From Dal Stanton (MTW Crisis Response Team in Krakow): When Doug first approached me in Krakow about getting a pipe for his neighbor in L’viv, I was faced with a dilemma. The Krakow-based MTW Crisis Response Team had gathered for a time of Friday night fellowship at the flat of a team member for pizza, talk and to savor much needed laughter in the midst of our efforts to lessen the suffering of Ukrainians facing the realities of war, death, and separation. Doug is the team leader of the MTW L’viv team and had come to Krakow for a few days to check in with the Crisis Response Team and his family, which had evacuated to Krakow.
During the restful and festive din of the Friday PM fellowship of adults and children, Doug approached me with his phone in hand with a picture on the screen. It was a picture of a pipe man – a next-door neighbor of Doug’s in L’viv. I looked at the man and his pipe with interest. His sturdy, worn pipe appeared to serve him well and with the lighter wood, my guess was it was fashioned with either olive or pear wood. Interestingly, the characteristics of the man and the pipe both resembled each other. They were a match.
While I was taking in the L’viv pipe man picture, Doug made his proposal: Since I’m the ‘pipe man’ could I send a pipe back with Doug to give to his neighbor. At that moment, I faced a dilemma – a dilemma which was evident to those listening in to the unique ‘pipe man’ conversation and from the look of question revealed on my face. When I left Golden, Colorado, I carefully chose pipes from my own collection to join me for the time I would be in Krakow. My wife would always chuckle when I would describe the ‘boys’ arguing with each other. This time they were vying for a visit to Poland. My questioning response to Doug was that I had The Pipe Steward inventory back in Colorado of 100s of pipes, but it would be difficult to bring them to Krakow…. Laura, L’viv team member also based in Krakow and helping with the crisis response team, with a smile on her face humorously interjected into my dilemma, ‘Dal, you are helping with the placement of Ukrainians throughout Europe, can’t you place ONE pipe in Ukraine?’
Laura’s words resonated in my heart and mind through the night and the next day I asked Doug for more information about the pipe man in L’viv. He wrote: “He is the son of our neighbor Hxxx. He is often drunk and wanders the street collecting things. I pass him often when he is smoking outside. Due to the lock down and ban of alcohol sales he is outside and looks better than usual. This is the first time I saw him with a pipe and knowing you are the pipe guy I asked him about it and if I could take a picture. I said I’d pass his picture on to the “pipe guy”. We have been neighbors for 10 years. This is the first connecting point we’ve had.”
The divine humor of this ‘picture’ was not too difficult to grasp. In the midst of war, God had opened the pathway to share the gospel with this man with a pipe in hand. I discussed it ‘with the boys’ and a handsome sand blasted Billiard volunteered to be redeployed to L’viv. After finding some high-grade alcohol in a store here in Krakow, I cleaned him up as much as possible. The Billiard was passed on to Doug with a ‘The Pipe Steward’ business card to give to the pipe man in L’viv – from one pipe man to another.
Doug on his return trip back to L’viv saw the pipe man of L’viv outside. He gave him the ‘new’ pipe from the ‘Pipe Guy’. It did not take long to take the Billiard for his inaugural service for the pipe man of L’viv. The pictures and video Doug sent tell the story of the pipe man’s satisfaction of having received a gift that will be greatly valued. Doug shared with me his name, Earnest. I was thankful that a pipe had been used to build a bridge so that Doug might continue to talk and eventually share the eternal gift of the gospel.
The Pipe Steward is a ministry of collecting, restoring, and reselling vintage pipes to both benefit the work of the Daughters of Bulgaria and to project the issues of trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls into primarily a man’s world.