Interview: Dr. Mike Stallard and Dan Price—Ukraine Update
Europe is still in crisis. As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to thousands of deaths and many more injuries and evacuations, many Ukrainians, Jewish Ukrainians in particular, are in great need. The Friends of Israel was firmly planted in the heart of Eastern Europe even before war broke out. And since the invasion began in February, our workers have been working tirelessly and sacrificially to rescue refugees and help vulnerable Jewish Ukrainians make aliyah to Israel.
Mike Stallard and Dan Price, our International Ministries leaders, share updates this week on their team’s work in Ukraine and Poland. Their humanitarian efforts not only meet refugees’ physical needs but also open the door to change lives spiritually with the love of the Messiah. Discover the amazing work our workers are carrying out in the name of Jesus in Eastern Europe, and find out how you can help continue this lifesaving work!
Steve Conover: Welcome to the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka.
Chris Katulka: Steve, we have a very important show today. We have the Director of International Ministries, Dr. Mike Stallard, and Dan Price, the Assistant Director of International Ministries with us. They're going to be talking about our efforts that we have right now, the Friends of Israel efforts in Eastern Europe, as we continue to minister to the Ukrainian Jewish people who are suffering right now under Russian aggression, as Putin continues to advance into Ukraine. So our efforts are absolutely amazing and our listeners need to hear about it, so that's what we're going to be speaking on today.
Steve Conover: It's always good to have Mike and Dan with us. But first in the news, leading up to Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day a couple of weeks back, Jerusalem Post reported that a poll found that almost half, 47% of the Israeli public, are concerned that another Holocaust will strike the Jewish people. The poll found that women and the ultra Orthodox are the most concerned groups.
Chris Katulka: Steve, for me, the concerns are actually real. You know, Iran continues their aggression toward Israel, threatening to extinguish the Jewish state, and antisemitism, the hatred of the Jewish people, is at an all time high globally. 60% of hate crimes in America are directed toward the Jewish people. We should not downplay these concerns, and continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Chris Katulka: Well, it is great to have Mike and Dan in the studio again. I love having you two with us, but we're actually going to be talking about something very serious when it comes to our international ministry with the Friends of Israel. We're going to dedicate this time to talking about what's happening in Ukraine, in the surrounding Eastern European countries, and the work that we're doing there right now. But as we get started, I want to throw it out to either one of you to begin this conversation. I want to first talk about what's happening to the Jewish communities in Ukraine, as Russia continues their attacks. They are continuing their aggression in Ukraine. And I've been reading articles of Holocaust survivors who endured the Holocaust, who have died as a result of the war. What's the news on the Jewish people there?
Dan Price: Yeah. Well, first thank you, Chris, for having us on. We're very happy to be able to be here. Yeah. A lot of folks don't realize that the Jewish community in Ukraine is actually rather large. One of the bigger populations of Jewish folks in Europe lives in Ukraine, or has lived in Ukraine. If you ask the chief rabbi of Ukraine, he would claim that there's 500,000 Jewish people that live in Ukraine. I'm not sure if that number is accurate or not. And so along with everybody else, the Jewish people in Ukraine are suffering too. You know, they've lost homes, they've lost synagogues, they've lost everything. And many of them are fleeing the country, of course, and we'll talk more about that. But yeah, the population of Jewish folks there are going through all the same stuff that everyone else is.
Part of our work has been to try to focus, particularly of course, on those Jewish folks. For example, some of the things that we've been doing is trying to supply the food supplies and everything else that folks need. We have this one place in Chernivtsi where we've had a soup kitchen along with a synagogue that we've partnered with there for several years now. And during the middle of this crisis, that's become a vital need for that Jewish community, not only for those folks that live there in Chernivtsi, but there's so many refugees that have been displaced that the city has tripled in size. So there are plenty of Jewish folks that are suffering in Ukraine now, that we're so happy that we're able, already in place to begin helping in the midst of the crisis.
Chris Katulka: You know too, Dan, I just have to say it blows my mind to think that Jewish people who survived the Holocaust, and Ukraine was one of the hardest places hit by the Holocaust. The Jewish community there are reliving these moments, and we've been saying on this radio program how the difference between what happened in World War II and what happens today, is today Jewish people have a homeland to go to, the nation of Israel. But Mike, I saw an update recently from you about the humanitarian efforts of the Friends of Israel in Ukraine. Can you share how the work we're doing to minister to the Ukrainian people are impacting them there?
Mike Stallard: Yeah. They are two main areas, and thanks again for having me, Chris, on the radio show.
Chris Katulka: Well, we had to beg you, but you know.
