Blog

It’s the little things…

I caught some sickness again at the end of this week. It was pretty mild compared to the strep throat incident at the end of September, but not fun all the same. I’m recovered now for the most part, but I realized I haven’t really kept up to date with my blog and what’s been going on at the school and my life in general.

Proem Edu is in full swing, and keeping busy. The liceum/high school students just went on a field trip to Brazil. Yep, the country in South America. That would have been an awesome experience when I was in school in the States, but apparently, it’s a normal thing here to go on trips to other countries with your school. Lucky ducks! The most treat we ever got was maybe Sandy Point Beach or visiting Washington, D.C.

Anyway, the preschool, elementary, and middle grades all had Polish Independence Day presentations. The pre-K sang some national hymns and watched a short video about how Poland started. Then they took about 2 hours to take costumed pictures. You can imagine with little people how they responded to sitting on a carpet for that long. We had some fun watching and singing some English songs on the TV and eventually got through it. The upper grades put on a play later in the week, but unfortunately I was in the middle of doing my classes and didn’t get to see it.

Our small missionary group is finally聽meeting regularly now that my subbing is done, and that will help so much in the middle of the week. Just the opportunity to speak English and share our highs and lows is so valuable. Often I want to share what I’m going through with some of the staff at school, but I’m not versed enough in Polish to really express it and even those that know English well have a hard time understanding what I want to say. We’re currently going over a video series about the book of James and so far it’s pretty good.

I had a chance to visit Warsaw last weekend for a singing collaboration rehearsal, and it was ah-mazing as always. A piece of my heart gets left behind whenever I leave back for Tomasz贸w.聽 It’s really cool that God has put these people in my life. I relate to their experiences and have an easier time connecting to them, so it’s a nice haven from the daily grind of mission to go up and visit. My small jazz group I’m in now has an opportunity in January to perform, and I think we’ll totally be ready. More on that as I learn about it. 馃檪

Overall, things are settling into normalcy. I mean, as normal as it gets in Poland. There’s never a dull moment and the culture is still different, but I’m feeling less and less outside of it now. And I’m understanding a lot more of the language, so that always helps. In it all, God is good and teaching me deeper issues I’ve been unaware of or only just scratched the surface into understanding. No time to get into that now, but I’ll share a post later.

Lighting the Way

It wasn’t too cold. There was a bit of mist falling from the sky, but nothing like the torrents of rain we’d had lately. The sun had stayed behind clouds all day, and it was pretty much night by 5:00 PM. K and I had stayed inside, cleaning the apartment, attempting to plan lessons for the next day, and binge-watching Netflix episodes of the latest popular series. After about 3-4 hours of this, some fresh air was a good idea and for me, it would be my first experience.

November 1 in Poland is a day of sad or solemn remembrance for some, dutifully traditional to others…I don’t really know the gambit of emotions. I don’t come from a Catholic background and Halloween overshadows All Saints’ Day where I’m from. The limited scope of emotions I gathered came from the people walking around that I saw and one conversation with a student during Konsultacja yesterday afternoon. But it’s definitely a special thing to see while here.

There were several lantern and flower sellers lining the street outside the large cemetery in Tomasz贸w, which was blocked off from car traffic by a police van. There’s usually a few permanent kwiarnia聽that sell flowers and candles year-round outside the wall, but it was at least double that this time. And it wouldn’t be Poland without some bread sellers as well — I saw at least two stands on the side we were walking on.聽Cmentarz Rzymskokatolicki (I totally copy-pasted that) is pretty huge, spanning a few blocks all around. It rivals most of the city parks in size. So I was actually really excited to see how it would look lit up with lanterns and was not at all disappointed.

The photo I featured here really doesn’t do it justice. My phone camera is not a fancy SLR by a long shot, so you won’t see the same depth and atmosphere as I did, but I’ll do my best to share the feeling in words. The wall is solid brick as you walk up to it so I didn’t get any glimpse of what the inside looked like before coming up to the open gate. Immediately, your surroundings are illuminated in golden light and far off into the distant corners of the cemetery (when the second wall doesn’t obstruct your view), you can see lit lanterns resting on the graves. They reminded me of stars from far away in the dark. And because it wasn’t completely night, there was still a bit of blue-gray in the sky and you could see the trees beyond the reach of the lantern light. There was a huge variety of lights as well: some sites had only red-glass lanterns, some had open oil lamps with real flames, and there were some with color changing LED bulb flames too. The flowers were hard to see, but what I did catch were a lot of white chrysanthemums and roses.

Walking through, close to the path, there were very small graves of children — I didn’t check to see how old all of them were, but I remember one was 12 years and there were smaller stones than that nearby. There were also quite a few young adults — one said 27 years, another in their 30s. Each of them had at least one lantern lit. I can’t imagine how hard it must be, coming back every year to pray and light a flame for them. It toned down the whole experience for me at that moment. I didn’t become sad so much as sobered by what I was seeing and the sentiment behind it.

I was reminded that there are no guarantees of our time here. What legacy will I leave behind? How will people remember me? I have faith in heaven and God’s mercy. I have purpose in sharing of Jesus and leading people to him through how I live. I hope my example — my attitude in joy and hardship, my response to living, the way I treat others — will have lasting influence for his glory. And moreover, I want to be remembered as genuine. Not religious or just a good person or any of that. Real. Gut-level. I follow Christ; not because I was taught to as a kid, or I’m following a crowd, or only that it’s the right thing to do (while I believe that’s true, my reasons go deeper). I follow him because he’s offered me, completely and undeservedly, his all. I’ve seen incredible change in the person I’ve become from being open to his teachings and obeying them. My heart is light. My mind is at peace (…most of the time, hah). We are not made to burden ourselves with baggage and trudge through the hazards on our journey alone. He’s promised to be there always, and he truly is.聽Just as families remember and honor their past loved ones, I must remember daily the God I serve and who’s love for me goes beyond my capacity to grasp wholly.

