As told by Roxy Odiorne: Our last day was a whirlwind of laughter, friends, and tears. We started out by riding the train from Sopot to where the school was at 9:30 in the morning. After we arrived at the school, we split into our small teams and went to the classrooms. We had 3 sessions-one with top level primary students, and two with second year gimnazium (like middle school) students. We played icebreakers with them and then got into small groups to discuss Easter, pop culture, and Texas/America. The kids were pretty talkative, and we got into some big topics in the gimnazium classes. They asked really good questions and were interested in what we had to say. You could really feel relationships being built and the intelligence of the kids was obvious. In between the sessions, the students and us would go into a classroom for refreshments, music, and hanging out. It was so much fun to talk and hang out with the kids, and we all made friends. For lunch, we took a quick trip to Old Town for some amazing Polish food, a bit of souvenir shopping, and a last chance to admire the beauty there. (It is really one of the most gorgeous places in Poland.) Then, it was time to go back to Adrian’s church for Texas Night. We had about 75 kids show up, and we played American football and other sports, taught them Texas dances, and ate some traditional Texas foods. They also showed us some of their Polish dances, which was really fun. The coolest part of the night, though, was when Isabella Babin and Hannah Gilliland shared their testimonies, and Michaela Newman sang. People were crying during the testimonies, and worshipping during the songs. I think we touched a lot of people and God was definitely present! When the night was over, we had a lot of tearful goodbyes as we parted with our Polish friends. It was so sad! God did some incredible things throughout the week, and I am so blessed to have gotten to go and play a part in God’s plan for Poland. Polska, you are forever in our hearts!!!
As told by Jenna Drummond: Our last day of Poland was so fun and very bittersweet! We woke up and met Adrian at the train station to go to a middle school and talk to classes again. That day, we talked about what we do for Easter and it was really fun and interesting to see what they like to do for their Easter traditions (they decorate eggs just like us!) It was really great building the start of strong relationships with them and the joy they gave me was such a blessing! Also after all of our classes, we invited them to the church for Texas night, and it was sooooo fun!!! We did line dances and ate queso, and Isabella and Hannah told their testimonies and one of my friends (named Francesco) loved hearing the testimonies and he said it really touched his heart and he loved the openess of it. It was absolutely soooo hard to leave those sweet kids, and I probably gained about 100 insta and snapchat followers to keep in touch!!:-) When we left, and I kept giving hugs after hugs and I could really feel just how big and great God’s joyous love is and it was an experience I’ll never ever forget!! I definitely want to make it a goal to try and come back, it was just so incredible and I am so thankful that I got to go!
As told by Tara Drummond: Today was the definition of bittersweet. This morning, my team and I went to our school and what we did there was so fun and precious! Emily and I were partners and we spoke to three different classes and every time the bell rang for them to switch classes, I was yearning for more time with them! They were all so talkative and they loved asking us questions and getting us to try to pronounce Polish words and it was just a sweet time! In between two of the classes, the oldest grade took us into the gym and performed and taught us a traditional Polish dance. AND IT WAS SO FUN. Afterwards, my team taught them some two-step and they really enjoyed that! Then, we had lunch in the cafeteria and it just blows my mind that they have such good, homemade lunches at school when we don’t have that at my school. It was just really awesome to experience! Afterwards the Vice Principal, Kasha, took us into the computer room with some of the students. We handed out awards for the city scavenger hunt we had the day before, and they gave us some super cute souvenirs from Gdansk. We then said goodbye to the students (which made me tear up), hung out at the hall for a little bit, and then headed over to the Second Baptist Church for Texas Night. Texas Night was one of the funnest things I’ve ever done. There were about 70 students that came and a lot were from my school which made me so happy!! We two stepped, line danced, play football, ate queso and chili, and just enjoyed each other’s company. Being around those people and just showing God’s love to them is something I’m never going to forget! Oh my goodness saying goodbye to all the friends I made and the church staff made me cry!! On the way to the airport hotel, I just soaked in everything around me and just thanked God for this amazing trip! Poland 2016 is a trip I’m never going to forget!!
