This is the big day, so Maciek made us scrambled eggs to get well-fueled for the day. At 08:30 we drove to the Makro where we met up with the Slavic Mission crew and their shopping list of essential goods needed for people in need in Ukraine. A nice detail: one of the vans they drove was actually the van donated from New Frontiers that we took for them on the last trip!
So, we had a budget of around EUR 6.000…
Luckily, some of the guys learnt a little English. We could now split into groups with their own budgets. In the end, we had a decently well-directed shopping spree. For Henk, it was very special to work alongside Igor. Igor had just arrived that morning at 4.00am after an extended trip getting out of Ukraine. He had been living in Mariupol the months before. We had great difficulty & fun trying to understand each other, but sometimes parts of Igor’s story came through.
After spending our budget with great precision, safeguarded by Janco and Christiaan who tracked the accumulation of expenses with a hawk's eye, we drove to a church beach picnic. We were invited to the 7th anniversary of the New Hope church that hosts the Humanitarian Aid Distribution Centre in Krakow. Again, a great BBQ! We played some soccer and connected with a lot of members of the church, often with the use of trusty Google Translate. Those who could speak English were quite rare…
People were sharing many different stories ranging from difficulties finding housing to enthusiastic building a youth ministry among Russian-speaking communities. It was great to share experiences and find similarities and differences in our churches.
Before we went to dinner with the church elders, we had some time to explore Krakow. Maciek & Jakub gave us a city tour of their home town. We kicked off the tour with ice cream from the best ice cream bar in town (we can confirm). They then took us to the Jewish district while explaining the history and pointing out Jewish influences in the layout of this part of the city.
After a nice coffee with devotional & reflection in the park, we moved to the dinner where we met with the Ukrainian church elders now based in Poland. It started a bit stiff, but at the end of the evening, we were embracing each other with teary eyes and filled hearts.
They asked us about our experience serving and reaching out to the city we’re living in. Our churches both have a mission of being a home for ‘foreign’ people but are aiming to share God's love with our neighbours as well. We were encouraged to step up as a church in reaching out to the people around us.
Some Ukrainians at the table were members of a church in the Donbas region. This church is still reaching out to its neighbours, some pro-Russia, some pro-Ukraine. Even within their own families, they encounter this dissension. Still, they choose to love and serve despite their differences.
After the (HUGE) meal, we prayed for each other and laid hands on each other. The whole evening felt like Christmas. All kinds of amazing food in abundance, sitting around a large table with too many people in a small apartment. Laughing while having meaningful conversations translated live by Catalina. Definitely our family in Christ.