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.17聽Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God鈥檚 love and keep you strong.18聽And may you have the power to understand, as all God鈥檚 people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.19聽May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

Ephesians 3:16-19

Pains and Passage

This week has been tough. The extent of the culture shock I’m experiencing really hit me hard. I cried over not being able to explain an order error at McDonald’s. Like, legit felt humiliated and stupid. I ended up leaving the restaurant because I didn’t want to get stared at with tears streaming down my face and the fresh air would be better for me anyway. I prayed in frustration and ended up calling another missionary who helped me regain perspective. She told me this is all still new (October is my second month here), and the things that were easy in the US are not going to be here for a number of reasons. There’s a grieving process happening and it’s completely normal. All of the veteran missionaries have been through it. You feel the loss of something you took for granted: normalcy.

And she was right. Besides the culture shift, I’m working my brain cells overtime trying to convert Polish words and sounds into cohesive meaning, all while managing and teaching young children which is a huge mental and emotional drain already. All of this seemed forgotten because all I could think about in that moment was the embarrassment of not being able to order a hamburger meal. My pride was hurt.

I know I keep referencing James 1:3-4 a lot (and Romans 5:3-4 is a similar message), but its exactly what I am in the midst of. Refining and growth to build endurance: painful, awkward, and uncomfortable; the results of which are a strong and resilient person, rooted firmly in faith because she was tested and came out better.

All is not grim struggle here, though. I’ve made new friends, strengthened previous relationships, and really, I have an amazing community here and in the States. I love being here. There are just days when it makes me feel like screaming or huddling under a blanket away from everything. One cool thing is that even my limited experience of living abroad and being on mission allows me to share advice to those about to do the same or considering it.

My best friend is on her way to teaching English in Korea. We had a chance to Skype the other day and it felt really good to reassure her about living overseas and how God has been pruning and pushing me. To encourage her to set aside misconceptions or insecurities, and know that God is the one opening and closing doors. I thought, while I was talking with her, how I felt the same just 2 months ago, a week before I was going to fly to Poland. I didn’t know fully what to expect or how my life was going to change. I couldn’t have been prepared for the challenges that cropped up or the emotional waves that I’ve had overwhelm me. But through it all, I have Jesus. I have the people he’s put in my circles. I’m not alone in this and remembering that makes a huge difference.

Opportunity

I’ve had this half-dreamed wish about performing here before I left the States. Not just on stage at Tomy church, but in a club or venue around Tomasz贸w or elsewhere. Doing standards or a jazz piece, something that suits my voice, right? So it’s funny that on Sunday of the teacher trip, I got to know this couple that is involved in just that.

Wojtek, and his wife (I think her name was Isa), are big jazz fans. Wojtek plays drums and has jam sessions often with other musician friends around town, who do gigs all around Poland. He’d been striking up conversations with me, curious about where I came from and sharing some knowledge about things in Poland too. We got on the topic of music when he asked if I sang or played anything after we were done walking T臋偶nie Solankowe, and were were instantly best friends. He was so excited to have someone else to talk about music and share different artists with, and equally so to have me over to their house to play and sing whenever we could. I might even do some music gigs around town sometimes with the right band members together (we need a bassist).

I totally believe God planned this out. I’d been feeling a little down that I hadn’t been able to sing on a stage yet. It’s only been a month since I’ve come to Poland. I know I have time, yet. But when I got sick and missed that Sunday service, it really did hurt. I love singing so much; it’s a core part of who I am and one of my best gifts that I want others to enjoy too. I’m always encouraged when someone says they love my voice or that they felt blessed when I lead worship.

A little background will help you understand. When I was in high school, I had been refining my singing voice on my own, listening to opera arias, ballads, whatever I thought would fit my soprano voice at the time. I was pretty confident because many people said I was good. The first disappointment was at a county-wide drama festival where I had entered a singing competition and didn’t win. I received a lot of positive feedback from other students, but that loss stuck with me. The second time was when I auditioned for a role in a musical in school my junior year and didn’t get a part. I had taken a risk and went for a more vocally powerful song. Well, those two experiences left scars of insecurity for me that still echo now. I decided to sing just for myself after that. It wasn’t until I wanted to do a special song for church one time that I got up in front of a public stage again. People were blown away, and I was too that they were so impressed. I sang for special services for a while, gaining more confidence, and when I changed churches and auditioned for the band at Mosaic, I felt like I really could do this.

Church is a little different from other stages. For one thing, the focus is worship. I’m not as self-conscious because it’s not about me in that moment. Normal performances still make me nervous and I’m very aware of mistakes (I think that’s any artist), but I feel more prepared mentally and vocally than I ever have to step out into a public arena. I’ve wanted to perform before in the States, but insecurity and feeling like I didn’t really know the business kept me from pursuing it seriously. I had plenty of musician friends who did gigs, but they usually needed other musicians instead of vocalists.

In Poland, though, I’m actually the missing piece for this music group. They need a frontman and I’m available.

I’m kind of in shock, in a good way. First, Travis with an event in Warsaw next month, then Wojtek and his crew locally, and I’m still pursuing worship leading at Tomy (they told me soon; working out the details). This is the start of some really cool adventures and I can’t wait.

 

Patient Endurance

So, while I’m definitely having fun and enjoying good times in Poland, there’s often a lot of challenges. We had a meeting a few weekends back about the things that are really hard right now and some things that are going good. Last Thursday, a small group of us American women missionaries got together to check-in on our hearts, feelings, etc.

I shared that the adjustment to life here has been hard. (I’ve made a few posts about this before, too, I think.) I miss the ease of things in the States, because it’s familiar and habitual. The cultural shock is subtle, but definitely there. It’ll probably hit me more in the coming months as the weather changes. But out of all of this, God has been refining my character a lot. I don’t complain as much as I had in the US. I have to practice a lot of grace living in a one-room apartment with another person, receiving and giving. Serving is just an expected part of life here, and doesn’t feel weird to me. I get frustrated when something doesn’t go the way I wanted or expected, but I can also let it go really quickly instead of marinating on it.

Emotions are amplified overseas. There’s a grieving over the loss of your previous lifestyle. I’m beginning to see that in me. (I often lament there being no Target here…) But I also see my response to these things is reflective and perspective-forming. I’m growing.

