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MercyWorks staff member Jen Derksen speaks with refugees in this undated photo.

Volunteers from MercyWorks, a ministry of Youth With A Mission in Tyler, is traveling to the Ukraine-Poland border this week to launch relief outreaches to Ukrainian refugees.

According to the United Nations, the number of people fleeing Ukraine continues to grow since Russian forces invaded a week ago.

“In just seven days we have witnessed the exodus of one million refugees from Ukraine to neighbouring countries,” Filippo Grandi, high commissioner for the UN Refugee Agency, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

Many of the refugees are fleeing to Poland for safety.

MercyWorks immediately raised and sent funds for two critical efforts, including orphans and direct relief assistance.

A group of 100 displaced orphans and their caregivers fled their orphanage and drove 19 hours to safety, and according to officials from MercyWorks, the organization is helping feed and house them.

MercyWorks is also sending truckloads of food into Ukraine for people who have left their homes but not their country. Food, shelter and personal hygiene items are being provided to refugees in neighboring Poland.

“We are coordinating our efforts with YWAM Ukraine and other YWAM centers in the region that are engaged in various ways,” MercyWorks Director Debbie Lascelles said. “Many are receiving, feeding and housing refugees. Funds raised by MercyWorks will support these emergency relief efforts.”

Lascelles said showing love and compassion is important.

“For you and I, a hug, giving somebody maybe the coat off your back — that sort of thing can just be a huge ministry for someone. It’s sort of like loving your neighbor,” Lascelles said to our news partners at CBS19. “This is what’s required right now. Even though they’re on the other side of the world, they’re still our neighbor.”

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MercyWorks Director Debbie Lascelles and her daughter hand out water and fruit to a refugee on a previous trip to Syria.

The first MercyWorks Ukrainian refugee team, led by staffer Glenn Price, left Wednesday to perform a critical needs assessment and organize logistics for additional East Texas teams to follow. Two other volunteer teams are set to travel to Ukraine this weekend.

Jennifer Derksen, a volunteer at MercyWorks, said she’s amazed by the support and generosity from the East Texas area toward the group’s missionary work.

“I absolutely love what we do. I love being able to bring spiritual and emotional healing to people, and to just really help in physical ways,” Derksen said to CBS19. “We just know people all over the world who are praying.”

Lascelles said helping the Ukrainians is an honor and it’s what those at MercyWorks are called to do.

“We’re also called to be a bridge and help mobilize people. We live in such a great community,” she said. “I anticipate there will be literally hundreds of people from East Texas that will probably go to Poland and surrounding regions to care for orphans and help these refugees.”

MercyWorks continues to raise funds for Ukrainian refugee relief and seeks short-term volunteers to serve the refugees in Poland.

To donate, visit or send a check to MercyWorks, PO Box 3000, Garden Valley, TX 75771.

To receive volunteer information, call 903-509-5465 or email

The mission of MercyWorks is to bring hope and lasting change to people afflicted by war, famine, extreme poverty and natural disaster.

“We serve the suffering while inviting them to an intimate relationship with Christ,” the group said. “MercyWorks is a global ministry, emphasizing developing nations with little or no witness of the Good News. MercyWorks is one of the many ministries of Youth With A Mission in Tyler, Texas.”

Learn more at


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— CBS19’s Zak Wellerman and Ashley French contributed to this article.

Managing Editor

Managing editor of the Tyler Morning Telegraph and ETX View Magazine. Alabama native and Troy University alumna who moved to East Texas in late 2020. Story ideas, questions, etc. always welcome at or 903-237-7749.