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Zako Summer

Saturday was the end of a long slew of summer camps. Thank God (in many ways)!

I love Proem Zako camps. They’re energetic, fun, engaging, and exhausting all at the same time. It’s tough to give your heart week after week, but so worth it for the campers and volunteers who come to experience it all.

My favorite and most challenging camp was English Camp. I was in charge of making sure everybody had materials, lesson plans, ideas and confidence going into English workshops each day.  I had a blast doing it, but it was super stressful. And also the first time I’d ever had to manage/coordinate so many moving parts (16 groups, holler!). I enjoyed the experience, though, and the whole week was made so much easier with amazing volunteers from all over the US.

My usual vocal workshops went off swimmingly, too. We had a lot of Polish songs this year since I’ve improved my ability to speak and teach it, so the kids could enjoy learning something new and enjoying the group rather than focus too much on pronunciation.

One of the reasons summers here are great for spiritual growth and love for the ministry is the amount of selflessness and flexibility required. You really have to come out of yourself at camps and engage the people and experience around you. It requires you to get over yourself and look at the bigger picture: there are kids from all over Poland experiencing the love of Christ through us. We’re examples for them. Those hugs and smiles are a big deal. Yeah, I’m lacking sleep, emotionally drained and sweaty, but looking at how excited the campers are for worship, doing the dances and attentive to the messages — I get over myself quick. God is at work and it’s awesome.

As I enjoy some reprieve for the next 2 weeks before school begins, reflecting back on this whole summer, I’m just grateful. I know, I write this often but it remains true: I’m so incredibly thankful God has placed me here in Poland to be part of this ministry. I’m happy to have met the people He’s put in my path and the many I will encounter as my stay here continues.

The mission remains the same — to share the light of Christ with the people around me and to work as part of Proem to that end. I believe it definitely happened this summer and there’s even more to look forward to this school year.

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Around the Bend

I’ve got some tough news. My biggest financial supporters had an emergency happen last month and are no longer able to give financially to my mission. That’s $500 less a month to live on.

The time was coming (July) when their two-year commitment was up anyway, but it still hit hard. And it came with a harsh questioning of my motives for being overseas. Why did I leave the comfort and relationships–family and friends–to live thousands of miles in a foreign culture? Particularly one where I’d never be mistaken as a national.

The truth is I didn’t plan for this. I heeded the strong call I felt in my spirit to stay here and serve God’s kingdom. My living expenses are covered by the grace and generosity of others, individuals. No church has or is currently supporting me financially. (I asked, but they said no.) I’m only able to be here because there are 7 people who regularly give money as partners with me in what I’m doing (with a few one-time supporters here and there. Really, thank you; it all adds up). And now I’m down by one and it’s a big hit.

I questioned whether this was it. I should just stop now; I won’t be able to keep going if I don’t have others to back me up with actual means. Prayers and well-wishes are great, but missions need physical means. This is rent, food, gas, electricity, car maintenance (I drive back and forth to school, camp, giving rides, etc.), hospitality (having guests over to share life with), and just general living expenses (soap, toothpaste, laundry soap, etc). I have a pet, but I teach private lessons and that covers his food and maintenance pretty well. The rest is specifically for me to do ministry.

And I spend every day serving in some capacity: 4 days a week at school, my off-days doing private lessons and connecting with others outside the church; weekends serving in worship at church service or helping as staff with Zako events (sometimes including setting up and tearing down). In between, I plan lessons for every week (I have classes twice a week), plan private lessons, volunteer help at the after school program and finding time for fellowship and rest to recharge.

I love, love this mission field. I’ve said it so many times. It’s amazing and incredible, and hard and exhausting. I do it because I love Jesus and people. I want my life to show what’s possible with Christ at the center. Though, I’m far from flawless. Christian faith can be messy because there’s a lot of junk Jesus drags up from the pits of yourself, if you give him the chance. There are so many people here in Poland that aren’t aware of this: Jesus is personal.

I don’t think I’m done here. I’m just getting started. Proem is just getting started. Yes, I want to be a part of it, but there’s also this feeling of I’m meant to be a part of it. There are needs that I can meet and currently do meet now. It’s not that I’m so important that I couldn’t be replaced, but I’m here. I can’t forget that the highly improbable (as it seemed to me two years ago) happened already. God provided people to support me getting to and living in Poland. I couldn’t do it without them. And it’ll happen again. Only…I’m not on the other side of that leap, yet. I’m still holding my breath.

 

Changes

It’s hard to describe how I’m doing lately. If I had to sum it up, it would be something like treading water with a wave about to take me under. The end of the year is one of the busiest times and while I don’t have quite the same amount of drama as I did last year, there’s still much on my mind.

I’ve decided, first of all, that this blog will be more about reflection and personal growth than my ministry updates. I’ve spent the last three months struggling to think of a great way to write about my experiences, to put them into journalistic prose or sweeping narrative…and I’ve come up frustrated. The truth is most of the time here in Poland is spent doing pretty normal, every day things except that I’m in a different country and with the motivation of sharing my life testimony with others. And the experiences I have at events, serving during camps or weekend conferences is so difficult to put into words. Honestly, pictures and videos that I share on social media are the best way to see what I’m up to.

What I’m missing is a space to reflect and share what comes out in hopes that it is inspiring or at least resonates with my readers. I lost focus of my first goal with this blog: to show you what life looks like on the mission field long-term.

And actually, the feeling of not being able to express just what you want to say is a great example. There’s a lot of things that happen every week and emotions that aren’t always clear enough to pin down. Sometimes I forget just how jam-packed my weeks are. Even more so because I’m surrounded by a foreign culture (well, not so much now) and have to expend energy just being in a room with other Polish speakers grasp at straws of understanding. Then you have students who don’t all speak English well and the challenge of trying to communicate instructions effectively. Then there’s driving. And having to do everything myself because I live alone. And, and, and—the list goes on.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m completely, utterly in love with what I’m doing here. I adore being a teacher and I’m hugely passionate about serving this community. I wouldn’t trade this for anything. It’s hard work and it gets tiring, but so, so forth every bead of sweat and lost hour of sleep. I’m incredibly grateful I have the privilege to serve with Proem. There are times I have to stop and just wondering that I’m seriously living in Poland. Like, this is my life now. What?! Crazy.

And so, it’s almost 3:00 AM. I’ve spent the last couple hours trying to sort out an idea for fundraising and how I want to structure this space from here on out. But I have a class in the morning, so I think it’s time for bed.

