Russia? You want me to go to Russia? Are you kidding? It wasn’t a call I wanted to hear.
Growing up in the Cold War years of the 50’s and 60’s, I knew about Russia. Cap gun wars dominated our play as we ran down the street shouting, “The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” And even though the wall had come down, I knew God didn’t really expect ME to go THERE.
So I laid down a fleece, knowing it would end this unwelcomed call. “Lord, you know I’ll follow you anywhere, so…um…if you really want me to go to Russia, just let me know by…um…having three people ask me to go, without any prompting!” Whew! That should end that!
Out of the blue, the first call came. Then another. I was getting a little nervous. The third call came from Clancy, a dear friend and fellow clown. “You’re not gonna believe this, but I’m going to Russia on a mission trip…and I think you’re supposed to go with me!”
From somewhere deep inside, I imagined the voices of little children shouting, “The Americans are coming! The Americans are coming!” Yes, it was clear: this American professional clown was heading to Russia. That was 1994.
Next month I’ll be making my 20th trip to Ukraine. The Masters Mission, founded in 1995 by Pastor Darrell Rooks, became my ministry base in the next year.
Years of Devastation in Ukraine
My heart breaks for the Ukrainian people. They lost their farms through years of government-run collective farming, their crops locked behind closed doors in their own barns—barns to which they had no key—while millions of Ukrainian people starved to death.
The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 wiped out 1300 villages, prompting the Russian government to give the Ukrainian people their own country…and move the capital of Russia from Kiev to Moscow.
Twenty-five years after the accident, the death rate still exceeds the birth rate two to one. Eighty-five percent of the Ukrainian people live below poverty level, and doctors—the highest paid workers—make only about $100 American dollars a month. Three hundred thousand Ukrainian children live as orphans, dependent on others to survive.
The Masters Mission: Replacing Devastation with JOY Boxes
That’s where The Master’s Mission steps in. A key element of the ministry is the distribution of JOY Boxes, which stands for Jesus, Orphans, and You. Pastor Rooks quickly discovered boxes of gifts provided a way to gain permission into Ukraine and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Each box contains a Gospel track with the Plan of Salvation in their own language, a toothbrush, comb, pens, toys, candy, hat, scarves, and gloves. What an exciting treasure this is for the children! Many have never seen such things. Most have never heard the Gospel.
Stories of God’s provision through the boxes abound. One year a little girl began to cry when she opened her box. When the translator asked what was wrong, she said, “I asked God to send me a doll and He did!” With over 6000 boxes distributed, God made sure she got her doll!
Another time a little boy jumped up and down and yelled as he grasped an object and pulled it out of his box. He had seen a billboard in town advertising Bubblicious Bubble Gum, and had asked God to let him taste a piece. Guess what was in his box? Yes, a pack of Bubblicious gum!
Mommy Bags and Enfamil Miracles
But God didn’t stop with JOY Boxes. One year, as I was packing for Ukraine, God whispered, “Make ten Mommy Bags.” I’d never heard that term before, but in my spirit I heard, “Everything for a newborn baby.” I remembered the blankets my Grandma and my Aunt Margie had made for my babies who were now grown. I instantly knew those blankets needed to go into my suitcase, along with everything else a baby would need. But I had no idea what God had planned.
When we arrived in Ukraine, a man trudged through the snow, carrying a suitcase, and said, “I have something for you.” He placed his suitcase on the snow-covered ground. “A lady at the airport said God told her to stop, buy some baby milk, and give it to me.” His suitcase was laden with cans of Enfamil with Iron.
I just knew God had sent the milk for the Mommy Bags! But when we arrived at the home we were staying in, we found our host and friend, Mama Nina, crying as she walked her little grandson around the room. Others were crying and praying. The baby was dying because her mother—Nina’s daughter—couldn’t feed him. The baby’s aunt had been breastfeeding him, along with her own baby, but now the baby had developed diarrhea and could no longer take the aunt’s breast milk.
“God sent the milk!” I shouted. “I have it!” Mama Nina took the Enfamil with Iron God had provided and saved her own grandson’s life!
Two days later we were in another village when someone asked if we had some cloth to wrap a baby in. I had to smile. God had provided yet again. They left with everything the newborn needed and the rest of the Mommy Bags went to the hospital.
Now a wonderful group of ladies, up to 95 years old, make blankets, sweaters, and quilts for our Mommy Bags. This year we were able to ship 200 bags and 6500 JOY Boxes to the people of Ukraine! Praise God!
Clown Ministry Spreads The Gospel
We started our Performing Clown Ministry in 1995, serving in orphanages, schools, hospitals, and churches. But knowing that the borders could close at any time, I knew we needed to train Ukrainian people to be Professional Clowns so they would be able to carry on the ministry. In 2002 Pinky’s Gospel Clown School International began, and we have trained five classes—about 80 clowns from all over the former Soviet Union—to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Shoe Ministry and Family Food Boxes
Along with the Clown and Mommy Bag Ministries, The Masters Mission also has a Shoe Ministry. Sadly, we lost our sponsor this year to cancer, but the ministry will continue, supplying as many shoes as we can find sponsors for. Many of the 300,000 Ukrainian orphans are on the street where children are left outside to freeze or starve in the winter. Three men from the orphanage go out each night to look for abandoned children and bring them to the shelter. In January, we put shoes on 36 children at the orphanage and left 16 pairs for children in the hospital.
Donations also help feed families physically through the Family Food Box Ministry, where each box also includes a Bible…to feed them spiritually. Our goal is to have enough money to provide at least two dozen Bibles during each mission trip.
The Pass-It-On Animal Ministry
In 2010, Mrs. Jane Blackwell developed the Pass-It-On Animal Ministry. Raised on a farm herself, she knew families could be self-sufficient if they owned animals. Through donations, we’re able to buy cows, goats, pigs, chickens, and rabbits. This provides milk, dairy products, and meat, and allows them to sell the products for income as well.
But the ministry doesn’t end there. When the first female animal is born, it is passed on to another family, providing food and income for them. We’re praying for donations to sponsor an animal and help families become self-sufficient.
Mommy Bags and the Animal Ministry also save lives by preventing abortions. Mothers who agree to carry their babies to term are provided supplies, clothing, and food, and the ministry continues to provide for these children to live. In some cases they’re given an animal for food and income as well.
The Masters Mission Continues
The Masters Mission has mission teams throughout the year, going not only to Ukraine, but also to Cuba, Guatemala, and Mexico. They also assist ministries in Kentucky and South Carolina. If you’re interested in donating or being part of a mission team or learning more about The Masters Mission, please visit the website, www.TheMastersMission.net.
We would love to partner with you!
Go ye therefore and teach all nations. Matthew 28:19
Theresa “Pinky” Garrett is a delight to know. Celebrating her 30th year in clowning, she’s a seasoned performer and an accomplished ventriloquist. She began Pinky’s Gospel Clown School in 1991 to teach new clowns “Excellence in His Name.” Pinky has taught how to do ministry in churches and seminars, and performs with her sidekick “Cilly.” Her Gospel Clown Skit Books are used in fifteen countries and are available in 3 languages. This is her 20th year to travel to Ukraine where she is a part of The Masters Mission. She has had her International Clown School for five years with over 80 clowns in ministry throughout the Former Soviet Union. She continues to teach and perform for state conferences hosted by the Baptist Convention. You can reach Theresa at firstname.lastname@example.org.