The young orphan from Ukraine, who had become a refugee only weeks prior, squeezed her eyes shut. ...
A Dreadfully Traumatic Day
Tears slipped unchecked from her dark eyes, carving wet paths down the olive-colored skin on her youthful face.
The young orphan from Ukraine, who had become a refugee only weeks prior, squeezed her eyes shut. When that wouldn’t contain the tears, she placed her fingertips over her nose and mouth, attempting to hide the liquid emotion that was spilling over.
Sitting next to her was a younger blonde-haired blue-eyed child. Her face was a mix of exhaustion and masked terror. Her white-blonde bangs were swept aside, and her blue eyes upturned.
They were both rapt in attention to a Polish woman named Marina who stood in front of them. Marina was speaking to a group of children - all of whom had come into her care suddenly not long before.
Marina went around the room, reminding each child individually of their unique value, of Jesus’ tender affection for them as individuals.
The words, apparently, washed over the young orphaned refugees like a healing balm, expelling some of the deep pain they carried. Many cried tears of relief as this was done - the true and healing words touching places of deep pain within them and summoning tears quickly.
It had been a traumatic couple of months, topped off by an even more traumatic week and - to push them to their limits - a dreadfully traumatic day.
It was April 2022. Earlier in the year, 10 orphans (6 girls and 4 boys ages 3-16) and their caretaker had fled Ukraine after Russian soldiers invaded their homeland at the end of February.
Making it into Poland, they were set up with a nice place to stay. People from local churches were regularly coming to volunteer and help them adjust to their new situation.
One church was the K5N Church, pastored by ITMI’s Piotr Zaremba and one of those volunteers was Marina.
Already the mother of 4 biological children and 3 Polish foster children, Marina has a huge heart for children.
A Terrible Discovery.
One afternoon, while the Ukrainian orphans were spending what was to be a fun afternoon at her home, Marina discovered that the children were being horrifically abused.
When the horrific abuse was discovered, they couldn’t just go back to where they were staying with their caretaker, so the children just stayed at her home and remained in Marina and Lukasz’.
That Monday, ITMI’s Jim LaRose was on hand at Lukasz and Marina’s to provide an English lesson and engaging activities for the children. He was joined by the visiting Steve Evers and the team traveling with him.
Jim was in the middle of his lesson when it happened.
All of this abuse, uncertainty, and trauma was too much. One of the Ukrainian boys just broke down and was attempting to physically harm himself. All the kids were aware of what was happening as a Polish team of professionals arrived on the scene.
The young boy, suffering the consequences of the sinful, terrible actions of adults around him who had taken advantage of his vulnerability as a small child, was taken away and eventually calmed down.
Back at Marina and Lukasz’s home, the mixture of fear, uncertainty, pain, and trauma they were feeling was all over the faces of the remaining children.
They may have been wondering, “Will I lose it too? Will that happen to me?”
Jim recognized that this was too big - he couldn’t keep them distracted with English-learning activities and ended the lesson.
Marina gathered the children and sat them down. She led them in worship songs and then tenderly spoke the Lord’s love, care and encouragement to each child individually. It was an incredibly emotional moment.
Later that week, Steve was able, with gifts from ITMI supporters, to treat the entire family to a meal at Mcdonald's.
In his work with hurting and traumatized children over the years, Jim has noticed that small treats that bring a sense of “normalcy” - like a meal at Mcdonald's - go a long way.
A pizza party, an ice cream outing, a meal at Mcdonald's, or a long-desired apparel item - like a new pair of shoes - that reminds them they are valuable to someone each time they wear it.
It was no different on this special outing. Your gifts helped show these hurting children that the Lord sees them and that they are valued.
How Summer Camp is an Effective Part of Jim's Ministry
For the next months, Jim continued to help Lukasz and Marina by teaching the children English lessons regularly and building relationships with them.
Jim’s English lessons are fun and engaging. They include games that force learners to repeat what they’ve learned over and over - without realizing they are still “in class”.
In August, the kids at Marina and Lukasz’s had varied schedules and it suited everyone to take a break from the lessons. Jim assisted with an English camp outreach that month, also.
