The Power of Pysanka
I f asked to name an Easter tradition that began before Christ was born, could you do it? Here’s a hint: in America, the tradition involves a small colored tablet, a splash of white vinegar, and usually, a very fun mess.
If you guessed decorating Easter eggs, well done! In Ukraine, these decorated eggs are called pysanka (“PIH-sahn-kah”), deriving from the Ukrainian verb for “to write.”
The History of Pysanka
Pysanka is so important to the Eastern European culture that many scholars believe that they were produced as far back as prehistoric times. Though ancient examples of pysanka have not survived due to the delicate nature of the eggshells, decorated ceramic eggs have been found in burial sites and during archeological digs that support this theory.
When Christianity was adopted by the people of what is now Ukraine, the symbols relevant to this new religion were introduced in the art. But prior to this, common symbols used on the eggs had a nature theme, and as such, these eggs became an integral part of spring rituals. The eggs represented the rebirth of the earth after the long, hard winter was over; the earth burst forth and was reborn just as the egg miraculously burst forth with life.
Pysanka As Art Therapy
The art of pysanka is often taught to Ukrainian children, including the approximately 95,000 children in Ukrainian orphanages. In recent years, it’s even been heralded as an effective form of art therapy as the orphans are able to connect with and find pride in their heritage through the art, as well as perceive the world differently. Lesja Golik, a Ukrainian youth organization art instructor, says that pysanka is a “welcome distraction” for these children and teens, many of whom “put their own dreams” into the symbolic decorations on the egg.
Orphan Outreach and The Aging Out Initiative
In early 2020, Carole Hoover and Kevin Peck, longtime LifePointers, took over as country coordinators for the Ukraine global outreach team, having worked together for years on the Guatemala team previously. Kevin has always felt a strong pull towards mission work having lived abroad in Germany and Italy in his youth, and Carole’s former experience as a travel agent, as well as with high school ministry, prepared them both well for LifePoint’s outreach team. They are following their specific call to serve globally with their involvement in programs such as Orphan Outreach, a unique program for teenage orphan graduates in Dnipro, Ukraine.
This ministry and the Aging Out Initiative assists orphan graduates as they leave the orphanage system by providing the safety net of spiritual, physical and emotional support. These young adults face an unsure future, and without this support, are at high risk of falling victim to criminal activity, drug abuse, sexual exploitation and trafficking, and suicide.
While COVID regulations have thus far prevented a mission trip to Ukraine, thanks to Orphan Outreach, there is still something you can do to help these teenagers “put their own dreams” into more than a decorated egg: reality.
Orphan Outreach offers two main ways to support Aging Out orphans. For just $36 a month, you can select a child to sponsor and receive photos, annual progress reports, and special updates throughout the year. If the time isn’t right for sponsorship, it costs nothing to send these orphans a message of encouragement. You can do this simply by selecting a featured teen and emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you dye your own eggs this Easter, remember Ukrainian Easter eggs served as much more than a fun holiday craft. They were believed to contain special powers that brought blessings to those who received them.
There is no greater blessing than the new life that Jesus provides, through His death and resurrection.
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