When the Ukraine war broke out, Baptist churches across Europe became some of the humble heroes of the relief response. As families torn apart by war fled Ukraine, Christians in Narewka, Poland, were just some of those who stepped forward so willingly to help. This is their story.
“When the news appeared, some part of me thought that maybe it would not be that bad,” says Marzena. She’s a member of the Baptist Church in Białystok, Poland, a congregation that has hosted refugees in their former youth centre in Narewka since the start of the Ukraine war. “But the other thing I considered was that maybe Poland was also going to be targeted by Russia. In general, I was very sad because of the threat that was upon Ukraine.”
In a refugee crisis affecting millions, it’s the work of ordinary Baptist churches like Marzena’s that has given so many people hope. Marzena’s church already had a few members from Ukraine, as well as the use of a spare building in Narewka that the church was using as a youth centre and retreat. While they were well set up to begin welcoming people, thoughts of resources and practicalities barely factored in their decision-making. “We realised that we needed to get involved right away after we got the information that the war had started,” Marzena adds. “We realised that there is no time for hesitation. There is no place for saying no.”
Marzena’s church didn’t just welcome people to the centre in Narewka. Church members also opened up their homes. Through Ukrainian members of the church family, Marzena became aware too that aid was desperately needed in Ukraine itself. “On a daily basis, they didn’t even have bread,” she explains. “And we decided to start collecting stuff.” Soon, church members were filling four vans a week with food, clothing, basic medication and nappies for young children. The vans would be driven to the border where Ukrainian friends of the church were waiting. Where people needed funds to make their way across the border, the church would also support them financially.
With such a generous welcome being replicated across congregations in Poland, it’s no surprise that some churches even made secular news headlines, recognised as being among the first responders on the ground to welcome refugees. Most excitingly, these churches were enabled to step forward by the Baptist family network, and by you. Money that Marzena’s church has received in donations from the UK given to BMS has helped them to buy vital items for people staying with them, such as food and bedding. They’ve also been able to upgrade an old boiler fuelled by coal to a gas boiler, meaning they can keep the whole centre warm and comfortable.
Aside from monetary aid, Marzena also really values the spiritual support she’s received through people praying faithfully for the church. “A few months ago, I was sick and I was in pretty difficult situation,” she shares. “And Lord came to me with this verse from Isaiah 43: 2, ‘When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.’ And actually it’s something that follows me all the time in this situation.”
Marzena is incredibly grateful for all the help her congregation has received – but she knows the long journey to restoring hope and safety for Ukrainian people is far from over. “I’d like to say thank you,” says Marzena. “But I would like to encourage you to be involved as long as this is needed… I just want to encourage you to try to be alongside this and help.”
Taken with thanks from A church responds – BMS World Mission