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.

October Partners Update

Hadassah and friends in concert

School Update

Matt Gingerich writes,

From my office at Gateway to English I can hear a children’s class calling out the names of fruits in English. It’s afternoon, and the bulk of the day’s lessons are just getting underway. Each of our teachers has had at least two individual lessons so far today and will teach at least two more lessons before the day is over. Most of our students come after school or work to learn English, making afternoon and evening our busiest time of teaching.

GTE has a full attendance this year; around 180 students are enrolled in groups or individual lessons, with a waiting list of others who would like English lessons. We have more six-to-seven-year-old children in classes this year than ever before, likely a sign that parents are wanting their children to learn English at earlier and earlier ages. From ages six to sixty—artists, mechanics, salespeople, students, surveyors, professors, and more—our students make our lives colorful and interesting.

Our teaching staff is the same as last year, adding stability to our school year. I enjoy working with our talented and creative teachers. They are committed to teaching well, developing engaging lessons plans and continually working to challenge their students. Teaching and working constantly with people is tiring work, but these teachers remain invested in sharing the love of Jesus with everyone around them. Many of our students have commented over the years on how Gateway to English has a peaceful and friendly atmosphere where they can feel at home. Praise the Lord, and thank you to our teachers!

Hadassah’s concert with Sarah and Natalia

Hadassah’s Concert

Kristin Herrin writes,

September was a rich month in Poland. It marked the beginning of school and the beginning of fall. It was also the month that hosted a beautiful gathering of friends at the Hershbergers’ home, where we enjoyed an outdoor concert by Hadassah, Sarah, and Natalia. Sarah and Natalia are two of Hadassah’s lovely Polish friends, and the trio have been making music together for over a year now. They love to use their gifts to worship God and to point others to Him. People came together from various parts of Poland and we all enjoyed a time of fellowship after the concert. Many beautiful songs were shared, both by the trio and also by Lavern’s family. Some songs sung by the trio were original, and I was impressed by the genuineness of the lyrics, the faith expressed both in the words and the lives of those who sung them. I am so thankful I could take part in the evening, and am excited when I consider how God will continue to use these ladies’ gifts for His glory.

Lavern, Peter, and Jola’s trip to Romania

2019 Translators’ Conference in Suceava, Romania

Lavern Hershberger writes,

I had the privilege of attending the 2019 Translators’ Conference held in Suceava Romania on September 26 and 27. It was the second biennial conference organized by Christian Aid Ministries in Suceava. About 100 people from 14 different countries attended. They were from a variety of churches and missions, but all involved in translating and publishing.

I was very encouraged to see the enthusiasm for translating and publishing Bibles and quality literature in many languages. A special element of this conference was the report from Duane Nisly from Costa Rica about the translation of Christian Light school curriculum into Spanish. This is a difficult and time-consuming project, but many of the conference attendees were interested in this.

I’m inspired to move ahead with publishing more books in Polish. May God’s kingdom continue to grow all over the world.

Matt and Sharon’s Wedding

Sharon (Spicher) and Matt King

Matt Gingerich writes,

Sharon Spicher and Matt King, both former volunteer teachers, got married in Belleville, PA, on October 12. Thanks to financial contributions from friends in the US, Lyndon, Hadassah, and I were able to attend the wedding. Matt and Sharon poured themselves into life and relationships in Poland while they were here, so it was special to represent their Polish friends at their wedding.

Autumn-Themed Small Talk

Alyssa Zimmerman writes,

Gateway to English hosted its first Small Talk event for the school year on October 18. Many of our students and their families came to enjoy the interaction, food, and games. Some of the highlights from the fall-themed evening included pumpkin bowling, caramel-dipped apples, and pumpkin spice lattes.

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.

August Partners Update

Teaching staff discuss purpose of GTE

Back to school preparation

Deborah writes,

Today, when I opened the door to school and walked up the steps, I felt the anticipation of fall school registration in the air. Teachers were cleaning up after our table refinishing project, and the secretary was printing off fresh new contracts for our students to sign. The newly painted bathroom and classroom made the whole school feel like it was another, better, exciting place to learn.

Earlier this week, our teaching staff met to discuss our purpose in teaching English here in Mińsk Mazowiecki. Matt led us in a clarifying conversation that pushed us from thinking that what we do here is

the same as why we are here. For example, we are here to connect with people as we teach English, but that is something we do, not the big picture, the why. Our why informs what we do, but it runs much more deeply and motivates every part of our lives. We left this discussion feeling inspired and ready for another year of teaching and loving people well in Mińsk Mazowiecki.

Our school year begins on September 9, but our registration for students opened on the 29th of August, which means the teachers are present at school for 7 afternoons before school starts. They welcome old and new students and make sure students have all the information they need for the next year.

We are looking forward to another year with four full-time teachers: Lyndon Beiler, Kristin Herrin, Alex Yoder, and Alyssa Zimmerman. Jaden and Jewel Kilmer, Matt and I, Hadassah Hershberger, and Lavern Hershberger will all be part-time teachers at Gateway to English.

Reflections on our summer furlough

Matt writes,

Deborah and I spent two months in the US on furlough this summer, from the end of June to the end of August. We split our time between family in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Those two months felt like a whirlwind, as we made the most of our time to be with as many people as possible. Spending so much time with family and friends in such a short amount of time reminded us how rich we are in relationships. I was greatly encouraged to talk with so many friends who are serving God in many places and in many ways. Our life in Poland tends to be very focused in Mińsk among a rather small group of people. This is not a negative thing, but we found it refreshing to get a broader perspective by stepping away from our Polish life for a short time. We are deeply grateful for friends and family who have poured into our lives and for the chance to reconnect with them. We return with renewed energy for life in Mińsk: the Agape church community, our friends and neighbors in town, our team, and our work.

Family Visitors

Alex and Lyndon both had family visit them this month.

Alex’s family visited him in Poland

Alex writes,

Having my family visit me in Poland was definitely a (maybe the) highlight of my summer. We were able to do some exploring in Warsaw and also spent some time in southern Poland. We visited Kraków and also took a tour to Auschwitz. Big cities and adventures are great but simply showing them around Minsk where we live and teach, amongst other things, was also very enjoyable. And obviously, after a year without seeing them, it was great just to spend time together.

After a year in Poland, I have not forgotten my family, but their time here has made me realize how separate my life in Poland feels from my home in the States. It was unique for me, if only for two weeks, to experience the merging of these two worlds. Both are very important and hold a special place in my heart.

Lyndon’s parents also visited him in Poland

Visitors at Agape Fellowship

Lolita writes,

August 4 was a special Sunday for us at Agape Fellowship. There were around 20 visitors to swell the ranks of the faithful few who weren’t traveling. Among the visitors were my good friend Sarah (Overholt) Alimowska with her husband, two sons, and 80 yr. old mother-in-law Vala. Church people are still talking about the encouragement and inspiration they received from Vala’s deep faith and vibrant testimony. Sarah and I have been friends since I traveled to Poland for the first time with her family in 1992. Alex was very happy to have his whole family with us as well. We all had a wonderful time of fellowship and enjoyed lunch together outside in the parking lot.

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.

Summer 2019 Newsletter

AIM Newsletter Summer 2019 cover

New staff couple Jewel and Jaden Kilmer introduce themselves, board chair Matthew Mast shares highlights from his visit to Poland with Pastor Anthony Gingerich, and Lolita Hershberger reports on our biennial family conference. Read More