Winter/Spring 2019 Newsletter

AIM Newsletter Winter/Spring 2019 cover

Meet Wojtek and Agnieszka Wojtynska, who share what led them to Agape church and what their work is here. Also, we report on Winter Bible School and introduce our new volunteers. Read More

January Partners Update

New Year's Eve party

January Happenings

Gateway to English update

Our January has been moving along at a rapid pace, making us grateful for the time we are given here on this earth. Gateway to English resumed lessons on January 2, and new students keep showing up at our door despite being half way through the school year. We all taught substitute classes for Alyssa, who returned on January 9th from her Christmas visit to her family. We are making a final push toward the two-week winter holiday beginning on January 28. Pray that we could have enough energy to care well for our students and be able to make good connections and conversation.

New Year’s Eve celebrations and Polish NYE traditions

We celebrated New Year’s Eve with our church family. We had a time of worship and prayer, then played games and ate delicious appetizers. At midnight, we ran outside to see the explosion of fireworks igniting all over Mińsk, in a display that would give American firemen nightmares. While Christmas and New Year’s celebrations mean lots of time with family and friends for most Poles, it’s also a time of year when family disputes are most obvious and people spend a lot of time drinking.

Church/school kolędy evening

We hosted our annual carol singing evening for our students, friends, and church family on January 6, at Gateway to English. Matt and Lavern led us in singing Polish and English carols. We enjoyed the special songs sung by the Piotr Ławrynowicz family, the Lavern Hershberger family, Jaden and Jewel Kilmer, and the GTE teachers. Afterwards, we feasted on Christmas cookies and punch and conversations with old and new friends.

church school carol evening

Music events

December and January have been filled with music events here in Poland. Before Christmas, Matt and Deborah experienced the Kolędy [Christmas carol] Concert at the National Philharmonic in Warsaw. Other team members went to hear Handel’s Messiah the following week. We were also privileged to sing at a kolędy concert in the village school of Wiciejów and at a nursing home where our secretary Ela’s mom is living. It’s such a gift to have a solid team of singers to worship and minister with.

Recently, Hadassah has been a part of Under Grace, a gospel choir in Warsaw that uses Gospel music to reach people who don’t know Jesus. Gospel music has become more popular all over Europe, and this free expression of Christian music is different from what many post-Christian people have experienced. Somehow, people feel a freedom in this genre that we hope opens them to the truth they are singing.

Book distribution project

Update on literature distribution: We continue to receive many requests for Bibles and books. We are exploring options for funding for printing more Bibles. Many individuals and groups need Bibles for evangelism, and don’t have the funds to buy them. Eastern European Mission is not able to send any more at this time, but hopefully will in the future. Praise God that people want to read His word!

Prayer and Praise

  • Pray for Alyssa and her family in the states as they walk with their mom and wife on her cancer journey.
  • Pray for Lolita as she prepares for her speaking assignments at REACH, in March.
  • Pray for safe and restful winter holiday travels for the teachers, the Kilmers, and the Gingerichs.
  • Pray for the upcoming Youth Winter Bible School, hosted by Agape. Pray that everyone attending would have open hearts to hear God’s voice speaking.
  • Pray that we could keep finding opportunities for outreach in Mińsk.

Financial Needs

The addition of Jaden and Jewel to the team has increased expenses significantly. They and the Board have been working to raise the needed funds, but there is currently a lack of funds. We ended January with all bills paid, but with only several thousand dollars to start February. We will need at least $10,000 in general donations in February.

If you would like to help support shipping costs for literature distribution or contribute toward printing more literature, you may indicate that preference on your donation to AIM. We anticipate costs of around $200 per month for shipping.

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.

December Partners Update

December Happenings

Christian literature distribution

Earlier this year we found out about good quality Bibles and books that are available at no charge from an organization called Eastern European Mission. We have been distributing some of them, and recently let our Seed of Truth readers know that we could send them any of these materials that they are interested in. Within a week, we had over 100 orders for over 1000 Bibles and books. Many of these are from individuals, but some are from people involved in prison ministry and other evangelistic efforts. 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, visit their website.

