Erica Prescott, a staff member in The Fellowship’s Chicago office for 13 years, shares impressions of her recent trip to deliver aid to needy people in remote areas of Ukraine…a trip that changed Erica’s life.
Many years ago I visited Israel with The Fellowship, as part of a tour of the Holy Land with some of our supporters. We visited the very places where Jesus performed miracles. We were baptized in the Jordan River. We explored Masada and floated in the Dead Sea.
The trip transformed me on a deeply personal level. My father’s side of the family is Jewish, and I was raised with some knowledge of Jewish and Israeli history, and with an understanding of the importance of supporting the Jewish people. But I am a Christian, and before my Israel trip I had recently begun to seriously study the New Testament.
So when I arrived in Israel, as clichéd as it sounds, the Bible came to life for me, and I truly felt God’s presence. I returned from the trip enthusiastically telling everyone about my amazing experiences and how my trip had altered me.
Another Sacred Journey
More recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Ukraine to visit some of the beneficiaries of Fellowship aid there. While I looked forward to it and expected it to be an amazing trip, it surprised me that visiting Ukraine felt sacred in much the same way my trip to Israel had. I felt God’s presence as I traveled with Fellowship partners to deliver aid — sometimes with tears in my eyes — and felt humbled and privileged to deliver His miracles to people who have lived through unfathomable pain.
I was led by a translator and a group of locals who knew the bumpy, winding rural roads that took us to remote, sparsely populated villages. Over five days we visited and delivered aid to beautiful families and children in more than a dozen homes, bringing essential items like food, blankets, and heating fuel.
At each home I saw many unique sets of challenges. Every family lived without the simple things that we take for granted in the U.S. Some nights after my visits, I felt inspired. I came away hopeful that these families were on the right path. The parents had fought and scraped and worked to give better opportunities to their children. Their kids went to school, had been brought closer to their Jewish faith, studied the Torah, and attended synagogue.
‘God, They Are in Your Hands’
But there were other nights — and there are still nights, even though I’m back in Chicago — when I was haunted by the suffering and desperation I saw. I wasn’t left with the same sense of assurance that the people I visited would make it through their trials. I found a prayer I wrote in my journal after one of the harder days on my trip: “God, they are in your hands. Please bless them. Work your famous miracles and give them joy, safety, hope, beautiful futures. Thank you for letting me see this, Lord. I cry with you.” All I could do was pray, and remind myself to have faith.
And I still remind myself of a powerful moment I experienced on my last day in Ukraine.
I was with one of the program directors who coordinates the work we do in the field with needy families. The work these dedicated people do is critical — they must find the people with the greatest need, learn what kind of assistance we can provide, and tailor the aid to the circumstances of each individual.
In this instance, our partners had been able to move a family with three very young boys to an updated home with indoor plumbing and used, but sturdy, beds. Their home was one of the nicer ones I had visited, but very bare and empty compared to a typical home in the United States. They owned little: beds, a couch, and a couple of used toys for the kids.
We were presenting them with a box of food that would last them two months. The family was so grateful for the help. The father had just gotten a job at a supermarket and had earned a certificate from his training there. The baby had gained weight through improved nutrition. We all celebrated these wins with them. I was telling the team in Ukraine that works closely with these families that I wished I could give this family something for their home — maybe a picture for their bare walls — to congratulate them on their recent success.
Carrying on God’s Work
The family’s case worker became very serious and responded to me, “Erica, just go back to Chicago and keep doing what you’re doing. That is the best thing you can do. It will mean more than you can ever know.” Her words made me cry. And they made me better understand the weight of responsibility I had been feeling knowing that so many depend on the support that we are raising.
But her words also felt sacred. They affirmed to me that at The Fellowship, we are truly carrying on God’s work, work that is both changing and saving lives. I quickly got out my journal and wrote down what the case worker said, and I have tried to express it to everyone I work with in the office.
That family had a gift, a tool in their tool box that would carry them through the worst times — they had hope. In fact, they were so touched by the support of The Fellowship, and so grateful, that they had named their oldest boy Yechiel after Rabbi Eckstein, our dearly departed founder whose vision began the work that we are continuing today.
And it was a gift to me to be reminded so powerfully that the work we do matters. Our support and prayers matter. I am grateful and proud to be a part of this work, and thankful for our partners in the field and our generous, faithful supporters who make it possible.Tags: Aid Chicago Erica Prescott Families IFCJ Israel The Fellowship Ukraine