The Ukraine relief mission trip to Poland was unlike any I have experienced in some 65 years on this earth.
Seeing and listening to so many stories of hurt was a bit overwhelming. There were times I had to ask myself, “Is this really happening?”
Story after story involved refugee wives and children leaving their husbands behind in Ukraine to fight for their country. These fleeing families just wanted their story heard.
Before the conversations finished, members of the Mississippi Baptist mission team almost always had the opportunity to share the gospel during the March 27–April 4 trip.
I don’t know if it was to my surprise, or simply my ignorance, that so many Ukrainian refugees knew Jesus, had a strong faith and possessed a solid understanding of the Bible.
Listening and praying
These stories of separation from husbands and parents who could not make the journey to Poland with their families always involved tears from both the Ukrainians and, yes, from me.
I realized there was some comfort by them knowing that another person from the other side of the world had empathy and cared enough to listen and pray for them.
There were pockets of joy in the middle of war.
One example was when we had the unexpected privilege to love on children from Ukraine while their mothers went to fill out paperwork with the Polish government and search for jobs. We saw one mom smiling while she watched her daughter laugh for the first time in weeks.
That one moment was worth all the travel and preparation.
Many men, myself included, have the idea we can fix any situation or problem that arises. But the situation that caused these women and children to travel for days in extreme cold while bombs were falling all around them was completely out of our control to fix. To see some laughter in an unfixable situation was a moment of joy.
Then there was Sunday worship. We attended a Polish service with more than 200 in attendance and also a Russian/Ukrainian service with more than 300 in attendance. Both services included baptisms and the Lord’s Supper. Wow! What an experience. Refugees from the war torn country of Ukraine continue to come together to worship and encourage each other.
As I looked across these congregations worshiping in a language I could not understand, my thoughts went to Mike and Linda Ray and their daughters, Rebekah and Hannah. See related story. This family served as missionaries in Dniprotrovsk, Ukraine, with the International Mission Board from 1995–2014.
Currently, Mike is Mississippi Baptist Convention Board’s missions mobilization director in Jackson. Linda serves in children’s ministry and seeks to develop missions awareness with women in their local churches. Rebekah is the ministry assistant for the Mississippi Baptist Christian Action Commission in Jackson. Hannah is a physician in the Mississippi Delta.
God is at this moment undoubtedly using their ministry in Ukraine for those many years, during these trying days for the Ukrainian people. Thank you to the Ray family for their investment in Ukraine.
The ending of this story is uncertain.
Most of the Ukrainians with whom we spoke with long for their homeland and believe they will be back there in a few weeks. The reality is that the war’s devastation hasn’t left much to go back to for the foreseeable future.
If you have the opportunity to minister to the hurting people of Ukraine who are facing such uncertain futures, you will probably be like us: unable to speak Polish, Russian, or Ukrainian, but enabled to speak the language of love through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
How to get involved
Mississippi teams will be participating in a rotation every four weeks with Louisiana, Ohio and Kentucky state Baptist conventions in support of the Gdansk refugee site. Mississippi Baptists have teams scheduled to depart on April 24, May 22, June 19, July 17 and August 14.
Those in Mississippi who are interested in learning more, may submit their name, e-mail address, church affiliation, and telephone contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call (601) 292-3335. The Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief ministry is supported by gifts to the Mississippi Cooperative Program and the Margaret Lackey State Missions Offering.
To read full story from The Baptist Record, see more photos, click here.
For other ways to give, check with your church, association or state Baptist convention to find out how they are contributing to relief work in Ukraine. To contact your state convention for more information, click here. Or, for more information about Send Relief, click here.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Junior Davis and originally published by The Baptist Record, newsjournal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.