Joining Christians around the world, Northwest Baptists have been praying for peace and relief in Ukraine following an invasion from Russia’s military forces and a resulting humanitarian crisis.
“The best and most effective response right now for NWBC folks is prayer and contributions,” said Gary Floyd, the NWBC’s coordinator for Northwest Baptist Disaster Relief. “We are following the leads of 20+ NWBC congregations with direct ties to the affected areas and several Southern Baptist Disaster Relief partners.”
Northwest Baptists can make financial gifts for relief efforts through their local churches or directly to Northwest Baptist Disaster Relief. Checks can be marked for “Ukraine Relief” and mailed to 6715 NE 63rd St. Suite 103-516 Vancouver, WA 98661-1980. Online gifts can be made at nwbaptist.life/give with gifts selected for Disaster Relief and noted with Ukraine Relief in the Donation Comments section.
Floyd noted that the International Mission Board via Send Relief – the IMB’s compassion ministry arm — began responding with food relief before the invasion and continues to collaborate with European partners to provide food, shelter, transportation, clothing, and ministry to those displaced and impacted by the crisis in Ukraine.
“They have expanded the response to displaced people in Poland, Moldova, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania,” Floyd said.
He also noted that Southern Baptists in North Carolina and Texas have long ministry histories there and are also sending moneys and supplies. Disaster relief response teams in Poland are identifying opportunities to support the churches ministering to impacted people.
“They will also determine how and when SBDR teams could be effectively deployed,” said Floyd. “There will be opportunities over the next several years for teams to aid the affected churches.”
Over the last decade, Bobby and Sharon Watkins – longtime Northwest ministry leaders – have ministered personally in Ukraine and are in regular contact with people and ministries experiencing the crisis.
“It continues to be a horrific time in Ukraine,” Bobby Watkins wrote to ministry partners. “We are in contact with many dear friends almost 24 hours a day. Many have left Ukraine and are refugees.
“Many are refugees away from their homes but still in the country and with the war still close, he added. “Some are in their homes in fear of the next explosion. The churches where possible are ministering to people in every way possible.”
In Poland, one Baptist church has taken bold steps to minister to refugees.
A familiar New Testament verse embodies Chelm Baptist Church’s response to Ukrainian refugees who have made long and arduous journeys out of their homeland and who are burdened by the loss of life as they knew it in Ukraine:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
The city of Chelm is located 16 miles from the border of Ukraine. Pastor Henryk Skrzypkowski and members of Chelm Baptist Church opened the Christian Transit Center for Ukrainian refugees and have received more than 2,000 refugees.
The center has beds for 200 people, and their registration desk and kitchen are open 24 hours. Many of the refugees come in the evening, seeking shelter and a place to sleep. The church also supplies necessities. Some refugees stay for a warm meal and a rest before their journey onward. Refugees are directed to Polish Baptist camps in other cities.
Sasza is one of the many refugees who found solace in the center. Sasza traveled to Chelm at the beginning of the exodus and before the enactment of martial law, which requires men 18 years and older to remain in Ukraine. The 20-year-old Polish believer came to the Christian Transit Center with his sisters and mother. His father remained in Ukraine to fight.
Sasza’s family has since moved to another city in Chelm, but Sasza remained at the center as a volunteer. He receives arriving refugees. He speaks Ukrainian, some Polish and English and bridges language barriers for other volunteers.
“His attitude is encouraging for all of us here. He never takes praise for himself, but gives all the glory to God,” said Joanna Marcyniak, a Polish Baptist volunteer.
Marcyniak attends a Polish Baptist church in the city of Poznań and traveled to volunteer her time to manage the church’s Facebook page and post updates.
In addition to serving those who come to them, this week the church sent two cars to the border with medication and food.
On March 6, for the first time in the church’s history, Chelm Baptist Church’s Sunday morning service did not take place in its sanctuary. To continue the ministry of the Christian Transit Center, the service took place in Chełm’s Community Center. The worship service opened with “Amazing Grace.”
During the service, Skrzypkowski spoke from Matthew 14, where Jesus fed the 5,000. He said we might be tempted, like the disciples were, to send people away.
This stood out to Marcyniak.
“Jesus didn’t send the hungry people packing,” she said. “Even though we might have a temptation to wash our hands of the responsibility, it’s not what Christ teaches us. We want to be closer to Jesus and the kingdom of Heaven, not to this world.”
Skrzypkowski shared in his message what stood out to him was how Jesus organized the feeding. Jesus instructed the disciples to organize the crowd into smaller groups to provide for their needs. The church in Chelm is working toward this, and the call extends globally, Skrzypkowski said. He called for unity and organization in the days and weeks to come.