As told by Mollie Mulvey: This past week has been one of the most emotionally, mentally, and physically tolling times in my life, and yet I would not trade a second of it for anything. Every high and low, every time I snapped or was snapped at, every time I cried or witnessed someone else crying, every time I laughed so hard that my stomach began to ache, or every time I risked food poisoning and thankfully survived, I saw God working in my life and in the lives of those around me. One of the nights at the church in Gdynia I asked a girl that I had met to tell us some phrases in Polish that don’t translate very well; she replied by explaining that when people say “No, no, no” they really mean “Yes.” At first this seemed like merely an amusing, useless fact that I could someday retell to someone who probably would not laugh, however, as it was hidden away in my memory, it resonated in my heart. You see, I have realized throughout this week that sometimes when you say “No,” to God, He replies with “Yes,” and when we think that God is saying “no,” He is really insisting on a different “Yes.” On the first real day of the trip, Sunday the 12th, Brett informed my group that we would not actually be in the team that we had originally been assigned, but instead, we would be separated and going to a smaller town called Gdynia a little ways outside of Gdansk. I’m not going to lie to you, at first this made me frustrated. You see, I am an extrovert in nearly every sense of the word, I am also very much so a planner, so at first, being told that my plans had been changed last minute in a foreign country that I had never been to before, and being under the impression that smaller town meant less kids to interact with, caused a lot of anxiety. But just as I began to say “No,” just as I began to ask God “why”, and question His plan, did God reply with a resounding “Yes”. On Monday we started our mission work at a middle school in Gdynia. Many of us were extremely nervous because we didn’t have everything prepared that we might have hoped and we had no idea what to expect. God, however, knew exactly what was going to happen that day. Sarah, Chastity, and I all walked into a classroom full of Polish 16 year-olds and God provided more than we could’ve expected. The kids were so curious and responsive and interested in what we had to say. At first they seemed a little nervous but after a bit of warming up, nearly all of them were brave enough to speak out in what they felt was English not up to our standards. This however was a lie that the enemy whispered into their ears, just as he whispered the doubts and worries into mine. To see them overcome the fear of embarrassment, led me to overcome my own, and in that, God proved that what I thought was a “no” to many prayers, was exactly the opposite. God continued to provide and prove me wrong throughout the rest of the week as even the most difficult classes still proved to be exactly what was needed. On the last day, the principal of the school called us into her office along with a few of the students that our team had created strong bonds with. In the time that we sat in this little room, surrounded by so many people that we had been blessed to have met throughout the week, and the gift baskets of goodies and books that they had given us, I realized that perhaps God was not only saying “Yes” to us, but that he was saying “Yes” to those that we touched by the Holy Spirit through us. And as I looked around at each of their smiling faces, filled with so much genuineness and love, I realized that God not only said “Yes” but he was asking us why we ever doubted him. All week we had also been inviting our classes to the Collide nights at the church after school on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night, and each night it grew and grew in numbers. Friday night was “Texas Night” and we probably had around twenty to thirty kids there, which according to our missionary, was way more than had ever come before. We danced and sang and honestly, it was one of the most fun nights I’ve ever had, but all great things must come to an end I suppose. As the night grew on, one by one our friends that we had made throughout our time there began to file out, and each goodbye was just as hard as the one before. When it was time for the group of girls that I had made the strongest bonds with to say goodbye, I could not even cry because I was in shock that I was leaving them. I was in shock of how little I knew about them, and yet how much I loved them. I was in shock about how short of a time I had known them, and yet how many tears were shed as we said “Do widzenia.” But doesn’t that just show you how much you can love someone when you love them like Jesus does. John 15:12 tells us “Love each other as I have loved you” and man, did I feel loved as I took a step back and realized all of the things he had blessed me with this week. I have a family, friends, a church, a polish church, and a polish school where I can all confidently say that I am loved and have been loved at.
As told by Andrea Fraser: Today in Gdansk, team Adrian went to an elementary/middle school. It was a school that was right next to the train station so we didn’t need to leave until 9:45 from the train station. So when we left everyone at 8:10 at the park we all went to Costa Coffee and hung out there until it was time to go to the train station. Once we arrived in Gdansk we walked to the school and met one of the teachers who was in charge of getting this all started. We split up into 3 groups and rotated around 3 classes today and each one was different from the last. One was really outgoing and talked so much, then the next group was semi-quiet and talked a little bit, while the last group would barely talk and was really shy. Each group was unique and different from the one before it. Then we went to a restaurant that was really close to the school and we had Polish food. One of the kids from the school was actually eating there by himself so I invited him to eat with us so he wouldn’t be by himself. Then we headed to the mall and looked around and shopped for an hour until the kids from all the schools met up with us at the food court. Once we all gathered around we hung out at the tables and talked for an hour or so. Some of my friends from two years ago also came to hangout for a bit which was super cool and fun! Once we finished at the mall we went back to the church with about five 14 year olds from the middle school and we played soccer, frisbee, pulse, sofa, and chair roulette. We played games for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours non-stop. It was just a day filled with laughter and joy even when times were hard. I just praise the Lord that we were even given an opportunity to come back here!
