a grandmother spoke. She laughed as she told Cindy, “You told us to journal about camp. But what would I write? What words could I put down to express what camp means to me? There are no words.” She told the group her family rejected her grandson, so she raises him alone.

She pulled the journal out of her bag, clutching it tightly in her hands, “I didn’t decorate the journal either like you said to. It’s too pretty, too nice. I want to show my coworkers, so they will know about my time here.” She had come to understand God’s love through something as simple as the gift of a journal.

As she finished, another grandmother began to speak. Tears streamed down her face. “At home I always sleep with my hands clasped together on my chest. I don’t sleep well. I am alone, no one cares about me and my grandchild. But then I came here. Now I am surrounded by people who love me and people who love my grandchild. Last night I slept with my arms above my head… like a little baby. I have found rest here. I don’t know how I’ll leave you all.”

The stories continued. Moms, sisters, and grandmothers alike shared about struggling through life alone. One woman cried as she said, “I just want to understand my son, but no one will help me learn how.” Another mom, tears spilling from her eyes, said, “I want to find a church where my son will feel comfortable, where people won’t stare at him because he’s different.”

A grandmother who found rest for the first time at camp, “Last night I slept with my arms above my head... like a little baby.”

The isolation and rejection these women face is overwhelming and tragic. But watching the moms’ faces at camp light up as they recalled the way MTU had shown love to their children gave me a glimmer of hope.

It’s not a lot – camp is only ten days out of a very long year – but it’s a start. And along with MTU’s year long classes for these moms, I can see the kingdom of God moving. MTU works hard to build a network for these women. They try to provide a safe place where moms can learn and take time to relax.

Whether I’m watching a mom pick up her twelve year old son to rock him in her arms, or looking on as a mom struggles to carry her adult son up the stairs, I know one thing—the mothers I have met here are my heroes; they are women of strength and dignity. I pray that they will also be women embraced by the love of God.

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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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Comments

  1. Jill said... 

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    August 7th, 2010 at 10:42 am  

    I am in tears! You captured these women and camp so perfectly. They are heroic!

  2. molly Lawton said... 

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    August 7th, 2010 at 11:01 am  

    Krystallin, I cried as I read your summary of the women with disabled children in Ukraine. You said it so well. Thank you for taking the time to write their stories and how MTU has been used in reaching these heroic women. May God continue to use you as a voice in sharing the needs of the world. Thanks for letting your audience know that the love of Jesus can make a life changing difference.

  3. kathleen said... 

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    August 7th, 2010 at 2:14 pm  

    Great article Krystallin, I know your beautiful heart for people,and it helps them to see God in you. So many people are so alone in the world, and it takes so little brings them joy! May the Lord bless your work, and the women who will look forward to the camp again next year.

  4. Kevin said... 

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    August 7th, 2010 at 4:07 pm  

    Wonderful story. It shouts how far a single act of kindness can go to build up another person when they need it most. God spoke volumes to these ladies in the ten short days they were at camp. May He bless you and everyone who had a part in sharing His love with those who need to feel His touch. Everyone has one “best” day in their lifetime. You may very well have helped to provide that day for these ladies.

  5. Jim M said... 

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    August 8th, 2010 at 10:18 am  

    Krystallin, the fathers should read this story.

    The article was difficult to read and not feel a mix of sadness, disappointment almost to the point of anger, and also joy.

    Sadness for the trials these mothers and children must face, disappointment that the men who fathered these children seem to have little input in their being loved and cared for,… and Joy that the Father’s love IS being shown through the efforts of the MTU workers loving hearts, hands, and deeds.

    At that moment and place where His first love is being received and felt deeply by the mothers and their children, this is where the Kingdom is breaking in to the darkness of the world once again.

    There is so much to pray for in this story.

  6. Cindy M said... 

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    August 9th, 2010 at 4:01 am  

    Kystallin- WOW! All I can say is “well said- well done!” You were able to capture the essence of these beautiful broken souls with one such visit to our parent small group! May God continue to pour out in you the words to tell the world about the lives of these mothers, sisters, grandmothers and those rare fathers who stick around to love thier children! Thank you! What a pleasure to serve with you this summer!

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