We’re currently following a study by Francis Chan about the book of James. James 1:1-12 was our first meeting, and was a good reminder that patient endurance is so needed when we encounter hardships and trials. That we should ask God for wisdom through the difficulties to better understand what we’re going through. That like silversmiths refine silver over and over with fire, God will refine us in the same manner until we are a perfect reflection of him.

This is actually the second time I’m seeing this verse within a month. At the student conference a few weekends ago, the morning’s meeting was centered around James 1:1-8 as well. And I have a small painting I made with a verse from Hebrews 10:36, “Patient endurance is what you need…then you will receive all that he has promised.”

I’m here because I wanted to be part of effecting change for others toward Jesus. In turn, I’m really being transformed as well. It’s kind of amazing how God maps these things, puts details together to shape us how we need to be.

My next personal study is about praying without limits. Looking forward to what that will bring.

Shenanigans

I had an opportunity to visit two dear friends in Warsaw last weekend and it was a blast! It was my first time traveling solo on the train up to the city as well, and really, that wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. Friday night, the Winans girls came over (they’re the daughters of some missionaries here) to spend the night and we had lots of junk food and ice cream to enjoy. My train was pretty early in the morning so I was a little distracted getting my stuff together. They must have been sleepy too, because as soon as the movie was over, we were all asleep by about 10:00 PM.

The next morning, I was up at 6:30 AM to wrap up my packing and be at the train station before 7:56 AM. It was really cold! (I regretted not bringing a heavier sweater later on, too.) After finally getting to Tomasz贸w Maz station, I hear a little voice say, “Ciocia!” One of my students, Ala, and her parents were going to the sea via Warsaw Central to transfer trains. It was nice to see them and chat for a little bit. Ala was really excited because it was her first time on a train as well and going to the ocean for the last “warm” weekend of the year. We parted ways when the train arrived and I rode the hour and 40 minutes to Warsaw with half-asleep passengers around me.

Coming into Warsaw Wschodnia (East station), I ended up waiting a little longer because Mariusz had to take care of some errand for his mission family. Eventually, he and Filip came and we went for lunch before driving to feed parrots. I had a laugh on the way helping Mariusz to pronounce “parrot” like pear-uht instead of “pirate.”

The parrot place (I can’t remember the name) was really cool! They had some large Macaws that you weren’t allowed to feed because they’d probably take your finger off, but they were perched freely inside. I don’t know the names of all the parrots, but there were African Greys, some budgies, a white cockatoo, and some green mid-sized ones that really took to Mariusz and Filip.

20170930_132042
Filip and Mariusz loving on some papugami
20170930_132047
Filip getting a little too close…

My first encounter with a parrot, he spied my shiny watch, then my zipper and all the way up to my ear where I had some gold ball studs. I probably should have seen it coming, but he ended up nabbing it off my ear (didn’t hurt, thankfully) and flying away. I was okay with the loss, but Mariusz didn’t want him to choke and die, so he somehow got it back. I took my earrings off after that.

20170930_131229
Filip being funny.
20170930_131647
Making a new friend.

There were a ton of kids and parents around already, and since we were there around 1:00 PM, the birds had probably eaten their fill and were more interested in jacket zippers, my purse straps and my watch. Filip did great, coaxing the parrots to come sit on his arm and feed them. It also helps that he’s as tall as a tree, so he could reach the parrots the kids couldn’t get to.

I also had a run in with an African Grey parrot. These are the most intelligent birds in the world, and obviously so, because he wasn’t easily distracted from my bag. My favorite purse (which in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have even brought in) got a little beat up — there’s some chunks missing on the straps and beak marks in other spots now. I ended up getting bit in the process of trying to save my purse. Filip somehow got him to leave, but not before he jacked the whole cup of bird seed from me.

After that, we left for the Warsaw Zoo. (The guys know how much I love animals.) It’s nice, a little small, but there were a lot of creatures to see. Most of them were sleeping or hiding at that time of day. The highlight for me was the reptile house because, for some reason, seeing turtles swimming around or chillin’ on rocks reminded me of Maryland. I started crying out of nowhere when I watched them. Didn’t realize I was so homesick after all.

We drove to Filip’s house to have kebab and rest from all the walking we did before they dropped me off at the Paprocki’s house. They’re an awesome family who lead another evangelistic mission here called Athletes in Action. Heidi is from the US, so we shared some stories about working in childcare and things we miss. I definitely want to visit them again and may have an opportunity to do so soon.

Sunday, Mariusz took me to an international church where the service is in English (hallelujah!) and where there’s quite a bit more diversity than I was used to. And I met a familiar face from a few weekends ago (when I was supposed to sing, but got really sick that weekend after practice). Travis and his wife, Patrycja, live in Warsaw and he’s been an intern for Proem in the past. We talked about doing some kind of music collaboration next month, which would be amazing. I hope the details work out!

The afternoon was pretty much relaxed. We had done so much walking on Saturday, none of us felt like doing a whole lot more, and Mariusz and I had taken public transportation all morning. The weekend ended with some lody, the guys amusing themselves by making me read in Polish, and making faces at me before the train left Warsaw. As the train pulled out of the station, I had to choke back my tears a bit. I really love them and was so grateful for a weekend with good friends. I miss having those times in the States. But it won’t be the last, and I can’t wait for the next adventure here.

Wrzesie艅 – First month

Has it really only been a month?! It honestly feels like I’ve been here for a few months. There’s a lot that’s happened, and it’s been hard to adjust to change. I’m still praising God that he’s brought me here, though because I can tell I’m growing a lot.

I’m writing this in recovery from a throat infection that caught me by surprise and derailed my plans for the weekend and into the week. I was supposed to sing on Sunday (was really looking forward to that) and go to 艁贸d藕 on Monday for my residence card appointment. Well, not this time. Thankfully, antibiotics and rest are working their magic and I’m feeling well enough to write an update. And the appointment was rescheduled for the end of October so I don’t feel as rushed to have the paperwork ready. AND I have almost the entire week off to recover. So, really, it’s turned out pretty good.

