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Anthony Adams and Brian Jose recently visited Radstock partners churches in Poland who are serving refugees. Here are the headlines from their visit.
Overwhelming Need: There are about 2 million Ukrainian refugees in Poland. Many are women and children without husbands and fathers, who joined the army. They are making 'home' in spare rooms in churches, private homes, dormitories and even a fire hall! Beyond the practicalities of food and shelter, there is a huge emotional need. When asked about her husband, one young mother simply showed us a photo she had received overnight - pitch black night with a large orange explosion across the bottom of the image. She just looked at us with pain and fear in her eyes. She had no words.
Rapid And Effective Response By Local Churches: The Polish people have responded with generosity, and local churches are doing profound work. Radstock has committed to a partnership "portal" via the Free Churches of Poland, particularly in Beilsko-Biała, under the leadership of Pastor Piotr Zadłow, whom we have known since his youth some 40 years ago. Pastor Piotr is serving to coordinate relief and information - so vital in such a fluid situation.
One church has organized its people into three main missions: to serve locally, on the border and inside Ukraine (with relief deliveries). After one of their leaders called for more volunteer, the sign-up table was swarmed. Commercial vehicles generally won't go into Ukraine and so food and medicines are being delivered by private vans, buses returning after dropping off refugees and smaller private-hire trucks. For those in Poland, beyond housing and food, the churches are providing Polish lessons, facilitating school registration for children, operating free clothing rooms, helping with emigration for those seeking to join family elsewhere and providing friendship and fellowship.
Where Are Your Gifts Going?
Radstock has collected $58,500 / £45,000 / CAD$74,000 so far.
Thank you for this amazing generosity! Here's how it is being used:
1. Five 22 tonne shipments of food and other relief supplies are being delivered from Spain: "It is good quality", says Piotr. It is unloaded into warehouses, usually near the Ukraine border, where is it divided and sent to specific churches who are housing displaced people, either inside Ukraine or in Poland.
2. We are supplementing local hosts for some of their costs: The Polish government has promised to help but the massive logistical challenge means this has taken time to gear up. Radstock is giving help for heating costs and electricity bills of the hosts. Food is usually, but not always, being provided by various agencies (government and otherwise). We're filling gaps but sending most food to Ukraine itself via churches in Lviv and Kovel, who are connected within the country to distribute more widely.
3. Bed and basic kitchen items for those fleeing Mariupol: 25 beds and basic cooking kits (portable cookers, pots and pans, utensils), along with food and hygiene supplies have gone to a church in Love, Ukraine, which is housing displaced people from the city of Mariupol, still in the news for being under siege and almost totally destroyed.
4. Polish Lessons: Many of the women are finding work (cleaning, supermarkets, etc) and so the language lessons help. Piotr's former high school Polish teacher, a member of the church, is now retired and she is doing the bulk of the teaching in their city of Bielsko-Biała. The language comes relatively quickly due to the similarity of languages. Getting them jobs also helps protect from the risk of falling into human trafficking rings.
Of course, all the aid and help is given to everyone, regardless of their faith, but many are interested in attending church due to the welcoming community there.
How Can You Help:
1. Give Yourself: Mature Christians, especially women, who speak Ukrainian or Russian can be a big help for pastoral care and simply listening. One leader told us of the fatigue that some missionaries who had evacuated from Ukraine were experiencing from long days of listening to traumatic stories.
2. Give Resources: The logistics of collection, sorting and delivery of donated goods make that an expensive process. It is much more efficient to give funding.
- You can give here from America (select Ukraine Churches from 'Fund')
Please select 'Ukraine Churches' from the 'Fund' dropdown.
And finally, it was amazing to see the way the Ukrainians were integrated into church life - teaching Sunday school, singing in the worship team, giving a testimony. The evangelical population of Poland (0.3% before the war) is now estimated to be perhaps 1.5% because of so many Ukrainian believers - and increase of 500%. About 20% of Ukrainians identify as evangelical Christians. Some have said that perhaps God will use this horror to send Ukrainians across Europe with the gospel. An intriguing thought.
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