News from the Ukrainian border

One of our Synod ministers has a friend currently volunteering as an aid worker in Poland just over the border from Lviv in Ukraine.

Update posted 25th June (original post 7th April)

 

Update on return to Przemyśl:

After being forced to wait 9 weeks in the UK for my renewed passport, I’m now back in Poland. The refugee reception centre has changed a lot since I was here in April.
There are fewer refugees now, but their needs are different. There are many more elderly women, and more children. Most of the people who have arrived here have been hiding underground for a very long time.
I don’ t mean to be disrespectful but I want to put them all in a bubble bath for a good soak, that is the kindest way to describe them 🙁
Despite that, the children are still running around like loonies being children but every now and then you will look into their eyes and see that they haven’t forgot the trauma they have suffered. Those eyes have a deep impact on all of us volunteers. It’s enough to make me cry, but we don’t have time for our own emotions.
It is great to see mum now in charge. And despite being an amputee in a wheelchair, people listen to her as she really is on top of things now. It is also great to see some of the faces of volunteers that I last saw in April.
After getting up at 2.30am and not going to bed till midnight, our sleep in our cots (camp beds provided for volunteers to sleep on in the reception centre) last night was greatly needed.
I’ll try to get another update to you soon.

… with mum in Przemyśl

 

 

Day 6

No news today as I have returned from Poland to gather resources.

 

Day Five

Not much new to tell. It’s hard to come to terms with the vast numbers of people fleeing Ukraine. They come by train, by bus and a few in cars. Most are weary walking. Our biggest difficulty is that we can supply them with clothes and temporary accommodation and food, we can help them get visas etc but we are running desperately short of strong sealable bags. My daughter Angela’s back in the UK trying to gather up bags and cash for us to take back to Poland on our next visit, later this week.

Day 4
(sorry for the delay in sending, it’s been a busy day and it’s not always easy to get a signal)

We went shopping in the morning for face paint and makeup which is used at a station in the centre to entertain the children and teenagers. However these were very hard to find so we bought sanitary products and bubble-blowing fluid and wands.
Upon returning to the centre I ended up in the mother and baby room again where I might have gotten into a bit of trouble but luckily didn’t. I refused to separate a 15 year old boy from his mum and baby brother and gave them a bed in the room. I was told if anyone complained I’d have to deal with it. Thankfully, no one did 🙂
I found a driver, called Dan, a teacher from London. He took two young mums and their babies to a hostel 2 hours away and part of our donated funds paid for the fuel to get them there. They have gone to a lovely place with other mums and babies, they were very grateful.
Yet again there was drama in the big room. We were told that the last train had left for Warsaw so they would have to get the bus at 3am for the 4am train. Okay let’s give out beds. Guess what? Government lady not happy again. We were required to find out how many are for Poland or undecided. So we take Alex (a Ukrainian refugee that is volunteering as a translator all day long while waiting to come to the UK) and ask ask each family where are they going. Out of the whole room there were only 36 that were for Poland or undecided. So a special bus is put on to take them to the train station. Apparently all we need to do is call the fire brigade and they bring a bus, we didn’t know this.
Anyway, sorted them out and on their way.
Dan arrived back and had found three Germans that had driven over the border with a minibus full of aid. Can we unload it? Of course. Go organise the trolleys. While doing this they tell me they would like to take 7 people back to Germany in the morning, Excellent! So we arrange this too – by the way all drivers and dwellings are properly vetted before people can leave.
Dan leaves or so I thought. About half an hour later I hear my name. Dan has found a man working at an outside kitchen that has LOTS of money to donate to help disabled adults and children, especially with trauma counselling. Luckily, I just happen to know of a project working in Romania and Moldova that is doing just that! So I took his details and will pass them on.
To end the day I handed out what resources we had left to the children in the big room. The smiles on their faces was priceless. All in all it was a jam packed day.

