Summer 2020 Newsletter

AIM Summer 2020 Newsletter cover

Board chair Shannon Lehman shares his vision for the mission in Poland. The Hershbergers and Kilmers report on their summer furloughs, nine young people are baptized at Agape Mennonite Fellowship, and volunteers Alyssa and Alex reflect on their time serving with AIM in Poland.

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Aug-Sept Partners Update

Kristin and Ella on Aug 27, the first day of registration

The Team’s Summer Highlights

Gdansk Trip

Kristin writes,

One of the highlights of my summer was a trip to visit the Polish seaside with some friends. Our friend Natalia organized the trip and invited a diverse group of people from different parts of Poland. Lyndon, Alyssa, and I were so blessed by this time spent with other believers, and were challenged and encouraged by their testimonies and passion for the Lord.

One of our goals for this trip was to camp on the beach. The only potential problem was that tents weren’t allowed for camping on the wild beach. Rain in the forecast didn’t slow us down, and we all packed our belongings in our backpacks, simply taking sleeping bags and sleeping mats for the night. We had a great day at the beach, with minimal rain until the evening came. When the rain began, we searched for shelter at a beach-side snack shack. There were large umbrellas, and we gathered underneath, enjoying being together but unsure of what to do for the night. One of the guys had the idea to ask the owner of the snack shack if it would be possible for us to take shelter there for the night. He looked surprised at the request, but he agreed to let us stay there, not wanting any money in return for the favor. The evening was spent huddled under a shelter there, and we had a beautiful time of singing and praying, thanking God for His provision for us.

The next morning our friends had the idea that we should give the owner and two workers some gifts and notes of appreciation for letting us stay there. I was so challenged to see this group of young people so enthusiastic about writing personal notes, and talking together about how to share the Gospel with these people, sharing ideas of Scriptures to include, etc. After quite a lengthy preparation process, our whole group of thirteen people went and presented the gifts and notes, and the young man who was leading out shared a  heartfelt word of gratitude with the worker. It was amazing to see her countenance change as he shared with her, and in that moment, I sensed something profound was happening. As we walked away, I felt God reminding me that He works through simple obedience in the small moments. I’m grateful to our Polish friends for exemplifying what it means to live lives that are committed to honoring the Father, and being intentional with sharing their faith with people they meet.

Evangelistic Concert in Warsaw

Lyndon writes,

On August 22nd, Deborah, Kristin, and I had the privilege of participating in a small outdoor concert in Warsaw. The event was hosted by a local congregation from the Church of Free Christians where some of our friends attend. Our trio sang several songs in English and in Polish. A number of other groups and individuals shared a few songs as well. The event was held in the churchyard, and quite a few people listened from their apartment balconies or stopped to listen as they walked by on the sidewalk. It was a blessing to be able to serve the Lord in this way, and it was encouraging to spend this time with friends and to make new connections with other believers.

School Resumes

In August we began looking forward to the start of the ‘20-’21 school year. As for  most people these days, the new school year brought us unusual circumstances. First, we had a very small team for school preparation in August. Alex and Alyssa had finished their two year terms, leaving only Kristin and Lyndon here as our full-time teachers. Our two new teachers had not arrived because of stringent travel restrictions during the pandemic. In addition, Jaden and Jewel had returned from the US but were in a 14-day quarantine that ended on September 3.

Secondly, we wanted to take seriously the new expectations and requirements for dealing with COVID-19. We installed sanitation stations, bought clear visors (masks are crippling in a conversational English school), and developed social distancing procedures,to name a few things. Hats off to Kristin, Lyndon, and Matt for bearing the brunt of this planning process. Registration opened on August 27 and the new school year started on September 7. Despite the extra planning and additional work, we’re thrilled to finally be in the same room with students again, after teaching online from March to June. We are grateful for each day with our students, as this school year looks more uncertain than usual.