Fellowship with believers

Lavern was encouraged recently to attend a weekend fast with 60 men from all over Poland. Most of them are from small home groups or unaffiliated churches. This meeting has been held quarterly for 14 years. It’s very informal, but the spirit of earnestly seeking God and encouraging each other is powerful. It was also a first for hearing 60 Polish men’s voices robustly singing acapella in unison. Many of the men were glad to hear about the availability of the Bibles and books.

GTE Christmas banquet


Matt and Deborah hosted Gateway to English’s Christmas banquet at the school this year. We feasted on traditional Polish Christmas food, complete with fish in aspic and Wigilia cabbage and mushrooms. While the staff see each other every day, it was so fun to celebrate Christmas in a formal way as work family. We finished the evening with carol singing and scrumptious desserts.

Prayer and Praise

  • The Agape congregation has been looking for more ways to reach out to people in our town of Mińsk.
  • Pray for connections with people who need help and for wisdom and care to love them well.
  • Alyssa Zimmerman traveled to the US for two weeks over Christmas to be with her family. Her mom, Dawn, was recently diagnosed with cancer and begins treatment soon. Pray for courage and trust and for wisdom to make good decisions.
  • For fresh energy and ideas for the teachers at GTE as they begin 2019.

Financial Needs

In January, we expect to need $11,292 in general donations to support the team and the ongoing activities in Poland. In December, we received $8,225 in general donations. We have some reserve for January, but we may have a shortfall of several thousand dollars by the end of the month.

If you would like to help support the shipping costs for literature distribution, you may earmark donations to AIM. We anticipate costs of around $200 per month for shipping.

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.

November Partners Update

November Happenings

All Saints’ Day and Staff Retreat

The first week of November was a big week for Poland, as the church holiday of All Saints’ Day was celebrated on November 1. Many of our students and friends visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried, to pray that their loved ones’ time in purgatory might be shortened, to light candles for them, and to remember their stories (pictured is Minsk’s Catholic cemetery on November 1).

For many people, it’s a good time to have family gatherings and talk about the family lore, but for others, it’s a great burden to keep up all the family graves and say prayers so that their family members can get to heaven sooner. We have had some interesting English lessons talking about these holidays with our students. We are happy to tell them that we don’t have to pray for our family members who have died and that God knows everything about them and their future. This holiday and these conversations provide us with a good chance to stop and reflect on the meaning of death, resurrection, and our hope in Christ.

AIM staff took All Saint’s Day to hold a staff retreat day, a time to reflect, pray, and create space to listen to what God has to say to us. After a worship time and brunch in the morning, we split up to spend about five hours of solitude before reconvening for supper and wrap-up. It was quite refreshing to step away from our daily responsibilities for a few hours to focus on connecting with God and each other, and to reflect on what God has done in our lives over the last months.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is not a Polish holiday, but we find ways to celebrate it here, enjoying the chance to connect with each other and with our Polish friends and reflecting on what we are grateful for. It’s traditional at GTE to have a Thanksgiving themed Small Talk around the time of the American holiday. Small Talk is a monthly event for our English students and friends from church to get together, eat food, speak English, and, in general, make connections with each other. This year, we had a pie contest, with five teachers making five different kinds of pies.

We had other activities as well, including a harvest hymn sung by the team and a gratitude activity that everyone participated in. Last year, when we were new here, our first Small Talk of the season had maybe five guests. We decided to ramp up publicity, plan more group activities, and really encourage our students to come. Ever since, we usually have between 30-40 people coming for these events, and this school year, they’ve been even bigger.

It was special to gather as a team over a good Thanksgiving dinner (pictured), chat, and reflect on the good gifts God has given us. It was special to have Dervin Martin and Derek Sensenig visit over Thanksgiving weekend. Dervin served in Poland 2015-2017, and Derek sang with the Hope Singers 2018.

