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, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s 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 Bóg mówi: “Naprzód!”– odważnie zaufaj Jego Słowu.
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 świetlica (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.

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Nie z Tego Świata (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!

 

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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 “Itsy, Bitsy Spider” 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’t know at all what to say. I ended up babbling like “Eee, nie wiem…zrobiłam dużo,” which means “Ohhh, I don’t know…I did a lot.”
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 Czesław and Paweł (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 świetlica and the teachers only used Polish to give me directions with them. I kind of got it, but it was a bit stressful.  Żaba 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.