Jason Nelson’s recent trip to Poland and Ukraine to help Ukrainian refugees began with $100 and a desire to help.

“I was told that $100 can feed a family of four for two weeks,” said Nelson, senior pastor with Rose Hill United Methodist Church in Tomball and a member of The Woodlands Township board of directors. After asking for church members to match his initial donation, he said they raised $4,000 for humanitarian efforts, such as food distribution, along with the momentum to do more.

“I felt very convicted to do something,” Nelson said in a phone interview.

Nelson said he connected with The Woodlands-based Christian Leadership Development International, where organizer Craig Ludrick is working on humanitarian efforts in Poland and Ukraine, to travel to Europe and provide assistance in person. Nelson said he raised money through friends and family to go to Warsaw and assist with projects, such as connecting refugees to local diplomats, buying food and loading it onto trucks.

“We went to refugee centers [where] there were thousands of people stacked on cots one after the other,” he said. “The top three things that are needed besides prayer are money, food and tourniquets—a lot of soldiers and local militia are dying of flesh wounds.”

Nelson said interpreters are also needed to help facilitate communication and get refugees to their next destinations.

“One of the biggest issues is they are in such shock; it’s hard to think through next steps,” he said.

While military and infrastructure assistance have been forthcoming from the government, he said aid for people on the ground is a little more complicated.

“When we ship food over, it’s automatically a target. ... You have to be kind of strategic." he said. "Money would buy vehicles for that purpose; money would pay for the food; and the government in Poland is rationing and restricting what kind of food to buy.”

In a written account of some of the events on his trip, Nelson described some of the people he met with in his time there.

A Ukrainian mother described how she and her kids survived for weeks in a shelter within eastern Ukraine under Russian occupation by collecting rainwater, unable to retreat out of fear of being gunned down by soldiers in the streets ... their children watching babies born in crowded rooms and walking over the corpses of the deceased whose bodies were unable to be moved,” Nelson wrote.

He said stories he encountered included families separated and killed, buildings destroyed and books burned.

In one account he wrote about, he said a 70-year-old Ukrainian, Nadiya Trubchanikova, escaped from the Kyiv region but lost her son.

"For over a week, she was hitching from her village to Bucha to search for his body before finally finding it," Nelson wrote.

Nelson said he hopes to return in the fall to provide additional support.

“It was a privilege to help, support, listen to, cry alongside and pray with the Ukrainian people. Given the opportunity, I would go back in a heartbeat,” Nelson said in a written account of his experiences.

Nelson said organizations, such as CLDI and Mission Eurasia, have been providing needed help to refugees, and residents can also contact him through his church for ways to help.