First Quarter

It’s been a minute since I’ve updated my blog and so much happened the last 4 months since 2019 started. I’ll try to break it down:

Zimowisko/English Art Winter Camp

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I was tasked with helping some American volunteers from Foundry Church (Kansas City) with running their English Club class every day and leading a singing workshop. We had a blast hanging out with our girls, aged 7 to 13, every day and playing English games and getting to know each other. Tekia and Jessamine did great interacting with our crew and sharing love on our girls’ group by handing out candy and hugs at the end of each meeting. I had some incredible talents in my singing group as well and taught some acapella Christian songs with parts. They did awesome at the end of the week, showcasing what they learned for the parents on the last day.

We had a diverse group of partners from all over the word (Israel, Palestine, US, and a few other places I can’t remember now) come to discuss about future events we may do together, specifically a summer camp in Israel and Palestine again (last year was the first). I had a chance to share my journey so far with a few of them and catch up with some of Proem’s long-term partners which I’d seen last year. I remembered telling them, “I hope I’ll be here next year.” And I just so happened to run into them as they’d just arrived in camp.

Night to Shine

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This event was probably one of the most impacting and life-changing for me. Proem’s first time hosting Night to Shine was a roaring success. All the feedback was overwhelmingly positive and there were so many tears and smiles the whole night. The best part was the red carpet walk where each guest was greeted with “paparazzi” and cheering fans as they made their way into the dance hall. Being a part of that, giving high fives and cheering for each person, can’t be put into words. The pure joy that came through every person was palpable. Especially on the dance floor, where I ended up staying the entire time, you just couldn’t stop smiling. It was the best time I’ve ever had.

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Proem Edu Carnival Ball and Talent Show

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School had some really fun events for the students in February and March.

The first was the carnival ball before Lent: the preschool had a Smurf forest theme and the school and high school had a Hawaiian paradise. The students created the decorations and the upper classes helped with snacks and other preparations. It all looked awesome and they had a blast.

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Bringing in spring with a bang, all the classes at school put on their best performances  (or at least entertaining ones) for the whole school to celebrate the first day of spring. Classes were cancelled for the day as the students from preschool to high school came to watch their friends and dance. Even the teachers were called on stage to show off our best dance moves.

Other things

I personally had a lot of new relationships form and bonding time in between ministry responsibilities. I made friends with a couple at church who love cats just as much as I do and are really fun, creative people. We’ve made plans to spend more time together in the future, possibly creating together. I’ve also grown in relationships with my students’ parents and the adult students I have as well, getting to know them better and inviting them to ministry events as well as my own events. There’s been a group of Americans (with some Polish spouses as well) meeting regularly for bible study, too.

And soon, I have the opportunity to sing with a choir and orchestra in two weeks time at one of the cultural centers in Tomaszów. My last concert with the jazz quartet earned a feature in the local paper and the orchestra director (who was present for that performance) had asked Wojtek (our percussionist) about asking me to perform with his group. A month later, he contacts me about doing a performance mid-April and I’m in the middle of practicing the two songs he sent me.

God is just so good. He’s using Proem in great ways to continue reaching people for Christ, opening new doors and opportunities to show the community in central Poland and beyond what it looks like to have a relationship with Jesus. I’m really blessed to be a part of such a mission and to be able to do what I do here because I have the support of people at home. Thank you so much to my supporters and keep praying for us!

2019: Relationship

Something I regret not doing more of last year was bonding closer with the people in my ministry. There were several reasons I was distracted from it (a dating relationship, reconnecting with other friends outside of Proem, and my only-child, pseudo-loner spirit), but I want to do better in 2019.

The theme for Proem this year is “Better Together” and I think it’s apt for my personal growth goals for 2019. Already I’ve spent more time with my ministry family, from staying local over the Christmas holiday to inviting people to come have a meal at my place. Moreover, I’d like to build friendships with more people outside of the Proem staff and volunteers. My Polish is far from perfect, but I’m able to have conversations more easily and I think sharing my story with others will inspire them to think about how they can make changes or take more risks in their lives as well.

I think I’ve struggled with this aspect of my Christian walk most of my life. Openness has always been hard for me, and I’m very picky when it comes to who I let in. I want to have this appearance that I’m strong and I trust God so I often say something like “yeah, I’m struggling, but God’s got my back.” It’s not the worst thing but it kinda shuts the door on my problem. I don’t let the deeper details out, really asking for prayer for specific things that are bothering me.

I felt that effect over the last few months. There were some hurts I carried over from last year that I never voiced; I dismissed them because it’s been months! And I’m still bothered. So, I’m slowly opening up, letting them out in the open to people I trust and I feel the burden leaving my mind. Praying with my sisters and just talking about things is so cathartic. I should be scared of vulnerability. That’s part of relationships; it’s what makes them special and so needed.

There are still a few more burdens to unload, but I’m in the process of making that happen. Good things. 🙂

Happy 2019 and Blog News

Hello everyone!

Thank you all for being a part of my experience in Poland, serving alongside Proem Ministries, and following my journey of growth and discovery this past year and half. I’m looking forward to the blessings and challenges that will happen in 2019. The last year — my first full year of missions — has sculpted my walk with Christ and my personal growth in so many ways. I find that I’m more patient and willing to roll with the punches. When I’m out of my comfort zone, I still go through some frantic emotions, but there’s definitely way more peace in the middle of it than there used to be. Being with Proem has been a huge blessing for me that I hope will continue for another 3 years or more as God sees fit.

Speaking of, I have a goal for this year. I’d like to add 10 more monthly supporters for my work here. To aid this effort, I’ll be posting once a month on the goings-ons here with school, camps, events, etc. Proem hosts and updates about my personal journey will take a smaller role.

I haven’t been all that great about updates in the past because working as a teacher doesn’t afford much free time. Between planning lessons and participating in ministry, I’ve found it hard to sit down and write updates. I hope to do a better job, as well as posting more media content for you to really see and hear what’s going on.

So, new updates coming soon! I hope all of you have had an amazing holiday break and wishing you the best in 2019.

Fall(ing)

“Rejoice always! Pray constantly.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

The first month was so busy, frustrating, and required a lot of adjusting to the new school year. Now that it’s mid-October, everything is settling into routine and I feel a lot less out of control. There is still something I’m worried about, though.

Burnout.

