Steve & Sharon Barber – Suffolk, UK
We were shocked when Russia invaded Ukraine and our hearts ached for the Ukrainian people. We prayed regularly for Ukraine, including joining the early morning prayer meeting hosted online by Kevin and Emma. God also spoke to us through the parable of the Good Samaritan and challenged us to open our home to provide accommodation for those fleeing the war.
We registered with Homes for Ukraine and started learning the Ukrainian language. We also completed various webinars provided online by the Sanctuary Foundation, which helped us in preparing to be hosts. These covered differences in culture, the effects of trauma and safeguarding issues, etc. During this time, we prayed that God would connect us with the people He wanted us to host.
Suffolk County Council approached us in August. They had a mother and her 13 year old son, who needed to be re-hosted in our area. We saw God’s hand in matching us with Yulia and Kyryl, as we were living much closer to Yulia’s workplace and to Kyryl’s school. After an initial telephone conversation and then meeting, we all felt this was the right move.
While waiting for the various checks to be completed, including DBS and an inspection of our home, we considered what we would want to have in place to be as independent as possible in someone else’s home. We then did all we could to provide this.
Yulia and Kyryl moved in during October. We maintained privacy for them in the areas of our home that we had allocated to them. The only shared areas were the kitchen and utility room and we agreed who would use these spaces when, and it all worked out well.
They were keen to see places of interest in England and arranged several trips themselves, using public transport, and we took them to other places more locally.
We shared an English Christmas with them on 25 December. They loved our Christmas tree! We took them to a special service for Ukrainian guests and their hosts in Bury St Edmunds Cathedral on 6 January (their Christmas Eve) and they provided a Ukrainian meal for us on 7 January. It was also good to see in the New Year at 10pm with their family in Ukraine online and again at midnight our time with Big Ben and fireworks on the TV.
Yulia and Kyryl have recently returned to Odessa and may remain there. We understand this desire to be with their family, but it was an emotional parting when we took them to the airport on 14 January. We agreed to keep their rooms for them in the short term as they would be welcome to return if they felt they needed to, as the situation remains precarious and challenging. We keep in touch and they know we are praying for them.
It has been a very positive experience for us and we are now praying about whether God wants us to host another Ukrainian family if Yulia and Kyryl decide to stay in Odessa.