Poland 2016: Day 4

garrettblogAs 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.

10410608_10209097482622324_1869611657804102523_nAs 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!

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