Like, big time burnout. I’ve come home nearly every day, crashed on my couch, and slept for 2-3 hours before I can even get up and make something to eat. Part of it is I have to wake up early for my cat (6:00 am on the dot), but I honestly have no energy left by 4 pm. Maybe I need more vitamins, or going to bed earlier (that’s an issue, too), or to pick back up my exercise regimen I’ve abandoned since the summer. I don’t feel like I have the time or can motivate myself enough to just do it.

From what I’ve been reading in John Ortberg’s book Soul Keeping, the likely culprit is ‘soul fatigue.’ It’s not just mental or physical exhaustion alone, but deep inside, I feel hurried even when I don’t have anything planned for the day. There’s a perpetual to-do list that hangs over my head every hour and I can’t seem to make it smaller or check off enough things to feel at peace. Plus, my “busyness” has knocked time with God and inner rest off my radar. I’m so preoccupied with things I need to do/should do/should have done that I forget to take care of my inner self. My soul needs rest. My soul needs peace. I can’t get that without time for prayer, meditating on a scripture, and uninterrupted, quiet space. Just to be still.

Even knowing this, I struggle to apply it on a daily basis. Mondays, like today, are especially hard when I spend all day at school teaching six 45-minute lessons, half of which I have to stop 4-5 times to tell kids to listen. This is a whole other post, but I feel like I’m failing as a good teacher. That really beats me up because I try so hard to make my lessons interesting and it never seems to work with some of my groups.

And being in the mission field, I feel this sense of having to serve in as many capacities as possible because people are supporting me with their finances to be here. If I’m not working my tail off every free moment, I’m somehow taking advantage of their generosity. I know this isn’t true. Rest is a fundamental part of faith, and well needed if I’m going to serve with Proem, the school, and among my relationships here effectively. But it’s that nagging sense that I’m not doing enough and that someday, my support won’t be there anymore — as if I have to earn this.

Looking back at that last sentence, I’m realizing how skewed my perspective is lately. I’m here because of God’s plan and providence. I definitely worry about money because this year is more expensive than the last by far and I’m not the best fundraiser, but I really want to try and trust Him as I had in the beginning. I didn’t even know if I’d make it to Poland, but somehow, I’m still here over a year later and taken care of. Amen.

Rejoice and pray. Let’s see how this plays out in the next few weeks.

 

School Madness: First Week

Hoo-wee! This week has felt like a month in itself! The beginning of the school year is always a crazy time, but this year it felt like it was twice as nuts. Maybe more so for me because I’m starting to teach in the upper grades at school this year — a whole other animal from preschool. I have six groups from 10-15 years old. One day a week, I teach them all in a row. The rest of the week is thankfully a bit more relaxed.

Anyway, all through the first week, the schedules are getting the kinks worked out so there’s a lot of scrambling to find the right classroom, switching classrooms, dividing students (I have 5 split groups that will alternate back and forth with a second teacher the rest of the year — oh, the joy), and because no one has any set plans with English yet, it’s a bit of a grab bag for activities to do for 45 minutes.

The positives are I have a chance to work on my language grading (ESL 101: grading your language means speaking at a level that is easily understandable for students) and guiding speaking activities all year, peppered with a few writing, reading and listening focuses. I also really do like this age group. Sure, they’re a little rough around the edges and it sometimes feels like I’m back in the preschool with giant toddlers, but overall they have enthusiasm for English Conversation class and are pretty willing to participate when given motivation. Key word there: motivation. You kind of have to trick them into participation until you hit the age 14-15 range. Then you have to prove why participation is practical and significant for them. I probably spent almost 6-7 hours this weekend reviewing my observations and planning how to manipulate foster engagement in my students.

In all of this, I’ve had some back end stress too. The apartment I was expecting to move to ended up too expensive and the two roommates I might have had never panned out. So, for the last week, I’ve been living in the hotel at Zako while my kitty stayed with the same family that cared for him over the summer. I didn’t sleep well for a few days. And I cried about as much as I prayed. I really hoped to be settled before starting the first week of school because that’s already so unstable, not coming home to…well, “home,” felt like I was teetering every day. God has pulled through once more after putting me through some things. (I don’t like these growth moments, but they do work.) I have an apartment close to the center of town, it’s got two rooms, a small balcony (more like a big window with some space for plants), furnished (Hallelujah, I can save some funds!), and it’s built in the old communist era style of a billion concrete steps that you circle around to get to the next set of stairs so I will get a free daily workout. Biggest bonus is that I’m around the corner from the church. I can easily invite people over on Sunday afternoons. And I have it by myself (and Miłosz), which is refreshing after a year sharing the same, open living space with another person.

It’s such a weight off my shoulders knowing I have a place to live now. I literally worried myself sick the middle of this past week and had to take a day at home to recover (those 4 classes last Friday were not going to teach themselves). I’m so, so grateful. I’m fortunate to be here in Poland at all, being a part of Proem, and experiencing the faith in action discomforts that come when you know you’re doing something right. Despite the setbacks, I’m here and doing this thing.

It’s such hard work; harder now that I have longer lessons and bigger kids to work with, but more opportunity to be an influence, to create a relationship, to show love and faith working together and making an impact on the school. Keep praying. Keep supporting. Good night!

The CELTA Experience

What a wild, crazy ride this past month has been! I apologize for not posting much over the summer, but in a moment, you’ll understand why.

First, I went back to the States for a little while to help my mom and aunt with my late grandma’s affairs and cleaning up my aunt’s house to sell. We would go about 10 AM and get back around 4-5 PM everyday for a week. Then I was working on the pre-CELTA course work, which was supposed to kind of prep all the trainees for the actual course, in the afternoons. There were about 50 tasks 6-8 hours of work. Yay! (That’s totally sarcasm there.) Plus I was doing a grammar refresher course online so I had a better handle on what I’d be teaching in a month. I got to sing one last time at Mosaic, which was as awesome as I remember and I definitely missed leading worship with the team there.

I had a lovely 10 days with my dad and stepmom, still doing my assignment, but I had a chance to take a break, eat, play some games — generally have some kind of a summer vacation. Then I flew back to Poland, picked up Miłosz, spent a week preparing to stay in Warsaw and packing up for my move when I returned. At the end of that week, I drove up to Warsaw, had a simple dinner for my birthday with friends and got as well rested as I could for CELTA that Monday.

Alright, now for the wild and crazy experience that is the CELTA program. Monday, I ride the tram down to Aleje Niepodłogości near Politechnika and walk into the second building behind the main school. It’s a nice space, a little small, but welcoming and bright. Another trainee walked in with me and we go downstairs where fifteen other strangers are sitting there with the same “this is new” look on their faces. But everyone is friendly and a girl, Justyna, that I later found was one of my teammates gave us newcomers a brief tour around the building.

