Ian Lettington
Delivering Aid to Kraków

It’s been nearly three months since Russia invaded Ukraine, and there have been times when I’ve felt helpless, unable to make a difference.

Like many other churches, that first Sunday after the invasion we at Hope Church Sevenoaks stood with the global body of Christ and prayed for the people of Ukraine. It didn’t take long for Newfrontiers UK to establish a fund, and as elders we didn’t have to do much to encourage the people of God to give into the offering. Praying felt like we were standing with hundreds round the globe and I knew the money we gave would be used wisely, but I still had an urge to do more. The amazing thing about being part of a family of churches within Newfrontiers is that we knew there were people in churches just like ours across Ukraine, so it provided a link to the region, without having to search for it.

Tony Hall, who oversees Hope Church Orpington and Bromley, asked if Hope Church Sevenoaks would be interested in helping transport aid to Kraków in Poland. By this point the team leading Newfrontiers in Ukraine had moved to Kraków; organising aid, helping people escape danger from all over the country and planting churches on the way! I was eager to drive and meet the team. After all, how could I expect others to step up to the challenge of delivering aid if I didn’t lead by example? We set sail from Harwich, travelled on an overnight ferry, then drove for around nine and half hours to the city of Dresden where we stayed overnight. The following day we made it to Kraków in around six hours and went to the Slavic Mission house to meet Andrey, who leads the Newfrontiers sphere of churches in Ukraine and the team on the ground in Kraków. He arranged for us to meet more of his team later that evening.

Whilst driving the many miles across the continent, I pondered whether this was the most effective way of helping people. Was there a more efficient way of getting help to those who need it? Did God really open doors for us to do this, or were we pushing our own agenda? People had asked me similar questions in the lead up to the journey. My concerns evaporated that night. We went out for dinner with four guys from Andrey’s team and during our time together it became clear that the journey really was worth it. These men were going in and out of Ukraine two to three times a week, taking aid in and bringing refugees out to safety. Three of them had escaped from the worst affected areas of Ukraine. They’d fled with their families and helped many others find safety too. There was a seriousness about them, they had witnessed terrible things, their own homes had been destroyed and they had no idea when it was all going to end, but the overriding sense from these guys was joy. They knew Jesus and they were grateful for that. They knew God had protected them and they knew how to have joy in the most terrible of circumstances. We laughed with them as they told hilarious stories, although I’m sure some things were definitely lost in translation!

They were visibly moved when we told them how long it took us to reach them and how many miles we had travelled, and they were so encouraged that there were people and churches in the UK praying for them. These big, strong-looking men were so greatly affected by the demonstrated love of their wider family of churches that I knew all the driving and the cost involved was worth it.

The next morning we met the same team at the Slavic Mission, through which 1000 refugees are being processed per day, and unloaded the vans. We were told the first van load would be driven into Ukraine that day and would be with the people who needed it by nightfall. The rest of our delivery went into the mission house, where we spent some more time with Andrey and his team. We prayed for them and asked them what they would like us to bring next time. Being able to pray and resource people in the middle of a war and pass aid directly into their hands is only the work of God.

I have been part of Newfrontiers for nearly twenty years now and I’ve always loved being part of something bigger than just my home church. But this was next level. This really felt like being on mission together. It was amazing to pray for a team that are seeing people come to Jesus, seeing churches planted and loving the poor in the midst of war. It was such a privilege to prophesy over them and encourage them.

It doesn’t end there. To maintain this effort will require more than just a few churches. Even if the war ends tomorrow, the need will remain for some time. Ukraine will need a long period of rebuilding. We are planning another trip to Kraków shortly, along with another church. Who else wants to join us in building up, encouraging and supporting the local believers? We already know of a centre in the West of Ukraine that will house and feed up to 200 people. We are hoping to take extra supplies for that in the coming months, but for now we need more people and more churches to join in with what God’s doing in our wider church family.