Give to AIM

Donors may indicate preferences for where their gifts are used (such as staff support, Gateway to English, or Seed of Truth) and AIM will honor preferences where possible. AIM reserves the right to assign all contributions where needed. If you would like additional information about how funds are used or if you wish to pledge ongoing support, please contact Shannon Lehman at homeoffice@aimpoland.org or 717-816-4587.

To make a donation using credit or debit card, please visit our contact page.

June-July Partners Update

farewell Alex Yoder

Staff travels and changes

Alex Yoder ended his two-year term of service and returned to the US on June 30. We are grateful for and miss Alex’s kind, thoughtful contributions to our community and school.

The European Union’s external borders are still closed to tourists, but several of our staff were able to travel in June. Jaden and Jewel Kilmer began a two-month furlough, Kristin Herrin took a four-week furlough, and the Matt and Deborah Gingerich family spent two weeks in the USA for a family wedding. They were all grateful for the chance to travel and to renew relationships with family and friends.

Currently, we are trying to navigate travel restrictions that limit the arrival of new volunteers, as non-residents of the EU are barred from entering Poland. These new restrictions mean extra legal work so that we can get new volunteers into the country.

Agape Fellowship

Literature distribution

We are happy to continue partnering with Eastern European Mission to distribute Polish Bibles and Christian literature. EEM sent a new shipment of Bibles in July, with a total of 10,000 copies for our distribution. D, a brother from Warsaw, has already picked up 800 Bibles for further distribution. He works in several hospitals, giving him the opportunity to have conversations with many people about the Lord. He is able to give Bibles to other believers to support their ministries as well, such as a lady in Gdańsk who is engaged in ministry to Jews. It is exciting to be able to support Polish believers in ministry as they give out Bibles, but most of all we pray that people would have a hunger to read God’s word. If you would like to contribute to this project, please give directly to EEM.

Volunteering Project

For the last several years, one of our church members, Agnieszka, has been caring for a local family. This household consists of an elderly, bedfast grandmother, her widowed daughter, and teenage granddaughter. After working very hard to raise money to build a new house, they are nearly ready to move in, but they needed some help to paint and prepare the new house. They are very excited about their new house as recent torrential rains have been leaking through the roof of their old house and threatening to bring down parts of their ceiling. Some of our church helped with the painting project one evening.

Give to AIM

Donors may indicate preferences for where their gifts are used (such as staff support, Gateway to English, or Seed of Truth) and AIM will honor preferences where possible. AIM reserves the right to assign all contributions where needed. If you would like additional information about how funds are used or if you wish to pledge ongoing support, please contact Matthew Mast at homeoffice@aimpoland.org or 814-789-4394.

To make a donation using credit or debit card, please visit our contact page.

April-May Partners Update

GTE staff

Current Events

Near the end of April Lavern and Lolita traveled to the USA for their furlough of two and a half months. They are enjoying being reunited with their two oldest daughters and experiencing Georgia’s hospitality. We hope their time will be revitalizing, and that they will be able to return as planned.

Since the end of March, Agape has been having services online. In April, Poland initiated the first of four stages aimed at easing restrictions. In May, we gathered several times in homes or outdoors for worship and fellowship. We have also been having more small group interactions and that has been a boost to our lives during this isolating time. We’ve just entered the fourth stage of returning to a new normal and are enjoying simple pleasures like sitting down in a restaurant or walking outside without a face mask.

Gateway to English Update

In March, when Covid-19 began affecting Poland, we started offering online classes to our students. Now, at the end of May, our seven teachers are teaching 40 group and individual classes. For some of our students who are also parents, the challenges of tutoring children and working from home have made English lessons impossible. For others, having the opportunity to continue sharpening their English skills in the midst of isolation is attractive.