As told by Claire McMahon: From involuntarily eating duck liver, to laughing until I cry, this week has been nothing less than an adventure. God has placed me in this incredible place and I could not be more grateful for the way my faith and friendships have grown. I have spent this week teaching Polish children English. This was often frustrating, for many of the kids could not understand us, causing me to become impatient and feel as if I wasn’t serving much of a purpose. However, I was reminded that we aren’t here to start a fire, so much as we’re here to light a spark. It was very humbling to be reminded that it’s not me who is capable of transforming people’s hearts, so much as it is God’s. Today we prepared a presentation comparing Texas and Poland to present in the elementary school. It was more of a preparatory day than anything. We ask for prayers that the students and teachers will be receptive to our work, sparking an interest in their desire to attend Sopot’s Baptist Church. This week has moved me in ways that I will carry with me forever, and I cannot wait to share them when I get back!
As told by Hannah Gilliland: Hey y’all my name is Hannah and I’m a junior. This is my second time coming on the Poland mission trip and it has been so much fun!! I have been working with team Adrian this week and we have been going into gimnaziums (elementary & middle schools) all week long. My classes today were mainly 13 to 16 year olds and they were all very talkative and strong in their English speaking. We’ve had a hard time getting people to open up because they don’t want to make any mistakes while speaking to us but today the groups were very active and always had good questions. At this school we actually had projectors for the first time so we could show them pictures and give them a more visual perspective of what it’s like in Texas instead of only telling them. After working on the schools for the first half of the day we headed to the Galeria Baltyka, their shopping mall. We asked all the kids we met throughout the week to come hangout with us while we shop so they could show us where all the good places were and just so we could really build deeper relationships with them. After walking and shopping around the mall for awhile we headed to Adrian’s to hang out and play games with all the kids. We played so many fun games and really bonded with them. It was so much fun just laughing and hanging out with these kids and loving on them! Something hilarious that happened was that as soon as we all got into our apartments you could tell that we are all so exhausted. We couldn’t stop laughing at things that weren’t even funny and then Rylie York peed her pants. Please be praying that our last day goes well tomorrow and that we can continue to show them God’s love and make an impact on all of these teenagers!!
As told by Gracie Bridges: Today was so so long but it was also so great. We spent a lot of time with the Polish kiddos and there was a lot of focus on relationships; I felt like we were talking with them rather than at them like we have been the past few days at schools. We started our day off by meeting every one at our assigned school, where we later on split into groups of 4 or 5 to go on a scavenger hunt of the city. I was in a group with Drew Newman, and two 13 year old girls, Ola and Monika. All of the other groups had adults in them, and I really didn’t worry about it until I realized that we were following around these girls that we had just met that are years younger than us and we are in a foreign country with a language barrier, I have no idea what I would do if something happened!! I have had to be the most flexible I ever have had to be on a mission trip here. It honestly has been a little bit of a struggle, but the week has been going pretty smoothly for how much has been thrown at us. Anyways, we walked around Gdansk for about 3 hours during the scavenger hunt and then went to eat lunch. After lunch, we headed back to the school where we eventually met up with a second group. This group took us to a panic room. A panic room is practically a small room that you are locked in with a ton of locked boxes and other random clues and things to get you out. My group was told that we had the hardest one and that only 1/5 of the people that try it actually end up finishing it. Then, on top of that, he came over and handcuffed my hands behind my back!!! Again, flexibility has had to play a huge role in everything this week, I didn’t expect to be locked in a dark room for an hour with my hands restrained and my bladder close to exploding. We didn’t end up getting everything done in time, but it really was a cool experience and it was fun to get to do that with our Polish friends. One of the boys we have been around a lot this week, Pshmack, was in my group and after we all finished and we were laughing and joking around I realized how hard it will be to leave these people and this place. We headed to the church after saying goodbye to our school friends, and there we simply played games with the youth group; more relationships. I think on mission trips a lot of us get caught up in having everyone come to Christ immediately and have a 180 spin on their life the night that they hear about Jesus, which is obviously fantastic, but I also think that is simply coming and building these relationships and setting these foundations is so much more important than we realize. This trip has been so incredible so far. The places I have been are unforgettable and the people I have met will forever be in my heart. It’s heartbreaking to think about how tomorrow is our last day, but I’m excited to see how Jesus plans on wrapping up our week.
