LISTEN TO EP.86
Ukraine in Crisis, Pt. 4: Ivanka Trump Joins CityServe to Meet with Pastors and Refugees Amidst Russia-Ukraine War
Dave Donaldson, co-founder of CityServe International returns from a recent trip to Poland and Ukraine and provides an update on the ongoing work, stories, and miracles from the frontlines. Joined on the trip by Ivanka Trump and other team members, hear how God is moving in the hearts and lives of those impacted, and discover how God’s people, working together in unity are an unstoppable force for good. Learn how you can be a part of this amazing work and support those at the forefront of this crisis.
This is what the young lady said to me on the border, “don’t leave me”. As I reached over to encourage her, she was weeping. She was shaking. She couldn’t have been older than 22. She’s holding her baby, patting him on the head, scared, wondering what she was going to do next. So I reached down like a father, giving her a hug to assure her she was going to be okay. And as I started to pull away, she said, “Don’t leave me, don’t leave me.”
This is Dave Donaldson with the Influencers Podcast. And I want to give you a report on the trip we just took to Poland. And then through multiple barricades into Ukraine. Open your hearts as you hear this update.
CityServe and Ivanka Trump at the Border
I just returned from a wonderful trip to Poland and Ukraine. It started in Krakow, which is a beautiful, art-filled city and has historical roots as the first capital of Poland. We were joined by Ivanka Trump, and also pastors that were part of our trip. It’s an incredible story because you had this pastor – he’s blind in one eye. He and his wife, very humble people. And they’re living in an apartment across the street from this hotel. And he’s praying for God to lead him on how to help the refugees. He sees a vacant, dilapidated hotel, and God gives him the idea of asking the owner, if he could use one or two floors to house refugees. The owner said, “Well, we’re going to be tearing it down”. And the pastor said, “Can we use it until you do that?” And the owner agreed.
Ivanka Trump and Todd Lamphere and our team were there. And we were able just to love on these refugees, hear their stories, provide them with toys, gift baskets, gift cards, and to just share with them the love of Jesus and to pray with them. It was a powerful time.
We also went on to Warsaw, Poland, and Ivanka joined us there and spent time with pastors from Ukraine, who we had invited in for the minister’s retreat. They arrived early and spent time with her, sharing about their stories and their needs. And it’s just been powerful through CityServe and our partnership with Ivanka and others to provide these pastors with vans so that they can transport food and other supplies behind enemy lines. But on the way out, evacuate women and children and take them to church safe houses like in Lulin, Poland, which is about an hour from the border. We helped that church, which we visited, to expand from serving 50 refugees to 250. And it’s just amazing what is happening. We visited a school and there in Poland that’s been converted into a refugee center.
This is a seminary. Powerful to see the faculty the workers loving and serving the refugees. Ivanka was there and even played the guitar with one of the refugee girls. Ivanka learned to play the guitar during COVID. That was a special moment.
Rest for Those Serving
We prayed over all the families. She joined us in that prayer and it was really a wonderful time to allow Jesus to wrap his arms around these people that have lost everything to hear their stories, how they escaped the explosions of fires to find refuge there in Poland at these safe houses. Then we met with pastors that we had invited in from Ukraine, Poland, and Moldova, and we had a chance to give them a respite, as you would imagine. They’re very weary, very tired, serving the refugees now for months. This was a time to refresh them.
We had one pastor and his wife. His wife said, “This has been like heaven to us”, as she got emotional. She was so grateful. So we’re going to continue to provide these retreats for pastors in Warsaw, Moldova and also Ukraine and Romania. We had about a hundred pastors, as part of the retreat. We brought in experts in mental health to speak with them about how to deal with their trauma, but also with the trauma of the refugees. And that was very much appreciated by the pastors. We spent time hearing their stories. For example, the leader over Moldova, he has 400 churches. Moldova is one of the poorest European nations, but per capita brought in the most refugees and provided 3 million meals. This poor nation raised nearly all of the money to buy those meals from their own nation. The gift of love and hospitality in these neighboring countries – it’s historic, it’s unprecedented, and they are truly reflecting Matthew 25, when Jesus said, “When I was hungry, you gave me food. When I was thirsty, you gave me drink, when I wasn’t sheltered, you took me in”, and that’s what these churches are doing all throughout these regions.
Seeing the War with Our Own Eyes
We concluded the trip by taking a 2:00 AM drive to the Ukrainian border. And we walked across and I can’t adequately describe what it was like driving from the border to Lviv. As you know, if you watch the news, Lviv has been consistently bombed by the Russians. And we had to drive through many barricades to get to Lviv.
We arrived in time to join one of the services in progress at a church there, right downtown. Absolutely incredible to hear these people praying, worshiping God, just calling out to him for this war to end. We had a chance to interview many of the Ukrainian people. It was so moving to talk with a dad who said his kids are trapped in Mariupol’, and he’s just praying that he can find his kids and that they can join him there. In Lviv, after service, we had lunch with the Bishop over Ukraine, and he shared with us really all the atrocities happening in that region. Obviously a heartbreaker, but while we were eating, the sirens went off that there was an incoming bomb. We waited because if another siren goes off, that means that they are approaching quickly to our site.
So fortunately the siren didn’t go off again. However we have received stories of bombs that were hitting buildings on the outskirts of of Lviv. We went over and visited a site that had been bombed recently, and six people died in that bombing. So this is real. This is real when you see people scrambling when these sirens are going off, and you have the church there though in the middle of this – it is a spiritual, physical, emotional refuge for these people. And it’s truly like going back in time. And it’s Acts II. It is Acts II, where they’re sharing with one another, they’re encouraging one another. I would just ask those of you that are watching, that are listening, to continue to support our efforts at https://cityserve.us/ . How—do
What CityServe is Doing Right Now
And let me just be clear that we are providing transportation vehicles – a fleet of vans and trucks that again are rescue vehicles, but also our relief vehicles for supplies. And we are continuing to evacuate women, children and the elderly. Secondly, we’ve have to continue to strengthen and expand these churches into safe houses. We visited one on the border as we returned back to Warsaw – phenomenal. They have served over a thousand refugees at a given time, and they’re providing everything for these refugees. And we heard these refugees, one after another, express gratitude to the pastors. It was just was so moving. One of which was a Holocaust survivor. So think about it. This is her second evacuation and yet her heart and her spirit was really uplifted by us being there.
We have to continue to provide this transportation network, and support these churches that are housing and serving the refugees. And then we want to continue to rush emergency food and supplies into Ukraine. And we’re working on another million meals. You remember the last million meals? Ivanka provided those meals and UPS delivered them for us. We’re working on the next round of a million meals. We need your help for that. We’re going to continue to do these pastor retreats for pastors and their spouses to lift up their arms. We will return to Warsaw and we will also do a retreat in Moldova, probably Romania, and definitely in Ukraine. I’m not going to tell you where, but we’re going to do a retreat right in the heart of Ukraine and serve these pastors that refuse to leave. These pastors refuse to leave because they believe that God has called them to stay there and to serve regardless of the danger – true heroes of the faith.
Thank you for your prayers and support of CityServe, God bless.