What would the finest hour look like to you? Perhaps it was your wedding day, or maybe honoring someone in your family. Observing achievements of others or taking a moment to look at something dear to you is special as we relish the greatest moments we are privileged to witness. Being present, or close enough to really celebrate makes for a memorable moment for all involved.
In the last 48 hours, I’ve seen the entire spectrum of celebration of monumental achievements, as well as great moments squandered. Let’s start with one that most of us have seen play out in the media.
What should have been someone’s finest hour, turned out to be a massive squandering of honor and celebration as Will Smith chose to slap Chris Rock, the host of the Academy Awards show last Sunday night. Feeling that the comedian overstepped his place as he cracked a joke about Smith’s wife, the actor went up on the stage, boldly walked up to Rock, and cold-cocked him on Oscar’s biggest night. The celebration of everyone in the room, on one of the biggest stages, where careers are made and once a year honor is bestowed, was dampened as spirits sank and controversy stole the night.
Not the finest hour any longer, but really the worst hour for Will Smith, and most everyone that showed up or watched this bizarre spectacle that takes place every year. A show that already had poor ratings and is watched by fewer people each year than the year before, sank to a new low. Sorry to you that enjoy this event, but like many that have watched in the past, I checked out years ago as it became too hard to allow those egos into our living room.
Nonetheless, what a sad reversal of a night of expectations and celebration. Ugh! Moment wasted. Forever on YouTube. An irreversible choice and memory that left a stain for so many. I just couldn’t help but contrast this wasted opportunity to that of what the church is up to as its people deal with the Ukraine situation. One opportunity wasted, and another opportunity seized by those with a servant’s heart. Two heart conditions so to speak. One, thinking of others, and one that was more than a little self-indulgent.
On the other hand, I am thinking of world current events, and also that of Paul’s honoring of the church in Macedonia. I am grateful there are times when the church really shines, and especially so when kingdom work is memorialized.
The church is having one of its finest moments at this hour. This past week as I have travelled around Poland meeting with church leaders, it is clear that God’s church is functioning well and meeting the needs of believers and non-believers alike as refugees pour in to receive help. The stories are too many to tell. Church workers working around the clock to receive millions of war refugees into their churches and homes. Non-stop food collections and pantries that are cleaned out and refilled daily. Donations of clothing, shoes, diapers, baby formula that churches buy out of their own accounts. Truckloads in everyday, and truckloads out, and an empty warehouse at the end of the day.
Putin has no idea of the fabric that has already been woven together to supply and encourage the nation of Ukraine. Millions of people behind the scenes gathering and distributing resources to give life to a nation.
We were at a warehouse today that is receiving three full truckloads per day of foodstuffs, diapers, etc. and also ships it all out the same day after repacking the products. The bulk material needs to be reorganized so that instead of receiving full pallets of diapers for instance, the drop off may contain a pallet that includes diapers, beans, rice, antiseptic, band aids, juice, buckwheat, and other primary needs.
The full semi-trucks then head for Ukraine and make a quick drop and get out. The smaller pallet quantities are put in Sprinter vans, which head as far east as possible, taking backroads and changing their patterns to get supplies in. These van drivers are some of the real heroes of this war. They are shot at and take incredible risks to get these vital supplies to trapped communities. The organization we met with today has two hundred of these volunteer drivers heading straight into the teeth of the war. To date, they have one driver that has been killed, one that was shot and recovering, and one that has been missing for over a week.
This entire operation is being run by a Pentecostal church group that has over 65 pastors and congregations. We had several meetings today to discuss housing and other needs. We had the privilege this week to make some great new friendships from pastor and missionary friends from British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan who are in the mix with this Pentecostal group. A couple of pastors showed up from Ireland and we met over at a Warsaw church that has processed thousands of refugees. We heard of twelve families that came to the Lord through this time as they were matched with local families and heard the gospel.
We went over to a shopping mall where Pastor Adam from here in Warsaw told how this past month has gone as he and church leaders from seven other local churches have matched hosts with people looking for a place to stay. To the tune of 2000 families that they found local people to let them stay with. He said he’s very proud of the church at this time, but also proud of all of Poland as his countrymen have stepped up and opened their arms wide to complete strangers. Visualize a modern, first class shopping mall with all of the usual name brands that has a four-tiered parking garage. Warsaw is a modern city with all of the usual trappings of a major metropolitan area.
What is going on in Lublin and Warsaw, is also going on in Krakow, and from one side of this country to the other. It’s an unbelievable joint work, humanitarian project that is taking place, and Christ’s church is dead center in the middle of it. The church at this upscale mall has every clerk in hundreds of stores sending folks there on Sundays because they know the pastor works round the clock, sleeping on the floor of the church at the mall for an hour or two as he tries to keep up with the flow of people. He is organizing busses to take the women and children to Paris, Switzerland, Spain, and western Europe. The mall management has given up two locations on the main floor to process food out of one unit, and clothes and rain gear out of the other. Everyone chips in, but the church is the hub.
We went to a house on the fringe of Warsaw to deliver some medicine to two families that fled the Kiev area. The mom is a pastor’s wife with six children aged from eighteen down to four years old. Her husband is still in Kiev, but all the kids were there today. Also, the youth pastor and his wife and kids were there. What a fun and loving bunch of people. I’m hopeful I can share photos soon of this happy church family. We saw photos of their summer camp, and the cabin they built there in the trees. Pictures of worship and baptism, and campfires. Currently the Russians are within a couple of miles of this summer camp and bombing the area. We communicate on Google’s translate app. Each person types and then waits a second for the app to translate. 21st century communication. Without it, we’d be sunk.
There are many things that stand out about these last several days. But at the top of the list is the fact that this is the church at its best. The message is about salvation, and the redemption that Jesus brings. There is no desire for anyone to just deliver food or supplies without also delivering the saving message of Jesus. For all of these people this week, Jesus is the real message and hope for each of them. So many refugees have said that material things don’t matter now. They are thankful to be alive. There isn’t even a close second to the centrality of Jesus during this wartime.
This really is the finest hour of the church. And it is a privilege to watch it function. In fact, there really isn’t an adequate way to tell the story of the church in this critical time. Those that live in darkness really have seen a great light – and that’s exciting.
Each of us can be a part of this movement, just as all of these volunteers in Poland have become. We don’t have to just sit back and watch the news. We just have to choose to kick in some financial assistance that will be stretched far and make a real difference. And there is no shortage of ways to assist. Food, housing, small financial monthly aid. We are working on all of this now to present to you during the next few days.
I can tell you now that we will be providing $300 per month to some families, and we are looking at renting a minimum of two houses that will cost about $4000 per month that will sleep two families each. This includes utilities. That’s nearly a $60,000 per year commitment, and it’s about half of what I think we should be doing as we match up to the shepherding and discipleship needed to also nurture these folks along. We could fill up a hundred houses today with refugees and be short by an immeasurable amount. But we can make a dent and a small difference if we do our part. We aren’t just desiring to provide funds, but rather soul care as well. We have the people in place to provide for healthy relationships and also to help develop faith. In 2 Corinthians we read:
“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything— in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness, and in the love we have kindled in you— see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”
This could be us! We can all jump in! Some a little, and some – until it hurts a bit. But let’s excel in this grace of giving!
That’s it for now. Early flight back to Seattle tomorrow, and maybe we can have pictures and some videos then.
All the best!
Partner With Us
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 care for and guide the refugees, as well as shuttle essential supplies back into Ukraine for those remaining.