Day 3

A difficult day…

Today has been the hardest so far. We went into Tesco this morning and cleaned and organised the big room as we expected. Throughout the day we told people to come back at 2pm as the government here cannot afford to staff this place 24hrs a day, even with so many international volunteers.
At 2pm we had the biggest queue that we’d seen so far, with weary, tired people just wanting somewhere safe to rest. We allocated a few beds, when a woman appeared and told us that the government has said this room cannot open today till 8pm. These people need to get on buses and go somewhere else. Where? She couldn’t say. It absolutely broke our hearts to turn these people away. A smile did not cut it!
We did lots of apologising and turned people away. We did our best to find people beds in other places but this only helped a tiny number of those who needed assistance. They’re exhausted physically from the effort of fleeing everything they know and mentally, the trauma of it all meant they’d suffered more than enough.
We took a a twenty minute lunch break, and a much needed seat with a cuppa and then got back to it.
I helped to reorganise the mother and baby room. We have 120 beds in there for mums with under 3s. When I left there were only 3 empty beds.
We know we are helping but it’s pitifully little in the face of such great need.
After a 14 hour shift we are done for the day, and knackered. To bed, to rest, and then back to it again tomorrow. It would be good if tomorrow brings more hope.

Day 2

Day two at the Tesco centre.
We have just finished an 11 hour shift! When we arrived we stripped out and cleaned the large bedroom, 350 beds. Moping sanitising and rearranging ready for the room to open again at 2pm. Some people have taken buses to their next destination, others are still waiting. The language barrier was a bit trickier today but with lots of hand gestures we were able to communicate. By 8pm all the beds had gone. We then made another area to take more people after this it will be the corridors.
I spent some time in the mother and baby room today. May have held a baby or two so their mums could go to the loo. Amongst all the commotion and activity, inside this room is very calm.
We ran out of pillows today and were very close to running out of blankets.
There is a Dutch company that are providing chips, sausages and chicken nuggets and an Italian place that do delicious pizza that kept us going today. My body is aching but my heart is full. We helped many people today and that is humbling. Time for a rest and back to it again tomorrow…

Day 1

Wow what a day. We arrived and after finally getting our hire car we were off.
The World Central Kitchen didn’t have any shifts today so we went to a hotel that we heard was organising volunteers. The lovely lady there didn’t have anything for us so suggested we go to Tesco. There is a shopping centre that has been emptied of the businesses and turned into a receiving centre. We found out how to register and off we went into the centre.
My words will not do this place justice. It can facilitate 1300 people at one time and it is mostly full ALL the time. Refugees are brought here from the border and registered. If they know where they want to go next, they are given a worker who helps them find a way and sort out any visas. They are then given a bed (camping cot) and clean bedding. Everything in the centre, except for the pharmacy, is FREE. There is a kids club also that gives the mums a bit of a break. There are multiple food outlets and facilities to shower.
Is this what I expected? No. The people here are just like you and me. They are only here because it is unsafe at home. There are all ages here and from all sorts of backgrounds. Also the amount of people and this is only one location about 1,000 people a day pass through here. Some stay for a few hours others for a few days.
How am I communicating? I only speak English but I can SMILE and that is a universal language. Today I met a little boy called Colin (at least, that’s what his name sounded like). He was about 7, we chatted with smiles and broken English for a bit and then on my next loop around he was gone, I wish him well.
Mostly we emptied bins today and sanitised them and thats okay because ANYTHING we can do WILL help.

 

 

 

St Cuthbert’s Centre

St Cuthbert’s Centre: the United Reformed Church on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne

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The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is a very special place and many members of our churches across the country will have visited the island. Hopefully, too, you have visited our St Cuthbert’s Centre in the heart of the village which allows us to provide a mission of contact with all who visit the island. In most years that can be in excess of 100,000 visitors. This mission is currently supported by the URC nationally in the form of the Special Category Ministry provided by the Warden, Revd. Rachel Poolman.
Over the last two summers, first lockdowns and then a programme of building works have restricted our outreach, but we hope that in 2022 we will have the gates and doors open to continue our mission of welcome and engagement to those who visit the island whatever their initial motivation.
If you have visited the Centre before we think you will be impressed by the improvements we have made. For more information have a look at our website (www.holyisland-stcuthbert.org) which has also had a bit of a facelift.
With the building spruced up and much more comfortable for users, we are now looking to improve the garden around the Centre. We are working to create a space which will provide visitors with an opportunity to either simply sit awhile and enjoy the colours, textures, scents and sounds generated by the planting, or perhaps to follow something of the life and journey of Cuthbert through the planting, the pathway, arches, corners and spaces. This could provide the perfect conclusion for anyone completing a pilgrimage following the St Cuthbert’s Way.
To be able to complete this work on the garden we now need to seek support from churches and individuals who value the work at St Cuthbert’s as part of the URC’s mission in this part of the world. We have been fortunate to secure the services of a locally based gardener/landscaper whose past work includes being Head Gardener for the Gertrude Jekyll Garden on the island, so she knows what grows on Holy Island!
Our Treasurer would welcome donations towards the cost of the works in the garden and the ongoing work of the centre. Small donations of just £5 or £10 would pay for a plant, larger donations would pay for a more mature plant or a shrub or towards the costs of preparation or items such as seating.
Please send any donations by cheque (payable to St
Cuthbert’s Holy Island) to Jean Barr at 37 Springfield Park, Alnwick, NE66 2NH – or contact Jean on stcuthbertscentretreasurer@gmail.com or 07762 195516
for our bank details. Also, let Jean know by email if you would like to be added to the mailing list for our new newsletter which we aim to send out three times in the year.

