March Partners Update
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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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 email@example.com or 814-789-4394.
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