As told by Jamie Downs: Today was our “touring day” to the Malbork Castle. We met up with the other groups at 9:00 am and loaded onto a super nice tour bus and drove a little over an hour away to the castle. I was super happy we were with the other groups because I got to see my little sister and all my other friends and talk about the experiences we both had already had. When we got to Malbork we got these headsets with a tour guide talking on it about every important spot about the castle. I took many pictures with my friends and sister and it was a blast. After the tour we went to McDonald’s and got some lunch. Then we loaded back onto the bus and went back to Sopot. My group had not been shopping yet, so Brett took us to Old Town in Gdansk where we got to buy gifts and look around and tour the St. Mary’s Cathedral. I had already visited that church two years ago when we came so I stayed with Kathleen and Garrett who had also already visited the church last time as well. We walked around and talked. I don’t know how many times Garrett has made me laugh so hard I have cried but I know it’s well over 50. Once we all met up, we ate dinner at one of the restaurants at old town. I just got ham and cheese on toast but Claire got goose dumplings and she let me try them….it was SO good. After dinner we finished shopping and grabbed some hot chocolate at their local coffee shop before we headed back onto the train to Sopot. When we got off the train we stopped at the grocery store to grab a couple things and I grabbed 2 bags of ketchup Cheetos (the yummiest things I have ever had) and 12 candy bars called “Lion Bars” for my friends to try when I get back. When we were waiting for the others to finish grabbing some snacks I saw the little boy who had helped me garden at the Sopot House Monday night. He speaks no English so we just hugged and waved goodbye and I told him I would see him tomorrow. Even though the kids at the Sopot House speak very little or no English I still feel like we connected with them by being with them and smiling and interacting by coloring or just walking together and pointing at things. Then we came back to our apartments and debriefed as a group and talked about what was going to happen tomorrow. My body is so tired and worn out but I keep telling myself to push through and keep going because what we are doing is so important and could have a big impact on the English club at Conrad’s church. I am so sad this week is going by so fast and knowing this is my last time to Poland makes me even sadder. Poland will always have special place in my heart. I can’t wait for the next two days and being able to make the Sopot House kids Tacos and Queso. I think they are going to love it. I am so thankful I was able to go on this trip!! God has shown me so much and I can’t wait to see what else He has in store for me and everyone else!
As told by Rylie York: Hi! My name is Rylie York, and I’m a sophomore! Today is Wednesday March 16th, Day 6 of our wonderful Poland trip! Let me tell you, this trip has been a special experience for me! Though today wasn’t a normal routine day, it was still just as amazing as the rest. As a whole group, we visited the Malbork Castle for the morning and afternoon. I think we all really enjoyed it, because we’ve been spread out across multiple cities for the last couple days. The castle was absolutely beautiful! We used little voice recorded devices that directed us around the massive masterpiece. Shortly after visiting the castle, we split back up into our groups to host our first “Collide” youth night, at each of our churches. Being apart of the Gdynia group, we have been working with the missionary Matek, & local schools in Gydnia. Tonight we had about 25 students from our school fellowship come to our youth night (11 more than they’ve ever had), & let me tell you…it was great! The few students that we have gotten close to, have made my heart smile. They have so much passion for life, & I can tell that they are starting to open up to us. Though the trip has had its emotional rises and falls, I have faith that God continues to guide us down these streets & into these people’s hearts. I ask that you pray for safety, health, and the ability to leave this place in a few days without wanting to drag all my Polish friends back to America with me! I love them all, & am so incredibly blessed that God even considered a bunch of crazy teens like us to embark on this journey.
