From Clear Lake, Iowa to Gorzow, Poland took 26 hours. Uneventful it was – and that’s a good thing for air travel. Our bags arrived with us, and that’s always a good thing, too. For the next six days, we’ll stay in an apartment shared by two young women we know from our evangelistic summer family camps in Poland. I feel like we’ve returned to close friends. These women and the others we know from camp have a special place in our hearts.
The first night is our best after a long trip – physical exhaustion makes it impossible to stay awake even if we try. I slept on a sponge mattress on the living room floor and Gene took the single futon. At 2:00 A.M. however, I was wide awake. My brain swirled with busy thoughts, my feet were freezing cold, and my hips ached. After only three hours of sleep, I knew that I’d never survive teaching for four hours on Thursday if I didn’t get more rest. So, I pulled a pair of socks on and swallowed two melatonin tablets. That did the trick. Didn’t hear another sound until 6:30.
Work began at 10:00 A.M. About 50 university students and one of their teachers filled the pews of a small Baptist church, and we had four hours to teach parenting workshops to them. This was the first time inside a church for some and the experience may have felt a little intimidating. If so, their fear didn’t last too long. We broke for pretzels and cookies, tea (herbata) and coffee (kava) between the second and third sessions, and they enjoyed visiting with each other and us. When the fourth session ended, two girls who’d left early suddenly returned with long-stemmed white roses for me, Gene, and our translator. And then came the traditional Polish kisses on each cheek.
We spent the rest of the afternoon with Czarek and Ewa,
the Polish pastor and his wife with whom we’re partnering for this trip and with whom we host the summer family camps. They’ve become dear friends. Looks like their 11-year-old son has decided I might be an okay friend, too. He speaks only Polish; I speak only English, but we’re learning to communicate through pantomines. To top it off, he invited me into his world by asking me to watch him play Star Wars on the computer for a half hour.
We walked back to our apartment from Czarek’s suite as darkness fell. Cobblestone sidewalks all the way. It was brrrrr…..cold outside. No snow, but biting wind. Halfway home we ducked into a pizza restaurant to thaw out with a hot drink and a bite to eat. The menus were in Polish and the waitress couldn’t speak a word of English. And so…I pointed at a salad picture and nodded my head. And then I pointed at the soup items (zupy) and asked, “Good?” She smiled and nodded. I hadn’t a clue what I ordered.
We laughed about our lives as we waited for our food to come. We’re walking in a strange city, ordering unknown items in a restaurant where no one speaks our language, teaching parenting classes based on Biblical principles to secular university students and the social services department in the former Communist bloc. Never in a million years would we have imagined we’d be doing this. What a ride when God takes the wheel.
Friday morning will come early. I have a broken molar, so I’ll visit a dentist at 8:00 A.M. before we teach social workers for four hours. After supper, we get to meet with a youth group — the teens that Czarek and Ewa minister to through the year. Most are from at-risk families. We know some from the summer family camps, too. It’ll be like seeing our own kids!