Chris Lange, FISM News
A Polish church near Ukraine’s border is providing comfort to thousands of displaced refugees fleeing the terrors of war. Pastor Henryk Skrzypkowski and members of the Chelm Baptist Church have welcomed more than 2,000 refugees to its 24-hour Christian Transit Center which it opened in response to the ongoing war, according to the Baptist Press.
Displaced Ukrainians who have made the arduous and dangerous trek across the border to find shelter, food, and much-needed rest at the center before continuing on their journey, burdened with trauma, loss, and the knowledge that their lives have been forever changed. Within the walls of the center, they also find hope.
Skrzypkowski recently held a worship service at the Chełm’s Community Center where he opened with the beloved hymn, “Amazing Grace.” The third verse was no doubt particularly poignant to those present:
Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come
T’was grace that brought us safe thus far
And grace will lead us home.
That day, Skrzypkowski read from Matthew 14, recounting the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, noting that Christ had instructed the disciples to organize the crowd into smaller groups in order to meet their needs. Skrzypkowski called on all Christians to do the same.
“We have to organize ourselves. I don’t mean just Chelm; I mean the whole Christian world,” he said. “We have to employ more people. We have to build relationships and cooperation in the countries where refugees are going – Latvia, Germany, the United States and other countries. They have to trust us, and we have to trust them, that the people are going to join you through our ministry, that they are going to be safe, and that they are going to have a new life.”
Skrzypkowski also said believers must resolve to avoid giving in to the same temptation the disciples faced; namely, sending people away in the face of challenges that may seem overwhelming.
“Jesus didn’t send the hungry people packing,” said Joanna Marcyniak, a Polish Baptist volunteer from the city of Poznań. “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.”
The Christian Transit Center currently boasts 200 beds and a kitchen that operates 24 hours a day, providing warm meals to cold and hungry refugees and offering hygiene kits and other supplies. Most of the refugees arrive with only what they could stuff into plastic bags or backpacks. The center has also sent cars loaded with food and medicine into Ukraine.
The love and compassion displayed by members of the Chelm Baptist church has also impacted the surrounding community, where most residents have no religious affiliation. A local pharmacy provides medicine to the Christian Transit Center free of charge, and nearby restaurants offer free meals. Other locals inspired by the church’s generosity have begun volunteering.
“We can see people from all over this town are moved by the scale of actions of this church,” Marcyniak said.
Church members and fellow Christians gather frequently in the sanctuary to pray for Ukraine, singing hymns in Polish, Ukrainian, Latvian, and English.
“We want to encourage one another with the Word of God and confide in His grace and unlimited mercy,” Marcyniak said. “We sing, listen to testimonies, and together we entrust our worries and everyday struggles to Him.”
Skrzypkowski is asking Christians around the world to join them in prayer for the following:
- Good organization of Polish churches, so refugees can be safely and properly housed.
- Communication with the Western world as well as with Ukraine.