Friends & Hospital Chaplains From Around the World by Linda Sheimo
Proverbs 31 : 10-13, 30b - "A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm all the days of her life…A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."
Caroline and I hurried down to the conference room waiting area, anxious to see Vera, Nikolai’s wife. She is faithful about attending the biannual women’s conference and we knew Nikolai would be there with her. They finally arrived and to our surprise Benjamin, a fellow hospital chaplain with Nikolai was there. And even more wonderful was seeing Benjamin’s wife, Tanya and Olga, wife of Yuri, Benjamin’s brother, a fellow hospital chaplain who had to remain in Cherkasy to be at the hospital and his church. The joy in their eyes was reflected in ours.
We were thrilled. The last time we saw Olga and Tanya was at dinner in an authentic Ukrainian restaurant in Cherkasy in July 2017. Caroline and I were completing a week of seeing all the operations of the Cherkasy hospital chaplains, including helping with needs of soldiers and residents of a senior citizen home that had extensive roof damage due to heavy rains. The residents refused to leave because they were afraid they would lose their home if they left.
That week we were privileged to visit all three women’s homes. Olga works in a chemical factory and has for many years but still fed us a marvelous meal while we visited with her sons who had been to English Camp. Tanya lives in the country and has a gigantic garden, filled with all kinds of vegetables plus they had multiple fruit trees. I don’t know how she kept up with it, as it was several acres, but she also has a large family (7 children). Benjamin and Yuri blessed us with songs until we had to return to our apartment to prepare for another day. We stuffed to the gills with shashlik (kebabs) and verenike (filled dough) and joy. Vera spent an entire day making different types of veronike while we were out with the chaplains. I also remember singing “Sweet Caroline” with all of them while Caroline grinned.
We were delighted our fellow travelers would get to meet all three ladies. Some of them already knew Vera from previous conferences but this was the first time Olga and Tanya were able to come. It was so special to have them there for the 20th year celebration. Nikolai and Benjamin had smiles from ear to ear as they watched the ladies. None of us can have a conversation of words without an interpreter as we don’t speak Russian or Ukrainian and they don’t speak English. But it didn’t matter, our hearts were joyous together. It was a wonderful time, and our hearts were full, unaware that it might be some time before we will meet together again.
These women serve alongside their husbands, all hospital chaplains in Cherkasy, the training center for hospital chaplains in Ukraine. Olga and Tanya are also pastors’ wives as their husbands lead churches without pay. Each year they hold camps with their now grown children helping. All three women care for their homes and other responsibilities even as their husbands face multiple challenges, money for medicine and food for Soldiers and senior citizens, funds for orphan care, training new people to become hospital chaplains and working in hospitals with covid restrictions.
So why do I think of them as Proverbs 31 women? It is the way their husbands look at them, with love in their eyes, smiles on their faces and tenderness in touch. And now all of them are facing the tension of an enemy at the border, threatening the world they know, and the mission God has given them. Benjamin and Nikolai know what it is like to be a Russian soldier, they know what can happen. But these couples are placing their trust in God, the one who knows all?
Please consider how you can support the work they will continue to do, even in this dire time.
Linda Sheimo, COL, US Army, Ret.
OBI Board Member