More than 200,000 refugees from Ukraine are living in Poland’s capital city, Warsaw. As Ukrainians began fleeing from their homeland when the conflict began earlier this year, over 800,000 people have set foot through Warsaw to either stay or move on to other countries in search of safety and refuge.
People in Poland have been working tirelessly to help Ukrainians. As they witness the destruction of their neighbouring country, many Polish pastors have been present on the ground, extending the hope of God to those in the midst of trauma.
From opening their church doors, volunteering in relief centres, and welcoming refugee families into their homes– people in Poland have been gracious and selfless in helping those in need. That’s why The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (BG-RRT) have provided free ‘God’s Hope in Crisis’ course to pastors and church leaders in Poland. Earlier this month (5th – 7th July), Polish church leaders received training in their mother tongue on how to provide emotional and spiritual support with those suffering. Ukrainian pastors received the same training in their native language the week before.
The ‘Train the Trainer’ seminar not only equips church leaders with practical skills for their ministry, but also how to teach the course to others.
“We have all been moved by the stories of refugees that have come from Ukraine, and how the churches of Poland have responded and welcomed Ukrainian people in their communities. As a ministry, we recognise that people that have left Ukraine are experiencing deep pain and trauma,” Nigel Fawcett-Jones, UK Coordinator of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, said. “They have lost loved ones, but also they have lost the hopes and dreams they had left behind in their home country.”
“Our vision is to equip church leaders in Poland to effectively share God’s hope in crisis. We want people who receive this training to be able to use and pass these skills on to church members and their community, so they can help people through this traumatic time,” Nigel added.
The training has met a need of a community who’s standing in the spiritual frontlines, offering the comfort of God with those impacted by the war, and carrying Christ into a hurting community.
The conflict in Ukraine has dramatically changed the course of many lives, including the ministries of church leaders in Poland. For Andrew Stephanow, leader of Spichlerz church in Warsaw– training like this is a ‘must’ in order for them to meet the emotional and spiritual need of the Ukrainians who are suffering.
Andrew works five days a week at a refugee relief centre in Poland. Although his official job is a translator, his role goes way beyond this.
Every day, Andrew listens to hundreds of stories of people saying goodbye to their country. He’s heard accounts of people separated from their loved ones, homes destroyed, and livelihoods robbed from them by the war.
He believes that the training he has received from BGEA is a must for everyone responding to the Ukraine crisis.
“At extraordinary times like now, people don’t know how to react, what to do, or what to say. Most people have never received training like this, it’s not taught at church. It’s important to learn these skills, as we don’t always have the answers to give to people in pain,” Andrew said. “This training will be beneficial for the time I spend at the refugee centres. It will improve and stabilise the knowledge I have on how to respond to those in trauma, which is so needed.”
One day at the refugee centre, Andrew saw a family lugging over 20 bags. He noticed that they looked tired and weary so he offered a helping hand. “All of them looked so tired,” Andrew recalls.
After carrying these heavy bags, Andrew also felt exhausted. The mother noticed the tired expression on his face and said something he’ll never forget. “Please don’t be angry with how many bags we have. This is our whole life. All our life’s belongings are in these 20 bags,” she told Andrew.
Despite Andrew feeling the physical weight of the bags, the weight of the mother’s words reminded Andrew that there is not only a physical need that must meet when supporting the Ukrainians, but also a strong emotional need.
Leader of the Baptist Church in Katowice, Jerzy Rogaczewski, believes that there is also a need to support the servants who are providing physical and emotional support to the refugees.
“We have opened our hearts and homes, but this is not enough. The need is huge,” Jerzy said. His church has helped many Ukrainian families – offering a home to live in and a community to be a part of. The pastor admits that ministering in such devastating situation has been difficult for everyone. “We learn to help. We are imperfect, but we try,” he said.
That’s why when he heard about the training, he jumped at the opportunity to learn how to provide emotional and spiritual care in a crisis, and also be trained to pass these skills on to others.
“Through this training, BGEA is helping support the churches who are on the ground ministering and serving amongst the heart-broken refugees. Many of them are still deep in trauma, many are needing physical aid, and most of them are hurting, needing emotional aid. “Each refugee has a unique and painful story,” Jerzy said.
With sadness in his voice, Jerzy shared the story of a young Ukrainian boy who lost his parents in Kharkviv, Ukraine. Although he survived, he was found by a fleeing Ukrainian family who managed to escape. “It took them a week to leave the country travelling by bus and train. They moved through an area where they were able to travel unharmed,” Jerzy said.
Pastors like Jerzy have spent a lot of time with refugees since the conflict began. Whilst he is grateful to share the light of Christ, Jerzy admits that it has been challenging time for everyone.
“As pastors help and support those suffering, they partly feel and take on their burdens. It’s so important that they receive this training because pastors themselves are also experiencing trauma,” Jerzy explained. “This is why I will pass this training on to other leaders.”
Ukrainians have lost a great deal – husbands, wives, parents, children, and friends.
“People are heartbroken, some people don’t want to hear about God. We are facing a great challenge of love and concern, and there are thousands of people like this in Poland,” he said.
That’s why more than ever, believers must reach out to the broken-hearted with the unfailing hope of Christ.
“What I have learnt on this training will help me bring Ukrainians hope during this difficult time, it will point them back to God,” Jerzy added.
At the last two days of the seminars, church leaders took turns presenting the training to one another in preparation for teaching their communities.
Jerzy believes the training is not only for church leaders, but for every believer who wants to extend the heart of Christ to hurting people.
“This will impact hundreds of people here in Poland as we pass on the training to others,” Jerzy explained. “So we want to thank BGEA. Thank you for helping us help Ukrainians.”
GIVE TO THE BILLY GRAHAM RAPID RESPONSE TEAM
Rapid Response Team