Purpose driven church on a visit to Republic Pilgrim

The leader of P.E.A.C.E. team to Ukraine from Saddleback church Carolyn Betts first time came to Mariupol accidentally and since then this place has become an oasis of her heart. As Pastor Steve Rutenbar shared he would never be able to do such trips to Ukraine and especially to bring big missionary teams here if not her faithful serving heart.

So, Carolyn, tell us, why Pilgrim, why Mariupol, Why Ukraine?

Carolyn Betts:

It’s all God’s thing for sure. I am convinced God called me to serve in Ukraine.

Saddlebackers come to Mariupol, to Pilgrim kids because other Saddlebackers who were here before came home with broken hearts and they share about the experience they had here. “People don’t give to causes they give to people they love with causes” We go home and talk about Pilgrim, church, staff, incredible work being done here. And people there naturally say: “How can we actually be a part of this cause.

How do you and the kids in Pilgrim get along?

 – Like a family. It is almost heartbreaking to put it into words. It seems no matter how much we try to go to Ukraine in order to be a blessing but it seems like you, guys, always overdo us and we feel so blessed. There is a lot of organizations that say words like “help the orphans” but Mariupol is the place where they actually do help kids.

  And now girls, as members of the missionary team of SaddlebackChurch can you tell us if you met here your expectations?

Ashley Silver (21 years old):

– When we had our team meetings Carolyn said for us not to have any expectations cuz Ukraine does things differently like no set time, everything can change easily. But I had some expectation cuz I was here 2 years ago. I don’t remember being this hot. I think this trip was even better because we all could get closer to kids. Like 2 years ago I remember coming home and I didn’t remember many of the kids’ names. But I remember all of the kids’ names this time.

 Jessi Arman (20 years old):

I don’t think I had any expectations cuz I have never been here before and from this trip I can say that we didn’t feel much serving but local leaders, adults served us a lot, they were so serving and had everything in their own agenda, it really felt like they served to us.

I got to know kids pretty much as much as it is possible within 3 weeks. I know their names, their faces and their stories. It’s going to be hard at home.

Ashley Silver (21 years old):

 I must admit, a lot of our team members were worrying a lot because of the language barrier. Oh how are we going to talk with the kids and build relationships with them but it was no problem at all – hand motion, facial expressions – language doesn’t matter you can still build relationships and have fun with the kids.

 I remember Pastor Steve Rutenbar mention at the night prayer at camp you had that some of you were supposed to become advocates for street kids in Ukraine. Do you have any ideas about advocacy when you are home?

Ashley Silver ( 21 years old):

–         The big thing is telling people. People are going to say – Oh I haven’t seen you three weeks, where were you? And you tell them aboutUkraine. Where is Ukraine cuz a lot of people even don’t even know where Ukraine is. And you just tell people about what you experienced and about the kids, street kids just by word a mouth. I make notes around my house and put them on the walls to remind me to pray about the kids, staff and Pastor Gennadiy and people when they will come into my house they will ask what’s the pilgrim kids and I know that on couple of our Facebook pages we have a link to the website of Pilgrim so that people can get to know about this work.

Jessi Arman (20 years old):

–         I think the big thing is to tell people about Pilgrim. Like I myself had no idea that there was such a problem. The more people you tell about it the more of them will be interested in either going to Ukraine or to support those who go there on mission trip.

The whole trip was the entire blessing as for the PEACE team from Saddleback as for the kids in Pilgrim and staff. The saddest moment came when it was time to say goodbye – tears rolled down on the cheeks of Americans and little Ukrainians. But it’s worth it because each kid could feel they matter, they are loved and cared for.