First day is easy-going. We’re just getting acclimated and the tutors introduce themselves, give us an idea of what our weeks will look like and start building some camaraderie between us all. We had an un-assessed group lesson where we met our students for the next 2 weeks and figured out what kind of teaching abilities we were coming in with. All in all, seemed okay. Then came Tuesday and our lives were swiftly taken over by CELTA.

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My cat gets to sleep. Lucky duck.

Ten hour days for some of us (coming in at 8:30, leaving by 18:30). Having assignments to write while making lesson plans, being assessed and observed while we conduct our classes, input sessions twice a day with a feedback on the lessons from that day, and the ever present reports from our TP (teacher practices) with all the strengths and weaknesses we show so far in the course. Just…a lot. Literally eat, sleep (very little) CELTA for four weeks.

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Blue team! (left to right) Jola, me, Justyna, Nessie (and Jan is our honorary member not present)

It was so nuts! But I learned a ton and for someone who’s never had formal teacher training, it was invaluable. The people on my team are like family, and I already miss them even though it’s only been three days since our last day together. I’ve been invited to Belarus and Morocco, and some of the trainees that live in Poland want to come see me sing at the end of September (more on that later too). I’m incredibly grateful God provided for me in this, and that I had the chance to meet all these lovely people. I feel really well-prepared for this school year and ready to use my new skills to further enhance the quality of Tomy school and keep learning a lot about myself as a teacher, too.

 

Hugs from Heaven

Yeah, the title is a little cheesy, but it suits the story I’m about to share.

So, last month was pretty rough for me. My mom sent a message on June 5th that my grandma had passed away. It was a lot sooner than everyone expected (although, these things tend to happen suddenly). I was bounced back and forth between my ticket agent and the airline that whole week in vain. I stopped trying eventually out of frustration because nothing was making a difference, and I was going to miss my grandma’s funeral. She and my mom had told me earlier that they understood if I wasn’t able to go, but it was still hard for me to accept that. Then, I broke up with my boyfriend at the end of the same week. I had been dating my close friend for 4 months when a situation made it clear that things were not working. It didn’t end the way I had imagined and it just capped off the terrible week I was having.

As you can imagine, by that next week, I was so emotionally and physically done. I’d slept poorly for the last 3-4 days, and I prayed a lot. That Tuesday, I had made a video with remarks about my grandma to send for her service. And the rest of that day had felt really heavy. I didn’t sleep well. I ended up dozing off and on, eventually feeling like I needed to pray. It was exactly during this prayer — where I started to really surrender my brokenness and accept His peace — where I heard this sound. It was about 4 AM and the sun was already up. I figured it was a bird at first because the magpies sometimes make a crying noise. But it came again and I could tell it was inside the building, and that it was definitely a cat.

I went out and up the stairs to the attic/storage space, and in the dark, I saw this little white creature scurry across the floor to duck behind some suitcases and boxes. I recalled hearing a crying sound like this the morning before, but I had been half asleep then and more distracted. And my roommate had said something ran across the floor when she went up there later that day. The distress in his cry told me he must be pretty hungry.

So I hurried downstairs to scrap together whatever I could find. I had a can of tuna and some bottled water, so I grabbed a food container and went back up to the attic. He cried very loudly and had come all the way outside the door to watch if I’d come back. As soon as I approached him, though, he ran right back into the bags and boxes, afraid. I tried coaxing him out with a piece of tuna, but he was too scared. Leaving had worked once, so I pretended to go away and hid behind the door to the attic. He cried, walked out, noticed me right away and the minute I took a step, he ran back inside quickly. We went at this for about 15-20 minutes before I finally cornered him in a dirty, cob-webbed corner of the attic and wrapped him up in a worn t-shirt.

 

He didn’t cry after that much. There was a little bit of struggle, but wrapped up snug and gently pet on the head, he calmed down right away and started to doze.

Now, besides being a sweet story about how I found my cat, there’s some symbolism behind it. I grew up with cats and have a deep fondness for them. In fact, my love language from God is whenever I see a cat or have a chance to encounter one, it’s like God reminding me how much He loves me and is thinking of me in that moment. After all the hurt and stress I’d gone through the last week, for me to encounter this random animal in my attic, seemingly out of nowhere, was kind of an ‘a-ha’ moment for me.

Most of that morning, I looked after him. He had some tuna after a while and napped a little bit. He looked pretty healthy: no mites or fleas from what I could tell. And he was pretty young. A friend of mine said about 5-7 weeks.

At first, I went about trying to find him a new home, but no one I asked wanted to keep him or couldn’t. There aren’t any cat shelters in Tomaszów, or really much of anywhere in Poland, and I was leaving for the States in a few more days. I thought to just let him go outside again where he probably came from, but he flipped out and scrambled around the parking lot at my apartment building, running under the parked cars and looking terrified. I caught him up again and he immediately calmed down. “Well,” I thought, “I have a cat now.”

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But still, I had a problem of where to keep him while I was in the US. He was too young to fly and would need to get his vaccinations in order first anyway. God totally provided. A friend’s family said they could help me by keeping him while I was away and that settled my decision. And so, I named him Miłosz  because he’s a symbol of God’s love and thoughtfulness of me and also because he’s really quite a sweet, loving cat.

Currently, he’s doing quite well and making some new friends where he’s staying. I promise he does more than sleep, but I do think that’s his favorite activity.

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Legacy

My grandma passed away two weeks ago. I didn’t have a lot of time to reflect about it until now. I walked into her house a few days after flying back to Maryland and it was strange. I almost expected to still see her sitting at the kitchen table with the news on TV and half-asleep.

Last Sunday, I went to a music appreciate service in honor of her at her church in downtown DC. I almost cried a couple times because it was beautifully done, but also, it reminded me of her.  She always loved gospel choir music and I could imagine her swaying and saying, “mmm!” at different parts. Her favorite color was purple and the men in the choir wore purple ties, and the program cover was printed in purple, black and white.

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Great-grandma and grandma

I wasn’t able to make her funeral unfortunately, despite trying to work something out with the cheap flights agent every day since I found out. But I was able to send my thoughts via video to be played at the service and people told me later how beautiful a tribute it was. She was 94 years old, lived in Washington, D.C. her whole life. She served her church until she didn’t have the strength to do it anymore and encouraged musical arts in young African American people in the area leading the Hammond Institute of Music started by her mother years ago. She touched a lot of lives and held our family up in many ways I kind of knew, but didn’t really grasp until she wasn’t there.