If I can sum up the lesson I’ve taken away from this first month, it would be “laugh a lot.” Seriously. A month ago, I would have been crying (and trust me, I have cried a few times here) and angry and frustrated that things weren’t happening the way they should. Today, though? I smile and shake my head because it’s just one more thing that’s trying to beat me down, but it honestly doesn’t now. God put me half-way across the world for great things, so I can’t let small obstacles derail the bigger vision of things to come. And he’s blessed me through these challenges, too. I’m growing in patience, tolerance, and perseverance. James 1:1-8, case in point. I’m also learning to lean on people around me more, too. To let go of feeling so independent. Those days when I miss home, feeling stressed about Polish, or just miss the culture of the US, I have other Americans who feel my pain and understand it. We have to support each other through this.

Anyway, I talk a lot about lows, but there’s a good bit of highs too. The kids I work with are great fun. Yes, kids are still kids, so you have days when you want to just leave the room and let survival of the fittest play out. But they take to the songs and games in English well, and we have a good time learning together. I actually miss being with them quite a lot today.

biedronki_with_me
Fall Festival with Biedronki (Ladybugs) class

And one of the teachers at the school was baptized this past Sunday! Hopefully, more to follow as the school year progresses. I’m hoping to have more conversations with teachers and staff as my Polish improves. The new gymnasium for the school has started construction. The expectations is that by the end of the year, it will be open for graduation ceremonies and whatever else they have at the end of the school year. New camps started this year, Proem is sending a team to help finish a building in a school in Zimbabwe they support, the 艣wietlica/after-school program in Tomasz贸w and 艁贸d藕 is going great…there’s a lot to celebrate!

The only thing I would probably change is the weather. Rain for days on end here. And some cold days, too. But there’s bright sun out today, and I’m really happy to see it.

 

 

Refocus

Settling into life here has been very draining, but good. I had a little homesickness moment last Thursday when I missed having a car to get around and being able to find things conveniently. K and I live really close to the school, but really far from everything else which means any kind of shopping trip takes a whole afternoon. I’ve probably walked about 2-3 miles every week back and forth to school and another 2 miles going into town every weekend. It doesn’t sound like that much, but it’s tiring when you’re used to driving everywhere.

But, I am enjoying the challenges more now than in the beginning. The first two weeks of mishaps had me going “seriously, God?!” nearly every day. They still happen — our oven can’t be turned on because it will blow our power out, and our brand new washing machine has to drain its waste water into the toilet — but I just laugh and roll with it. That’s life here in Poland. More often than not, what you expect is not what you’ll get. But I see where God is using these opportunities to help me grow bit by bit in perseverance and humility, and recognizing what’s most important.

I started a Bible reading plan this past week called “Awakening” based on Stovall Weems’ book about fasting and prayer. “Disconnecting from the distractions of the world through fasting, and connecting into the power and presence of God through prayer, brings a supernatural freshness and newness to our souls.” I totally need that right now. Setting up the apartment has been drawing all my energy and attention lately. Plus, I’ve always seen fasting as kind of a necessary hardship as a Christian, when really, it’s not supposed to be like that at all. “Fasting is no longer ‘do in order to become,’ but ‘you already are, therefore act like it.’ ” Distraction-free celebration of God’s mercy through Jesus because I’ve been set free — this is what New Testament fasting should be.

My times of prayer and reading haven’t been consistent, and I certainly feel like they haven’t. Spiritually, I’m running on empty. And it’s harder to love others and show grace when you need those things yourself. So, I’ll be fasting this week from distractions. More reading, more praying, more worship when I have breaks instead of mindless social media surfing. I pray for amazing things to come as a result. Zobaczymy 馃檪

Week 1

This past week was challenging for a lot of reasons. The first day on Monday was a little crazy with all the kids coming back from summer vacation and a the teachers not really having a full-out plan for what subjects to do in the preschool. The 艣wietlica was totally overwhelming the first two days because we had the entire preschool in there at once with only a few kids having left for the day. Needless to say, that wasn鈥檛 going to fly for very long. By Wednesday, the afternoon crew (me, Monika, and Ella–she helps out with the 2 year olds–usually with one other preschool teacher) had come up with a plan for separating the groups to not only keep the kids safe, but our sanity as well. Teaching English is a little tricky as well because I don鈥檛 know what themes each teacher is going with yet…but it鈥檚 also preschool. I can really just have some fun, singing in English and trying some games so the kids will pick it up. This week coming will be about establishing our routine.

On top of this is an ever changing teaching schedule, which is just how it is because we have outside instructors with separate schedules themselves, so coordinating everyone is a big job. The apartment is also still a work in progress, but I think we鈥檙e nearly settled with it too. We have a kitchen table (yay!) and will be getting a washing machine courtesy of the school for the Proem Edu interns, who happen to all be living in the same building or have access to a washer already. That was a big headache for K and I, so I鈥檓 really grateful God has worked it out. The only thing now is maybe purchasing a bike to travel a little bit faster and more efficiently around town. They鈥檙e a bit more of an investment, but worth it for sure.

As far as financial support goes, I can鈥檛 thank my donators enough for helping me follow through on God鈥檚 plans here. There have been some unexpected expenses with preparing a home, and God has provided either through you or by someone here beautifully. I鈥檓 so, so grateful and will be doing my best to touch base with any of you that would like to know more about my work here or plans for the next few months as far as sharing the gospel is concerned.

One really exciting thing is I was asked to sing at the church next Sunday! I miss leading worship so much, and when Karolina asked me, I was like 鈥淏am! Here鈥檚 my good news that I鈥檝e been waiting for.鈥 Hopefully, my voice is strong enough to do so because I caught a cold on Friday, felt better by Saturday evening, but lost my voice Sunday after having too much fun with my brothers from Warsaw (they鈥檙e super sweet, coming to help us build furniture and lift stuff–love you guys!). But I鈥檓 pretty sure I鈥檒l recover in time. And if not this week, maybe next!

