In the days following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, my morning routine became one of getting up, making a cup of coffee, and checking the news to see if President Zelensky was still safe.   After perusing the latest news, I prayed.   I confess that while I believe in prayer, it did not feel that I was doing much to help the people of Ukraine.   My daily ritual continued into the spring until one day, after prayer, I bought an egg.  
You read that right; I purchased an egg.   Psyanky is the ancient Ukranian tradition of painting intricate designs on eggs during Easter.  They represent the return of sunshine after a long winter.   After reading an article about Ukrainian artists who are keeping this centuries-old art alive, I made my purchase from an artist by the name of Tamara, a fifth-generation Kyivite.   I bought several more for friends and family, a gift of a Ukrainian egg to remind us that hope exists even in the midst of war.   I corresponded with Tamara some as I made my purchases and learned a bit of her family’s struggles.

Still, weeks and months went by, and the news continued.   Prayer and regularly buying eggs from Kyiv did not seem to be enough.   I began to pray:   Will you please show me something that I can do besides buying eggs?  Months after the war began, I was invited to an evening at a friend’s house to learn about the Novi Community.   I already knew the founders, Oddny and Steve, and had long admired their work in some of the most dangerous places in the world.   Oddny and Steve shared stories of going to the front lines of Ukraine bringing supplies to those desperately in need.  They also spoke of the people they met, like the pastors risking everything to help those in their communities, and they shared the Novi Life Kits developed in partnership with child psychologists.
Novi Life Kits were created to help children who are affected by conflict and war.  The backpack contains games and self-regulation tools (toys) that help them learn how to relieve stress and learn coping skills.   When I saw the toys demonstrated, I thought to myself, “every single child needs this backpack!”    I was hooked.   My husband and I made a pledge to support the work and ministry of the Novi community.
Since that evening, I’ve spent more time with Oddny and Steve and other members of the Novi community.  Novi teams up with Ukrainians on the ground, a collaborative effort to bring healing and hope.   I am most excited about Novi’s upcoming camp for over one hundred children in the mountains of Ukraine this summer.  Imagine the gift of getting away from the fear and horrors of war and going to camp.
The work of the Novi Community reminds me of the words of Teresa of Avila, a 16th century mystic:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes,
You are his body.
Prayer.  Eggs.  The Novi Community…

This blog was written by Novi board member, Mary Beth Anton. Mary Beth has 30 years experience in pastoral ministry in many congregations. She was a school chaplain for 11 years and most recently she worked with the Women in Ministry Initiative at Princeton Theological Seminary. She holds an MDiv, from Princeton Theological Seminary and is passionate about helping vulnerable people.

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