and Finding Hope In the Ukraine
AnnaMarie Stastny '02
Terry Huizenga '89
Few images evoke sympathy
and compassion like the sight of children suffering the effects of abuse,
neglect, or loneliness with little signs of hope for improvement.
AnnaMarie Stastny '02 and
Terry Huizenga'89 saw those images when they visited a Ukrainian orphanage
for two weeks in July. They witnessed the adversity and desolation that
some orphans live with daily just outside Kiev.
"It was one of the hardest
experiences of my life," said Stastny, an eighth-grade teacher at Calvin
Christian School in South Holland, Illinois. "Those orphans have very little
going for them, and to see what they go through every day was deeply heart-wrenching
and emotionally draining.
"Some of the government workers
who were supposed to take care of them were unloving and abusive. Those
kids are so lonely and mistreated, and many of them will face a future
in which they will do whatever it takes to survive. They don't deserve
that kind of fate."
Stastny and Huizenga go to
offer inspiration. The two elementary education graduates are part of Little
Lambs Ministry, an organization that serves orphans and abandoned children
in the Ukraine. Each summer, a delegation of 100 volunteers travels to
the former Soviet Union to team with 100 native volunteers to teach Bible
lessons, play games, and engage in crafts with children ages 6-16.
"Their world is radically
different from ours," said Stastny. "They don't have much, but they are
very resourceful. They don't waste anything and won't let a lack of equipment
prevent them from participating in activities. They maximize the little
that they have."
Huizenga, who introduced
Stastny to Little Lambs, has gone to the Ukraine for the past six years.
She is in her first year as principal of Southwest Christian School in
Tinley Park, Illinois, after 13 years as a teacher. The trips reinforce
a global perspective of her faith.
"We live in a big world and
God is active throughout that world," Huizenga said. "We need to view ourselves
as God's kingdom builders in a world that's larger than what we see everyday.
"Those orphans to whom we
minister crave much of the love that we take for granted, and a hug and
a smile go a long way toward brightening their day. Little Lambs gives
us the opportunity to share the love of Christ while meeting humanitarian
needs even if it is for a short time each year."
Four years ago, Huizenga
and her husband, Steven, began sponsoring a Ukrainian girl, Sasha, to give
her a legitimate chance to live a meaningful life. Sasha is now in college,
and she is reaching out to that orphanage to try to give someone else a
"She sets up Bible studies
for some of the kids on the streets," Huizenga said. "The fact that Sasha
has become involved with that kind of ministry makes me proud of her. She's
a very special young lady."
"The children are really
sweet, and I had a hard time leaving them," said Stastny. "I heard them
crying at night a few times, and no one would tend to them. They face so
much isolation that they seem to have little chance of avoiding the streets
when they get older.
"Sasha is incredible, and
she is a reason for hope. She's living proof that someone can make things
better and that our efforts are not in vain. Seeing her and the conditions
she came from encourages me to want to return next year."
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