Group from SWLA took a mission trip to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees

Published: May. 20, 2022 at 6:47 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - As the war in Ukraine rages on, some are fleeing their homes for refuge in nearby Poland and a group from Southwest Louisiana traveled there to help those who’ve left almost everything behind.

Volunteers from Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles and First Baptist Church of DeRidder returned earlier this week from a mission trip to Poland to serve some of the women and children who left their war-torn homes.

“I will never forget the stories that we heard, the laughter of the children when they finally laughed because it took them three days with all the playing to trust us enough to give us a little part of them,” Julie Reina, Trinity Baptist member said.

Reina is one of 6 from Southwest Louisiana who took a week long mission trip to Poland. She said one little girl near the end of the trip offered her flowers, giving her new perspective.

“In English she said ‘thank you,’ “Reina said. “And I said ‘awe thank you Sasha.’ And she turned to the translator and said something. And as she walked off, I said ‘what’d she say?’ And he looked at me and he said ‘you’re like these flowers, you’ll be gone tomorrow.’ "

Reina said the girl made her realize everything in their lives has been taken away by war.

Cindy Graves with First Church of DeRidder said the stories of these refugees are unimaginable.

“There are so many atrocities being committed against innocent civilians and the magnitude of suffering is really incomprehensible,” Graves said.

She recounts one mother’s story who fled with her five children.

“Telling her children when they did try to get our of Mariupol, ‘don’t look to the right or to the left. Just look straight ahead of you’ because she was concerned for her kids and just didn’t want them to see all the death and the destruction,” Graves said.

Graves has experience in counseling and said part of healing is talking through the details of trauma.

“When I said that, she just interrupted me through sobs and said ‘you know, I just can’t stop smelling the smell of blood and death.’ ”

While their pain is still fresh, Graves said some women did begin to heal.

“Her 13-year-old said ‘mom, you’re doing better. This is getting better. We need to give Cindy a gift,’ ” Graves said.

That gift was one of the few things that mother brought with her from Ukraine, a bottle of perfume. Graves said it was something she’ll never forget - as are their spirits of hope, longing to return home.

“They all just asked us to pray for their country,” Graves said. “As well as the specific relatives they left behind and their husbands who were fighting, their parents who were in this city or that city, but they all shared a common love for their county and desire to return home.”

Members of the group said one thing you can do to help, is to pray for all those effected by the war and they said you can also donate through either First Baptist of DeRidder or Trinity Baptist in Lake Charles.

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