 

Thorns

“…So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.Each time he said,聽鈥淢y grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.鈥聽So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.That鈥檚 why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:7b-10

I’ve been experiencing these little bad moments throughout my stay here in Poland. Today, I jabbed my finger against the door and broke my nail horizontally in the middle of the nail bed. The day before, I kept scrapping my already peeling cuticles every time I had to open my wallet (and that’s quite often when you’re buying for a new apartment). I’ve banged my head on cabinets. My living arrangements got complicated. I had to walk in the rain with Kaitlyn, lugging about 7-8 lbs. of furniture for 1.5 miles after walking the same distance to go pick it up. I’ve been bitten by mosquitoes about 5-6 times, and the bite marks are still on my face and arm after a week. I also fell and landed on thorny brush, scratching up my arm the first full day I was here.

Needless to say, I’ve faced some mishaps. And it’s only been 2 weeks now.

However, don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not discouraged by any of this. Just as Paul saw his “thorn” as God’s way of reminding him not to be proud and to rely on his strength over Paul’s, I feel more confident that I’m where I’m supposed to be. Satan can’t do anything about my presence in Poland; I’m ready to share about Jesus and live with love, pursuing grace and truth here. My Polish skills keep improving, and I see where God can use me in sharing my faith with some other teachers and to pray for those who are hurting.

I’m blessed thoroughly. The challenges I’m facing at the just the beginning are only going to reap a richer, durable character in me. I want to keep up my faithful attitude, even when the times will get harder (and they certainly will as the school year goes forward).

The sermon this morning at Tomy church was about Joshua 1, and following the promise of God courageously. The take-away at the end and I hope to keep it in mind in the months to come:

Kiedy B贸g m贸wi: “Naprz贸d!”– odwa偶nie zaufaj Jego S艂owu.
When God says: “Go forward!” — boldly/courageously trust His Words.

 

Busyness

I have a chance to rest a bit this Saturday, but the past week has been a whirlwind of stuff to do.

The first part of this week was all preparation. I’ve been helping this sweet lady named Monika, who speaks about as much English as I do Polish (I think she’s a little better, actually), and who will be working exclusively in the 艣wietlica聽(dayroom). All the shelves and toys have been organized pretty well. We had a lot of teachers drop off things they didn’t want, but we sort of found a place for them. She’s helped out with camp and been to the church a few times too, and loves it. We will see how God uses this year for her.

A few evenings, I had a chance to visit Zako where a different group of churches from Warsaw are having a big youth conference. They had the biggest number of kids this year: 250. There was no where in the camp for me to stay and check out the worship in the evenings, but I stayed close by at the Croziers’ and we had a chance to visit a few times. It’s really cool to experience worship from a different culture, but somehow really familiar, too.

20170828_193714
Nie z Tego 艢wiata (Not of this World) conference

Later this week, I went to a small store by myself for the first time where they spoke no English at all, and somehow ended up with a sandwich and juice. Apparently, it’s not usual for them to make a sandwich for people so that was extra nice and I even got free cheese and pickles. Score!

 

20170831_131218

IMG_20170831_131457_951

School has started here. Yesterday was the first of September and the preschool kids all came to the school for their first day. The morning was free play in the dayroom, and about 9:00am the kids all cleaned up and sat down for a big welcome to school circle. We sang 鈥淚tsy, Bitsy Spider鈥 in English for me, then a good morning song in Polish that I kinda tried to mimic a bit.

Next, each przedskole class split up by age groups and I went with Ciocia Sylwia and the 4-year-old Hedgehogs. They sat around a circle and did welcome and good morning greeting, then a song, and Sylwia asked about their vacations. I understood the gist of their replies, but then I was asked in Polish what I did over the summer and I didn鈥檛 know at all what to say. I ended up babbling like 鈥淓ee, nie wiem…zrobi艂am du偶o,鈥 which means 鈥淥hhh, I don鈥檛 know…I did a lot.鈥
The second half of the morning was all play. (Which I think is actually pretty typical. There are lessons during the day, but most of the time for these younger kids, school is a lot of play time. And they need it!) I bonded with some girls named Nikola and Justyna, who I think saw me last June when I shadowed Kaitlyn at the school. And they were really comfortable asking me things in Polish.

The rest of the day was spent trying to catch on to the routine and clumsily replying in Polish to these kids. I asked a few about their English speaking skills and there was an older girl who was very proud to display her knowledge of English colors and numbers. Early in the afternoon, I left for a few minutes to go with Czes艂aw and Pawe艂 (who are live maintenance men) to the apartment to put beds together. Once I saw the beds put up against the wall, I realize we have a good bit of space to work with. Kaitlyn and I were afraid it would be super tiny, but we can easily fit a few pieces of moderate-sized living room furniture no problem. Pictures will come once we have everything decorated.

Once I was back at school, I felt kind of overwhelmed by the amount of kids going around in the 艣wietlica and the teachers only used Polish to give me directions with them. I kind of got it, but it was a bit stressful. 聽呕aba had me help with a school fair at the mall after most of the kids were picked up, and I had another experience with walking around by myself to shop during a break or two. I’m getting accustomed to it now.

God totally provides though. I have yet to meet anyone who is rude or unkind to me, and are probably quite surprised that I speak any Polish at all. The move-in has gone smoothly so far and we’re getting furniture together, too. I’m grateful for all of it. Keep praying for this year.

 

 

Day 2: Mushrooms

My body woke me up at about 3 am. I scrolled through my phone a little before exhaustion hit me again and I fell back asleep. 呕aba鈥檚 voice woke me next. She was going to pick me up at 11am. It was already 11. I groggily opened the door and said I would be ready around 1pm instead.

After showering and getting dressed, I walked into the living room and met Marcin, one of Alicja and Radek鈥檚 sons. We ate breakfast and watched an episode of Breaking Bad with English subtitles. Then Jacek, his older brother, came down and said hello for a bit before they both disappeared upstairs.

