4/22/2022 – ‘How do you ask, what happened?’

From Jamie Peipon FB post (Jamie is the minister of music at First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS, and is a volunteer working with the MTW Crisis Response Team in Krakow, Poland): While on the plane coming to Poland, I remember thinking, “How on earth do you ask someone who is fleeing a war that you’ve just met to tell you something about their experience?” Just like it happened a few days ago, all it takes is loading folks into your van, driving less than an hour, and listening. 

This particular dear soul shared that she worked at the hospital in her town. Russian soldiers rolled in and occupied their area… but medical workers don’t get to just stay home. She described times when she worked multiple days in a row, with no breaks, without leaving the hospital. She saw Russian soldiers force their way in searching for people. She saw phones being searched, confiscated, and destroyed. She saw so many injured people. She could tell that many of the Russian soldiers there seemed experienced and that there were lots of officers, not the 20-somethings that were in northern Ukraine. She could see that some of the soldiers seemed to be rotating in and out. She could see the soldiers and their various uniforms in her mind’s eye and remembered trying to decipher why some seemed to have different color uniforms from others. At one point, while she and her colleagues were trying to care for the urgent needs of their patients, the Russians just kicked everyone out of the hospital. They would constantly stop ambulances that were working hard to save lives in critical situations. On top of all this, this woman has two young daughters to care for. 

About two weeks ago, they made the move to western Ukraine where it had been a bit safer. Everything they had brought with them, for mother and 2 daughters, fit into two bags: one suitcase that was plenty small enough to fit in an overhead storage in an airplane, and the second was a little duffel bag which was about half the size of the smallest duffel bag you can imagine. That’s it.

At the border, the Ukrainian border guard asked one of their standard questions about how much cash she was carrying. She responded, “Two thousand… hryvnias.” That is about 68 dollars’ worth of Ukrainian currency. She also told me in the car that she had her Ukrainian debit card and knew she would be able to use it in Europe. The folks on our team who arrange the details of these trips in advance had also caught wind of a few other financial “red flags” while communicating with her. She didn’t have any Polish Zloty on hand so she asked me if I would exchange her Hryvnia with my Zloty at the going rate. Technically, I wasn’t lying when I told her she could. 

We arrived at the central bus station where she was going to catch a bus to take her to some people she knew deeper in Poland. She asked if I would wait outside while she ran her daughters in to use the restroom and confirmed the bus schedule. No problem. She came back and said that everything was OK and asked to exchange her currency for mine. I told her, “No.” Confusion. “I’m just giving this to you.” I handed her a couple hundred Zloty and several hundred Euros. “We’re not going to exchange anything, but you need to take this.” Waterworks. Through the tears, she said that she had just taken her daughter to the restroom, which apparently at the bus station costs a couple Zloty… pennies. She used her card to pay… and it was rejected. Can you imagine the helplessness, the fear, and the shame of that? She tried to make me take her Ukrainian currency (which didn’t happen). More tears. She said, “I’m so thankful. I’m so thankful. I will NEVER forget your kindness.” I told her that it certainly wasn’t me that she needed to thank. It isn’t my money. This was the work of a heavenly Father, who through His providential mobilization of a global church had provided what she needed. 

“I’m so thankful. I’m so thankful.”

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Compiled by Leanne Portzel

3 responses to “4/22/2022 – ‘How do you ask, what happened?’”

  1. As a fellow RN, this brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for your willingness to follow where God leads you and the kindness and help you provided for this nurse and her children. We too follow where God leads and use the gift He gave us to help others. God Bless you and my sister nurse in her travels. May He keep you both safe and continue to meet your needs. Amen.

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