Someone at church told me she would always talk about me with the biggest smile on her face. The last words she said to me were “You’re a good girl.” I had hoped I would see her alive one more time, but she wouldn’t have wanted me to see her suffering at the end. She was ready to go, and like always, she didn’t waste time.

I’ll miss her a lot, but the values she taught me and the memories I have of her “no-nonsense” approach to life will stick with me. Love you, grandma.

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Worthy is the Lamb

“The Lord will fight for you; you must be quiet.” Exodus 14:14

“For I, Yahweh your God, hold your right hand and say to you: Do not fear, I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

The past few weeks have been extremely trying. My mind and body are tired, and there’s still a whole summer of challenges ahead of me. But I hold onto hope as the waves rise around me because of the One that never leaves my side. He who continues to fight for me when I don’t have the strength on my own. And He knows the plan; I just have to follow with my eyes open.

My first year in Poland will be wrapping up in 3 months time. I’ve grown so much in this year, embracing fear and stepping out of comfort for Christ; in giving of myself in greater measure than I have before. I feel more courageous, daring, and bolder than I ever imagined I would be. I feel like God is waking me up to my true self. At the same time, I’m facing life challenges greater than I’ve had before to meet this new person I’m becoming. My family is changing. My relationships are transforming. My walk with God growing deeper and stronger. My human-ness being revealed layer by layer; I’m so far from perfect. That’s why I need Jesus — he is, so I don’t have to be.

This second year will be the greatest yet. And possibly the hardest. It’ll involve a more serious transition to setting a long-term home here in Poland. There’s something about this country, the needs here for people to care, to love, and show compassion, that’s called to my heart. I’m not sure what God wants with me yet (is it ever 100% clear?), but I’m heeding that push I felt the first time to keep going and trust him with the details. Be praying for me.

 

 

 

Grace in Hardships

” ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ ” 

2 Corinthians 12:9a

This verse rings so true for me lately. The next few months are going to be very trying time for me. Summer camps in Zako, family affairs in the States, mental exhaustion, and preparing for the CELTA course I’m taking in August. It’s all converging at one time and I’m really tempted to shut down, hunker down with some Netflix and tune out the stress.

Summer camps are a lot of fun. I’ve never been longer than a week each time I volunteered, but they were the most bonding and memorable experiences I’ve ever had with Proem. Especially my first, full-fledged camp two years ago (Fishart). I co-lead a singing workshop for the first time and had the privilege of watching my girls perform in the talent show. And leading warm up worship dances from our kids’ ministry with my team for the whole camp was so incredible. Not to say that it’s always fun times. We worked hard, rushed to be on-time, and cleaned A LOT (one of the perks of being a big group – kitchen duty). But you see the results of your time and effort in the faces of the kids around you. Nothing but smiles.

This summer will be a bit harder for me. My grandmother’s health is failing quickly. She’d been diagnosed with cancer about two or three years ago, and when the treatments made her feel worse, she decided to just manage the pain. At 94 years old, surgery isn’t really an option. So, the past two weeks, my mom has kept me updated. It’s times like this that I find really hard being away from family. My mom assures me things are okay, that they’re managing fine, but I still wish I was able to do more than pray.

So likely, I am going back home earlier than August-September. Probably June-July, which means I’ll miss out on camps. The other complication is the CELTA which takes place in August. I can’t miss any of the course days over the four-week period, so I’m committed to being back in Poland for that. It comes with it’s own challenge: refreshing my English grammar knowledge, pre-reading before the course, and a pre-course task I have to finish before I start. I’ll have to do some of this while I’m home, of course, but I also want to be available to my family to help with closing affairs and such.

The mental exhaustion comes from the end-of-the-school-year burn-out. The kids are done. The teachers are done. But there’s still a month and a half left. Ugh. My dating relationship is entering a new phase as well where I’m learning a lot about myself (some bad habits have come to light) and him, and where our needs converge well, but where some things need work too. And I realize more and more the importance of counseling and therapy when you’ve gone through a major life change like moving your world half-way around the globe and enduring culture adjustments. I’ve prayed and studied Scripture more this year than I think I have in my entire life. Not a bad thing at all, but there are times when you just need to talk out some things with a professional too.

All this to say, relying on the grace of God is my refuge. I feel so weak some days, where it just seems like I’m stuck or there’s nothing I can do, and praying feels useless. Thank God for Jesus and the power he grants me to still take everyday afresh, and not allow the heavy waves to sink the ship. I struggle not to worry about the next months, the year ahead, but I remember God’s faithfulness and blessings thus far and really try to hold onto the verse in Philippians 4:6-7 about how to handle that anxiety. It’s helped me carry on and I know it’ll all be well in Him. Amen.

Expectations and Onward

“Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

It’s been about 8 months since my arrival here in Poland. I anticipated some of my challenges with moving to a new country and embarking on a year of serving with Proem, but a lot of things have taken me by surprise.

The day to day task of teaching English lessons to the preschool has taught me so much about being flexible and handling the unexpected. It’s usual to have to change up lesson plans when you work with young kids, but even more so when your communication has to cross language barriers. It took me a while to adjust to the relaxed attitude to my lessons here, but it’s helped me simply enjoy being around my classes. I get to walk into a classroom, share my language and my love for singing, and give lots of hugs and high fives. It’s a pretty awesome way to serve and I’m grateful to bring smiles to the kids each day.

Being a part of Proem Ministries and their events has been awesome, too. The two major productions, Journey to Bethlehem and Road to Jerusalem, have been a lot of work. I mean, knocked-out-as-soon-as-I’m-home work. But tons of fun, especially when you see the impact you have on the thousands of people that come to see the story of Jesus played out. I enjoyed my time serving and bonding with my fellow volunteers through both experiences, and it helped my Polish get a little better as I had to sometimes direct the crowd and speak some short lines in my role. Other events and groups I’ve been able to be part of are the women’s meetings, the worship team, a youth group retreat, staff meetings/devotionals, and an English Winter Art camp. There’s a passion for sharing the gospel in each of these aspects, and what I appreciate most is the simple core message: Jesus’ love for us compels change and healing in our lives that we then share with others.