Mike Stallard: Right.There are two main areas where we're working with them. One is the refugee centers that are set up in Poland, one just east of Warsaw, one in Southern Poland. We have several families there that we take care of, and they're there for a few days and then do Aliyah, and I think Dan will talk about that a little bit later. The second way, which is becoming increasingly important, is that we actually take supplies into Ukraine, just whole semi loads of 30 pallets of food and clothes and medicine and those kinds of things. So we're taking that into Ukraine, even to the war torn parts that are in harm's way, like the Dnieper region, where there are a lot of Jewish refugees from Mariupol, the city that's been pretty much destroyed by the Russians.
Chris Katulka: That's right.
Mike Stallard: And so we've been doing both things. Those who've come out and are in Poland, and then those who are in Ukraine, we're sending help in. And it takes a lot of creativity because that soup kitchen Dan was talking about, their bank accounts are useless now. So we have to get money to them a different way. So we have to be creative in what we're doing, not just shipping things. We have to be creative about getting funds, actual funds to people.
Chris Katulka: Mike, I'm interested to know too, because I saw a photograph that you had posted. When I was thinking of the humanitarian aid that we were giving, I was thinking of van loads coming in, but I saw a full semi truck of Friends of Israel humanitarian aid, food, clothing, coming to the people of Ukraine. Have there been any responses from our workers on the ground of how this has impacted the people that they're serving?
Mike Stallard: Well, the answer to that is absolutely yes. In fact, one rabbi, I think in Chernivtsi, actually said, if my memory serves me correct, that's where he's from, said that the Friends of Israel is the only help that they're having in their little district throughout the whole country. So they're depending upon us. Now, there are a lot of groups in Ukraine and they're helping all over the country, but that one little group said without the Friends of Israel, we wouldn't make it. So we're doing our best to meet the need.
Chris Katulka: I was very impressed to see how the Lord has provided that semi truck of food coming in, which, it just warmed my heart to be able to see our supporters giving to those efforts.
Dan Price: Yeah. And Chris, as Mike mentioned also, we're not just shipping food in either. Through some of these partnerships with churches and other organizations, we've managed to ship some food in, but it's incredible to me that our workers are actually going into Ukraine. I mean, that's been going on this entire time, but recently we just had a report from four of our workers that went all the way into Ukraine, very close to where the war is actually happening. I'm not sure if everybody recognizes the name that Mike mentioned, and if you're there, but that's within a couple hundred miles of the front where folks are actually fighting and dying, and our people are going there on purpose to bring these van loads and truckloads worth of food. We're praying like crazy for them as they're going, obviously, but they're putting themselves in harm's way in order to do this work of caring for Jewish communities.
Chris Katulka: Dan, I'm glad that you brought that up because I've been reading, and as you had mentioned earlier too, that there's a lot of Ukrainian Jewish people that are fleeing Ukraine, and they're making Aliyah to Israel, probably never again to maybe even return to Ukraine. There's just maybe nothing there for them anymore. Tetiana Kritenko is one of our Friends of Israel Ukrainian representatives, and she's been active in helping the Jewish people during this time make Aliyah. So first, for our listeners, Aliyah is immigration. That means to “go up.”
Dan Price: Going up.
Chris Katulka: That's right. Make immigration. Can you share about what Tetiana's doing in helping the Jewish people during this time?
Dan Price: Absolutely. This has become more and more a vital part of our ministry. So Tetiana in particular, because she's from Kyiv and she has been with our ministry for several years now. She's known the process of Aliyah from all the bureaucracy attached on the Ukrainian end, to the bureaucracy attached to the embassies and dealing with all that process with folks. So she's done that with Jewish folks who wanted to return to Israel for years. It's been kind of a slow trickle. Obviously there's folks that make that choice as God leads them. But during this crisis, it's been a flood. So many people have made the decision. So many Jewish folks have made the decision that they want to return to Israel. There's either nothing left for them, or they're worried about the future or whatever. However God directs their hearts, they're making those choices to return.
And so we've partnered, Tetiana has, the rest of our team has as well, sometimes with the Jewish Agency, sometimes through other organizations to get people to the places that they need to, to help people fill out the forms that they need to, to go through the entire bureaucratic process of making it possible for them to return to Israel. And the stories that we hear from people that have returned to Israel, the thank you notes and things like that that our team continues having contact with these Jewish friends, it's just incredible to hear their gratitude of how God has provided through us and through the entire process. And we're just so grateful to be able to be a part of what God is doing in that way.
Chris Katulka: You know, we're going to take a quick break in a moment. I want to share with our listeners how they can give to support the ministry that our international team is doing in Eastern Europe. But you know, I just want to give you all a reminder of something. As I'm speaking with Mike and I'm speaking with Dan, I can't help but think of the verse Genesis 12:3, "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you." And this, my friends, is just an opportunity for us to bless the Jewish people in a very dark moment in Ukraine, those Ukrainian Jewish people who are suffering right now. And so we want to bless them as God has commanded to us. We believe Genesis 12:3 is a promise that still stands today. And so we want to bless the Jewish people.