Kristin writes,

The last few months of school seemed simultaneously to move slowly and to fly by. The unexpected occurrence of switching to online lessons due to the quarantine, led to revamping some teaching techniques, and familiarizing ourselves with online platforms like Zoom and Skype. While moving to online lessons felt like a challenge at first, and we dearly missed the element of relaxed, natural human interaction that more easily takes place in a classroom, we quickly found that these online meetings with our students were one of the brightest spots in our weeks. We were all experiencing the same things–isolation, lots of questions–and we found that lessons felt a lot like talking with friends, as we were able to encourage and care for each other through a difficult time.

God is faithful, and we experienced Him guiding us in meaningful conversations during both individual and group lessons through this time. In the last couple months of school, we covered a wide range of topics, such as:

What motivates you?: We discussed things like fear, affirmation, and self-determination.

Gardening: It’s the season for planting here, and lots of students are into growing things.

The disease of being busy: We spent time looking at the busy pace of our lives, and asked questions about what our priorities are. We explored the importance of genuinely slowing down to ask people about the state of their hearts.

Humor: Lots of cheesy English jokes were involved. (Would you like to hear a pizza joke? Never mind, it’s too cheesy…)

The prodigal son/making decisions: As one of our last lessons, the story of the prodigal son sparked meaningful discussion about the characters in it and what Jesus meant for his disciples to hear in the story. Some students wrestled with the unfairness of the younger son getting a party thrown in his honor while the older son had worked faithfully at home for years. Some shared that as parents, they have come to realize how strong their love is for their children regardless of their children’s choices. We had some opportunities to share about the Father-heart of God. It is incredible that He loves us so deeply, that he is willing and ready to forgive us when we are truly sorry for our wrongdoings.

Friday was our last official day of school, and it’s hard to believe another year has come to a close. This year has been full of unexpected things—a quarantine, online lessons, cancelled plans. But it’s also been full of what is dependable and unchanging—the faithfulness of God, grace for each day, and beautiful moments of seeing how He redeems even the difficult things and uses them for His glory. All praise to Him.”

Literature Project

In 2017, AIM worked with Grace Press to distribute tracts and evangelism material to Seed of Truth subscribers. We are working with them again to publish two books about Christian martyrs during the reformation: In the Whale’s Belly and Whom Shall I Fear? Grace Press has done the work of translation and is covering part of the printing cost. Grace Press has done the work of translation and is covering part of the printing cost. AIM is printing 2000 of each of these titles to distribute in Poland and anticipates a printing cost of around $1,500. If you would like to support this project, please earmark your contributions “Grace Press Printing Project.” 

Cover of In the Whale’s Belly

Financial Needs

We need approximately $3,000 to purchase tickets for volunteers traveling to and from Poland in the next two months.

Now that English lessons have ended for the summer, we need an additional $2,000 in June to cover expenses normally covered by income from English lessons.

Personnel Needs

We have an opening for one female and one male volunteer teachers to provide instruction in conversational English at Gateway to English, starting in August 2020. Teaching experience is preferred but not absolutely required. To volunteer or to recommend someone for this position, please contact Matt Gingerich at personnel@aimpoland.org

Give to AIM

Donors may indicate preferences for where their gifts are used (such as staff support, Gateway to English, or Seed of Truth) and AIM will honor preferences where possible. AIM reserves the right to assign all contributions where needed. If you would like additional information about how funds are used or if you wish to pledge ongoing support, please contact Matthew Mast at homeoffice@aimpoland.org or 814-789-4394.

To make a donation using credit or debit card, please visit our contact page.

March Partners Update

Ken and Linda visiting Deborah and Robin

We enjoyed having Ken and Linda Miller, Deborah Gingerich’s parents, of Stuarts Draft, Virginia, here for a couple weeks in late February and early March. Meeting and caring for Robin (Matt & Deborah’s infant) was a primary objective of their trip to Poland.

Brenden and Danessa Kilmer stopped by on their way to the United States from India. Their five-day stay with Jaden and Jewel turned into nineteen days because of travel complications related to COVID-19. They were finally able to get a flight out of Warsaw on March 27.