I suppose my biggest surprise is how easily I’ve adapted to life in Poland, being in the mission field, and how many new friendships I’ve been able to start since the beginning. The first few months were difficult, having to get used to asking for help more and not having easy access to things (aka. shopping at convenient, big-box stores like Target). Learning day-to-day Polish to get by wasn’t quite as hard, and I’ve gotten to a point where I generally understand everything someone says to me. I still have a hard time with some direct questions. Even being black in a homogeneous country (and small city like Tomaszów) hasn’t been what I thought it was. I anticipated some behaviors (blatant staring, whispers about me, stopping traffic…actually, I didn’t expect that last one haha), and my response to them was also kind of a surprise. I felt really self-conscious often walking down the street, and there are still days when I try my best to ignore being gawked at. But, I was never treated poorly by anyone. Every person I’ve encountered has been polite and very hospitable, and I would say, personally, the people are even more friendly than those in the States.

The other part of my experience that’s been so valuable is traveling to Warsaw and interact with other missionaries and ministries there, building close friendships and participating in some of their activities as well. I had the chance to lead a bible study recently off the cuff and it was really impacting, not only for me in being able to share my experience, but to see the girls I was speaking to really take in what I had to share. Warsaw is like a second home to me now, and I see future opportunities there as well as in Tomaszów.

And so, I’ve come to the decision to extend my time here beyond just a year’s length. I’d like to serve again at the school in Tomaszów another year with Proem (there’s a need for teachers to stay) and look into serving a different mission organization in Warsaw following the next year to connect even more with my adopted missionary family there. I continue to pray over my decision and ask for God’s guidance, but I sense he has a place for me in Poland and that I’m going the way he has planned. Still, prayers can’t hurt. So please do keep praying for me as well, and if it comes to mind for you to support me financially going forward, please do see my support page for details on how.

 

z Miłości (with Love)

Tomy church hosted a women’s conference a few weekends ago with the theme of love; how it’s able to transform and heal in relationships through God’s example to us. We had a special guest performer, Agnieszka Dębowska, who was a contestant on The Voice Poland, and amazing speakers from our community that shared their stories.

The opening session began with a look at 1 Corinthians 13: how the Bible defines love; that it goes beneath the surface things and looks at the actions outpouring from the heart. Love gives our life meaning. And how to meet these expectations with behavior. If we replaced “love” with our name (i.e. “Theresa is patient, Theresa is kind”), would it ring true? And that without God’s grace to help fill in the gaps, we wouldn’t be able to do so.

The second half was an interview portion where three women from three different  backgrounds shared their stories about when they struggled to love, and when sometimes that meant no, and how that “no” shaped their lives going forward. I resonated most with the single woman who had to eventually say no to a relationship that wasn’t going to work, and uproot her plans to follow God’s lead in a different direction. Not that I was leaving a relationship, but the process of deciding to leave something familiar — my plans — for God’s plans is one that I’ve experienced before coming to Poland long-term, and in some ways, since.

Afterward, we each had discussions at our table about our personal experiences in loving people, experiencing love toward us, and times it was hard to love someone. For me, loving a person well is making the time and space to be with them, caring for their cares and praying over their concerns. It’s so much more than giving gifts or compliments. I shared some experiences I’d had in times when it was hard to love someone, and how God helped me break through those moments and healed my hurts enough to care about them.

The last session, one of our school directors shared her experience in learning what love meant through Jesus Christ, how it is healing past wounds in her life personally, and that God’s ultimate act of love — sending Jesus Christ to die for us — changes everything, and brings hope of real transformation and renewal. Then we were asked to think about a person who has been or still is hard to love, write down their name on a heart to pin to one of the boards they had at the front of the stage, and to pray for them — for whatever hurt or disappointment they caused us to keep us from loving them and to pray that God breaks through all that so that we are able to do so now. It was a really powerful moment and helped me realize there are some people and situations that I still need God’s love to heal.

The influence of this past conference continues still. We had a staff meeting to review updates and a really cool story came up. A group of women who aren’t part of Proem staff volunteered to organize different parts of the conference like drinks, food, decorations, etc. Well, there was a woman who attended who was going through a really difficult time: she was pregnant, living with her mother in law, and her husband was in prison. She’d been orphaned at a young age and hadn’t had a lot of stability in her life. Well, these same women, after learning of her, decided to throw her a baby shower and buy all the things she needed to care for her child and herself.

It’s really incredible seeing how God is using our presence here in Poland to change lives and provide a community of loving people to lean on in good and bad times. The follow up Bible studies post-conference have had about 40 women attend so far, and there will be another 4 meetings in the coming weeks between Łódź and Tomaszów. I pray that they will impact the women who attend and continue to define God’s love for them.

 

Zimmufka

This past week, I went on a retreat with the youth group to Wisła, a mountain town bordering Czech Republic and Austria. It was gorgeous! And so much fun getting to know the teens and fellow interns better on this trip. Plus, I conquered a fear I’d had for a long time: learning to ski.

The first day was ridiculously cold. We left Tomaszów early  on a brisk Monday morning, driving about 4 hours toward Wisła. The sun made an appearance as we headed south and by the time we were on the winding path up to our hotel, the skies were bright blue instead of the smoggy gray we’d left behind at home. There was already a decent amount of snow covering the ground and we had a little trouble getting our bus down the sloping driveway but we all made it safe and sound.

I was roomed with Kaitlyn, my roommate, as per usual, and we were lucky. The other girls were housed 5 to a room and one bathroom between them (no thanks!). We went to rent our ski gear and my first impression was, “ok…I can handle this I think.” I had no idea what to expect the next day. That evening we had our introductory meeting, setting ground rules and played a quick get-to-know-you game. We hung out afterwards, chatting or playing cards/board games until lights out.

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We had a white out our second day.

First full day, we had breakfast and headed over to the slopes. I stuck on my ski boots with a lot of trouble and hated it immediately. The buckles strapped the hard plastic to my ankles and lower shin so tight, I could barely walk. Not to mention, the bottom of the boots were smooth, even with traction soles, so any slick, icy spots on the walk from the parking lot was a little scary. My feet and shins were pretty angry when I got to the bottom of the ski area, and because I had to walk so slowly, most of the group of new skiiers was gone already. I happened to see some people from our group and asked where the other newbies were. It took me a few minutes because I already felt like crying in frustration and pain of these awful shoes, but I found them eventually and reluctantly snapped on my skis.

