Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brought a message of Christ-centered hope to Ukrainian refugees in Poland on Sunday, April 10, 2022.
This scripture, Elder Uchtdorf told Ukrainian refugees, is “as true and as current as it was 2,000 years ago. And it was true for the many times in between. … The focus on Jesus Christ is a focus which will give you the peace in your heart to get through this in one piece, in a way you can smile at your children. And when your husband, your father, your friend is not with you, you can think and pray for them. And when you unite again, you will say, ‘I knew it would happen because I believe good things will happen again for all of us.’ And good things will happen for you.”
The German native also pointed to the story of Jesus calming the storm and sea at the request of his worried disciples (see Mark 4).
“A storm all of a sudden arose, like your storm now,” Elder Uchtdorf said. “[What did Jesus] say to His Apostles [after He calmed the storm?] ‘Where’s your faith?’ But it’s hard in a time when the boat sinks. But that’s what He said. And He calmed the sea. So, they learned a lesson that they have to believe and have faith.”
Elder Uchtdorf then compared the refugees’ situation to that of the disciples at the sea of Tiberias after Jesus’ death and resurrection (see John 21). The Apostles were frustrated. Their Messiah had died. They didn’t know what to do.
“Everything was over. The worst of expectations happened. I cannot imagine what they felt — the same as I cannot imagine how you feel [as refugees today],” Elder Uchtdorf said. “Here they were, totally distraught, on the lake, tried to fish — which they knew, they were professionals — but they couldn’t catch anything. That’s how you must sometimes feel now. You cannot do what you normally do.”
And just as Jesus told those Apostles to cast their net on the other side of the boat to find fish, so these refugees may need to seek light in unconventional ways.
“Be open to adapt,” Elder Uchtdorf said. “Know that the Savior is loving you. He knows of your sacrifice. He’s willing to embrace you with His arms, with His love.”
The Apostle told the refugees that they are “an example for goodness, for determination to follow the path of liberty and freedom, and to stand up for what is right, a light to many nations.” Many people, he said, will look to them and say, “If they can do it, we can do it.” He encouraged them to not underestimate the power of their example. “Know that God is with you,” he said. “He will bless you. And He will make things right in the end, as He always does. Maybe not in our own time schedule. But certainly in His time schedule.”
Elder Uchtdorf urged refugees to conquer anger with love, meet hatred with goodness, and overcome lies with truth.
“Move through life and trust God and have faith in Him,” he said. “I bless you that you will see that the hand of the Lord will guide you through this life.”
Elder Uchtdorf’s wife, Harriet, also spoke to the refugees. She said, “I know that Heavenly Father is aware of you. I know that Jesus Christ loves you, each and every one of you. He really loves you … you are not alone.”
One refugee, Maryna Bovt, said Elder Uchtdorf’s visit was “great support for all Ukrainian people.” The Apostle’s presence helped her see that the Church recognizes not only her people’s needs but also their feelings.
Maryna also said Elder Uchtdorf’s comments are a key that will help her endure the demanding days ahead.
“You know, it’s very difficult to love everybody, to understand everybody, when our people suffer,” she said. “I understand that the only way is to be a part of Christ.”
The Saints in Poland are assisting refugees from Ukraine with food, water, medicine, shelter and other needs.
Marcin Kulinicz, a man in Warsaw, started a Facebook page that now has 9,000 people supporting refugees. To date his group has gathered enough supplies for six shipments to Lviv and Kyiv. He said the hand of God can be seen in this dark time because of the light of increased trust among people.
“People need to trust one another more in wartime. … I needed to trust several others,” he said. “And lots of people entrusted me, with their life sometimes — or when I was bringing refugees here to Poland — and their loved ones. I was carrying wives and children of other people.”
Marcin said it’s important to remember that helping refugees is a marathon run, not a sprint.
“Dealing with wartime refugees and wartime reconstruction is a long-term effort,” he said. “Lots of people tend to be focused on voluntary work and contributions — and that’s great. But this is something that will last for years, and we need to be prepared for a really long run.”
Another volunteer, Agnieszka Mazurowska of Warsaw, said she is happy to help and listen.
“I understand that to help is to love people. And I love all people all over the world,” she said. “So, when I see a single mother with her kids, or I see a pregnant woman in front of me, I feel that I have a lot of love for her and for them and I have to give them support. This is my duty. I believe in Christ, so I try to live like Him, so this is how I act.”
On a social media post describing his visit, Elder Ucthdorf said, “I witnessed this Christlike service in action this weekend as I visited with several Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw, Poland. My heart hurt to see the suffering of so many innocent men, women, and children. Yet, my heart also was touched to see the outpouring of Christlike service to those who are struggling so deeply.”