Over the last four years the congregation at the Elmira Mennonite Church (EMC) has developed a relationship with a Mennonite church in Molochansk, Ukraine. In 2008 Willard and Karen Martin of the EMC travelled to the Ukraine and connected with Pastor André Utkin, youth leader of Petershagen Mennonite Church, while touring the community visiting orphanages. On one tour they noticed the children did not have shoes or any kind of footwear. Upon returning to Elmira they held a shoe drive, with numerous shoes donated through the EMC congregation creating a strong relationship between the two churches.

This past fall pastor Utkin came to Canada and visited with the Martins while spending time with the EMC youth group. He invited the group to the Ukraine this summer to meet his youth group and to help out with their summer bible camp program while working at an orphanage. The youth group may also be helping with the construction of a new church in Molochansk.

“We are really excited for this opportunity and it is great for the community to be aware of what is going on with some of the youth in the community,” said Sara Wyngaarden, president of the Elmira Youth Fellowship. To help subsidize the cost of the service trip for the seven members and two sponsors travelling to the Ukraine from the youth group, they have decided to sell rain barrels through RainBarrel.ca. That organization reclaims food-grade barrels, previously used to import fruits and vegetables, to be reused as rain barrels. The outfit partners with local non-profit organizations to help with fundraisers. Each barrel from RainBarrel.ca is equipped with a mosquito- and leaf-debris filter basket, an overflow hose, an outlet to join rain barrels together in series and a spigot at the bottom which can be connected to a standard garden hose. They are available in three colours: grey, terracotta and black.

The youth group has done a lot of fundraising for the trip already within their own church community selling chocolates, flower bulbs and Elmira Poultry products. “We are very lucky to have a very generous church community but we don’t want to be tapping on the same shoulder and we wanted to do something that had a more broad community outreach and the rain barrels provided an opportunity to do that,” said Wyngaarden. Barrels are being sold for $50 each and for each barrel sold, $10 will go towards funding the trip. Barrels must be ordered in advance at www.RainBarrel.ca/EMCyouth and will be distributed on Mar. 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the EMC, 58 Church St. W., Elmira.