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Hello to all of you special people with huge hearts! Here is your November update on the good news we can report on from Poland.
Before I dive into the summary of our trip, check out this special Thanksgiving Day video sent by the Ukrainian refugees we are supporting in Lublin, Poland:
After our trip back to Poland last month, we can boil it down to three primary takeaways:
“Please don’t forget us!” We were told, “Thanks!” over and over again for not forgetting, as so many charity groups and well-meaning folks have now moved on. “It was so busy when you were here last time, Doug, it was bustling with so many people wanting to help, but now it seems so slow around here. Thank you for coming back!”
“Nothing has changed.” War is still as ugly as ever! The refugees keep coming. Women, children, and grandparents are homeless, without any knowledge of what is to come next for them. The stories are endless and refreshed every day. The displacement and lack are very real.
“It was a very productive first six months.” Because of your support through Shepherds Heart, we have all made a significant difference. When I think back to the earliest days and see what is in place today, there is a tangible sense of hope and stability that wasn’t there before. It is clear that you all have been – and still are – making a difference by providing housing, language training, common meeting places, emotional and psychological help for so many women and children, and you have been part of establishing new communities of Ukrainians.
These communities are islands of peace in a time of turmoil.
These three things jumped out at us as we toured three facilities and interviewed the lay workers, pastors, and missionaries that have pitched up to connect all of those wanting to help to those in deepest need. Thanks for coming. The war and the fallout is still very real. Safe havens are functioning well and are tangible results for all who have seen the need and stepped up.
Margo and I visited a Sunday School class in a Dallas suburb a couple of weeks ago while visiting her uncle and aunt for his 80th birthday weekend. The teacher was speaking of Moses and the multiple conversations he had with God as he tried to avoid being the Israelite’s leader. He sounded then very similar to the way we all sound today as we try to outrun God’s call on us. The teacher had a list of “buts” he put on his whiteboard. But I’m too old. I’m not qualified. I’m not a leader. But I don’t have the resources. The list was long, and all of us in that class could see a little of ourselves in Moses’ excuses.
I’m thankful for those of you who “stepping up” is a way of life. Seeing a need and stepping up to fill it is just your lifestyle. You never blink, and because your generosity is routine, others routinely benefit from what has become your norm. And so it has been for this mission that we’ve embarked upon to provide housing, food, and community for those whose only certainty is that tomorrow will be another day in another country, wondering how their dad, brother, or son is doing.
I’ve watched countless hours of YouTube recently on the subject of World War II. Churchill and Roosevelt, the Battle of Britain, Dunkirk, the invasion of France and the surrender in Paris, and so on. All wars are fought in a land once inhabited by peaceful citizens going about their daily routines. Then when the battle comes to their village, there is a great exodus, and millions of refugees take flight.
Ukraine is no different. Fortunately, in 2022 this war has been confined so far to one country, and neighboring countries have allowed the refugees to enter in with arms wide open. On our trips to Poland, we heard firsthand stories of mothers worrying about their daughters who returned to Ukraine to check on their homes and haven’t been heard from again. We spent a day with a couple, Oksana and Misha, who fled from central Ukraine and now live in a rented room, not knowing what to do. Like so many, they would love to go home, but it is still a war zone with the terror of modern missiles ever-present. Michael and Sasha left a business and fifteen employees the day the war started. Their apartment is most likely the same today as it was on February 24th. They understand that they may never be able to return.
So everything that we can do to keep up our commitment for a two-year period is vital. With your support, we have fully funded the rent of the ex-casino – now a church and living quarters – as well as funding the rent for the Life Center in Warsaw. Honestly, I have such confidence in Pastor Sergei in Lublin; I can see myself supporting him and his church for years to come. Daniel will be posting his updates and videos on the Shepherds Heart website, along with other interviews illustrating the people and facilities in Lublin and Warsaw.
You will see Pastor Jim Keena from Bozeman as he interviewed Sergei and Natasha, who came from Ukraine six years ago, sensing that they would need to be ready for something big. Jim went on to north-central Ukraine and preached at a large church there on Sunday after being woke up by a missile strike less than two kilometers from where he slept. It was quite a trip, and we are grateful for the opportunity to see firsthand what God has put together to help these people. What a privilege!
Please pray about what you can do to keep this going. Get to know these people in Poland through these videos. Let’s continue to do all we can to serve up some hope at a time that is quite bleak. We can all do a little, and in so doing, be a part of something great.
God will bless you for sowing seeds into the hearts of these great people. People that are astonishingly similar to those we engage with every day here in the states. They enjoyed a similar life to what we enjoy. It just happened to be taken from them, and now they count on others to help them through it.
Enjoy the videos and stories we will post over the next several days.
As of May 2022, there are an estimated 4 million people, largely women and children, who have fled the war in Ukraine. Every day there are an additional 30,000 arriving in Poland. We are partnering with several organizations on the ground in Poland to provide housing and soul care for the refugees in Warsaw and Lublin, as well as shuttle essential supplies back into Ukraine for those remaining. Together, we are making a tangible difference!