As told by Connor Lancaster: Today in Poland, team Adrian and team Konrad met up together for one of the first times this week to get on a charter bus to travel to Malbork Castle, about an hour drive from the meeting place in Sopot. The castle is regarded as the biggest all-brick castle in the entire world. It was full of history, having an automated tour guide for each person through headphones. One take away that has been evident throughout this week was the influence of the war some 70 years prior. This was seen in the castle by the discolored bricks lining the top few feet of the surrounding castle wall. The bricks looked this way from the castle being bombed in World War II and being rebuilt with newer materials in its place. From the castle in Malbork, we went to Second Baptist Church where we had our “Collide” style youth group service for the Polish kids as well as us. We played two games called “baby, beanbag, backpack,” and “American True/False Trivia.” Following the games, we listened to testimonies from two students that carried lots of weight and hit the hearts of everyone in the room. At the end, Mark Bridges led the group in a short message out of the book of Mark that encouraged all of us to the faith in Jesus that we were made to have. In between all these events, however, students from Georgetown (I being one of them) led the worship music. I played guitar for the first time in front of a large group and it will undoubtedly be one of my biggest personal takeaways for this whole trip. Being a part of leading a group in worship is, in my opinion, incomparable to any other experience I’ve had. Being in the front, listening to all of the people praising God in one song and one voice and one body is an experience I will be unlikely to ever forget.
As told by Kendrick Clark: Today for breakfast we had potatoes and sausage, with bread and jam, along with the cereal, coffee, and tea. It was delicious as usual. After breakfast we headed back to the primary school that we were at yesterday. I am in the songs and dance group with Kathleen, Jamie, and Garrett, and today we had grades 1 and 2. Most of the kids we were with today knew very little or no English. This made things a little bit more difficult, but God really opened up the hearts and minds of the kids and allowed us to find ways to communicate with them and to teach them some simple English words and phrases. It was super cool to see the kids smile, laugh, and have fun learning new songs and dances with us. All the teachers were grateful that we were there and they enjoyed watching us interact with the children. The other groups taught English and played games with the kids and they were pleased and felt really good about how today went. Our goal in all of this is to love the people here in hopes that we will open doors so that Jesus (and the Baptist church in Sopot) will become more known.
After school was finished we went to the Sopot House, which is a place for kids to come hangout after school, especially if they do not have a good home life. The people there took us to the Hippodrome, which is a place that races horses, as well as, provides horseback riding for people with special needs or disabilities, or with anything that would require horse therapy. A couple of us rode the horses, but we mainly just walked with the Polish kids and tried to talk with them as best as we could. It was really fun to be with all the people from the Sopot house and get to know them better. The teenagers there are even helping us learn and pronounce some words in Polish! The kids there really love having us and they enjoy learning and getting better at their English skills be talking to us and listening to us communicate with each other.
Then after that we left and rode the train to Old Town to meet up with Team Adrian. We looked in one shop for like 20 minutes, then went to the Hard Rock Café and had some American food and it was really good. My bacon cheese burger and ice cream hit the spot. After hanging out there for a couple of hours while eating and talking, we jumped back on the train and headed back to the apartments. We discussed our days and made some plans for tomorrow, which will be the day we get to have fun and tour a castle and go to some shops and maybe even the mall. Now we are all cleaning up, journaling, and getting ready for tomorrow. God is so good and he is doing great things through our groups here in Poland and I am so excited for the rest of the week!
As told by Emily Wilkes: I woke up at 6:30 am this morning feeling sick and had no voice. I started to talk and no sound came out. I knew heading into a middle school full of kids waiting for me to have lots of conversation with them was going to be challenging. My group (team Adrian) headed to the train station to get to our separate schools we were assigned to. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do about not being able to talk. As we got to the school my heart filled with joy because I got to see these amazing kids I’ve built relationships with. Today was kind of hard for me, because I wasn’t able to speak to the kids and I had to rely on my partners. God showed me that speaking isn’t the only way to love others. I didn’t see it at first, but talking isn’t the only way to show Jesus and the love he has for these children. Just being in their presence was enough for me. I don’t have to use my words to show how Jesus loves, but by my actions I can. I can show God’s love with or with out words, each will be glorifying God. After a day at school, we took a train to old town to go site seeing and a little shopping. Later tonight we went to Hard Rock Cafe for dinner and dessert. Overall it was a great day filled with loving others and with God’s beauty!
