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Ukraine Connection Ministries – Chowan County Natives Touch Ukraine Lives

If you conduct an internet search to locate information on Ukraine Connection Ministries, you will see one site that lists only the “who, where, when, and why” of this Ministry. Who is Billy and Mary Nixon; Where is Western Ukraine; When is every July since 2004; Why is to glorify God.  Billy and Mary are both Chowan County natives, graduates of Chowan High School, and members of the Center Hill Baptist Church in Tyner. They have two adult sons and two grandchildren. Both Billy and Mary retired from the Edenton-Chowan School System--Mary in 2004, and Billy in 2010. Often retirees search for meaningful work to fill their time and engage their minds. This dynamic duo spends their time planning, funding, and making mission trips to Ukraine. They shared their experiences with the Edenton Lions Club membership on March 28, 2022.

In 2004, the Lord led Billy and Mary to Ukraine and in 2009 they founded Ukraine Connection Ministries, Inc. Their ministry in Western Ukraine focuses on day camps, orphanage ministries and construction projects. From 2004 and every year since, to include 2014 after Russia invaded Ukraine, Team Nixon has led mission teams to Ukraine.

In 2004, they went in without an action plan which did not deter the team nor diminish enthusiasm.

The mission teams vary in size from 3 to 34 individuals. Team members often come from North Carolina, other U.S. states, and from Ukraine. Nadiya Dayneka is an in-country volunteer with a PhD in English. Nadiya has served as the team interpreter and since the Russian invasion in 2014 she and her husband have been distributing supplies on the front lines. Nadiya worked side by side with the Nixons, and without her, much less would have been accomplished.

Cramped accommodations were a minor distraction for the group. One year, Team Nixon consisted of thirty-four individuals living in a hotel abandoned by Russian elites. There were three bathrooms and two working showers. Ever the analytical person, Mary developed a shower schedule based on gender and job type. Problem solved!

The orphanage, located in Lviv, is heartbreaking to visit. In Ukraine, the government places children in orphanages if parents have addictions or other issues that prohibit them from parenting. 

Dmytro was such an orphaned child and was disabled with cerebral palsy. Mary and Billy met Dmytro when he was about six years of age, and the three bonded instantly. With Dmytro seated in Mary’s lap, they chatted - each in their own language. Neither comprehended the other’s words. Thankfully, their hearts were communicating.

Dmytro could not walk, and the orphanage staff had done little to address this and his other medical issues. The Nixon’s made it their mission to get him to the United States for specialized care. Driven by unrelenting faith, they took on every imaginable roadblock to achieve this cause.

During the three-year period of their efforts, and with assistance of friends, family, church, and the Ukrainian government, all roadblocks fell away. Dmytro was adopted by Ukrainian friends of Mary and Billy’s when he was approximately nine years old. He came to the states numerous times for surgeries. When the war began Billy and Mary tried to determine how Dmytro, now nineteen, could come to the United States for safety. After clearing several hurdles involving Covid vaccination status, Ukraine conscription status and additional logistical hurdles, Dmytro boarded a plane for the United States. He is now in St. Louis, Missouri and has begun receiving medical care. Once the treatments are completed Dmytro will spend time with the Nixons in North Carolina. Mary and Billy’s desire is to assist other Ukrainians to safety.

A day camp for children at Borislav Baptist Church is another aspect of the mission. The camp normally supports two hundred children, 70% of whom are unchurched. The current situation in Ukraine necessitated repurposing the church building into a refugee facility. Ukrainians are now receiving food, clothing, and shelter for a night or more before traveling on to Poland or other countries.

Billy and Mary are continuously planning or conducting the next mission trip. If you would like to find out how you can become involved, or if you just want to know more, please call them at Ukraine Connection Ministries, 252-333-7034 or 252-333-7079.

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