I went outside and wrote a bit in my journal until 呕aba rolled up to take me to see the apartment and check an alternative Scandinavian furniture store called Jysk. The apartment complex is very close to the school, literally around the block, and extremely 20170825_130353nice. Everything is being freshly renovated and it鈥檚 right on the corner of the street. The downstairs will be a salon with hair and nail services by the owner鈥檚 daughter. Upstairs, there are quite a few nicely done apartments. Ours is the second-largest, corner apartment with balconies and big windows. The main room is spacious and the bedroom is more than enough for Kaitlyn, my roommate, and I. Sadly we can鈥檛 move in until Wednesday because the builder is still working on the stairs, but we can start bringing in furniture. Tomorrow we will shop for bedframes, mattresses and any other small things.

After visiting the apartment, 呕aba and I head over to Jysk and check out what their prices are like compared to IKEA. It鈥檚 smaller, but pretty similar to IKEA鈥檚 offerings. Sadly, they don鈥檛 have much for bed frames and their mattresses prices are comparable. But the bedding and pillows are cheap, and it鈥檚 more convenient to come here for that than travel to the nearest IKEA nearly an hour away.

20170825_142042
School entrance.

Next, we head to the school because 呕aba has some work to do and I鈥檓 given the task of cleaning off my new kitchen chairs. They鈥檙e dusty and covered in pollen and cobwebs after being stored in an outside shed, but they鈥檙e quite sturdy wooden chairs and they鈥檒l match the table we already have. Alicja is there working too and I show her the photos of the apartment, which she agrees, is gorgeous. I meet a few of the other school staff and have a brief conversation in Polish and English with a lady named Kasia. I pull together some English books that I think would be good for teaching, and a few minutes after that, we鈥檙e ready to go.

There鈥檚 time, so I get my Polish phone number at T-Mobile and no longer have to depend on wi-fi to contact people. Yay! 呕aba drops me off at Alicja and Radek鈥檚 for a lovely dinner. (Her salads are the bomb!) Radek comes in later and he and Alicja eat while asking me how things are going. Then Radek shares about his history and shows me an actual letter from his grandfather from Auschwitz. They recently went to the Czech Republic and were close enough to the Austrian border to visit Mauthausen where he was able to find records of his grandfather, thanks to a Polish staff member working there. 聽

20170825_182135

Later, they invite me on a walk with Fiona. Little did I expect a walk would be an hour jaunt over train tracks and through tall grass and brush toward the river. I definitely wore the wrong shoes, but it was lovely all the same. Radek and Alicja pointed out different things to me in Polish, most of which I remembered vaguely from lessons I鈥檇 self-studied. I asked some questions about the Pilica (pronounced pee-lee-tsah) River and wild-life. Fiona dipped in the river multiple times along the way. We saw a swan and some ducks. We met some horses that were friendly so I pet one on their nose. Toward the end, walked through some birch trees and pines and I was told all about the Polish national sport, mushroom collecting. It鈥檚 very popular and there are plenty you can eat, and some you can only eat once according to Radek (haha). Sadly this year, there haven鈥檛 been many around. Alicja says it is a must for Christmas time.

Heading back, I slip and get a little scratched up in some thick brush with thorns. Ouch. It鈥檚 no trouble though, and after we get back and I wash my arm, I鈥檓 in good shape. Radek shares some stories about his trip to Africa and about the neighborhood in Tomasz贸w. It鈥檚 interesting how the concept of safe/dangerous varies, but we both agree that being out late is probably not the best idea.

The evening is rounded off with a popular Polish version of Gordon Ramsay鈥檚 Kitchen Nightmares and an episode of Planet Earth. I鈥檓 not quite tired yet, so I end up chatting with a few Polish friends and messaging my family before bed.

All in all, a very good day.

Day One: Tacos

I鈥檓 running around the house, trying to finish all the things on my to-do list. I didn鈥檛 manage my time time that well, but this is my first time leaving for a year. I鈥檓 used to coming back after a week or two. I won鈥檛 have that opportunity this time. Mom tells me she鈥檒l take care of things and not to panic in the way moms do. I appreciate it, but it鈥檚 not really helping me be calm.

20170823_182901

My friend Michelle comes to pick me up at 5. It takes me another 20 minutes or so to get myself together enough and load my suitcases and bags in her car. Mom snaps one last photo of me, sweaty and bedraggled, then we鈥檙e off to Dulles International. We鈥檙e chatting away about Andy Grammar, the beginning of the school year, her classroom (she鈥檚 a first-year teacher this year)…I鈥檓 trying to listen, but I鈥檓 just feeling nerves. I鈥檝e never traveled alone before. Whenever I have gone overseas, I had at least 5 other people to point out which terminal is where and what鈥檚 next.

We stop at Departures after laughing that I mistakenly thought we needed Arrivals. It鈥檚 good, one last giggle. We pull out my bags and hug about 3 or 4 times good-bye. She snaps a picture of me dragging all 5 of my bags with me awkwardly.

Inside, I get through checking my bags, TSA security and my terminal within 10 minutes. Easy. Boarding the plane, I get lucky. My seat is near the very front and the couple next to me reserved seats in a way that there was an open seat between us and we had extra storage and arm room. I slept most of the flight to Paris. Charles De Gaulle is supposedly a difficult airport, but I had no issues grabbing a shuttle quickly and getting to the right terminal. My knowledge of French was indeed helpful. I had to speak a little and guess what some of the staff asked for (I pulled out my passport a few times rather than my boarding pass). Eventually, after sitting around 2 hours and watching people, I got on the airbus to Warsaw.

The lady I sat beside 聽was Polish and couldn鈥檛 speak any English. I tried out a little of my Polish skills with her, but while she understood my small phrases, I couldn鈥檛 answer her very well. But she was very friendly and I was able to help her with the flight attendant once or twice. We ran into each other again after landing while heading to baggage pick-up and had one last broken conversation.

All my luggage arrived safely, thank God! Nothing was missing inside either as far as I could tell when I cheked later. (I did get a TSA search notice, but all they seemed to do was rifle through the plastic bag that had all my peanut butter gifts in it.) As I rounded the corner to where people got picked up, 呕aba was there to meet me and drive to Tomasz贸w. 呕aba is one of the school directors and Proem staff. She was a little worried when my flight didn鈥檛 show up on the board but all was well as soon as I came around the corner.