And I want to share with you a way that you can bless the Jewish people of Eastern Europe. You can do that by going to FOIradio.org. If you go to FOIradio.org right now, you can go there and make a donation to help support the efforts that our team in Eastern Europe are doing to help the Jewish people, and Gentiles as well, we're helping all Ukrainians, but our efforts in helping the Jewish communities that are in Ukraine during this time as Russia continues their aggression against the Ukrainian people. So if you've had a burden to help the Jewish people during this time, again, I want to encourage you to go to FOIradio.org to make your donation today. We promise that the funds that you give will be used to bless the Ukrainian people and to help them during this difficult time, from humanitarian aid to spiritual aid.
Can I tell you something? A part of our mission statement is to not just provide physical blessings for the Jewish people, but spiritual blessings as well. All of these gifts come in the name of the Lord Jesus, so this becomes very important as to who we are as an organization, and we would like for you to partner with us. Again, go to FOIradio.org to help our Eastern European outreach.
Chris Katulka: I'm back with Mike and Dan, the Director and Assistant Director of International Ministries for Friends of Israel. They oversee the Eastern European outreach that we have, which Ukraine is very much a part of that. You know, Friends of Israel's Eastern European team is not only ministering in Ukraine. They're also helping those Ukrainian refugees who make it across the border. Dan, what do those refugee efforts look like in places like Poland?
Dan Price: Well, actually just recently, Mike and I returned from a trip to Poland, and we got to see our workers doing that work on the ground, actually get to be a part of some of their ministry to refugees as they make it across the border. And it's incredible. Our workers are literally working night and day. Some of it has to do with helping to transport folks. You get a call at 3:00 in the morning from someone who's finally made it through the border. And especially in the early days, it could take a long time, several days in fact. And so you get a call at 3:00 in the morning that someone is at the border, an hour and a half away, and so you hop in your car and you drive.
Dan Price: They bring them to these refugee centers that we have. The two facilities that Mike mentioned earlier, one in Wisla in the south, and one not far from Warsaw, we call it “The Farm.” And we normally use these places for kids camps and for educational things and for stuff like that. And they've been transformed at this point into refugee centers. They come in and we give them a hot meal and we serve them any way that their family needs, medical supplies. A lot of them are not coming with clothing.
Chris Katulka: They must have just packed up and left immediately.
Dan Price: Exactly. I mean, yeah, so many of them, it's one bag and run. We manage to take care of all their physical needs as we can, and we help them make the connections that they need to for the next stages of whatever journey they have in front of them, whether that's just a place to stay longer term, which we also provide some opportunities for that as well, or if it's they're skipping on to another Western country, to friends in France or in the Netherlands or wherever else. So those are some of the ministries that are going on at the point of contact.
But then there's some of the longer term stuff, in terms of trying to help folks get where they want to be. I mean, I remember one story from one of our workers saying that as she's preparing meals for folks, they're sitting at these tables in the cafeteria area of one of the big houses that we have, and folks are crying. I mean, obviously having gone through a very traumatic experience, and she's like, “do I need to supply for their physical needs or their emotional needs right now?” So I mean, they have that constant stress and passion for wanting to show the love of Christ to these folks that are going through the worst.
I mean, that's happening in Poland, it's happening in France. We have workers that are working in a refugee center in France. And actually even other places that you wouldn't expect. The ministry that our people do in Belarus, which is obviously a Russian-controlled territory, not controlled, but influenced territory right now. And there's incredible stories going on from Grodno and Babruysk and different places where our people are still continuing to try to minister to people who are evacuating Ukraine into places you wouldn't even expect.
Chris Katulka: That's just amazing. You know, I'm going to throw this out to either one of you. Friends of Israel's mission statement ends with the line that “we bring physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.” You know, we're compelled by our faith in the Lord Jesus to help our Jewish friends during this difficult time in Ukraine. And we are unashamed of the gospel. Do our humanitarian efforts become opportunities to share the love of Jesus, the Messiah? And if so, how does that happen?
Dan Price: Yeah, it does. Sometimes it's more overt and sometimes it's less overt. In particular, when Mike and I were there, we got to help transport one refugee family. The mom's name was Galina, and she told us this story of her and her husband having to make this difficult choice of whether she was going to evacuate or not. She has her seven month old baby son, Misha, with her, she's carrying one bag. And she used to teach. She has a PhD in mathematics, and she's running from her home. They're hopefully going to meet up together after the war in Israel.
We traveled with her for a good three or four hours from where we were, up to Warsaw. And we just got to try to communicate to her that, look, this is a much ... you may not realize this, but Christians around the entire world are praying for you and want to supply everything that we can to try to help you. You are not alone in this. There are thousands upon thousands of prayers going up to God for you. And we're so happy to be able to do just a little bit to try to help in the process.
