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4th Ukraine Trip: Day 1-3

28th October: Friday

Considering only half this team are morning people, energy levels were fairly split when we started off at 4:30 am. Despite minimal sleep and both Aron and Marvic coming from Belgium, everyone somehow found a way to be on time. After a prayer and loading up the van with final essentials, we were off with high spirits. There was no hesitation for some to start deep conversations about migration while Marvic swayed to country music and his copilot slept with a peace like no other. Every pit stop along this 14 hour drive was a welcomed occasion for Catalina and Marvic to stretch their legs. However Mati and Aron saw an opportunity to run laps with Jo-ine and Kwesi straggling behind. Our travel chef Jo-ine did not hold back in making us all the best improvised sandwiches to keep us happy. Aron shared with us a devotion to start this trip in the best possible way.

We were welcomed into our dear friend Maciek’s home at 19:00 with a buffet of food. We could not have asked for better hosts. We took warm showers and slept in cozy beds putting us in the best mood for the following day.

29th October: Saturday

It was well understood that this was going to be a busy day. After a team devotional and beautiful breakfast by Maciek’s mother Asha, we set out to Makro at 8am. We were met there by the wonderful team from Ukraine. For the entire trip, we were working with a budget of 7500 Euro. After considering all other expenses, we were free to spend about 6800 Euro. All hands were on deck for this operation with Mati and Kwesi keeping track of every cent with Mati’s ingenious excel sheet.

Though we did have a couple scares with the risk of over-spending as well as declined cards, God was still with us and allowed us to do what we wanted to do and not spend money we did not have. The goods were immediately driven to Ukraine where we can be thankful that they will be used to help those in need.

We all returned to Asha and Arthur’s house for a delicious barbecue lunch put together by the family. We also were able to meet even more beautiful members of the team of Ukranians who put so much effort and time everyday to help and serve their people in so many ways.

All along the table were multiple conversations going on, sharing stories, life experiences and testimonies. One might think that our language barrier would result in a quiet lunch. On the contrary, the room was filled with chatter and beautiful emotion.

The day was far from over. We were invited to worship with the group of students and young adults. The evening started with a time of praise and worship. While we sang, I was amazed at how homely it all felt. Regardless of the language we sang in, we The Lord was still being worshiped and our voices were heard all the same. Hearing about the recent events from the perspective of young adults in the church was truly beautiful. Seeing them hold on to faith in such times was inspiring for us all. Aron shared with everyone a message on leadership and discipleship in the church. A fitting topic for youth looking to serve in church. We bonded over cookies and coffee before heading to our last stop of the day.

We were invited along with the team from Ukraine to Viktor and Anastasia’s home for a very extensive dinner. There again we were welcomed with open arms by families to whom most of us were strangers just a few hours ago. Nobody was in any rush to leave and everybody around the table was given a chance to share their testimony and the work God has done in their lives and is still doing. The reality of the situation was that not all the stories were joyful or stories of triumph, but the one thing each person had done at some point in their life was put their faith in God. Hearing about the struggles that people have gone through and how far God has brought them was nothing short of a blessing and a reminder of the Kind of God we serve.

30th October: Sunday

We woke up this morning, we’ll rested after having been so blessed by the dinner and fellowship with friends we were treated to the night before. Though we may not have needed it, Asha, Maciek’s mother, presented us with a breakfast fit for kings. After our final prayers and goodbyes, we hit the road again at 7am. Much like our drive to Poland, the drive back was just as long, but also just as exciting. Reflections were shared and childhood memories brought back out with the song “Who’s In The House” by Carman. One event definitely worth mentioning is the baby we saw hanging on to a bar at a playground in Germany for no less than 2 minutes. Despite his face turning red, he held on and was picked write up by his mother when he could no longer hold on by himself. Feel free to make of this image what you will, but it was truly amazing and beautiful to witness.

To all of us, going to Poland was such a blessing. We went in ready to help with the donations we brought and goods we were going to buy, but we received so much more. Marvic had a great way of putting into words how we all felt when he described this trip as “heart changing experience”. Sharing and hearing from our friends allowed us also to recognize our own blessings. Hearing the first hand accounts of those affected by the war and persecution as well as how it has affected the church is something we would have never gotten just by keeping up with the media. With every trip, the importance of actually being present with those involved is only reinforced.

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