She was excited to see me and chatted a lot about the coming school year: expectations, plans, events, my responsiblities, ideas…they all sounded great. It was going to be a very busy year for me. We also talked a bit about our journey in becoming Christians, understanding Christ鈥檚 grace, and how important it is that this come across at the school, too. I鈥檒l be teaching songs in English to the kids, and even simple ones like 鈥淛esus Loves Me,鈥 the kids don鈥檛 know yet. Right up my alley, so I鈥檓 happy to do it.

We pull up to one of the other鈥檚 teacher鈥檚 beautiful home. 呕aba, John and their family were invited to dinner a while ago, but they included me since I was just arrived and quite hungry. Addison was an American that came first for a few months, then ended up staying. She鈥檚 been with Proem for 11 years, teaching English at the school. She has two kids, who were so excited to see John and 呕aba鈥檚 two boys and girl. She had made us tacos and it smelled amazing. Tasted amazing too.

We all sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather and the fire pit. They spoke a lot in Polish, so I didn鈥檛 really get it, but parts were explained to me in English and they asked me questions, too. I would be teaching her little boy, Kaiden, this year. Of course, I was also feeling my 11 hours of travel 聽by this point and sitting on a comfy chair next to a fire was making my brain relax too much to chat.

We said good-bye eventually and on the car ride over to Radek and Alicja鈥檚 house ( I would be staying with them until my apartment was finished), she shared with me that Addison was taking a break from teaching this year and it would have been very hard on the other American English teachers to take over her schedule hours, when they weren鈥檛 sure if I was coming. But, God made a way! So, already, my reason for being here is made quite clear. 馃檪 God knew what was needed and in John鈥檚 words, it was probably the quickest he鈥檇 seen someone gather support to stay.

I鈥檓 excited and nervous about this year to come. I鈥檒l be at the school, and as a Proem missionary, I鈥檓 expected to help with the other events, which happen year-round (I expected this anyway, too). It feels like a lot just hearing about it, but once I鈥檓 in the middle, I鈥檓 pretty sure I鈥檒l love it.

 

Bon Voyage!

Today is the day I leave for Poland. I’ve had a hard time figuring out how to word what I’m feeling. There’s a lot excitement and anticipation for what’s to come, but I’ll definitely miss home.

My last weekend at Mosaic was emotional. I definitely cried after the last song, and had to fight my tears at the beginning so I wasn’t bawling on stage trying to sing. My impending departure hit me hard in that moment. These people I was leading in worship, the other members of the band around me, the teaching, the friendships…I’m going to miss it dearly. I’ve grown so much since coming to Mosaic almost 3 years ago. I came feeling burdened and overwhelmed about God, not even sure if I wanted to believe anymore, and have since found freedom and peace in grace and truth. Honestly, God just knew what I needed in a community of believers. I’m so, so grateful.

My family and friends as well have spent a lot of time with me over the last few days. I love them so much. We’ll keep in touch, even though it’s not the same as being in person, but I’m only a Skype or Messenger away. Thank God for technology!

And I’m only able to do this because I have a community of people behind me. Thank you to all of you who have helped and will be helping going forward, whether giving money and/or praying for me. I look forward to sharing the greater things God will do through your generosity and care!

Alright. I have 11 hours before my flight, less than that to finish wrapping up everything at home, and last minute errands to get done. Let’s go!

Pure joy

My departure is coming close. And the closer it gets, the more annoyances (aka. thorns of the flesh as Paul called them) keep showing up. Some are self-inflicted by my lack of trust and insecurity, but some for sure are results of the spiritual warfare going on over my decision to go on a mission for Jesus.

My car still being for sale with one week left to try to gain some funds from it and get rid of the car note; the extra stress of changing schedule at my nanny job (which had never been so crazy before and not the fault of the parents either); getting lost going to church with kids and being late; dropping and loosing things constantly; inability to sleep a full-night; having to fight off discouragement and scrapping this whole venture. 聽All of these things are kind of small, though, and might just be normal parts of life period.

The push-back I’ve gotten from some of family is much more difficult to handle. That tension hasn’t lessened much. One of the most vocal members of my immediate family was adamantly against me leaving because she felt I was needed at home far more than Poland. I tried share my vision and assurance I had from the Holy Spirit about this, but despite her long-standing belief in Jesus, she felt like I was making a mistake and couldn’t support me. This ended with me needing to leave the room before I said something stupid, and only talking to her once I left with barely a good-bye. I knew I would have to tell her I was officially leaving once I got my plane ticket, but I kept putting it off because the last conversation went so awful.

Just last night, she was rushed to the emergency room with severe pains. A week before I’m supposed to leave. Sigh.聽I had planned to visit or at least call to let her know I’m actually going because I don’t have any more time to stall. The health issues are just another complication, now.

I just sense all these things and more are Satan’s way of pitching a fit that I’m doing this, and all the more assurance that I’m on the right track. Plus, James 1:2-4 is reassuring:

“Dear brothers and sisters,聽when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

I read another verse this week–Hebrews 10:36–that started with “patient endurance.” Oh how apt for the season I’m in right now. Patient endurance. The patience to trust God’s process and timing, and the endurance to handle the obstacles and work now and work to come. Anyone that’s trained for any kind of distance race knows the beginning is tough, then you get into a stride where things feel pretty good before hitting what’s known as ‘the wall.’ One of the things I remember learning while I trained for my half-marathon years ago is to recognize the wall and be able to push past it. To keep going until you finish.

I’m feeling like I’m just hitting the first uphill in this race and it’s kicking my butt a little bit. But God’s also at my back encouraging me forward. I gotta keep going.

 

Still

Twenty days until I get on the plane. There’s a lot of emotions that I’m not sure how to process yet. I’m anxious about leaving home and being on my own. I’m a bit concerned about how people there will receive me. I’m nervous about communicating daily with kids who don’t know English. And whether I will be speaking to their parents as well. (I’ve never been good at that in my own language, much less Polish.)