Mike Stallard: It's true. When I was over there on our trip, I asked if people had come to the Lord from the Jewish people that we were helping. And the answer was yes, a few have come to the Lord, and we are not ashamed of the gospel. Wherever our people go, Bibles go, and the gospel goes. And for those who are listening, maybe they don't know the Lord. The gospel is that Jesus died on the cross, was buried and rose again from the dead. And if you put your faith and trust in what he's done, then he'll forgive you of all your sins.
Chris Katulka: Amen.
Mike Stallard: And so that's the gospel, and it's part of who we are. Now, we have to be sensitive in the way we share that, because Jewish people have had so many centuries of being abused by those who say they were Christians, and forced conversions and those kind of things. So we try to be sensitive to that, and we also share our faith with Gentiles that we run into. So we're not targeting anybody. We're just, as we go do our ministry, we're doing that. And we do it in the name of Jesus. What we say to the Jewish people that makes us different than those middle ages so-called Christians is that if they refuse to trust our Jesus, we will still love them.
Chris Katulka: Yes.
Mike Stallard: And still help them and still stand against antisemitism, and all of those things. That's who we are. And the gospel is a very prominent part of the Friends of Israel.
Chris Katulka: Amen. You know, Mike, I know you continue to provide humanitarian aid to our Jewish friends in Ukraine. We need the help of our listeners to give, to support those efforts. Can you share how their donations will help the Ukrainians tangibly with the remaining time that we have?
Mike Stallard: Yeah. I think there are a lot of things that are coming. Tetiana's mother-in-law, her apartment was totally eradicated, bombed out by the Russians. Her daughter's apartment was blown apart by the Russians. Her apartment, however, is still there in Kyiv. Ukraine is not a rich country, so it really doesn't have the ability to pull itself up by itself at this time. The supply chains, you know, we think we have supply chain problems. Right now, their supply chain has all but disappeared for the average person, and we can help to alleviate that by stepping in, but we have to continue renting the trucks, filling them up, buying the materials and crossing the border constantly to do that. And so we'll still continue to do that, and we'll have to maintain our refugee centers. Although they're not coming in at the same level as they were, they're still coming in. So we take care of folks as they're beginning to do Aliyah to Israel.
Mike Stallard: And I'm afraid that one of the things we're going to have to really help in the future, we'll have to wait and see how the war goes, but we're going to have to help to rebuild Ukraine, especially Jewish synagogues and Jewish centers and Jewish communities. We're going to have to step in and do our best to help them. Even before the war, the Eastern European relief fund was our most used fund.
Chris Katulka: Wow.
Mike Stallard: And now it's exploded in terms of its need at the present time. And I don't see that dissipating any time soon. And we just pray that the Lord will provide.
Chris Katulka: Well, Mike and Dan, I want to thank you so much for being in the studio today to share with our listeners about ways that they can participate in this much needed ministry, our Eastern European relief fund. Listen, for all my friends that are listening right now, whether you're on the radio or you're on the podcast, you can go to FOIradio.org, again, FOI, like Friends of Israel, FOIradio.org, and there you will find a link that will direct you to ways that you can give financially to our Eastern European relief fund that will help the Jewish people that are suffering right now in Ukraine, ways to supply not only humanitarian aid to them, but also ways to show and share the love of Jesus the Messiah. Mike and Dan, thanks so much for being with us.
Mike Stallard: Thank you.
Dan Price: Thank you, Chris.
Steve Conover: Our thanks to Dr. Mike Stallard and Dan Price for being with us. And thank you for joining us for the Friends of Israel Today. If you enjoyed this week's program, would you contact us? We're grateful to those that reached out to us last week. We want to create content that we know is enriching your lives and drawing you closer to the Lord. You can contact us at FOIradio.org, that's FOIradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Hey, and for our podcast listeners on Apple, would you take the time to rate our program? Your comments and ratings will expose the Friends of Israel Today to new listeners. So if you believe it's important to teach about Israel and the Jewish people, please leave us a comment so that others can benefit from Friends of Israel Today. Now listen, next week we're going to have Abigail Leavitt, an aspiring archeologist who was on the team that found the most recent significant find in Israel, called the Ebal Curse tablet, which many say could contain some of the oldest references to the name of God. It's a very fascinating find, and Abigail actually has a very unique connection to the Friends of Israel as well. So you don't want to miss this episode.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong, and I'm Steve Conover, Executive Producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio, P.O. Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio, P.O. Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry, proclaiming Biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
Eastern European Relief
If the Lord has laid it on your heart to help rescue people in Ukraine and Poland, please consider making a gift to FOI’s Eastern European Relief Fund. You will be actively helping them relocate and obtain shelter, food, clothes, toiletries, transportation, medicine, and spiritual guidance.
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