Exploring Transformation in Uzhhorod, Ukraine
March 3, 2020
With a population of over 100,000, a university attracting many international students, a popular destination for tourism (since the war and troubles in the East continue), and Roma camps, the city of Uzhhorod is diverse - and also divided.
“As a Catalyst, my role is to bring people together – people who can make a difference in the lives of the oppressed. People who, when they can work together, can do so much more than on their own.”
“When I first arrived over ten years ago,” Doug recalls, “I attended a prayer breakfast of pastors and noticed none of the Roma pastors present – they were not even invited. But now, after building new relationships and bringing together pastors, churches, medical and social service professionals, creating needed ministries to reach university students and families, and gaining the respect of city officials, this city is being transformed.”
Doug’s work in Uzhhorod shows how dramatic change through the ways of Jesus can overcome historic divisions, undo prejudice and hatred, and accomplish what churches and the people of Uzhhorod never imagined was possible.
It starts with one life – when a Catalyst like Doug creates relationships and a strategy to break through the power of oppression. And in turn, the potential change-makers he brings together to create one community through the ways of Jesus that transforms lives as they come together in one collective.
Doug explains: “Our first project was to clean the mountains of trash in the Roma Camps. The first weekend volunteers from the city’s churches worked as the Roma community watched in disbelief. The next weekend people from the Roma churches joined in. And the third weekend the city asked to become involved (and Roma children joined in as well). Soon, the entire Roma community completed the clean-up. This is how transformation happens.”
This was just the start. Most in Uzhhorod avoid the Roma – and their poverty and pain force them to suffer from tuberculosis. The treatment is relatively inexpensive, but access to the diagnostic X-ray was practically impossible for the Roma – until the generosity of people like you made a new portable X-ray machine possible.
Dr. Galina serves in an Uzhhorod medical clinic near a Roma camp, and she eagerly welcomes the Roma. “When I met with Doug and he asked what my clinic needed to be more effective”, I said a portable X-ray machine – it’s digital and we can diagnose immediately,” she said, “and we are able to help so many more Roma patients. It eliminates the expense that kept the Roma away.”
“I’m so thankful there are people in the world who care that much about the Roma, it changed me,” Dr. Galina says, “and you should know these people who care have saved a lot of lives.”
Bringing fresh, clean water to medical clinics for the poor, distributing food to the most vulnerable, job training and mentoring to transform the futures of teens, children’s ministries and university student outreach – this one collective work is spreading throughout Western Ukraine.
“Churches in nearby cities have seen what’s happening in Uzhhorod and they’ve asked for help starting this kind of transformation in their communities,” Doug adds, “and the ways of Jesus are able to change lives thanks to those who see what’s really possible.”