URC Ministers’ Gathering

Ministers of the Synod of Scotland have spent this week with colleagues from the whole denomination at the second gathering of ministers from the whole of the United Reformed Church at Yarnfield Park Training Centre in Staffordshire.

Our main speakers have been Rev Najla Kassab, a Presbyterian minister in Lebanon and currently the President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (of which the URC is a member) and Pádraig Ó Tuama, Poet Theologian and former leader of the Corrymeela Community. Our focus has been on the theme of Jubilee inspired by this being the URC’s 50th year. To help guide us we were also addressed by Rev John Bradbury, General Secretary of the URC and Rev David Cornick, our former General Secretary and more recently General Secretary of Churches Together in England.

Refreshed and inspired we look forward to sharing with you what we have learned together as we prepare to mark this Jubilee year.

What does Easter mean to you?

Three people from across the URC Synod of Scotland share memories and reflections of what Easter means to them and who they would share their message with in 2022 in this video created by the Intergenerational Church Focus Group and Synod Youth Executive. Please feel free to share this video and use it in your times of worship this Easter, perhaps during prayers or before a time of meditation.

URC Buildings Forum

URC Buildings Forum Online Event: Living the life of Jesus through our buildings

Wednesday 25 May from 7:30pm to 9pm

If God is present in every aspect of our lives, calling us to engage in God’s Mission, what role should our buildings play in our discipleship? Join Simon Peters, project manager for Walking the Way: living the life of Jesus today, as we explore differing examples of how buildings can be used to support people in recognising God in everyday life, not just in worship on a Sunday.

To register for this event please contact mission@urc.org.uk.

A prayer for peace on Palm Sunday

This prayer from the URC highlights fatal terrorist attacks in Israel, 22 March – 7 April 2022.

  • We continue to pray for those affected by war in Ukraine, remembering there is ongoing conflict and devastation in other places too.
  • ISIS has claimed responsibility for three of four fatal terror attacks in Israel in the past three weeks.
  • Armed conflict continues around the world today. We work and pray for a time when all sorrows cease and all people will live in peace.

 

God of all,

On this day of celebration and triumph,
of palm waving and hosannas,
we pause, as Jesus did, to cry for peace in Jerusalem,
and in the Holy Land.

Lord, bring your peace
and make us peacemakers.

As Jesus wept over the city,
we think of families that weep for loved ones
in Be’er Sheva, Hadera, Bnei Brak and Tel Aviv,
and pray for peace to prevail.

Lord, bring your peace
and make us peacemakers.

In every place of conflict,
far away or nearby,
on our screens or hidden from view,
protect the vulnerable, we pray.

Lord, bring your peace
and make us peacemakers.

Amen

 

We Pray for Ukraine

We are invited to share this prayer on Sunday 3rd April

God of all peoples and nations,
Who created all things alive and breathing,
United and whole,
Show us the way of peace that is your overwhelming presence.
We hold before you the peoples of Ukraine and Russia,
Every child and every adult.
We long for the time
When weapons of war are beaten into ploughshares
When nations no longer lift up sword against nation.
We cry out to you for peace;
Protect those who only desire and deserve to live in security and safety
Comfort those who fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones
Be with those who are bereaved.
Change the hearts of those set on violence and aggression
And fill leaders with the wisdom that leads to peace.
Kindle again in us a love of our neighbour,
And a passion for justice to prevail
and a renewed recognition that we all play a part in peace.
Creator of all hear our prayer
And bring us peace. make us whole.
Amen.