Can’t you see him?

He pulls his collar up against the freezing winter wind as it cuts through his flimsy jacket. Shivering and afraid, he wanders out on the street. He’s hungry, lost and lonely. At night he finds shelter in the doorway of an old abandoned building in the downtown area.

He’s homeless.

His name is Sergie Bondarenko (not his real name). He is 58 years old. After his wife died of cancer, his alcoholic children kicked him out of his apartment. In his despair, he lost hope. He slept on the ground with a piece of cardboard wrapped around him, because he didn’t have a blanket. People avoided him.

Now he has a home at the shelter in Zhitomir. The shelter is the first of its kind in the city of 300,000. Vlad, the Director of the Center is enthusiastic about his ministry to the homeless. “We’re doing what we can to rescue the homeless and give them a new life,” he says. “Once you’re on the street, people look at you differently. You’re no longer Sergie with a job, wife and two kids. You’re nothing — a nobody.

“We provide overnight shelter, food, clean clothes, addiction help, job training, and life-skills development. But it doesn’t end there. We make it possible through the transforming love of Jesus for men and women to rebuild their lives and find hope for the future.

Your end-of-the –year gift to SMU will help change someone’s life. Maybe, yours, too.

Please give now.

If God puts it into your heart to give, check the right-hand section of this Newsletter as to where to send your check.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Donald N. Miller, Founder, with Vlad, Director the Homeless Center in Zhitomir


In November 2017, Ganna Zabrodskya, a 90-year-old widow living in the Widow’s House in Pulin, went home to the Lord for Christmas. Gathered around her were her friends – the other widows, the pastor she loved, young people from a local church who had regularly visited, and many others.
In her last months, days, and hours, Ganna was no longer alone as she had been for so many years.

“I finished six grades when the War began,” said Ganna. “That’s all the education I got. We worked hard to survive. How we wanted to eat!”

After the war, Ganna married and then, a year later, became a widow. Although she worked hard on a collective farm, there was little reward and she barely survived with what she grew in her small kitchen garden.

When Ganna’s strength failed, she lived with her older sister, and then nieces during the cold winter. “I saw I was in the way. I had no place to go. I was so sad.”

Then Ganna came to live at the Widow’s House. Surrounded by the community of widows, care-givers, and visitors, Ganna felt loved, safe, and at peace. She no longer had to struggle to survive. “Spasiba. Spasiba. (Thank you. Thank you. I just love it here. The best part,” she said, “is that I am no longer lonely.”

When she died, her home going was celebrated despite the loss many felt. Zhenia Lukashuk, cook for the Widow’s House, shared, “She lived a long, hard life but Ganna harbored no sadness inside. She was always happy and positive.”

“She was a good example for all of us,” said Sophia Tkachuk, a friend from the Widow’s House. “She was a hard worker despite her aches and pains.”

“Up until the very end, she kept singing and praying,” said Nadia Petrik, another widow. “She would not give up.”
Together the community, led by the widows, prepared Ganna for the funeral. Pastor Waldemar prayed and read scripture, and all had the opportunity to say their final goodbyes to their dear friend. Accompanied by Ganna’s nieces, several widows traveled to her village church and cemetery for burial. Ganna had gone home for Christmas.

Thank you for your support of our Adopt-A-Widow program, which enables our residents to die with dignity.

Nadia Siryk and SMU Editorial Staff