ZGIERZ, Poland — An Ohio couple who was called to do missionary work in Kyiv, Ukraine have now found themselves helping refugees in Poland following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Emily (Poling) Rudolph, who is originally from Troy, explained her husband, Mike, and she were working as educators in Kyiv. Mike was preparing to teach at a seminary, training pastors and others in ministry, and Emily was starting to teach at a Ukrainian Christian school when their ministry organization advised them to leave Ukraine due to the conflict that was unfolding.
“With a few of our suitcases in tow, we left a little earlier than most people because we were so new to the area, we were still learning the language, and we didn’t have a vehicle in case we were suddenly faced with the need to evacuate,” Emily said. “The Lord, in His infinite wisdom, brought us to a large ministry campus close to Lodz, Poland (that is most often used for youth summer camps). While here, we helped out with some of their ministries and got to know the staff personally.”
Emily said on Thursday, Feb. 24, they woke up to several text messages from friends, which Emily said were “the kind that you never want to hear.”
“Bombs were being heard from outside their homes … War had begun,” Emily said. “Our hearts were so broken for the precious Ukrainian people, and we wondered what we could do to help. We knew that God had called us to serve the Ukrainian people and to share the love of Christ. How could we do that now when we were in Poland? In His infinite wisdom, He had a plan.”
Emily described how the principal at the school she had been previously serving at in Kyiv was searching for a place for 10-20 of their families to evacuate to and stay at in central Europe. The campus that the Rudolphs were at in Zgierz, Poland could house over 125 people, so they began helping those school families from Kyiv make their way to their campus.
“From that moment on, we have been helping many of our school families from Kyiv and countless others make their way to the ministry campus here in Poland,” Emily said. “It has taken a team of people through text messages, phone calls, emails, bus routes, train schedules, or on foot to get people here. Many prayers have been prayed for everyone’s safe arrival.” Emily said families were on the road for days and crossing long border lines, noting many women were making this journey with their children and without their husbands. According to Ukraine’s government, most Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 have been banned from leaving the country.
The Rudolphs have since helped 17 of those families from the Christian school Emily worked at to make it to their campus in Zgierz, and Emily added that, last weekend, everyone there helped to renovate the third floor of the campus in order to house more people.
“Currently, we have around 120 people staying with us in this building,” she said.
Emily has also resumed teaching many of the children at the campus, and she spoke about keeping the children’s spirits up with music and art classes, chess club, pizza and movie nights, as well as prayer and worship services.
“Because of the generous donations from many individuals and churches, we are able to provide free meals, lodging, clothes, and many other necessities,” Emily said.
Their faith has also been a bedrock for the Rudolphs and the other families taking shelter at their campus in Zgierz, as Emily explained they hoped to make the campus a place for both physical and spiritual refuge.
“Our desire here is to make this place a physical refuge for these dear people. Our prayer is that they will find their eternal refuge in Jesus Christ — Who is the true Hope in every circumstance,” Emily said. “We want to show them God’s love because He first loved us. We want this place to be a place filled with love and peace. For the children here, it is good to see them playing outside, singing a worship song, laughing during theater class, munching on popcorn during a family movie, and enjoying their friendships with one another — it is part of the healing. We would much rather have them focus on this, than on all that is going on in the news.”
Emily also asked for others to pray for the Ukrainian people, describing how the trauma of Russia’s war with Ukraine has impacted many of the refugees.
“Please pray for all of the Ukrainian people. As we see people walk in these doors, they are exhausted, worried, overwhelmed, and many times, in shock,” Emily said. She described how one mother, after several days of being on the campus, said, “My hands have finally stopped shaking.”
“They have left behind everything — except what they can carry and the clothes on their back. They have faced a long, difficult journey already — on crowded trains (once they were able to get on) — in search of a new life in a strange place,” Emily said. “Everyone here knows many people that are still in Ukraine — pray for their strength and protection. Many wives have left their husbands at the border, so that they can assist in the fight. Many children here only get to see Daddy on a video phone call (as long as the internet connection is good). We keep in contact regularly with some dear friends that are still in Ukraine — they continually ask for prayer. There are so many needs right now … please don’t forget these precious people.”
Emily said her family and she are grateful to be there and have found they are there for a reason, so they plan to stay in Zgierz, Poland for now to continue helping others.
“Our family is grateful to be here for such a time as this. We know that God has us here for a reason. Right now, we plan to stay and help Ukrainian families as there is still a huge need. As for our long-term ministry here on this earth, we don’t exactly know what the next steps hold for us, but we know the Lord does and we trust Him. We are thankful to be used by God and to help many families not only find a safe place to stay for the time being, but to point them to Jesus … Who is truly our eternal safe place,” Emily said.
For more information or to help support their ministry and other refugees in Poland, visit: https://worldventure.com/pproject/6440-914-good-sam-ukraine-refugees/.