Getting over to the lift: okay. Going up the lift: fine. Standing at the top: not bad. Trying to move: God awful. I fell over in the first two minutes trying to “make a pizza” with my skis and couldn’t get myself back up. See, I’d made the mistake of keeping my backpack with me for the first time so the extra weight wasn’t helping me at all. After falling my way down the hill, I was pretty frustrated with the whole process but I wanted to try a few more times. The last fall hadn’t been too bad. And I spotted a friend of mine who took the backpack for me. That made all the difference.

Second run, I still fell a lot, but I was able to get up. Crash landing at the bottom became my technique to stop, but at least I was making it down. And slowly, just a little bit, I wanted to keep going. The feeling of actually beginning to understand, through hard-knocks and snow in my face, was exhilarating. I started smiling and by the end of the first day, I had a pretty decent working knowledge of how to make it down the bunny slope without losing a ski or stick when I fell.

The second day was even better, and I managed to get down the bunny slope without falling and crashing to a stop. By the third day, I was ready to tackle a bigger slope and even though I wiped out so, sooo many times, I learned even more about what worked and what didn’t. I was a bit sad by the last day, but I went down the biggest slope almost the whole time. It was so much fun! I even went through a short forest path and didn’t fall down until trying to get back on the regular slope. I was pleasantly surprised to see what a little perseverance can achieve.

In between these days, we had evening meetings to come together for prayer, worship and a lesson. The theme was about making the right choices and how God uses unexpected people and circumstances to accomplish incredible things. We stayed in the first few chapters of Joshua and discussed the ways the Israelites’ experience related to our own lives now. Their fears of entering the Promised Land and mine of skiing lined up pretty nicely. I put faith in the techniques I had been shown and learned just as they were to put their faith in the Lord who’d guided them with the Laws out of a generation of slavery to a generation of a holy nationhood. It takes courage to step out of the comfort zone and embrace the unknown, but the risk has always been worth it: you will learn something either way.

I had a conversation yesterday at church about the experience and the other person said, “Wow, you’re a brave girl!” I suppose, yes. Yes I am.

Christmas Time in Poland – Part 2

(First, I have to apologize for how late this second part is. I’ve had a lot going on in January and just never got around to writing it until now. Enjoy!)

I got to Warsaw about 9:30pm Friday night after sitting in a 2 hour delay on the train (always fun). But my week was so much fun, despite the rocky beginning. My friend, Filip, picked me up from the station and we grabbed some Mickey Ds before going to his grandma’s place for the week. She was such a sweet lady, always wanting to strike up conversation even though I hardly understood anything she said. She had an old dog named Reksio that always made an appearance at meal time to wheezily beg for scraps.

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Christmas Eve (I dunno why he’s making that face :P)

Christmas Eve is a more important day than Christmas Day itself. Filip, Babcia and I went over to his parents’ apartment for dinner. The first thing was to give blessings for the year and show gratitude for each other. So, we all went around to break a wafer (kind of like a communion wafer, actually) and wish each other well for the year to come. It was really sweet and something that my family had never done intentionally before. The next thing was borscht soup to start, then there was pierogi, fish, some kind of pastry (it was good!) and szarlotka (apple cake). We had mandarin oranges and orange juice as well. After the meal, we exchanged gifts — I got some sweet boxing gloves and gear from Filip and Mariusz, and a lovely bracelet and ornament from Filip’s parents–before just chatting around the table. Childhood photo albums were broken out which was fun and maybe a little embarrassing for Filip, but he had a smile on his face anyway.

Later on, I went with Mari and Filip to see Old Town on Christmas Day and enjoy the lights. I tried some grilled cheese thing that wasn’t my favorite, but apparently, tradition. The day after, I went to a holiday party with my other friends, the Paprockis, and got to see Star Wars: the Last Jedi that evening (such a good movie!). The rest of the week was pretty relaxed. Filip and I watched Nigerian movies and ate lots of cake, then worked it off with a run. When he had work, I’d be with Mariusz and even went to a boxing class and learned quite a lot in 1.5 hours.

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Photo shenanigans in Old Town Warsaw

Babcia taught me how to make a potato dumpling (I can’t remember the name of it) and we had them for lunch the same day, while she shared stories of her family history and later showed us pictures of herself, her husband and her sister. At the end of the week, Filip and Mariusz drove me back home (I had so much stuff to carry back) and I got to work putting together a last-minute costume for Sylwester/New Year’s Eve.

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Potato dumplings before they’re fried

The New Year’s Party in Zakosciele was AH-MAZING. They had a giant clock on the stage, multiple performances (including mine) of pop songs, photo shoots for everyone in costume and delicious goodies all night. I was still pretty tired from my week in Warsaw, but I had a blast, laughing, dancing and being a part of it all.

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Itsy Bitsy Spider at her finest

The weekend after that was the last three days for Journey to Bethlehem. The weather was perfect on Saturday, and because it was also a holiday, we had a record 2,000 some people come through in that day alone! Needless to say, we went through our program about three times before we could wrap it up. We had a gospel choir from Katowice with us performing, which was so cool and I got to see my good friend Anna that I’d met two years ago at Fishart camp again. We chatted about what’s been going on and I may end up going to the choir’s 15th anniversary performance in April. Possibly even collaborate on something together; we’ll see…

Journey to Bethlehem

Proem puts on this huge event every December and first weekend of January (around Three King’s Day) where thousands of people come to watch an outdoor walk-through play about the birth of Christ. I mean, they really do it up. It was such an awesome experience to be a part of and go see. Roman centurions in full armor, real livestock, a replicated ancient village of Bethlehem complete with hagglers and craftsmen, and you even have a part where the soldiers leading you through will demand to see your papers before allowing you to enter the town.

Flow singers

I was so busy during the whole event, I didn’t get a chance to take many photos, but they have a Facebook page here where you can see what happened and see past editions of JourneyPodróż do Betlejem

Before the groups get to come through, they can stay warm and sit in the magazine to enjoy videos related to the story of Christmas, and live singing and dancing performances. This is what I was doing all December and this past weekend. And I had a blast. The green room was always lively, between having a bunch of performers’ children playing, some of the performers themselves playing (we had a kid chorus too), and the number of acts fluctuating. This past weekend we had the most: a full gospel choir from Katowice called Z Miłości, a band called CCZ, and a selected group of kids from Tomy School where I work re-performed some of their Wigilia pieces.

