My last visit to Poland was for Kontakt Piotrków, a week-long community service festival in Piotrków Trybunalski. It was the first time Proem had hosted Kontakt in that city and the officials were nervous. By the end of the week, though, they absolutely wanted us back.
I’d never done a Kontakt Festival before and wasn’t totally prepared for the amount of hard labor involved. We spackled, moved furniture, swept, taped, wiped, scrubbed, sanded, primed, painted, then re-sanded and primed and re-painted some more. There was a wall at one site that refused to be painted over (that’s a long story for another time) and required us to chip away at it to get rid of the layers that wouldn’t keep the paint. But it was worth all the sweat and dirt to serve the city because God planted seeds that will grow as Proem goes back and continues to do Kontakt there.
My favorite part was definitely playing with the kids in afterschool programs. I loved to see their excitement, meeting Americans for the first time and wanting photos and autographs with us. They were so sweet, and I think a little taken aback that our crew was actually there.
It’s hard work that paid off because at one of the sites, we had a chance to share why we were there. “Why have you come all the way to our school?” “Because we love Jesus and he says to love others.” Simple truth.
One of the translators for our group offered to do a tour of Piotrków’s Jewish history one afternoon. We learned about the city pre-WWII, then during Nazi occupation, and the fate of Jewish residents there. Walking into what’s left of the old buildings of the Jewish quarter is a tell-tale of the whole thing. The buildings are not kept well, maybe one or two have been renovated along the way, but due to money and/or legal issues, they are left to ruin. Though the one shining jewel was the Great Synagogue, one of the best preserved synagogues left after WWII. There’s also the medieval Royal Castle that stands about two blocks away.
When our tour was over and our groups were leaving, I came over to the guide and thanked her. I won’t forget what she said to me: “You can’t pray for a city [as effectively] if you don’t know about it’s history.”
Back at the camp, another team member and I had bonded with a teen from Belarus named Paul. He’d come up to us every evening to chat in English and ask questions or share something funny. He’s a dancer and wants to move to the Caribbean to learn more about his favorite style of dance. We still keep in touch and I hope he makes his dream happen.
I loved Kontakt! It was so much work, and by the end of the day, I was so wiped. But it felt good to help, to give and spend time with the campers and residents of the city. They showed their gratitude through delicious food, afternoon parties and a big picnic celebration for families at the end of the week, inviting everyone that participated in Kontakt to come too. It was ah-mazing! Can’t wait to do it again.