Another important event in March was the inaugural Gateway to English Bible Study. Our conversational English lessons provide a good format for talking about many different topics with our students, but we have been wanting a setting to specifically discuss the Bible. The Bible and religion play a big role in the lives of Polish people, but many of our students tell us they don’t feel a personal connection to the story of the Bible. It was out of this need that our desire for a Bible study arose.

At the Bible study, Lavern led the discussion on the first chapter of the Gospel of John. After the introduction and the reading of the text, we split up for discussion and had about thirty minutes to wrestle with ten questions. The overall impression of the evening was positive, and we hope to make this a monthly event.

Lyndon’s Membership

On Sunday, March 22, our morning service included a special time where Lyndon Beiler made a formal commitment of membership to Agape Fellowship. In his testimony, he briefly told us about his life four years ago. At that time, he was living in Pennsylvania and enjoying his dream job. Even so, he had questions about his life and purpose, and he asked God to show him if he should make a change. A short time later, Lyndon received a request from AIM asking him to consider moving to Poland. Later that year, he moved to Mińsk Mazowiecki to teach English and in the process, learned more about following God in a different culture. Lyndon is in his fourth year of teaching English and is planning to come back for a fifth. We at Agape and GTE are grateful for the direction God has given to his life and thankful for his faithful and excellent service.

Life amid COVID-19

As Americans living in Poland, we often feel somewhat removed from life in the US and other countries where many of our friends and family live. This pandemic has made us feel connected to the whole world, even while it is nearly impossible to have physical contact with even our next-door neighbors.

The Polish government took the first steps to fight the coronavirus on March 11, when they announced that all schools would close. Our language school also closed its doors as we tried to decide how to adapt to the new and rapidly-changing situation. Over the next week, the Polish borders closed and non-essential shops shuttered their doors. Currently, we are living under stay-at-home restrictions, allowed to leave home only for essential daily tasks such as shopping, walking the dog, or traveling to work.

Activity in our normally bustling city of 40,000 people has slowed to a crawl. Just a month ago, it was difficult to find parking; now, it’s no problem. Warm spring weather typically draws people out of their homes, packing out parks and public spaces; now, those spaces are as uninhabited as if it were a Siberian winter. Shops are limiting the number of customers inside their doors, so people queue; when one shopper leaves, another can enter.

One of the things we enjoy about living and working in town is meeting people we know when we walk around town. Working in an English school brings us into contact with quite a few people, many of whom live in close proximity to us. In spite of being foreigners in Poland, we feel socially connected to many of our neighbors. Now, we feel keenly the isolation of staying at home. Unlike our Polish friends, we don’t have close family nearby to support us during this crisis. What we do have is our treasured church community, who we meet with regularly via Zoom and Facebook Messenger.

We see people in the community and the rest of Poland banding together to support the vulnerable, the elderly, and medical personnel through social actions. Multiple online groups have sprung up to coordinate people volunteering to supply personal protective equipment to hospitals and to go shopping for the elderly and those under quarantine. It is encouraging to see people caring for others like this.

Most Poles faithfully attend mass at least once a week, so current restrictions on mass gatherings marks a big shift in religious observance. The Pope recently issued a statement encouraging Catholics to confess directly to God when they cannot go to a priest for confession. “If you cannot find a priest to confess to, speak directly with God, your father, and tell him the truth.” We pray that this time will cause Catholics to think about their faith and allow them to hear God in a new, personal way.

Although our future plans are never guaranteed, COVID-19 has brought that home to us all. As we make plans for the summer, we try to hold them lightly. Some of our staff are looking forward to furloughs in the coming months. These travel plans are now under question; we do not know when we will be able to fly again soon. We feel the reality of living far away from our family in normal times, but now that we cannot count on flights we feel the distance more.

What are we doing as a mission team and as a church during this limited time? At Gateway To English, we are moving as many of our English lessons as possible online. Our teachers are forced to be creative in adapting to this new form of teaching. Although we’ve stopped meeting together face-to-face, we try to stay connected via Skype, Zoom, Facebook, or other technology. Having more time in our schedules is also giving us the chance to call our friends and family who live far away.

