You don’t have to spend much time on the roads in rural Ukraine before you notice the bus stops. Many of these ubiquitous Soviet-era structures are quite ugly but others have this enchanting, futuristic quality. Imagine living in the oppressiveness of the Soviet Union, then you come upon a bus stop that looks like it could transport you to another world. It’s easy to think that for some people, the bus stop might have become a symbol of hope.
One such bus stop stands on a road leading northeast from the city of Odessa at the small village of Mishchanka. There are no shops or schools in Mishchanka, just a collection of typical Ukrainian houses and the bus stop. Most residents have little beyond their land to sustain them. The war has made times even harder. Alcohol and drug use has increased, further compromising an already perilous situation for many of the town’s children. Most kids live with their grandparents, extended relatives, or in rough single-parent households.
Angela Dlinna, a native of Mishchanka, understands the challenges of growing up in this forgotten community. Battling familial alcohol issues, her life has been a rollercoaster of trials. Everything changed when she joined her adult daughter, who had found Christ, in volunteering at a Christian center for children. Angela’s time there among Christ-followers led to her repentance, baptism, and a remarkable life transformation!
As Angela grew in her faith, a burden for the children of Mischchanka grew in her heart. She knew they needed to hear about Jesus but there was no church in the village. Angela had met the Tomorrow Clubs team from the nearby city of Odessa when they had brought a Christmas program to the village. When she shared her burden for the children of Mishchanka with the team, they agreed to pray about opening a Tomorrow Club in the village. There was just one problem: where would they meet? When Angela suggested the bus stop, the leaders thought she was joking. There were hundreds of Tomorrow Clubs in Ukraine, but this would be the first one to meet at a bus stop!
Taking a step of faith, Angela and the TC team from Odessa rolled up their sleeves, cleaned and repaired the old, smelly bus stop building, and invited kids to the first Tomorrow Club meeting. Soon, 20 to 30 children were showing up regularly, in all kinds of weather, eager to hear Bible lessons, learn some practical skills, and just spend time with the leaders.
The club won’t always be meeting at the bus stop, but until God provides another place, it’s amazing to think that every week, at this tiny spot along the highway in this forsaken part of Ukraine, lives are being transformed by the Gospel and the bus stop has truly become a beacon of light and hope for the village of Mishchanka!