A new church plant in Lviv, Ukraine, is caring for people living with HIV and AIDS, particularly children. The purpose of the ministry is to help children live integrated, full lives, not lives controlled by a disease.
In 2017, the ministry began by building a relationship with the Lviv AIDS Center to connect with children living with HIV and their caregivers.
At first, church members established relationships with the families, visiting them at home, providing school supplies, and sharing life together. They also helped the families access clothes and medicine.
As the church developed those relationships, it also partnered with another Nazarene church in Kiev to run a VBS for about 50 to 80 children. Combined, all of those relationships became the genesis of the Kids Club.
“The club promotes the integration of children from different segments of the population, poor and rich, sick and healthy,” said Oleg Kuz, pastor of the Lviv church.
Initially, the club was going to meet once a month, but there was so much interest that the timeline was switched to every other week. Children who attend the club play games, do crafts, dance, learn English or Polish, and learn from the Bible. Families are also encouraged to be involved.
When the weather allows it, meetings are held outdoors. Guests come to run short courses on different topics — in 2018, one guest speaker taught the children how to use a drone.
A place of friendship
Nick, 13, is being raised by his grandmother, Olla. His parents didn’t realize they were HIV-positive until after he was born, and they died just four months apart when he was 2 years old. Olla has raised him since. The two live together in a one-bedroom apartment, scraping together a living from Olla’s small pension and some money that comes in to support Nick.
The reality is that Nick isn’t able to go to a regular school. He is often too sick to attend classes so he completes his coursework at home, only going to the school itself for tests and exams. While the system keeps him at the same academic level as his peers, it is a lonely way for a teenager to spend his days.
“Nick is generally fairly quiet and not very outgoing by nature,” Olla said.
Unlike regular classes, the bi-weekly Kids Club has proven to be less taxing. Nick is able to attend and participate, joining his peers rather than feeling isolated. Olla says he is like a different person, one who is cheerful, curious, and engaged.
When he was asked if he had any new friends, Nick replied simply and honestly.
“Well, yes,” Nick said. “We really only see each other at the club, but I am still glad when we meet together. It is a lot of fun.”
The heart of the ministry is to give encouragement and facilitate conversations. Children and parents alike are learning that they are loved and cherished. That is when the love of Christ can begin to transform lives.
--Republished with permission from the 2019 Issue 1 of NCM Magazine
To read more stories of compassion, visit ncm.org to subscribe to NCM Magazine and receive future issues as they are released.