Dawn breaks as we clickety-clack from Gorzow to Warsaw. Our train slows to a stop in a station labeled “Krzyz.” The engine’s rumble competes with a voice over a loudspeaker saying something I can’t understand. Hopefully the announcement isn’t something like, “There’s been a last-minute schedule change. All passengers bound for Warsaw must disembark and wait for the next train.”
We got an early start today. Czarek fetched us at 4:00 A.M. and delivered us to the Gorzow station for our trip. Ice glazed the city sidewalks and roads, courtesy of the multiple-personality weather pattern this week. Frigid temperatures don’t slow people here. The majority don’t own cars, so they either walk to work or catch a bus or tram. This morning I saw two motorcyclists brave the road conditions and sub-zero weather. Now that’s dedication!
Our time in Gorzow was well spent, it seems. We taught workshops for 10 hours on Saturday and Sunday, and two more on Monday. I particularly enjoyed the last group. Seven people showed up. They entered the church
carrying the smell of cigarette smoke and a lot of emotional baggage. They came only because their social workers told them they must, and they looked like scared rabbits. But their wary expression didn’t last long; a smile and a handshake warm the heart in any language.
These men and women struggle with life. Alcoholism and abuse taint their past and strip their present of hope. Parenting skills lack and dysfunction rules. One couple, for example, grandparent a 12-year-old boy who raped an 8-year-old girl last summer. That’s only one example of the needs represented by these people to whom Czarek and Ewa minister. What a joy it was to weave in the message of God’s unconditional love as revealed in the story of the prodigal son. They listened intently. One woman smiled and nodded.
Teaching these parenting workshops in Gorzow has served three purposes:
- We’ve shared Biblical truths to a secular audience, showing how God’s Word is relevant to everyday life and whetting appetites to know more.
- We’ve built bridges between our coworkers and their community’s social services department. This will open more doors for future ministry among university students training for social work and among families and individuals whose lives border on disaster.
- We’ve raised awareness of July’s evangelistic family camp. Several individuals eagerly took brochures. Our prayer is that they will come (fear of the unknown is often a deterrent) and respond to the Gospel. Many times, attendees say camp is the only place they feel unconditionally loved and accepted.
And now we’re on to the next stop – Peronin. Our annual staff conference takes place here this weekend. Approximately 140 missionaries from Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, the Ukraine, and the Czech Republic will come seeking rest, solid Bible teaching, and fellowship with others of like mind. But first, married couples who wish to do so will participate in a FamilyLife marriage conference from Wednesday thru Friday.
Marriage can be challenging in itself. Add the pressures of career ministry and cross-cultural living, and the joy between husband and wife can quickly drain dry. And so, IM wants to encourage its married couples to focus on their relationships and keep their love alive. To do so, Gene and I will co-teach the workshops with Neal and June Black – he’s Canada’s acting director for FamilyLife (Power to Change). They’re also longtime personal friends and members of our personal support team. Sharing this ministry opportunity with them will be great fun.
So…leg #2 – here we come!