At told by Isabella Babin: Wow, is all I can begin to start with how today was. My day started with waking up at 6:55, unwillingly. Yet, the Lord made himself ever present by shooting the negative thought down (of waking up early) by reminding me of all the faces filled with joy that I would see today. I was out the door at about 8:10 in the morning. A few people on our Poland team got food poisoning, about three adults and a couple of students. Though almost all of the students and adults that didn’t get sick were stressed out and worried that our plans had to change, God was still ever present. I’m not sure in the end how our “new plan” worked out but I know that God was not left out of the equation. So, with a few changes made to the groups we all went our separate ways to our schools. Specifically with my group of Connor and Hannah, we went to a prestige high school in Gdańsk with the name something along the lines of IB. This was our first time working with older students and I must admit I was a bit discouraged because I thought that they might think we are per say, a bit silly in a sense. I definitely was proved wrong when they went along with the game that we played to learn each other’s names. Not only that, but instead of taking their break (school break of 10-15 minutes long), they decided to hang out with us and ask us questions of ourselves and about the United States. I did have to leave early though because, Connor and Hannah had already been taken to the next school but I stayed because they didn’t have enough room in the car so the driver (Adrian) came to pick me up after they were dropped off. So we were at the middle school, the school my team went to yesterday and we were introduced to about three new classes. Two classes were about 13-14 years old and the next class was around the age group of 11-12. They were all very accepting and not only did everyone have a smile on their face but each one of them shared with us. After much laughter from laughing at each other’s “trying to speak English” and “trying to speak Polish” our team invited them to our Texas Night and Thursday mall day that will be talked about on the blogs of Thursday and Friday! My team of Brett, Kylee, Hannah, Connor, and Tara were taken to the train station so we could be taken to old town which is in Gdańsk. We shopped around and did some sight seeing and after that ate a massive meal at The Hard Rock Café.
Apart from our day, I just want to comment how joyful I am of having the privilege to be on this mission trip. I can’t express my emotion towards how much God is showing me in my life through this trip on paper. I don’t think I’m speaking for myself but God has put so many people in my life to direct me towards the plans that God has for this trip and for my life, and I can’t give enough gratitude. Please continue to pray for us as God reveals all he has in store.
As told by Garrett Alton: Today we woke up at 6:30 to catch an early breakfast and head to a primary school to tell the children about America (Texas, basically) and we talked a little bit about the gospel, because in Poland the country is Catholic. We made a 25 minute walk to the school and divided into our groups, which we have divided into the day previously. Of the three groups (English Lessons, Dancing, and Sports/Games) I volunteered to be on the dancing team. At the school we had a list of songs, “Bananas Unite,” “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” “Lean on Me,” “You’re my Brother, You’re my Friend,” and “Footloose.” The school day was kind of awkward to start as we didn’t know what the general reaction was going to be to the selection of those songs, but as the day went on we progressively got better with the different groups.
The first three groups were the roughest. They also happened to be the youngest of the days group, and the third group was a group of “troubled students” which made it extremely difficult with the language gap and the lack of participation. Once we hit the fourth group it was literally fun and games from there. Every class after showed enormous amounts of respect, as well as participation, but there was one problem. Every class wanted to do “Footloose” three times each, which resulted in about fifteen runs of the song “Footloose” along with the leg workout and the three blisters from my boots that followed.
After school we went a place called “Sopot House” which was an after school program for students to go and hang out after school. They treated us to these delightful sandwiches which were made up of bread, crème cheese, and tomatoes, and we helped out rake up their lawn and give three of our Texas presentations. We came back in for a Linner (lunch/ dinner) and had amazing spinach cakes.
We headed back to our hotel room and the dancing group was informed, on our nightly discussion of the day, that we will be in the range from six to nine year olds who knew little to absolute no English. We had to change every single one of our songs to a children’s song. One of the songs goes like this “Hello (guy waves hand)… Hello (guy waves other hand)… Hello (guy waves both hands)… How are you!” and this song goes on for 4 minutes with other simple and outrageously annoying lyrics.
Over all today was an eventful day with jet lag taking full effect. Our prayer requests are, for the general well being of the mission team, the frustration of certain aspect of not being able to understand the people we are trying to connect with, and for tomorrow’s busy day in the same school.
As told by Michaela Newman: This morning came fast and early. We left our three-bedroom, beautifully renovated apartment around 7:45am to run (literally) for coffee. We were able to meet up with the other groups just in time to leave for the the train station, where we conveniently ran into James and Angela. Immediately, my small group was instructed to hop into their car. This is basically how the week has been going. Nothing has been set in stone until it actually happens; there is a constant need for flexibility.
