As millions fled Ukraine during Russia’s invasion, those with physical disabilities had to rely on the help of aid organizations to map out their best exit strategy. Natasha Nikolenko was one of those people.
The Sound of War
“It was early in the morning, and I just woke up and I heard the sound of bombs. It was very loud and you could feel it. I started to call all my friends and everyone told me it was war.”
Natasha then called the one friend she knew could help her. “I called Ed Dicksen and asked him for help. He and his friends really helped us. I wanted to wait because I don’t want to leave Ukraine, but Ed told me if I really want to change my life here is my chance.”
Loads of Love
Ed Dicksen’s friendship with Natasha began many years ago when she was a young girl in an orphanage. Ed met Natasha for the first time in 1996. She no use of her arms and legs. She was being pulled around with a rope on a little platform. Natasha was abandoned by her parents. They didn’t want her because of her special needs.
Ed told Cheryl Weber on 100 Huntley Street about this life changing experience. “I’ll never forget it. I looked up into the sky and I’m just kind of asking God, “What is going on. Why would you allow something like this. All of a sudden, I saw a raindrop that came down and it hit me right on my face as I was standing there. And suddenly I realized it was almost like a teardrop had fallen from God’s eyes. And I realized that God wanted to change that place. It was his desire to completely change that orphanage and change the lives of those children and that was everything for me change my life.”
Ed dedicated his life to meeting the practical needs of those less fortunate in Ukraine through a ministry he started called, Loads of Love. ( I will be travelling with Ed in December through Ukraine host McJoyful parties for 3,000 children and speaking in pastors conferences.)
Purpose in Painting
For Natasha it meant finding her purpose in life. Ed told her, “You did not come to this earth from your parents. You came through your parents from God. God sent you here. And if God sent you here, He has a purpose and a plan for your life.
Natasha soon discovered her purpose after being introduced to art at the orphanage. Ed saw what she was painting, and it was easy to see that God had given her a special gift.
“Painting gives me self-confidence that my art can allow people to see kindness and love. I’m proud of myself now.” Natasha developed into a skilled artist who was recognized on a television broadcast as one of the heroes of Ukraine for overcoming obstacles in her life.
Ed remembers that just before the war started she said, “I’m going to be in North America in a beautiful apartment.” Inside he was thinking that there’s probably not a big chance of that happening in her life. But he wanted to believe with her that God could do anything.
Natasha’s incredible dream of living in a beautiful apartment in North America started to come true once she made the hard decision to leave Ukraine. Ed heard that the Canadian government was opening the doors to Ukrainians. Strong faith in her allowed Ed to believe that maybe God would take care of everything when she came to Canada.
A Call for Help
One of his first calls for help was to his good friend pastor Tim Gibb in Sarnia, Ontario. Ed emailed Tim and described Natasha’s situation. Tim sent an email request for help out to his contacts. Within 24 hours Tim got a call from Vision Nursing Home that recently constructed a brand new apartment building. They said, “We saw your e-mail. We want to receive Natasha. We have all the supports that she’ll need. We’ll give her an apartment free for a whole year.”
They booked a flight and four days later she was in Sarnia. Think about it. Within a week it all fell into place. It was miraculous. Natasha has had many miracles in her life and her faith in God has grown.
Goals Not Barriers
It wasn’t always that way for Natasha, especially as a child. “I resented God and hated him because people who were around me told me you’re a loser. You can’t do anything. But when I met Ed, I made small steps and I saw that God makes big miracles for everyone. And I thought, wow he’s really good. I know what I need. And I asked God and he has given me everything that I’ve asked him for.”
Natasha says, “I see goals, but I don’t see barriers. When I start to think, oh maybe I can’t do that, I think, yes you can. You need to believe that you can do that. You need to believe God and that you can trust in him and everything will be good. I’m absolutely amazed at how good our God is.”
She is among about 1,000 orphans and adults with special needs Loads of Love helped to evacuate from Ukraine after the war began.
If you would like to purchase her art, go to Facebook and friend her and then message her your request.
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