Villagers in Russia were the recipients of humanitarian aid in July, courtesy of a YWAM Ships Kona outreach team. The team brought care packages and sought to extend kindness to areas normally icebound, rendering them inaccessible to visitors. It was a two-week outreach to Russia in which the team lived on a ship the entire voyage.
“Sometimes it was uncomfortable and cramped quarters when making food because we slept in the same room that we cooked in, but it was an incredible experience being able to go from village to village to village,” said John Mark Wheeler, 23, who led the team. “Every day we were in a new place.”
The care packages included items such as flower, sugar, condensed milk and dear meat. The items are difficult to come by for this group of Russians, who normally subsist off of fish and vegetables. The outreach team — part of the April Discipleship Training School at Port YWAM Kona — brought the packages to every village they visited. It was part of an effort to uplift the morale of the locals, Wheeler said.
“We didn’t have any other specific ministries besides building relationships and through those relationships sharing the Gospel and Christ’s love and praying for people as well,” he said. “We prayed for everyone we met.”
Each village the team visited was sparsely populated. Some of them had only a few dozen inhabitants. The team would sometimes enter a place only to find that there was no one to greet them because they were all away fishing. The villages were modestly developed from a technological standpoint. Many of them had no plumbing or electricity, using rainwater to wash their hands and to make tea. Andrea Neufeld, who was in training on the team, said the people they visited were in need of encouragement.
“I think there was a lot of hopelessness,” said Neufeld, 19 of Paraguay. “Their whole day is going out fishing, coming back and drinking vodka.”
Wheeler said most of the people the team encountered in the villages were grateful to be visited. One such person was a man named Peter, who confided in the team his life story, which included 30 years in prison for a homicide he committed while trying to defend his property against intruders.
“He cried when he told us how privileged he felt to have people visit him and care enough to sit with him. He said no one will ever believe him when he tells them he met two Americans, a Swiss guy, and a girl from Paraguay,” Wheeler said. “We spent some more time just listening to him talk about his life and then I played him a song on the guitar.”
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