I (Doug) consider it a privilege to have partnered with Pastor Sergii (pronounced Sur-gee), there in Lublin, Poland. I wish I could take all of you along to get a feel for the ministry there, and the impact of war on everyday people. War impacts people on both sides of borders, and I want to share with you stories of survival. There is a ripple effect that goes around the world, which many of you have paid close attention to. The neighboring countries have really felt the impact and have stepped up incredibly to accommodate the refugees. No country has done more for the refugees of Ukraine than Poland.
I feel like Pastor Sergii and his band of workers is one of the most obedient, hardworking, servant-oriented bunch we’ve ever had the privilege to partner up with. He has a huge heart and cares deeply about being in the center of God’s will. He understands that to help someone, you must minister to their soul, or it would be a temporary fix.
He clearly feels that he should move away from the housing focus, and develop traditional church/mission strategies to help people. His concern is that when we make it too easy for those we serve to be complacent, they will be so comfortable that their incentive to get out and assimilate in their new community would dissipate. He has witnessed some that become dependents that really need to do what the majority have done, and that it is to restart their lives.
On the other hand, he continues to do a phenomenal job of running language classes (Polish and English), food giveaways, clothing and shoe giveaways, and regular meetings teaching others about the love of God. They have registered over 1500 people and processed them with some form of aid and ongoing teaching.
Stories Of Survival
Every day is a busy day around the Life Center. New people coming, young and old. Almost all are women and children. I heard story after story from these mothers about leaving a war-torn city. They told me in whispers as their five-year-olds were within earshot and just now coming out of the trauma of war after more than a year. They were so kind to tell me their stories and did their best to hold it together.
Pastor Sergii had something scheduled for me each day, all day, when I visited him. I drove down from Warsaw–a two-hour drive, the day I arrived, and that evening he had several families around many tables for the purpose of sharing their stories. We video taped all of these testimonies and I hope to create a YouTube of this soon. It will be quite a project as I have three cards full of data to edit, but I hope to get to it soon. The stories we heard were, frankly, all the same. Different cities that were attacked, schools, hospitals, and neighborhoods destroyed, finding a car or bus to head west. All of this is an exact repeat of the 1940’s under Stalin. The west becomes the new hope, yet home is behind them.
I met a lady that was probably a few years younger than me that had just arrived at the Life Center. She wouldn’t let me film or photograph her. She had one soggy tissue and continually wiped her eyes and nose as she told of her unconventional exodus to Lublin, Poland, and the Life Center. Her journey began in Mariupol–the city you may have heard of since it was the place where so many lived underneath a steel mill, trapped by the Russians. This city was absolutely leveled. If you search online, you’ll see a scene that looks like a level 5 tornado sat on top of the city for a week. Dozens were trapped underground for weeks and finally a deal was brokered, and some could leave, and others taken prisoner.
When she finally left Mariupol, she actually went to Moscow as there is now nothing stopping Ukrainians from going east. Eastern Ukraine is an occupied territory, so it’s one and the same as the rest of Russia. She left with only a suitcase. After a short time in Moscow, she headed for the Balkans–Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. These are north of Belarus (a Russian state), and once she was in the Balkans (probably Lithuania), could cross into Poland as a refugee. Then she had quite a journey that brought her all the way south to Lublin where she found the Life Center.
She left a 35-year-old daughter behind that will live with a friend. As she told me her story, it was obvious she was completely worn out and broken. Yet when we talked about faith, her eyes lit up and she said, “Oh yes! My faith is all I have. I pray to God every morning first thing, and every night before I go to sleep! Without my faith in God, I would have nothing.”
So here was a lady who had nothing but really had everything she needed to make it. She may have been tired and exhausted, but she had the one thing she knew could sustain her.
The next day, Sergii spoke to a group of women, children, and young people. He had asked me to speak for ten minutes or so, and we focused on the need to “keep looking up”. Keep our eyes on God above, developing trust and so on. I told this group about my friend from Mariupol, and how her faith was the only thing that has kept her going. When we wrapped up, I walked out into the hall and there she was, beaming with joy and a beautiful smile. She had overheard me tell of her story and seemed so proud that her story may have helped the other moms and young people. I gave her the only thing I had brought along to give out–a Carhart shirt that was meant for Sergii’s son. I’ll bring another next time, as Margo has already replenished the stock.
She said it would be ok now if I took her picture, and that the Life Center was now something she’d be a part of every day. I told her my wife Margo and I will be back in October and expect to see her again. She said she’d be there. After all of her heartache and anxiety, she is finding peace. So are hundreds of others, thanks to your generous support.
Supporting Pastor Sergii
I believe we need to continue to support Pastor Sergii into the future. He and his team are depending on us for the rent on this facility. Personally, I will be a partner of Pastor Sergii as long as I am alive, and he is lifting up the name of Jesus. I told him that a few months ago. It’s an honor.
Sergii texted me ten days ago and said God woke him up in the middle of the night with a burning in his heart to create a video/cinema avenue of presenting the Gospel. He’s sent pictures and sketches of what he would like to do. He will show his presentations not only at the Life Center, but in the town square. Sergii said he felt God had told him to sell his car to finance it. He needs about $10,000 of equipment to do what he wants to do. I told him I thought I could raise the funds, but he was clear that God had made a request of him and he needed to be obedient.
If you feel an interest in helping him out, I am certain that Pastor Sergii and his flock will use the funds well to tell the story of Jesus.
Reaching Out To Gypsies
The day I left, he had the late afternoon planned for us to go out to the country and minister to the gypsies. He has made some inroads here and wanted to take me along. But since I originally booked my flights, we were invited to a wedding here in Bozeman and I hate to have Margo go to these alone when all our friends are there. I found I could change my flight and barely make the wedding. I had to wait until I was in Poland, and within 24 hours of departure to change the flight without a massive penalty. So I made those changes Thursday and at lunch broke it to Sergii that I needed to leave that afternoon for Warsaw. Of course he understood and as we hugged each other out on the street, he said he was really tired and wasn’t sure if he would go out to see the gypsies that afternoon. We were both exhausted as it had been three busy days, and I was still adjusting to the time.
I headed out for Warsaw and had a terrible time staying awake. Nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. My rental car had a self-driving feature and as I fell asleep, the steering wheel jerked harshly and brought my car back in the lane before I went in the ditch at 75 miles per hour. Thanks Lord! I pulled into a rest area, put my phone on airplane mode, and took a nap. When I woke up, here are the pictures that came in from Sergii.
He had indeed gone out to see the gypsies, even though he wanted to go home and take a nap. Here we see a recent convert, kneeling to find a new life in service to Christ! A great story of going the extra mile, and the joy that comes from being obedient.
Thank You For Partnering With Us
Will you consider continuing to partner with us as we see lives changed and healed? Women and children are still being cared for. They are learning new languages and getting new clothes, shoes, and food. We are looking into the possibility of finding a warehouse to replace the casino, so we would have storage for food and still have a common meeting area. We are not clear on this yet, but have begun to look around. The casino may still be the best option due to its central location. We definitely need to be looking into the food supply situation. I have some other friends there that could help us with these needs. I’ll keep you posted.
This group of workers does more to take care of the people flowing through their doors than any three churches combined that I’ve ever been a part of. And I’ve been a part of great churches! More food, more clothing, more soul care, more conversions, and until about now – more in housing. As I’ve said, he feels that housing going forward will be less of a need.
As usual, let me say that I never use a Shepherd’s Heart credit card for these trips. The travel, meals, and all costs are a personal expense, as I don’t want anyone feeling that their dollars aren’t all going to the need. It’s a pleasure to do this at this time of our lives.
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!