May 29 Visit with Kremenchuk/KES Refugees near Turek
Alexander Zigalenko, with his wife Tanya, left Kremenchuk when the war began, taking with them the women and children of Kremenchuk Evangelical Seminary (KES) staff, approx. 30 people (the men of serving age, 18-60 stayed behind). Spring of Life Church is part of KES. There is now a branch in the Turek Polish Baptist Church, with Pastor Alexander shepherding the congregation there.
The READ travel team left their hotel and drove fifteen minutes to the village of Boleszczyn, where the refuge, an elementary school turned into a dormitory, is located. Each family uses a classroom for their sleeping and personal space. The kitchen and lunchroom, and other gathering spaces serve them all. Contextually, they are in a beautiful and peaceful area. The team was blessed to see how God has graciously provided for the KES group and allowed them to serve and give to others.
This Sunday morning, upon arriving at the refuge center, the team was warmly greeted by their Ukrainian friends. Together they traveled another 15 minutes to the Turek Polish Baptist Church. The space was "jammed packed" and grew warm as the morning went on. Children remained for the entire service. There were roughly 50 Ukrainian refugees and 25 Polish friends.
Steve relayed that it was an amazing morning. They will never forget meeting with this group of people. It was "like a slice of heaven." Three nations meeting together. Worship was in both languages - but not chaotic! The Ukrainian worship team is very talented and creative. It has led in a way that energizes the Polish believers in their faith. Following the time of singing, Dave Melin (Psalms), Steve Eckert (Isaiah), and Bill Arvan (Matthew) shared challenges and encouragement from God's Word. Steve said it was "neat how God took each message from each man speaking and worked it together with the Holy Spirit's leading." Sweet - very sweet.
A Hybrid Congregation - two Baptist congregations, one from Ukraine, the other from Poland. They first met together for an Easter celebration. How did this come to be?
As part of his closing message, the Polish pastor, Józef Kurzawa, spoke with conviction to the hybrid crowd. He has been praying that God would do something to stir up his church for a long time. [The religious demographic in Poland is primarily Roman Catholic, with a small percentage of Evangelicals. This particular congregation is small and older and has not been thriving. Doing evangelism in Poland is tough.] Pastor Józef explained that Pastor Alexander and the KES family were an answer to prayer. He expressed joy at how this church space is filled with vitality that he knows the Holy Spirit has brought to life. Although these people were brought together due to war and displacement, God is using this as a means of His revitalization. The Ukrainian people sense this is why God has them in Poland. The Polish people feel this group of Ukrainians from Kremenchuk is an answer to their prayers.
During the service, brother Bill Arvan noticed a woman in the audience who was quite emotionally engaged in the message. She was pastor Józef's wife. After the service, during tea and pastry time, she delivered Bill's tea to him and expressed her thanks, saying it was so good to have the Americans with them. Lucia Ovcharenko, also intensely engaged throughout the service, said it felt like being home in Kremenchuk. ~God provides.
Steve said, "It is rich for us to be here, to be a part of all of this. We sense and know that what we have been investing in is a spiritual encouragement for all of us. We all see a greater purpose in why our Ukrainian friends are here. It is a day we will never forget."