We arrived at High School Topolówka, an International Baccalaureate school and one of the best in Gdańsk, where we met our coordinator and the school’s secretary. They were both so gracious, especially since Heather, Lance, Andrea and I had worked with the coordinator two years before at Middle School 25. In fact, I knew several students that had gone to the middle school that now attend this very high school, and I couldn’t wait to see them. We went to our first class as one large group – the four of us and Angela, Amy, and Roxy – where we began to introduce ourselves to the students. They were fairly open and had some questions, but we were low on time and quickly had to go to our next classes.
From there we split into two groups, and Heather, Roxy and I visited a class with two of my friends, Alan and Claudia, from two years prior. It was so wonderful to see them and catch up! Throughout the class we discussed the American school system, course requirements, and extracurriculars and compared them with that of Poland. In a way, we are all very similar – both groups of teens want to go to the best college but struggle with the amount of work it takes to get there. In Poland, however, there is very little emphasis on what you do outside the classroom since your academic future is solely determined by one exam. No other factors are considered – in stark contrast to the extracurricular pressures placed on American high schoolers. This second class was very engaging and had many questions, and the two hour period seemed to pass very quickly.
After lunch, the entire Poland team regrouped to visit Westerplatte, where World War II began. It was a sobering experience, and the freezing weather with a constant drizzle didn’t lighten the mood. However it was inspiring to hear and read a bit about the history of Poland, a country marked by perseverance, whose citizens possess a quiet strength they have every right to be proud of. The truth is I love this country, and it is encouraging to see such a tangible depiction of redemption and hope restored.
I believe Poland is perfectly poised for revival. In a country where the line between church and state is constantly blurred, there is cause to view God as impersonal, distant, or even oppressive. But this also creates opportunity – a desire for something greater, Someone to fill the void and replace regulations with relationship.
That is why we are here. We’re here to love the people of Poland, our peers, and point them towards Someone who will awaken purpose in their lives. We are here to help build that bridge.
Thank you for wanting to build that bridge with us!
As told by Allee Nix: Today was our first full day in Poland!!!! We started off the day late because we were locked inside of our apartment! In Poland, most of the doors have a lock that you must use a key to open and close from both the inside and outside. Our key would not unlock the side door we had been using to enter/exit, so we had to find a key to open the front door. Once we got outside, the gate to the street would not open, so Gracie (Bridges) took one for the team and climbed over the gate and opened it for us. After the 15 minutes spent getting a mere 20 feet from our apartment, we were finally on our way with the other groups! Our team (Chastity and Joel’s family) had a plan change for the week, and we are now serving in Gydania helping the missionary Matek. We attended his church this morning and there were there with about 100 other members. It was very interesting because we sang a few songs, listened to a lady’s testimony, took communion, sang some more songs, listened to a sermon that was given in Ukrainian and translated to Polish (and then translated to English for our group), then sang again! In between every event we would stand and pray, and it was a prayer open to the group so anyone was welcome to join in and pray. Before we left, the church invited us to the front and the pastor prayed for our safety and evangelistic efforts this week. After that Matek and some boys who are in his youth group walked us around the port in Gydania and then to eat. The boys paired up with us and helped explain the menu, what was in the dishes, and then ordered for us. Once we finished eating at the Polish cafe, we visited the “youth building” where Matek leads his youth group on Wednesday nights. It was a tiny apartment with one room that could hold about 20 people (think living room) and a kitchen that could hold one person (think coat closet). We will be leading night services there on Wednesday and Thursday, and hosting a “Texas Night” on Friday, and we hope to fill it with 60+ people! After seeing everywhere else we will be this week, we made our way back to Gdansk and met up with the rest of the groups. From there we walked down the longest wooden pier in Europe and then split up for a quick dinner before heading back to our apartments. Our whole team is excited to be serving in this area, and we really enjoyed meeting the boys today, and are looking forward to meeting more kids our age tomorrow. Please continue to pray we will make connections with them while we are visiting the schools and that they will be encouraged/intrigued to visit our youth nights, so we can introduce them to our Savior.