There’s also the great unknown of moving your entire life to a foreign country for a year to serve God’s purpose that isn’t completely laid out yet. The only certainty I have right now is “go.”

I suppose it’s exciting. This is an adventure as much as it’s a risk. All possibilities are open right now. But it’s kind of terrifying that all possibilities are open, too. I anticipated difficulties. I’m going through some before I’ve even got a bag packed. Funding obstacles, family relationship troubles, self-doubt tied to both these things…it feeds into the part of missions and risk-taking that requires one to lean hard on God’s mercy and sovereignty. He’s driving this train toward the right destination, so I just gotta hold on. He knows how the tracks have to twist and turn to make it. Doesn’t mean I’m not still clinging for dear life to my seat, though.

If my posts seem redundant, it’s because I constantly need to remind myself of this: God knows.聽I’m in the midst of transition, and it’s frustrating, stressful, and just plain hard. There’s joy in knowing that I’m going, that I’m really taking a great leap toward my devotion to Christ. But really, I’m worried, too. I can tell because I haven’t had a full night’s restful sleep in weeks. My soul feels unsettled.

Then Jesus said,聽鈥淐ome to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.鈥

Matthew 11:28-30 NLT

This verse came to mind. I know it’s exactly what I need to do this week. Breathe and be still in him. Amen.

 

Milestone #1

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

Matthew 8:26

God pulled through at the last minute. I bought my plane ticket. Poland is officially a-go!

The reality of this hasn’t totally sunk in yet. The week before this past one, I was at a loss. God had taken everything out of my control, except for my continuous reaching out for financial support and prayers. But I took a step back from that too because it was overwhelming me. I needed to just pray and believe God would make things work. He took away the other options for a reason. And bam! On the exact day I had hoped to purchase my plane ticket (my birthday), I received an extremely generous monthly commitment that pushed me up to $1000 monthly. What?! And not only that, but the plane ticket I originally wanted for $617 went up about $100, but the other flight came up to that exact same number. Crazy and so good.

Not that God will always answer this way. I know he’s not a magic genie granting wishes and fulfilling every whim or wish. But it shows that when you’re on the path he chooses, he totally provides. Oh, me of little faith!

I’m mentally slapping my forehead for doubting God’s ability to pull through in the clutch. He does it all the time and I know the rest of the funding I still need will come through, too. So, please do consider donating if you haven’t yet.聽I’m praying this week for full-funding by August 6th. We shall see!

 

 

Book: Beautiful Outlaw

20170727_143414To take a little aside from my usual posts, I wanted to highlight this book I’ve been reading called “Beautiful Outlaw” by John Eldredge (also well known for “Wild At Heart”). I haven’t quite finished the whole thing (3 chapters left!), but it’s opened up a whole perspective of Jesus that I’ve missed: Jesus’ personality. Not something you would usually think of, right?

John does an excellent job going through examples of personality traits exhibited by Jesus through the gospels: cunning, playfulness, ferocity, trueness/authenticity, honesty, freedom, generosity. All to portray the ultimate ‘humanness’ of Christ. He was very much a human being, accessible and relatable, and still is these things now.

I loved the point he made that Religion (note the big R here) has done so much to push Jesus into the stratosphere, elevating him to a place beyond our reach and comprehension, whereas when you actually read how Jesus interacted with his friends and followers, he was right there. Side by side. That’s the kind of relationship he wants with us. He is expressive and witty, funny and real. When I re-read the passages from the gospels with this in mind, this Jesus is someone I can know and want to know.

I mean, nature was his creation. Think of all the funny, weird, clever and beautiful things that exist. The creation reflects the Creator. We are a part of this too, despite our broken state of being.

This book reminded me of Jesus as a person. I’m used to thinking of him as Lord and Savior, the Son of God (though interestingly, he liked also to be called Son of Man), and part of the Holy Trinity. All true things, yes. But he didn’t die on the cross and tear the curtain of the Holy of Holies for us to push him up on a pedestal in reverence and respect. The same relationship he had with his apostles is the same that he wants with us now. How crazy amazing that is!

I’m so glad this book was recommended to me. Anyone struggling with a stale view of Jesus or feels like he’s too high and mighty to truly understand your human nature, please open this book and read well.

Waiting Game

I’m not a fan of patience. I don’t know a lot of people who are. I’m so used to instant gratification that anything that takes longer than I expect it to makes me antsy. Especially if I’m not able to control the outcome and I really, really want it to happen. Like this mission.

I have to wait for my donation totals to be put together. Thing is, I can’t buy my airplane ticket until I know I have enough support committed to stay. My total budget is $1700, but I need $1000 to go ahead with a ticket. I’m at maybe 30% of what I need for the ticket right now. But I don’t know for certain because the report I have isn’t up to date. Argh! Then factor in that I have 4 weeks before I’m trying to leave, and I’m totally frustrated.

I’m fighting to trust God in this today. I had to go outside in humid 94 degree soup this afternoon to pray. I asked if I’m really supposed to do this. That inner nudge was there. Yes. Then I said thank you for everything he’s already done and prayed for greater faith in his way, his timing. I prayed through my fear and anxiety and impatience. I asked to just believe he would make things work. At the end, I had calmed down and took a deep breath.

Hours later, I’m trying not to let the uncertainty overwhelm me again. It sucks not knowing. Really sucks. I’m going to try to get some sleep and hopefully wake up with a refreshed perspective. This is the valley part of my journey I don’t like. These are growing pains and refining fires. In the midst of it, I feel so helpless, but Jesus is with me. Jesus is with me.聽I had the faith to start, I have to trust him to work out the finish line. Okay, God. Do your thing.

Kontakt Piotrk贸w

My last visit to Poland was for Kontakt Piotrk贸w, a week-long community service festival in Piotrk贸w 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.

20170606_100807
Polska vs. USA tug-o-war match. We are both strong together was the message at the end.

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.

20170607_110107One of the translators for our group offered to do a tour of Piotrk贸w’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.

20170607_115616
Great Synagogue in Piotrk贸w.
20170607_120742
Piotrk贸w Trybunalski Royal Castle

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.

20170607_161343

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.