My role this time was to sing 3 songs, two together and one by itself further along in the program: “Jingle Bells,” “Joy to the World” (The Preacher’s Wife style), and “Emmanuel Come (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel),” which was a modern re-work of the traditional version. The first week was really hairy for me because I was going to do this without help of a confidence monitor (and it’d been a while since I’d had to remember the lyrics of that many pieces without any kind of help). I was also nervous about how this would go, being my first experience singing in Zako. But I had nothing to worry about; it went awesome! So many people thanked me and I made some new contacts for other singing opportunities in Katowice. God’s got some plan working here and I’m excited for it.

Something different culturally that I noticed was the way the crowd would react. They may really enjoy the performance they’re watching, one or two people you’ll see clap along or sway to the rhythm, but the overall feel is stiff. I’d encourage people to clap and they’d hold it for as long as I did and drop as soon as I couldn’t clap anymore because I started singing. Even toward the end of “Joy to the World,” when I’m really going in, they just watch. One of the leaders of the gospel choir (I’d met him a previous summer at Fishart camp in Zakosciele) was explaining why and I think it makes sense. Some of it relates to the conservative Catholic background and the other is that for so long people were repressed, told to keep their head down and be unnoticed. Things are slowly changing, but it’s still difficult for people to feel free expression. After telling me this, he looks at me and smiles, “But we’re here to really change that and bring the truth, sister.”

I was really encouraged (and exhausted) through the whole thing. It was wonderful to serve and use my talent in this capacity, and I’m certain of more opportunities to come in 2018.

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Afer show fun 🙂

Christmas Time in Poland – Part 1

 

I’ve been so busy this month, I haven’t been able to keep up with my blogging entries as often. Proem is in the midst of Podróż do Betlejem (Journey to Bethlehem) season, which is this huge, outdoor, walk-through play that they do every year with hundreds of volunteers. I’ll have a separate post about it after the last weekend in January wraps up, but the first two weekends were really an awesome experience.

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(Note: Photos above are from the official Pierwsze Chrześcianskie Przedskole “Tomaszek” Facebook page.)

Anyway, while every weekend was busy in Zakosciele, the school week was busy with tons of Christmas festivities too. We had Mikołajki on December 6, which is basically Santa Claus’ day. The kids had a chance to sing for and sit with Santa and were given presents from their teachers. There were also musicians from Łódź philharmonic to play Christmas music one morning for the preschoolers and school-age kids, and we visited Zakosciele to practice for the school’s wigilia (Christmas Eve celebration).

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Middle and High School wigilia 

The wigilia was a huge deal because it’s this final showcase for the parents to see their kids dressed up and performing Christmas carols and presentations. The preschool dressed up as sheep, shepherds, stars, and angels, and we had a Mary, Joseph, and Wise Men as well. Each class did a song in Polish in between some spoken parts. At the end, they all did a song and dance called “Oh, What a Special Night” in English that I’d had to teach them for the past month. They had a lot of fun with it and it turned out awesome!

I was tasked with opening each of the presentations for the parents with the version of “Jingle Bells” that I’d been singing for Journey to Bethlehem, so I had to stay for the entire program, but it was cool to see each of the groups’ hard work pay off. The older kids mostly sang in chorus, with a few solo performers, and in between would have the first scenes of the play about Jesus’ birth that you’d see in the full-version of Journey. Then the families would go out to the main Bethlehem area and watch a shortened version of the full play.

The food served for wigilia is pretty much all fish. Not my favorite because I happen to have an intolerance, so I ended up eating a lot of cake and sweets that evening, which was the only thing left un-fishy. And I do mean, a lot of cake. We ended up having a ton leftover from the evening that throughout the rest of the school week, there was always a few dozen slices waiting for a hungry teacher or staff to munch.

And this past week, I had my first jazz show with the Part-Time Jazz Quartet (the group of musicians I’d been jamming with for a few months now) at a small venue in Tomaszów. It almost didn’t happen because I was so busy already between school and doing Bethlehem on the weekends, I didn’t think I would have time or energy to add another performance. I’m so glad I did.

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Part-Time Jazz Quartet featuring me! 

We had a small Christmas carols and popular songs set, eight instrumental and four with my vocals. They had someone to record it and a bunch of photos were taken as well. I’m excited to see how that all turned out but I was told the reviews were stellar. One of my coworkers who made it even said, “You should be professionally singing, really! Any time you have a performance, please let me know!” It was so great, I love those guys and I’m looking forward to doing more fun shows in the coming new year too 🙂 (And I got paid, hey hey!)

November/Listopad

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Romans 8:28 

It’s difficult to write an update this past month because so much has happened internally for me. November was the first month where I felt some sense of normalcy here; I’m not new to Poland anymore. The language is becoming less mysterious and I don’t think twice about the inconvenience or discomforts in relying on others or myself to get around either. Complaint sometimes comes up, but more often with bigger issues like last minute scheduling or unexpected events popping up. All these are easy things to peg when I think about how I’ve changed.

On a spiritual level, I’m still discovering how God has been shaping my character through my challenges. I’ve become aware of my need for control and where that need is rooted from my past. I’m learning my limits, where my boundary lines are with relationships, and how to explain them better. I’m so in need of God everyday; there’s real thirst on a regular basis for his Word and taking time to pray. And that vulnerability is not easy to start over with new people. And that’s all 3 months in. God’s been busy!

New relationships have been popping up for me: there’s a new American missionary previously living in Ukraine that’s living here now long-term; my jazz friend, Wojtek, and his musician friends I’m becoming closer to as we practice together; a few of the other women helping at Proem that I started connecting to earlier, got away from for a while, and have been reconnecting with now. My two close friends from Warsaw have been invaluable for me, too, and I’ve come to know and make new friends through them. God has been setting up a village around me here.

The highlight of this month is getting to jam with my jazz crew and preparing a set to perform sometime in the coming months. I’m really thankful that I have an outlet like this, and an outreach opportunity because none of them are Christians. Two of them have asked me why I came to Poland or if I’ve been here before, and I hope that they’ll come to some Proem events and get tied in even more.

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First official snowy day.

Thanksgiving away from family and friends was not as hard as I thought. There’s so many other Americans here, we had our own celebration and it kind of made up for missing out on time at home. Christmas will probably be a little harder to bear, but I’m excited for something different and making new memories with my Polish family.

December comes in with a bang: teams of volunteers are coming tomorrow to help with Journey to Bethlehem and I’m so excited to see some of my Mosaic family this week! Every weekend will be busy helping out with Bethlehem, since it’s one of the biggest outreach events we do here. I’ll be singing every weekend, so please pray for my voice and health to keep up. Looking forward to it and more!