You’re Going Where?

This past March, I embarked on a journey that had not been on my bucket list. The destination wasn’t undesirable or difficult, I had just never considered it. But, on March 12, 2023, I left Calgary for Warsaw, Poland.

Prior to this trip, I knew the geographic location of Poland and that my husband’s great-grandparents had come from Poland and Ukraine. I was also familiar with the great food from that area of the world. Of late, of course, I was also aware of the fact that Warsaw had become a major hub for Ukrainian evacuees fleeing Ukraine and the war with Russia.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect but I was about to learn a lot more.

How did this all come about and why was I going? Well, I need to back up a bit to answer those questions. This past January, in the Women2Women Bible study, we started a study of the book of Ruth. The first week of the study drew attention to Ruth’s determination to follow her mother-in-law Naomi back to Bethlehem.

“…For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Ruth 1:16b

They were determined to follow a path that God was leading them on. The discussion in our group was about being obedient to God’s call and direction, even when it isn’t convenient or when we don’t have a neat agenda set out for us. The very next day I was asked to be part of a Short-Term Missions (STM) team that was going to Poland.

Was I going to ‘practice what I preached’? Prayer and affirmation from others, including my husband, made ‘yes’ the obvious answer.

I’ve been on 9 previous STMs over the last 24 years and each one has been different. This was no exception. Our team represented 5 different churches across Canada and The Alliance Canada (CMA) head office. The focus of the trip was a bit different than other trips as we were going to meet with ministry partners and gather information, while also providing encouragement and prayer support to those same people.

FAC and other Canadian Alliance churches have been receiving financial donations for support of Ukrainian evacuees in Poland. The funds have been sent through our Head Office to a partner organization in Warsaw. Bill Finnemore, a former International Worker with the Alliance in Poland, is now retired and living in Canada but he has been serving as the liaison between the CMA head office and the Polish mission.

When we arrived in Warsaw, we were welcomed by Radek Gasza, Director of Dobro Czynic (Good Works) mission, our ministry partner in Poland. Radek’s mission has established a network of Evangelical churches throughout Poland and Ukraine. Funds from various church organizations, businesses and individuals around the world are sent to Dobro Czynic mission to purchase supplies needed to help those affected by the conflict.

For the next 7 days, we met with ministry leaders in churches, ministry and support workers in evacuee centers and volunteers and evacuees in each of these locations.

The enormity of the situation and the vast array of moving parts that must be coordinated is mind-boggling.

What stands out to me in all of this is the unity of purpose shown by churches of various denominations, government agencies, NGOs, community groups and individuals as they come together to meet real and immediate needs and demonstrate compassion and care to others.

In a crisis like this, there is no time to make elaborate plans or assign committees – all of that can come later but action is needed. Most of the evangelical churches we met with, except for 1 or 2, have congregations of 100-150 people and most rent their spaces. Their manpower and resources are limited but these congregations jumped into action gathering supplies, transporting and housing evacuees, and doing whatever they could to help. Word travels fast and before long, communities were helping alongside the churches. Dobro Czynic was, and continues to, coordinate support for many of these groups.

Funds that have been sent, including those from FAC, are put to good use wherever most needed. One of the largest evacuee centers is in a former convention center. Known as the Expo center, they housed as many as 3500 individuals. Setting up sleeping facilities and food supplies alone is a huge task. Some of the funds went towards purchasing furnishings for the children’s center. We travelled about 3 hours north of Warsaw to Ostrada children’s summer camp.

With the help of the local citizens and funds provided through Dobro Czynic and the community, some of the FAC funds were used to help winterize buildings and purchase furniture and supplies for up to 100 evacuees.

This kid’s camp has been able to continue operating as a camp as well as supply lodging to evacuees. North Church is the largest Evangelical church in Warsaw, and they have been able to broadcast information and programming on a local TV station. They are providing programming in Ukrainian and Polish, and they have been able to broadcast the gospel message.

They are using some of the funds that we have sent through Dobro Czynic to build a much better sound stage at the church so that programming can be expanded. They are working on 2-minute spots directed at children and helping them to deal with the trauma of what they have experienced. Several of the churches send regular convoys of food, hygiene and medical supplies into Ukraine. Funds that have been sent from Canada have been used to purchase much-needed supplies. The networks that Dobro Czynic mission has in place in Poland and Ukraine, ensure that supplies get to the locations they are needed.

The people of Poland and many surrounding countries have stepped up to help brothers and sisters in need. Many of the perceived barriers to working together have dissolved in light of this very real need. God’s church is growing, and the gospel is spreading. Churches and their congregants putting the love of Jesus into action is making a huge impact on the hearts of evacuees from Ukraine and citizens of Poland and beyond.

Those actions lead to conversations and the opportunity to share the gospel, to share who Jesus is and what He means to His followers. Many are responding to that message and giving their lives to Christ – another fact that was shared with us.

There are still needs to be met as the war continues. There are still evacuees and the obstacles they face are many. As many people choose to move to other countries, Canada included, we need to be ready and willing to help where Jesus leads.

His love needs to shine at all times, not only in emergency situations.

In addition to the need for continued support for newly-arrived evacuees here in Canada, there is still an ongoing need for funds to continue the work being done in Poland and Ukraine. The Alliance Canada continues to work with Radek Gasza and Dobra Czynic mission and with Bill Finnemore to ensure that much-needed funds get to those that need them most.

As the war moves away from the top storylines on news feeds, so does financial support.

However, that support is still very much needed because the war is far from over.

A prayer request that was often shared was for the church and ministry leaders and those that have been working non-stop since this began on February 24, 2022. These faithful workers and their families have had few to no breaks in that time and they are becoming exhausted.

Please pray that they will be able to take some much-needed rest and that others will come alongside to provide relief. Without exception, these people see God at work and how He is using this tragic situation to draw many to Himself. The vibrancy of the churches we attended, and the many testimonies of God’s provision are evidence of His presence in this dark time

There is more that I could share but I will stop here. My prayer as I went was that God would help me see what He wanted me to see. The unity of God’s people in a time of crisis, the impact on others of seeing God’s love demonstrated, the need to pray for God’s wisdom, strength and love to prevail in this crisis and the need to pray for those faithfully serving day in and day out, have definitely been immensely impactful to me.

We are never so aware of our dependence on our self-sufficiency until we move out of our comfort zone and must rely on the Spirit of God for the strength and courage to go where He leads.

I have met so many wonderful people on these trips and I have had the blessing of seeing and hearing of how God is at work outside of my familiar space. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to take more time to really get to know your fellow teammates! Most of the time, God is doing just as much within the team and the individuals on it, as He is with the team and those they are ministering to.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I have been on many STMs and I would encourage you to consider whether or not God may be asking you to follow Him somewhere you haven’t considered; perhaps somewhere not on your bucket list. If you’re thinking of pursuing Short-Term Missions, don’t hesitate to contact the Share Ministry team.

Here and now, we also have unique opportunities to follow Him in ways we have yet to consider, locally. There are so many opportunities to give back! It has been wonderful to connect with some of the families that have come to FAC from churches I visited in Warsaw. We have several Ukrainian families now attending FAC and there will likely be more. I encourage you to watch for new faces when you next attend FAC.

We are always welcoming new people coming from many different countries and other parts of Canada and even other areas of Calgary. Try saying “Hi” to someone new, and remember, “All for Jesus”.

Written by Pat Zimmerman, the Women’s Ministry Director 

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