Second Baptist Church, Gdańsk, Poland, has helped meet the needs of more than 100 refugees from Ukraine in the past 11 months — without the benefit of its own building.
But they have received financial assistance from missions partners such as First Baptist Church, Temple, Texas.
Over the past two decades Second Baptist has met for worship in a variety of rented venues as it has grown to about 150 worshippers on a typical Sunday, eight out of 10 of whom are first-generation evangelical Christians.
“We base the life of our church on small groups, mostly meeting in homes,” explained Pastor Adrian Stróżek, who at age 50 is the senior member of the young congregation.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, some families at Second Baptist opened their homes to women and children who had fled eastern Ukraine.
“One family who had a house took in seven,” Stróżek related.
The first families to offer short-term housing were Ukrainian-born church members who relocated to Poland after Russia invaded and subsequently annexed Crimea in 2014.
“The apartments are really small, so it usually meant people had to sleep on the floor,” Stróżek said. “That may be alright for a few days or a week, but not for long.”
When it became clear the need for housing was going to extend for months, the church rented three apartments and a house for the Ukrainian refugees.
Meeting neighbors’ needs
“We have provided for the needs of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters — material, emotional and spiritual,” Stróżek noted.
In addition to housing, Second Baptist provides food, medicine, assistance with employment and help in learning the Polish language. Members also partner with a church in Lutsk that helps internally displaced people in Ukraine.
Members of Second Baptist have helped mothers secure documents to enroll their children in school, and have walked alongside the women through periods of long separation from their husbands who are required to stay in Ukraine.
“One woman’s husband was in Mariupol, where he was taken prisoner by the Russian army,” Stróżek recalled. “She lost touch with him for weeks. Finally, the Red Cross was allowed limited access. He had been injured, but he survived.”
Partnership with Temple
First Baptist Temple had established a relationship with Second Baptist several years ago.
Initially, Evan Duncan — at that time the teaching and communications pastor in Temple and now senior pastor of The Baptist Church in West Chester, Pennsylvania — led small volunteer groups from Central Texas who were permitted to visit Gdańsk schools to help students practice conversational Spanish.
Later, missions groups from First Baptist led summer camps for children and youth in Poland.
So when members of First Baptist Temple learned about how the Gdańsk church was caring for refugees, they wanted to help support the effort financially.
“The work they are doing is just phenomenal,” noted Josh Flores Olvera, missions minister at First Baptist Temple. “It’s a nonstop, hard-working ministry … and they are doing it all without a centralized facility.”
‘Preparing for the future’
But that will change as Second Baptist is in the process of constructing a building strategically located within walking distance of a major university in Gdańsk. The worship center will seat more than 250, and the building will include space for ministries to refugees.
“They need to learn the Polish language to be self-sufficient,” Stróżek explained. “They need to form new relationships in a foreign country. They will need help with their children and teens. Right now, most of the refugees are single mothers with children.
“To some extent they are starting over and we want to meet them in this situation. And we want our new church building to serve in this sensitive ministry.”
The church also hopes to offer a Christian counseling center and provide a safe place for teenagers to gather.
“To make all this possible, we need our new church to be self-sustaining,” Stróżek noted. “We want to buy and install solar panels and an internal heat pump to limit energy costs.”
Stróżek plans to travel to Texas to meet with potential financial supporters and missions partners in the Temple area.
“The war is far from over and we are preparing for the future,” he said. “We want to be prepared for the new needs.”
For more information about the ministries of Second Baptist Church, Gdańsk, Poland, contact Pastor Adrian Stróżek at email@example.com.