Millions of Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries to escape the bombardment of their homeland by the Russian military, and Baptists in Ukraine and Poland are responding to the need.
Yaroslav Pyzh, president of the Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary, marshaled the people and resources of his school to help those fleeing through Lviv, which is approximately 40 miles from the shared border with Poland.
In the first week of the invasion, the seminary took in more than 700 people, offering a place to sleep, food and counseling.
“The work is non-stop and is 24/7 because they are arriving at all times of the day,” Pyzh said.
Those who came through the first day of the war were in “fairly reasonable emotional condition,” he said. Refugees who have followed are “in very bad condition.”
“I don’t even want to know what they went through,” he said.
Pyzh said seminary leaders have used their network of 2,000 students and graduates in Ukraine and Poland to mobilize and offer aid to the displaced Ukrainians who are traveling through Lviv and need places to stay.
Churches across Ukraine are responding with prayer and collecting items to bring to the seminary.
Baptist partners in the U.S., including state conventions, local churches and the WMU Foundation are providing refugee assistance funds.
Josh and Bailey Krause serve with the International Mission Board in Warsaw, Poland, and are liaisons between the International Mission Board, Send Relief and the Polish Baptist Union as the three groups seek to assist Ukrainian refugees.
The Polish Baptist Union initially hoped to house 500 refugees. They quickly doubled that number to 1,000.
Eight centers were designated to receive refugees, but Baptists increased the number to 40 camps located across Poland, each outfitted with sheets, pillows, food and hygiene items.
First Baptist Church Gdansk, Poland, is hosting a refugee center, said IMB missionary Ken Brownd. The church picked up about two dozen refugees in the first week of the conflict.
A Baptist church in the city of Chelm posted on its Facebook page that they sheltered 120 refugees as the war began. Church members remain on duty 24 hours to receive refugees. Hotels, businesses and individuals have joined the efforts to help the church by providing food, mattresses and bedding.
Polish Baptists have responded with enthusiasm and generosity, Brownd said.
“It’s just cool to see Polish Baptists stepping up and taking care of their neighbors. They’ve done that for a long time now, but this is a different level,” Brownd said.
Josh Krause said he’s encouraged by the cooperation and brotherhood he’s seen.
“Everyone is coming together to say that we’re with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters,” he said.
The Krauses said their prayer is for the Lord to work in mighty ways during this time of crisis.
“The Church in Ukraine is thriving and doing great,” said Bailey Krause. “Through this, I really hope that not only the believers and the churches in Ukraine come out even more strong and on fire, but the Polish churches, that they too would catch that and grow.
“The Lord can do great things out of destruction.” (IMB, Southwestern Seminary, TAB)
5 ways to pray for Baptists in and near Ukraine
1. Pray for safe travel for those fleeing danger within Ukraine, for God’s presence to provide them with hope and assurance and for the churches providing refuge to have enough resources to meet the growing needs.
2. Pray humanitarian aid funds will reach their destination, be used wisely and accomplish God’s purpose.
3. Pray for God’s protection for Baptists in Ukraine, for hope in suffering, for love toward their enemies and for the gospel to spread beyond the borders.
4. Pray for God to provide churches in Ukraine and neighboring countries with an abundance of resources and opportunities to share the gospel as they receive refugees.
5. Pray for Baptist missionaries and others like them to be filled with God’s spirit as they share the hope of the gospel and embody the sacrificial love of Christ.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This prayer guide was written by members of the Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission.
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