March 6, 2000
As part of Carelift 2000, the Baileys visited with many of the children. Here Bobbi reads to a young patient in a TB hospital.
Photo courtesy of the Baileys.
by Deborah Stone, features writer
Americans are known for their generosity and their compassion towards other nations during times of hardship and crisis. They often send money, clothing, food, and other supplies, hoping to relieve some of the suffering they hear about in far-off places.
Some individuals go one step further and decide to distribute humanitarian and spiritual aid on a face-to-face basis to those in need. One such couple, Ken and Bobbi Bailey of Woodinville, acted upon their strong feelings to help the people of the former Soviet Union, and joined Operation Carelift 2000, a two-week mission trip organized and led by the Josh McDowell Ministry.
The Baileys were part of a group of 330 North American volunteers who visited pre-arranged sites in Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine to distribute food, clothing, toys, medical supplies, and spiritual aid to children and adults in hospitals, schools, orphanages, youth camps, and nursing facilities. Operation Carelift was designed to help the people in these areas deal with the challenge of basic survival at a time when their countries are facing economic disaster and political turmoil.
"This trip was incredible!" comments Bobbi Bailey. "We were part of a smaller group of sixty, and focused on the Ukraine. We visited twenty-two sites personally, and delivered supplies to a total of forty-nine places. It was such a wonderful experience to connect with the people of the Ukraine and feel that we made an impact. It taught us that we have so very much to be thankful for, and that the greatest blessings in life are really to give of yourselves and your time for others, here in America and in other countries."
In addition to life-saving aid, approximately 30,000 needy children received teddy bears, collected as part of an Operation Carelift project known as Bearlift. The bears each had a photo of their American donors, making the gifts more personal.
"When you see a photo of someone who has given you something, it gives the message that someone really cares about you," explains Bobbi. "This makes a child feel special."
Prior to the trip, the Baileys had only heard about the problems in the former Soviet Union, but the reality of the situation was worse than what they had expected.
"These people are hurting," says Ken. "There is a very high unemployment rate, about 32%, and food is so scarce. When there is food, it's so expensive that the people can't afford it. They need basic things like milk, bread, clothing, blankets, and medicine, but equally important is their need to learn about other realities in the world and to connect with other people."
The Baileys were amazed at the openness of the people they met and their eagerness to engage in conversation. Their group had one interpreter per every five volunteers, who helped reduce some of the language problems, but as the couple soon discovered, compassion is universally understood.
"The children and adults we talked to were so receptive to our visit and there was such warmth expressed," says Ken.
Even though they were only gone for two weeks, the couple felt that they were able to help make some changes in the lives of the people with the humanitarian and spiritual aid they distributed.
"I think the impact was felt on both parties," explains Ken. "I know that it gave Bobbi and me a whole new world vision. We are so glad we went on Carelift 2000, and are hoping to return soon."
The Josh McDowell Ministry is currently recruiting volunteers to serve on a ten-day humanitarian aid project in the former Soviet Union in mid-July. Those interested in going overseas or in helping in other ways should contact the Ministry directly at 972-907-1000.