During our recent trip to Poland to support Fellowship International missionaries and partners in their work with refugees from the war in Ukraine, I was deeply impacted by how God uniquely prepared each leader and church community for the roles they would play in this crisis.
In Poland, the protestant church is small and often misunderstood, and is thus viewed more as a cult than as people who love their communities and Jesus wholeheartedly. But their generous response to refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine has dramatically changed perceptions and built trust. In cities and towns all over Poland, protestant churches opened their buildings, and church members fed and housed as many refugees as possible. Their generosity inspired others who were more hesitant, encouraging them to become involved and to help. In many towns, civic authorities have granted local protestant pastors special roles in their communities to distribute aid because they are now trusted to ethically distribute it to those who need it. It seems that many years from now, the year 2022 will become known as a year where great trust was built amongst the Polish people and that many people found their hope in the Gospel.
And in local cities where FAIR has been more closely involved with local partners, it was amazing to hear what God has been doing in these communities to prepare them for caring for refugees.
The church in Zamość has been the home base for much of FAIR’s relief work during the war. But a year ago, this church of only around 30 members was struggling under the weight of significant relational conflict. In November, their pastor felt it was time to lead the church through a 40-day fast to restore unity and bring healing to the church. This time of healing prepared the church community to care for many refugees. As soon as the war started, they started receiving calls from refugees looking for a place to stay once they got across the border. Soon they were housing 30 mothers and children in their church building every night. United together from the healing work of Jesus, this church was able to bring hope and healing to many people in the name of Jesus.
The church in Łódź, in central Poland, has a very different story. They see themselves not as Polish or Ukrainian Christians but all as part of the family of God. Far from the border, Ukrainians have been moving to the city since the first war with Russia back in 2014. In 2016, a number of churches in Ukraine sent Christina to be a missionary with this church in Łódź to minister to the Ukrainian community in the city. In the same year, Sergei and his family moved to the city from Ukraine. These two Christian leaders along with Pastor Jannik and the rest of the church have had very active ministries with Ukrainian people ever since. And once the war started, Sergei was made an elder at the church so that he could oversee the church’s care of refugees. He and Christina have played key roles in helping bring rest, healing, and hope in Jesus to refugees. Many refugees moved to Łódź to live for the foreseeable future and when Ukrainians visit this church, they don’t want to go anywhere else. The church has grown dramatically with new believers and refugees now calling this church home, and the church leaders have even set up a temporary tent outside where they all meet for worship on Sunday mornings since they have outgrown their building.
Please pray that the Polish people and these church communities do not tire of doing good. With the war seemingly far from over, the care for refugees has become a marathon when at the beginning it seemed like a sprint.
To learn more or give to support refugees from the war in Ukraine, click here.