From the small island of Puerto Rico to the great Ukraine: an interview with the author of the project and volunteer Liz Polanco

Liz Polanco is a well-known Adventist minister and speaker from Puerto Rico, who was chosen by the Lord for an unusual mission: to give Bibles to people whose peaceful lives have been disturbed by war. The woman believes that her mission is to help Ukrainians spread God’s word throughout the world, because just as steel is hardened in fire, faith is strengthened during trials.

In order for the distribution of Bibles for Ukrainians to become possible during the war, Liz went through a difficult path: to begin with, it was necessary to find at least someone who has a connection with Ukraine. It took a lot of time to find people to help get the books into print, to raise funds to pay for them, and to arrange the logistics for delivery. Thanks to Liz Polanco’s project, more than 20,000 families have already received Bibles! However, the servant did not stop there. Despite the increased shelling, she arrived in Ukraine with her friends Rossi and Mirta to become volunteers and hand out another 30,000 Bibles to people.

Liz, please tell us about your emotions when you received a text from a stranger telling you about your dream. He was convinced that you should do something for Ukraine. How did you react to it at first?

When I heard this message (it was in audio format), I couldn’t believe it, because nothing like this had ever happened to me before. Moreover, I have never been asked to act, relying exclusively on sleep. So, the first thing that came to mind was to pray. Pray that God will reveal his plan. But I never thought that I could do anything more for Ukrainians than to pray for them and help together with charitable organizations with medicines, food and clothes.

When did the action plan begin to emerge?

To understand the meaning of the dream I received from a stranger on March 5, I decided to pray and fast. It lasted from March 9 to 11. On the last day of the fast, I received an answer to my prayers: in my thoughts, I heard a clear voice of God, who told me that I should lead a project that will give Ukrainian refugees, soldiers, and children the Bible. Great attention should have been paid to children’s Bibles, because God says: «Even if your father and mother leave you, I will not leave you» (Psalm 27:10). It was also important to reveal God’s Word to Ukrainian soldiers so that they would learn that there is an army of God, which is much stronger than the earthly army.

Each Bible costs approximately $5 to $7. You plan to distribute 50,000 books, which will cost $250,000 or more to print. This is a large amount that could be spent on medicine, food, or other humanitarian aid. So many people have a question: why should we spend these funds now on printed Bibles? After all, nowadays, they are in the form of applications for gadgets and the vast majority are available absolutely free of charge.

Of course, to facilitate this work, it is very easy to download the application and have the Bible in your mobile phone or other gadget. But God showed me that I should not carry mobile applications, but rather paper Bibles.

Because it is not the same when we can communicate with our relatives via Skype or Zoom, and when we can meet in person and hug each other. It’s the same with the Bible: when you have it on your phone, there are many other things in front of you that distract you. When you hold a paper book in your hands, you absolutely cannot go wrong. This is exactly why it was printed: so that nothing further separates us from communication with God, to give hope and salvation to man.

So, the printed paper Bible is the instrument that God intended to be special and separate from everything else.

Many volunteers are now working in places where people need food, clothing, and medicine. They say that people do not always willingly take Bibles. They take them, rather, out of politeness than because they really want to. Most of these people are forced migrants who have lost their homes, families or loved ones. Do you think it makes sense to give literature to those who think they don’t need it?

I can compare this situation with the sowing that we are doing in our country – on a small island in Puerto Rico. Every year we plant different plants, and every year a hurricane comes and destroys all our work. But this does not mean that because of this, we should stop sowing. We should not despair, but only hope that our efforts will bear fruit.

We must never tire of sowing the Word of God. Yes, there will be many people who will ignore it, but there will also be those who will listen and appreciate it. I say this because we have received a lot of positive feedback and words of appreciation from people who have received Bibles from us. These were words of gratitude, in particular, from children and soldiers, who are now approaching the victory of Ukraine. So, even if people don’t value the Bibles they receive as something important right away, that doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate such a gift later.

What difficulties did you encounter during the implementation of the project?

I never focus on a negative experience. Because if Jesus only looked at how he was received, how people reacted to him and all the negativity that happens around him – we would never know about Jesus. The Son of God did not dwell on the negative, He simply continued to do His work. However, 3 main problems arose in this ministry.

The first problem is to convince people that the Bible is as important a help to Ukrainians as food and medicine. However, Christ Himself said:

«Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, and whoever drinks the water that I will give him will never thirst, because the water that I will give him will become in him a source of water that flows into eternal life» (John 4:13,14)

The second problem: to prove to everyone that they believe that such a small ministry of ordinary believers, which I led, can bring such a global result. In addition, I do not speak Ukrainian at all and at that time I did not even know anyone from Ukraine to implement this project. Also, the problem was to make people believe that everything we do is not just some dreams and dreams, but truly the will of God.

The third problem: how to get to know people living in Ukraine to implement the project. Where can I buy Bibles, how to transport them, divide them and to whom to give them? But with God’s help, step by step, I found the right people.

Every time God connected me with the right people, I understood that Bibles are really what Ukrainians need. Because the Ukrainian ministers told me that the Word of God is not enough in Ukraine, and they prayed that there would be an opportunity to fill this need.

Have you heard anything about Ukraine before February 24?

Before the full-scale invasion of Russia into Ukraine, I knew little about it. Probably, only the fact that it once belonged to the Soviet Union. I don’t know why God connected the flags of our countries and my heart with Ukraine. Because now when I hear something related to your country, to Ukrainians, my heart starts beating faster. And it doesn’t matter to me the great distance between us or the fact that I don’t understand your language. It is important for me to feel and experience, because Ukrainians are now my family.

 I will even celebrate my birthday in Ukraine, although, from a human perspective, it is simply illogical and dangerous to go here after the increased shelling. I will say more: many people dissuaded me from this trip now. Even my family now says that I love Ukraine more than my country. But I feel that I need more here now. And love consists in the fact that you can even take risks for the sake of what you love. Therefore, nothing scares me now. I’m just following God’s call because I want to be faithful to the dream that God sent to a complete stranger and the role that He placed on me.

After everything you have seen and learned, what would you like to wish for Ukrainians?

The news with which I want to appeal to every Ukrainian: nothing is impossible for God! And the country in which I live is a small country that can fit several times in Ukraine due to its area. But when God chooses one people to fulfill His mission, nothing is impossible for Him. Perhaps the world is now looking at this war through human eyes: seeing pain, suffering, and destruction. But God sees this situation through the prism of opportunities that can be realized through such dire circumstances. Through Ukraine, God wants to light the fire of faith and hope in all of Europe, I am convinced of this. Therefore, your country now has the advantage of becoming a protagonist for the fulfillment of God’s plan.

The war in Ukraine can be compared to the situation in which Elisha and Gehazi found themselves when the Syrians attacked Israel. Gehazi saw only a large army advancing, and Elisha asked the Lord to open his eyes so that he could see the Lord’s army. And he did see that all the mountains were filled with God’s chariots.

So, dear Ukrainians, remember that those who open their eyes and look at the situation through the prism of God’s will and try to fulfill His mission despite everything, will always see His holy army around them.

This tragedy that is happening now in Ukraine is an opportunity to direct our gaze to God. Many people ask: why does God, who acted in biblical times, not act and manifest himself in the same way now? But the Bible tells us that the Lord reserves His power to be revealed in the time of the end. Today is the time when He will reveal Himself. The Ukrainian people will raise the torch of faith in this struggle, so that God will manifest Himself as the Great One Who Is. He will do this through His Church and the army of God’s people who will carry His light.

Question – Anastasia Kushnaryova