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GOSHEN — It all started with a dream. For retired Fairfield High School teacher and ordained minister David Swank, his mission to help save orphaned Ukrainian teens began with a couple of dreams.
“It comes down to do you believe a person can receive a message (from God) in a dream and that the dream makes sense?” Swank asked. “The Bible has plenty of examples of God speaking to people in dreams.”
He said he didn’t understand the first dream that came in 2006 and even the later one in 2010, but as he began praying, studying Scripture and especially fasting, things slowly began to take shape in amazing ways.
Swank was ordained for life by the New Philadelphia Church Fellowship Inc. in 2009. In the 2010 dream, Swank saw an odd-shaped cornerstone with strange writing on it and heard God ask, “Will you build a new work for me?”
He said at the time he knew practically nothing about Ukraine. Six years later he discovered the shape of the cornerstone in his dream was the shape of Ukraine and he met the people whose names were written on that cornerstone. Swank becomes emotional retelling this story, saying it’s hard not to be emotional and humbled by such an experience.
He started attending the Slavic Baptist Church in Elkhart and one Sunday after having another dream he had a spiritual experience.
Swank explained that there were three speakers that day and the first one referred to the verse in James 2, “Faith without works is dead” and the pastor referred to Isaiah 58, which is the same chapter that had a lot of meaning for Swank.
In the midst of this service Swank says the translator went silent and all around him grew silent and he heard a voice saying, “It is time.” Then he heard his own voice repeating words he’d spoken after a night of repentance and a near-death experience when he prayed that he would go wherever the Lord wanted and sell whatever he owned. When Swank reaffirmed those words he believes he was told to sell his possessions to fund this mission that would take the rest of his life.
He said the sound of the translator returned and the next speaker was someone from the Ukraine who spoke of the devastation there in the war-torn areas.
Swank saw this as more affirmation. He went to visit in April of 2016 and then went back in July to live there for a month. He lived in Kiev and most of the time went out without a translator to learn the language and culture of the people. He said there is a lot of mixed information being delivered by the Ukraine, Russian and even U.S. government about what is happening there.
What he saw was a population imbalance of seven women to one man; villages devastated, leaving only elderly and orphans behind. When those orphans turn 15, the government turns them out of the orphanages to fend for themselves. This leaves young women vulnerable to predators and the human slave market and girls and boys alike forced to steal to survive, Swank said.
Swank feels his mission is to “help those orphans and provide a place of refuge; to provide job skills and life skills.”
As he was leaving out of Boryspil International Airport, he had an impression that a nearby location was where he was supposed to go to start the center. He discovered it was a village called Petropavlovsk.
Through a network of people he got in touch with Tatyana and Viktor Prikazchikav, who now live in Maryland. They came to the states seeking political refuge and are now American citizens, but Tatyana goes back to Petropavlovsk where she is working on a “New Life” center to provide the very same refuge that Swank spoke about. She has a building, but it is in very bad shape. She’s been renovating it since 1997 and sometimes in between visits vandals undo the work she’s done.
Right now, Swank is in the process of selling some of his possessions to raise funds to get the building heated. He held a garage sale over Labor Day weekend but will continue to sell items. He also brought back hand-made and hand-painted Ukrainian eggs, wooden containers and Matryoshka nesting dolls that he will be giving to those who make donations of $50 or more. The item given will depend on the size of the donation.
The name of his mission is YPOK, which means “lesson” and is also an acronym for Ukrainian Restoration Outreach Council. The name came to him after a 40-day fasting period.
Swank said he’d like to have a parallel mission here in the states. He is working with an individual, counseling and coaching him to turn his life around while teaching him life skills. He feels there is a need for a center here to help young adults, too.
But for Ukraine, the goal is to go over there to help get the work done. He was advised by pastors to not just send money because it creates too great of a temptation, but to deliver it by special courier. Swank retired early from teaching in order to do this mission work.
The hope for the center in Petropavlovsk is that the “bonds they make there will be like a family, that they’ll support each other and as they get older that they’ll come back and help,” he said.
On the other hand if something should happen and they become unemployed they’d be able to go back to the center until they got back on their feet again. “So they’re not abandoned — just like a real family.”
To make a donation or get more information about YPOK Ukrainian Restoration Outreach Council, contact David Swank at 574-538-8506 or by email at YPOK2016@gmail.com.
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