Springfield’s Ridgecrest Baptist helps Ukrainian orphans find safe housing in Poland
RABKA, Poland (KY3) - As the Russian invasion of Ukraine worsens, a group from Springfield’s Ridgecrest Baptist Church left for Poland at the end of last week to help their own family of refugees.
That family is made up of 37 children (ranging from toddlers to 17 years old) and the staff who lived at The Children’s Path orphanage the church helps sponsor in Ukraine. Located within 20 miles of the Ukraine-Poland border near the city of Lviv, the orphanage had not been touched by Russian forces yet. The group safely made it to Krakow in southern Poland where the church had rented two small apartments that were less than ideal.
“There weren’t enough bathrooms and there was no kitchen facility,” said Ridgecrest Senior Pastor Jeremy Muniz, one of four members of the church who spoke to KY3 on Monday from Poland via Zoom. “You just can’t care for nearly 40 kids that way.”
But prayers were answered.
As another member of the traveling group, Wendy Lynn Farrell, posted on Facebook a couple who owned a restaurant near where the children were staying overheard what the group was going through and connected them with businessmen who owned a resort about an hour south of Krakow in Rabka. Like many Polish people have done, the businessmen offered the orphaned refugees a place to stay.
“This place is like a summer camp for kids,” Muniz explained. “There’s a soccer field, basketball court, playgrounds. You couldn’t have asked for a better fit. When we talked to this guy he said, ‘We want to put you in this place and we want to feed you breakfast, lunch, and dinner and take care of everything. And it’s free!’ So yeah, that’s a miracle because only God could have set us up with the exact kind of facility that these kids were used to in Ukraine.”
The resort in Rabka is about three hours away from the Ukrainian border and most of the youngsters are unaware of the daily strife in their homeland. Muniz said the staff is just trying to give the children a taste of normal life like taking their first-ever trip to a mall.
“Most of these experiences have been very new,” he pointed out. “So Poland for them has been more like a holiday.”
However, one mall they went to had a train station where refugees from Ukraine were getting off the trains in droves, serving as a stark reminder of what was going on back home.
“You would go five minutes in one direction and you felt like you were in an American mall,” Muniz said. “Then go five minutes in the other direction and you were in World War III. You see these train stations where people were crowding in. Bathrooms were filled with people who were changing clothes and trying to use the sinks to wash up. For the first time in our experience, we saw what this refugee crisis is turning into. It was a real eye-opener.”
No one knows if or when the children will ever return to Ukraine. Plans are to let refugees stay in the Ukrainian orphanage as the war continues and other refugees are being allowed to stay at the apartments the church had rented in Krakow now that the children are in Rabka.
And with many military experts agreeing that Putin plans on expanding his war to NATO countries once he takes over Ukraine, Muniz said that his goal is to overcome a lot of red tape and eventually get the children back to the states where Ridgecrest has a long history of adopting orphans and taking in refugees.
“The consensus among the Poles is that if the Ukrainians don’t stop the Russians, the Russians will keep coming,” he said. “So we feel even more urgency to get them to the United States. The best-case scenario is that before spring reaches full bloom we’ll have 30-plus children and a number of good friends who work at the orphanage in our homes in Springfield, Missouri taking care of them and making the most of a very tragic situation.”
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