Stuffed toy sheep
By Maxine Carlill 

Ever since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it has been a difficult time for ICEJ’s Homecare head nurse Corrie van Maanen. Many of her elderly house-bound patients have followed the news with their hearts aching for family members still living in Ukraine. 

yellow and blue flowers representing Ukrainian colours

In those early days of shock and disbelief, Corrie took a small gift to each one in her weekly visits to represent the love and prayers coming from Christians around the world. She gave a small pot with spring flowers, blue and yellow, to a lady whose son and wife, plus her sister and other family, were still in Ukraine. The dear lady cried when she saw the colors of the Ukrainian flag displayed in the flowers! Her response spoke volumes: “These flowers are alive.” 

Many of the older immigrants whom Corrie assists still remember well another invasion. They have memories of terrified flight, of massacres, and losing loved ones as the Jews were systematically hunted down. One of them is Zachar who as a teenager was placed in a ghetto in Vinnitsa, Ukraine from where Jews were taken out, shot and buried in mass graves. He escaped only to be caught and placed in an overcrowded concentration camp where children and adults died of starvation every day. Amazingly, young Zachar also was able to escape from this place where only 1,200 Jews survived out of 11,000 total.

Zachar listens to the news, as he can hear but not see. His blindness makes daily life a challenge. He relies on memories, and they often return to that terrible period in his life. Now, the news of the war in Ukraine makes his spirit heavy. Corrie’s weekly visits to encourage and cheer him up are now more important than ever. 

fluffy toy sheep

Gestures of love can take many forms. Sometimes gifts from the nations come in forms other than financial. ICEJ Homecare recently received two large bags of plush stuffed sheep from a 93-year-old lady. Happily accepting the gift, Corrie began thinking about where it could be the biggest blessing in Israel. Less than 24 hours later, she heard that 100 Jewish orphans were on their way from Ukraine and these cuddly sheep would be really appreciated by them. When the lady who donated the sheep collection heard that they had found a home with these children, she was filled with joy. 

Corrie purchasing diapers

Meanwhile, boxes full of handknitted baby blankets had just arrived from the Netherlands when a request came from a social worker – diapers were urgently needed for new Ukrainian immigrant families with babies. So, Homecare quickly purchased some and placed them in bags along with the blankets, and then handed over these parcels of love to the delight of the social worker. It was a gift that said: ‘You are not alone; we are thinking of you!’ 

Such small deeds of love, conveying a sincere message of hope and comfort in these troubled times, are part of the role of ICEJ Homecare. Please continue to support the work of our Homecare department.