Some of our church members are taking this opportunity to share the gospel with people online. In a time of fear and uncertainty, with most of the country spending more time online, this is a chance to speak truth and love. Finally, we are praying for our leaders, for medical personnel, for especially vulnerable people, and for spiritual revival in Poland.

Literature Project

In 2017, AIM worked with Grace Press to distribute tracts and evangelism material to Seed of Truth subscribers. We are working with them again to publish two books about Christian martyrs during the reformation: In the Whale’s Belly and Whom Shall I Fear? Grace Press has done the work of translation and is covering part of the printing cost. AIM is printing 2000 each of these titles to distribute in Poland. We anticipate a printing cost of around $1500. If you would like to support this project, you can earmark your contributions accordingly.

Cover of In the Whale’s Belly

Personnel Needs

We have an opening for one female and two male volunteer teachers to provide instruction in conversational English at Gateway to English, starting in August 2020. Teaching experience is preferred but not absolutely required. To volunteer or to recommend someone for this position, please contact Matt Gingerich at personnel@aimpoland.org

Give to AIM

Donors may indicate preferences for where their gifts are used (such as staff support, Gateway to English, or Seed of Truth) and AIM will honor preferences where possible. AIM reserves the right to assign all contributions where needed. If you would like additional information about how funds are used or if you wish to pledge ongoing support, please contact Matthew Mast at homeoffice@aimpoland.org or 814-789-4394.

To make a donation using credit or debit card, please visit our contact page.

February Partners Update

Every year Poland has a two-week school vacation in January or February. We stepped away from the classroom for the second and third weeks of February and enjoyed the chance to do things besides teaching English. We kicked off the month with a volleyball game on the 1st. This was great fun and an opportunity to interact with students outside of class. On February 5, Alex’s brother and three other friends came to visit. A couple of days later Alyssa’s parents also showed up. It’s always meaningful to have friends and family come and see our lives here.

Winter Bible School

Kristin writes,

Hi Everyone! I’m writing to give you a small glimpse into a special time we recently had with our youth group. We hosted a zimowisko, aka winter retreat, at our church from February 13-16. It was lovely to spend this time with our youth, as well as some guests from other parts of Poland. We had sessions each day which included a time of singing, as well as someone sharing from the Word. We had three different speakers: Lavern, and two other inspiring men from the local area, Gustaw and Andy. To add a sense of adventure to our weekend, we had “fire drills,” organized by Alex. Fire drills happened when I blew a whistle at random times, and small groups then scrambled to find each other, racing the clock to complete tasks such as reading children’s stories, drinking a liter and a half of water, finding new words and definitions in the dictionary, singing songs, etc. In addition to activities such as prayer groups and panel discussion groups, Lyndon and Alyssa organized a scavenger hunt. Panel discussion groups consisted of 4-5 people, with time set aside on Friday and Saturday to dig into the Bible to find answers to some specific questions they were given. Each group had a different question, such as: “What is faith? Is it possible to have faith and doubts?” “Do all religions lead to God? Is it possible to get to God apart from Jesus?” “What is love? Is it loving to judge other people’s actions as wrong? If I love someone, shouldn’t I want them to be happy?” It was a blessing when we gathered on Saturday evening to hear each group present their thoughts on these topics, backed by many Scriptures dealing directly with their questions. We wrapped up the retreat on Sunday by spending the evening at Lavern and Lolita’s home. We made good memories, and had meaningful conversations. The Lord worked in beautiful ways during our 4 days together, and we are grateful.

Trip to Graceland

Alyssa writes,

During the last week of winter break, most of the teachers from Gateway To English spent two days at Graceland, an English school in Kraków. We participated in several youth and adult group classes and were able to reconnect with several students we had met during our previous visit to Graceland. A highlight of the trip was spending time with the Graceland team and hearing stories of their first years in Poland. As always, it was a time of encouragement and refreshment, and we returned to Gateway to English with a renewed vision of sharing the Gospel with our students.

