UKRAINE RELIEF PROJECT BLOG
Almost back home. Another day on the road with a clear blue sky. It stays amazing how much one can do in 72 hours. The hours on the road today gave us time to reflect a bit on the trip and we are first of all are really grateful how it went. That we were able to respond to a crisis situation and to see and hear how we can help from the people affected. God blessed us with safety on the road, provision in donations to buy fuel, a warm bed was even waiting for us around the corner of the church when we arrived in krakow. Also the availability, flexibility and willingness to serve of the persons with me on the road, was a real privilege to experience.
On the way back we saw many cars coming from Ukraine fully packed with families and suitcases. Persons again with more stories and God knows them all. I don’t know where they are heading, but if I can I want to help. This was not a one time project. The war is not over and we are not done to bring love in action. And I know many who read this aren’t either. The road to Maastricht is coming to an end, but our and their journeys are continuing.
Some nice anecdotes for your information:)
Did you know that the men in our group pull each other toes at night? The reason for that is the snoaring that is going on, but no one knows who makes the noise, so everyones toes get pulled. Another fact that maybe a lot already know is that Maarten is very good in finding food. For breakfast he found the only restaurant in whole Krakow at 8am that was open and for dinner he made sure his plate was filled with enough meat to last him for three days. Chris apparently can sleep anywhere, because he has the ‘gift of powernaps’. Dennis and Robert are ‘queenmakers’ and you can figure out yourself why they were given that name. The girls, what can I say, just very happy to have them by my side. There is just more to say about the men. Overall, according to Robert: “a dreamteam”!
Boxes everywhere, people running around, I hear Dutch, Polish, English, Ukrainian, everyone searching for someone that speaks the same language. “Where is the tape? Where does this go? Who has seen the shampoo?” Luckily unloading the van goes a lot quicker than packing it and before we know it there are piles with goods stacked nicely organized in what was 2 weeks ago still a ‘normal’ church. In the middle of Krakow this church is now changed into a 24/7 distribution center of donations coming in and going out. At least four times a day we are told a van filled with food and supplies drives into Ukraine to deliver to military troops and families who cannot get out. Another purpose for the church building is to be a temporary shelter for the refugees, upstairs we see many men and women, and even though I didn’t speak to many, the many stories that they carry along can probably fill a book of uncertainty, stress and tears. It makes me sad to know that they had to leave their homes, their elderly and their friends behind and that the future is so uncertain. When I speak with a girl who had to leave without her husband, I can feel the power of hope. She hopes to be able to reunite with her partner soon in Ukraine when the war is over. She holds on to that hope even though no one knows how the coming weeks or months are going to look like.
While we are busy organizing and making packages to send out, people walk in and out to the back of the church where they can take clothes and food to take away. Everyday many people come in to be able to eat or to send certain goods to their family. Here, also people can get help to find a next place to stay and we here that that is one of their biggest needs right now, to find space close by where people can take shelter. We are very impressed by what this church is doing, how they give their time and space completely in this time of crisis. Day and night volunteers are available, helping, cooking, organizing, cleaning, driving into warzone and it doesn’t stop. To have something like this running for weeks you need a long breath and lots of grace. I feel grateful that we could jump in and give a hand even if its for a day, also to have a laugh, to try to communicate through sign language and Catalina, to see the church alive and at work as it is supposed to. The goods we brought are ready and set to go at the end of the day and I pray that they will arrive safely at the right spots. Furthermore, I hope and I believe that we could bring the physical presence of brothers and sisters that are standing behind them and be an encouragement to keep going.
As we are driving through sunny Germany it feels like the war in Ukraine is very far away, but nothing is farther from the truth. As we come closer to our destination Krakow I start to realize the severity of the situation even more. The past one and a half week we have been hearing and seeing the terrible stories on the news, but now that we are actually driving there within one day, it becomes more real. Before I write more about how things are on the road so far, let’s go back to the past few days when the Ukraine Relief Fund was put into place in a very short amount of time. When Jo-ine told me last Wednesday that they were planning to go to the border of Ukraine to deliver basic nesecities I was very surprised to hear how fast everything was set up. Saturday and Monday people could drop off goods at the Bredestraat 19 and the response was overwhelming. The message was shared from mouth to mouth and many people came to deliver toiletries, toilet paper, diapers, flashlights and other products. At some point a fully packed van stopped and what happened was that a whole neighborhood had worked together to collect as much as possible. I also remember when we where packing the truck how everyone that walked past, looked and when they noticed what we were doing encouraged us. It was beautiful to see the church being visible and active for the good cause, especially on a busy day in the city center when people are busy buying, being concerned with their looks and status. The contrast seemed so big. ‘You are the light of the world’ said Jesus, ‘when they see your good deeds they will praise our Father in heaven’. (Matthew 5:14 & 15) Being Gods hands and feet, that is what we are and the fact that so many people donated and shared what they have in time and money shows Gods heart for the broken and the hurt. The past few days was the body of Christ at work with all its different talents and capacities, so thank you!
So, eventually after spending yesterday a lot of money at the Sligro, the truck was fully filled and ready to go. Supplied with freshly baked banana bread for breakfast we started driving at 5am this morning. Redeemer Den Hague joined us in Dortmund and from there a slow heavy caravan of a truck, a van and a car started to cross Germany towards the East. As the hours past, God painted the sky in the most beautiful colours and we felt blessed to drive on such a beautiful day. After many songs from the 80’s, good talks, jokes through the walkie talkie and kilometers of concrete we had an amazing lunch provided by Redeemer Den Hague. The journey continues and we are so grateful to know that there are many people with us in thoughts and prayers. A few more hours to go and I am curious to see what will happen the following days. I will keep you updated.
On behalf of Redeemer Maastricht,