From July 9-18, our family traveled to Olsztynek, Poland along with another family from our church to work with a mission team at the local Baptist church there. We have had this region on our hearts for about 3 years, since getting to know Sean & Lydia, who lead the team, and since our dear friends, the Franks, moved there to join the team last year.
We flew from Memphis to Amsterdam and from Amsterdam to Warsaw. The village we were in was about a 3-hour drive up from Warsaw. We weren’t far from the Russian border. The countryside of Poland is truly beautiful. You can see the old-world architecture in the homes from the stone walls to the red tile roofs. The landscape is filled with wheat fields, cows grazing, and storks’ nests built on top of power poles!
Our work for the week involved conducting a family-themed camp with the local Baptist church. We were divided into “family groups” and had children from the village in each group. We rotated through VBS-like activities: crafts, Bible, games, and karate (Robbie & Nate taught self-defense moves like punches & blocks and taught the kids to respond with, “Aye, Sensei!” when given instructions). At the end of the week, we had a block party, complete with Kola the rapper, grilling kielbasa, more games, crafts, and a karate demonstration from Robbie & Nate.
On Thursday night, Nate and I performed at a small coffeehouse where the team has weekly English conversation partners with Poles who speak English but would like to practice it. Nate played guitar, I sang, and Robbie helped with the egg shaker & tambourine :). We had a great time.
On Saturday before we left Warsaw, we spent the day touring this amazing city. It was so educational to experience a city that was devastated during WWII, spent decades after under Communist rule, and is now a free-market, bustling city. The experience of seeing it all as a family was priceless. We got to visit Constitution Square, where, when I was a kid, the Communist armies would march with their missiles and guns. We spent the majority of our time in Warsaw in beautiful Old Town. This part of Warsaw was leveled by the Germans during WWII and rebuilt after the war using old paintings and pictures as guides. Even the original cobblestone was recovered and used to rebuild the streets. Our artist, Stephen, got to see an original Da Vinci and three original Rembrandts that were on a European tour and on display in King Stanislaus’ palace in Old Town. It was an amazing day!
This space can’t really do justice to describe our experience. We hope to return next year, Lord willing. We grew to love the people and our hearts were sad and full when we left. We are so grateful for being allowed to go, especially to take our kids. It was truly an experience of a lifetime!