Printing Books about Christian Martyrs

In 2017, AIM worked with Grace Press to distribute tracts and evangelism material to Seed of Truth subscribers. We are working with them again to publish two books about Christian martyrs during the reformation: In the Whale’s Belly and Whom Shall I Fear? Grace Press has done the work of translation and is covering part of the printing cost. AIM is printing 2,000 each of these titles to distribute in Poland. We anticipate a printing cost of around $1,500. If you would like to support this project, you can earmark your contributions accordingly.

Give to AIM

Donors may indicate preferences for where their gifts are used (such as staff support, Gateway to English, or Seed of Truth) and AIM will honor preferences where possible. AIM reserves the right to assign all contributions where needed. If you would like additional information about how funds are used or if you wish to pledge ongoing support, please contact Matthew Mast at homeoffice@aimpoland.org or 814-789-4394.

To make a donation using credit or debit card, please visit our contact page.

Fall 2019 Newsletter

AIM newsletter cover fall 2019

Lolita describes Polish Christmas traditions, Lavern recounts the impact of Jan Wierszyłowski, and Hadassah describes how music has connected her with Polish Christians. Read More

November Partners Update

Advent and Christmas reflection

Matt Gingerich writes,

Although Poland does not celebrate Thanksgiving, our American team finds ways to observe it every year. As usual, we had a Thanksgiving-themed activity with our English students. We enjoyed the evening with our students, sharing turkey, pumpkin pie, cider, and good conversations together.

Although Thanksgiving is not on Polish people’s radar, the season of Advent is. Advent is the beginning of the church calendar, the four weeks before Christmas to help Christians prepare their hearts for the coming of Jesus. Bernard of Clairvaux, an 11th century priest, said that at Advent Christ’s Three Comings are celebrated: Christ’s coming into the world at the incarnation, Christ’s coming into our hearts every day, and Christ’s second coming in which he will redeem all things. Whether Advent is a meaningful practice or just another motion to go through, it is something that all of our friends and neighbors in Mińsk Mazowiecki can relate to. This season, we want to remember why Jesus came and to take the opportunity to talk with those around us about Him.

Youth weekend with Daniel Fąferko

Alex Yoder writes,

On the 9th and 10th of November Daniel Fąferko and his family came to Mińsk to share some of his thoughts with us. The weekend was specifically for the youth, but the rest of the church was also involved. On Saturday evening Daniel shared a message about the difference between being a child of the flesh and being a child of promise. This is an important distinction to make in our Christian lives. Allowing God’s goodness to lead us to repentance was the topic for Sunday morning, which was followed by lunch for youth, a time of discussion, and one more message. Although it made for a busy weekend, it was a refreshing time of learning, talking, and uplifting interaction with other believers.

New shipment of Bibles

One year ago, AIM started partnering with an organization called Eastern European Mission, distributing Bibles and Christian literature in Poland. At the end of November, EEM shipped us 2,000 copies each of children’s Bibles, youth Bibles, child training books, and Bible study handbooks. After initially receiving quite a few orders through the Seed of Truth, we have continued to receive requests for more literature. Many of these are from individuals, but some are from people involved in prison ministry and other evangelistic efforts. Of the approximately 18,000 books and Bibles EEM has sent so far, we have distributed around 12,000. We are glad we can help meet the need for quality Bibles and Christian books in Poland.

If you would like to make a donation to Eastern European Mission to support their work, click here.

Give to AIM

Donors may indicate preferences for where their gifts are used (such as staff support, Gateway to English, or Seed of Truth) and AIM will honor preferences where possible. AIM reserves the right to assign all contributions where needed. If you would like additional information about how funds are used or if you wish to pledge ongoing support, please contact Matthew Mast at homeoffice@aimpoland.org or 814-789-4394.

To make a donation using credit or debit card, please visit our contact page.