As told by Brooklyn Crites: Today was our first full day in Gdansk, Poland. We got split into our groups and made our way to the different churches. My group went to Second Baptist Church. They started out with worship which was very cool because they offered it in Polish and English, so everyone got to sing and worship all at the same time, which proved to show that even two completely different cultures, languages, or even being halfway around the world from each other cannot stop people from worshiping and loving God together. Next we went on to the Sermon where Brett shared a personal sermon of his own which was then translated into Polish. Once the Sermon was over the whole church gathered for coffee, tea, baked goods, and other snacks that the members brought and that the church provided. During this team we got to meet and interact with the members of the church. Later we spent time with just the youth ministry; learning each other’s names, playing games with each other, talking about our home lives, and eating lunch together. After church we went to the grocery store (which is even smaller than an American Walgreens or CVS) which was quite an adventure considering all foods and labels were in Polish, different brands from our own, priced and weighed differently, and we were unable to read the ingredients. (I also dropped and broke about a dozen eggs and I still have no idea what the Polish lady yelled at me). Finally we all reunited and ate dinner and shared some quite humorous stories from our different experiences today. God has truly offered us a new world to explore and contribute to.
As told by Ruth Whorton: We started this morning going to church with Konrad right across the street from where we are staying. At church they sang some songs in Polish that we knew in English and we were able to sing along in English which was a cool start to the day being able to see people from across the world worshiping the same God. We were introduced to the people in the church and then I got up and gave a short presentation about evangelism in America. It was awesome to be able to share with them about the events and service projects we do to show and share the love of God. One cool thing that happened after church was a lady came up to me, speaking in Polish, about what I had shared. Our translator came over and started translating for me, and this Polish lady was just expressing her joy for all we do to share the gospel. I had mentioned that I run a Bible study in my high school and she was saying how encouraged she was by this because in Poland that is not heard of.
After church we met to get a more detailed plan for our week and to come up with a survey to ask people in town about Easter. We came up with questions about their culture, traditions, and foods that they like to have at Easter and then went into deeper questions asking them why they celebrated Easter and what Easter meant to them. My group and I were at the pier, which was quite chilly, talking to anyone who would stop for our survey. We learned many traditions that occur in Poland. We learned that people take baskets of food to priests to have it blessed and that there is a holiday called “wet Monday” where guys throw water on girls for good luck. The Easter Holiday in Poland is very much set in the traditions that have been set by generations in the past. For most people the religious part is simply tradition as well. At the end of the survey we were able to share why we celebrated Easter, sharing about the death and resurrection of Christ in hopes to get people thinking about what we said.
After the surveys we ate a late lunch at this pancake place, but in Poland a pancake is like an American crape. I had an apple cinnamon pancake with whipped cream that was delicious. We met up with team Adrian to take a group picture and then headed back to plan in detail for our first day in the schools tomorrow. Please pray for the people we talked to today with our surveys that they would see the deeper meaning behind the Easter holiday and pray that as we go into the schools that things would run smoothly and we would be able to spread information about Sopot Baptist church to the people in town.
As told by Hannah Newman: Well the past two days have been a crazy blur. Traveling is one of the most exhausting things I have ever experienced. After three flights and two train rides, we have arrived in Sopot, Poland! It is such a cool city with some amazing people. Our missionaries—Angela and James— are so excited for the ways God is going to work through our group this week. Angela and James have two really sweet and amazing girls named Ella and Macy. They are both fluent in Polish and English so they translate for us, which is nice. All of the people we are working with during this week are so strong in their faith and I am excited to see what God has planned.
After we got settled into our apartments around the city, we walked a long ways in the freezing cold to go to dinner. (I can already tell I didn’t pack enough warm clothes)! We got to have kebabs from a restaurant in the local square for dinner! After dinner we went to get some coffee from another local shop. So far, all of the food here has been amazing!
I am so thankful for this opportunity and the prayers that we have supporting us throughout this journey. I know that God has something so exciting in store for us and the people that we will create relationships with!!
As told by Drew Newman: We met at the church a little before 11:10am so that we could leave for San Antonio by 11:30. After about a 2 hour drive we arrived at the San Antonio airport. When we got there we had to wait for 2 hours until we could board our flight going to Chicago at 4:50. We took a small plane from San Antonio and arrived at Chicago at 7:30. From there we left Chicago on a double-decker plane at 9:35, and had about a 9 hour flight to Munich, Germany. Although most of us didn’t get much sleep on the plane ride, the flight was awesome all the same. We arrived at Munich at 1:30 (their time), and after a short hour wait we left Munich at 2:30, arriving in Gdansk at 4:00. We met up with James and Angela at the airport and from there took a few train rides to where we would be staying at Sopot, only a few miles away from Gdansk. We finished our long day by eating at one of the many different places that Sopot had to offer, including the one I ate at called Kababistan.