Gospel on the Ground: Templeton Alumnus Reports on Ukrainian Relief Efforts in Poland

Templeton alumnus Jack Newman graciously took the time to respond to a few questions about his time in Poland with the American Bible Society. Below, Jack briefly shares about his experience working with Christians in Poland and meeting with Ukrainian Refugees. You can learn more about the American Bible Society's relief efforts by visiting relief.americanbible.org.

Where do you work currently? How do you feel your job relates to your Templeton education? Do you have any favorite memories from
your time at Eastern?

I’m a fundraising copywriter for American Bible Society in Philadelphia. (Fellow Philosophy majors, if academia isn’t for you, consider raising funds for a worthy nonprofit!) My job entails doing research, building relationships, crafting persuasive arguments, and choosing the right words (lots and lots of words)—all with the goal of helping people around the world deepen their Christian faith. You can probably spot all sorts of organic connections to my Templeton education. As for a favorite memory? Wow. It’s hard to pick. Surprises in the Adirondacks. Acting out Shakespeare plays. Going to the orchestra. Study sessions in the Baird Library. Every single book I read and discussed with friends. The list goes on and on!

How did you end up going to Poland with ABS? What were your primary goals and responsibilities while there?

In late March, I traveled with a small ministry team from American Bible Society to Krakow and Warsaw. Our sister Bible Society in Poland is helping Polish churches provide material and spiritual support to the millions of displaced families (mostly women and children) pouring into Poland from Ukraine. My job was to conduct interviews with both Polish church leaders and Ukrainians who have fled to Poland for safety. Their incredible stories will help our donors see how they can be praying and giving well during this great crisis.

What were some things that surprised you during your trip? What were some challenges you faced?

Jack and his team praying with a older Polish pastor.
Jack and his team praying with a Polish pastor.

After coming home, it feels a bit surprising to tell people that it was an “encouraging” trip. But it was. We saw firsthand how the Christian church in Poland is embodying the sacrificial love of our Lord in their care for Ukrainians in this hour of darkness. Every Christian home, it seems, is housing an extra family now. Churches have been converted into dormitories, clothing centers, laundromats, and food pantries. Volunteers are barely sleeping. I think the most surprising thing, though, was the unbreakable faith of the Ukrainian Christians we met. After a hellish flight from life as they knew it, all they want to do is serve others. “I served my God in Ukraine, and I am ready to do it here in
Poland,” one believer named Viktoriia told me. “He prepared me for this opportunity. Even when we are without our homes, we are not without our God.” Their faith and their works absolutely blew me away. None of this, of course, minimizes the heart wrenching stories that we heard. One woman told me that she didn’t even get to kiss her husband goodbye. Another described looking out the window of her home and watching missiles strike her home city of Kyiv. Even with faith, there are no quick remedies for these deep
wounds of war.

Did you hear any stories from people you met while there? Do you have any favorite memories or conversations with people you encountered?

A Ukrainian woman named Yana also served as a translator for our team. She told us about the harrowing escape she made with her son and daughter, which included sleeping on suitcases at the border in below-freezing temperatures. Now that she is safely in Poland, all she wants to do is serve others. “All of us must be useful—especially right now,” she told us. “All of us can be the tools which God can use to help other people.” Right now, she is trying to establish a biblical counseling ministry for Ukrainians in Poland. Every now and then, Yana would quietly slip away from our group to pray with her husband, who is still in Ukraine, on a Zoom call. Little moments like that reminded me of my own wife and children back home. How would we respond if we were in Yana’s shoes? Oh Lord, give us a faith like theirs in the face of adversity!

What did you learn from this trip? Any lessons or observations you'd like to share with people who haven't experienced this firsthand?

Without fail, the Polish and Ukrainian Christians we met told us that their ordinary walk with Christ before the war had prepared them to act courageously during this extraordinary crisis. As our Lord reminds us, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much” (Luke 16:10). This insight has infused new meaning to my own ordinary rhythm of prayer, study, and worship. Secondly, I know you might feel helpless watching this crisis unfold on our screens from the other side of the world. (I certainly do most days.) Take heart! The ministry leaders in Poland reminded us that praying and giving really are two of the most helpful ways we can support our brothers and sisters from Ukraine right now. To that end, I’m happy to plug our own relief website for all who want to provide physical care and spiritual hope right now: relief.americanbible.org.