English is something most Polish parents want their children to learn, so an English camp holds a certain allure.
This English camp is put on by a group of believers as an outreach, and because it is, it is often attended by children from programs for at-risk children in dysfunctional home situations.
Jim has served as an English teacher at these types of camps for many years. He prepares extensively and creates meaningful lessons that seem to be the springboard that God uses to bring people across his path.
Many of the people the Lord has brought across his path to develop discipleship relationships with became connected with Jim through these camps.
The camps also provide children with the opportunity to experience worship times in full, pray short prayers in front of others, learn to read a Biblical passage and interact with it more deeply than just reading it, as well as discuss Biblical topics, and feel they can safely share.
A Small Gift That Meant More Than a Child Could Express
This particular summer, two of Lukasz and Marina’s biological children, one of their Polish foster children, and three of their Ukrainian children were at the camp. The entire population was a mix of Polish children and Ukrainian refugee children.
Often, campers will bring spending money and enjoy the independence of purchasing a treat during their free time at the camp store. Jim notices that this fun element is important to the campers. It seems to develop a healthy sense of independence for many.
He also noticed that there were a few kids who didn’t have spending money and realized these children would feel “less than” those around them as the others enjoyed their treats each afternoon.
Normally, Jim wouldn’t hesitate to use his own limited funds to demonstrate God’s goodness to children who may not experience that from their own families. But there were quite a few more who had come without spending money this particular year, so it was helpful that Jim had been given some funds from ITMI to use as the Lord led at camp.
Jim decided to use that to discreetly offer the children who didn’t have spending money about $1.50 USD a day, enough to buy an ice cream cone, a drink, or a treat from the store. Jim was able to do this for a total of 10 children, including some of Lukasz and Marina’s (who had simply forgotten in the chaos of life with over 20 kids in the house) and the Lord helped him discreetly find the ones who didn’t have spending money.
The small gift meant more than they could really express, but every single one hugged Jim and voiced thanks.
One of the girls bought an ice cream cone for about $.50 on the first day she had money from Jim. Then she asked him if she could buy one for her friend. Later, that friend returned the gift.
“In God’s economy, you know He’s smiling at that, “ Jim said, referring to their instinct to share what they have with others.
How Jesus Used a Terrible Thing for Good
Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them…”
Since the spring of 2022 when the Ukrainian orphans arrived in Poland, it's clear the Lord has been working on their behalf.
The little boy who had the breakdown was able to get treatment, and a Polish family began visiting him in the treatment facility where he was staying.
This family has experience with parenting traumatized children. When he leaves treatment, he will become a permanent member of their family!
It seems a few of the other children may be offered permanent homes with other Polish families, but it seems like many of them will be staying on with Lukasz and Marina indefinitely and are happy to be there.
Several of them have begun to work through their trauma and are showing signs of flourishing as members of Lukasz and Marina’s family.
For some of them, it's clear from the changes in the way they carry themselves and even dress that they are more confident and believe that they are valuable, and for some, this is a big change from when they arrived.
The Lord at Work
The Lord has certainly been at work on behalf of this group of extremely vulnerable children.
They were defenseless against the terrible things that were being done to them. But the Lord saw. The Lord heard their suffering. And He intervened.
He used the Russian invasion - something meant for evil - to bring about good in the lives of this group of children. To deliver them from evil and to bring about healing and hope.
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” Genesis 50: 20
Because that’s who He is. The Mighty Counselor, the God of Hope. It's what He does for those who love and follow Him.
And you, ITMI family, got to play a part in what God was doing through your support of our partners in Poland.
It was through your support that ITMI’s Piotr Zaremba has ministered in Poland for decades, equipping and preparing God’s people for the moment when vulnerable Ukrainians would knock at their doors.
Your support of our Ukrainian Relief and Evangelism fund helped minister to traumatized children through the treat of a meal at Mcdonald's or a small amount of spending money at summer camp.
Your support of Jim LaRose ensures he is in Poland, lending his expertise with children and teaching to support Marina and Lukasz’ efforts and being a supportive, godly adult in their lives.