Prayer and Praise

Prayer

  • Please pray with us that God would use holidays such as All Saints’ Day and the upcoming Christmas holiday as a means of pointing people to the Truth. These holidays are governed by tradition, but we pray that they might be the means for people encountering Christ.

Financial Needs

In December, we expect to need $11,300 in general donations to support the team and the ongoing activities in Poland. In November, we received $5,183 in general donations. We have some reserve for December, but we may have a shortfall of several thousand dollars by the end of the month.

The Board is working with Jaden and Jewel to raise $30,000 for their financial support this year. If you would like to contribute to that need, please contact us at homeoffice@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.

October Partners Update

Lavern's birthday celebration

October Happenings

Small Talk

On the last Friday evening of October, Gateway to English hosted its first Small Talk event of the school year. We plan Small Talk as a monthly event with the goal of connecting with our students and getting to know them better through informal conversations, games, and food. These evenings also give our church members the chance to interact with our students and bridge the gap between church and school.

Alex interacting with a student

Reflections on English teaching from Jaden Kilmer

I would like to take the opportunity to describe the group class of teenagers I help teach. A group class usually has 4-8 students and two teachers. A typical group class runs for 1½ hours. Currently at GTE we have six children’s classes, four teenage classes, and five adult classes.

Jewel and I teach this class once a week and we are finding the experience stretching. For us, it can feel challenging to connect with teenagers. Nevertheless, we are finding the challenge rewarding. I am very grateful for Jewel’s experience and insight.

Deborah with her students

What are some goals we have? Helping them think about the world in healthy ways is important. We have been loosely following the Bible story of Daniel and his friends by using the theme of “Challenge.” This has led to some interesting thoughts and observations. Sometimes their observations are provocative in their simple directness. A nice side benefit to teaching this story is the continual challenge of pronouncing ‘Nebuchadnezzar’! Another goal is to introduce and reinforce new vocabulary. We do this primarily through group exercises and games. I think we all look forward to the games (at least if noise means anything…). Finally, we hope to expedite communication skills by beefing up their conversation skills. We continue to search for new ways to do this.

Prayer and Praise

Prayer

  • We’ve had lots of conversations recently about a new Polish film, Kler, a sort of protest film about corrupt Catholic priests in Poland. Lots of people have seen it and have strong feelings about whether or not it’s a good film. Sadly, most of our students have told us that everyone knows that the film is true; that some Catholic priests are abusive, drunk, and stealing money from their parishioners. Our hope for our students is that this film will make them ask hard questions, and that the answers to their questions will lead them to Truth and not to giving up on God completely.

Praise

  • We are grateful that the beginning of a new school year has started to bring in funds again after the summer break.

Financial Needs

In November, we expect to need $9,750 in general donations to support the team and the ongoing activities in Poland. In October, we received $5,300 in general donations. We have some reserve for November, but we may have a shortfall of several thousand dollars by the end of the month.

The Board is working with Jaden and Jewel to raise $30,000 for their financial support this year. If you would like to contribute to that need, please contact us at homeoffice@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.

September Partners Update

GTE student interaction

September Happenings

GTE Update and Students

September in Mińsk Mazowiecki means students returning to school, cooler weather, and leaves beginning to change colors. Gateway To English began English lessons on September 10 with a strong number of students. Currently, we have around forty children, thirty adults, and twenty teenagers attending in groups and around 80 students of all ages coming individually or in two-person groups. We are grateful for a lively start to the school year; we have a full school and a busy schedule that brings lots of color and activity to our lives.

grilling at a student's home

Hadassah Hershberger describes a new teaching experience she began in September: “Recently I began teaching daily in 3 preschools and a daycare in Minsk. It’s been a challenging and satisfying experience so far. I teach three different age groups: 4- to 5-year olds, 3-year olds, and toddlers who sometimes have to spit out pacifiers before identifying blocks as red, yellow, or blue. I love the energy and excitement preschoolers have when learning completely new words and concepts. It’s taking much planning and creativity to keep them entertained and focused for 30-minute sessions but it’s fun to come back the next day and see them knowing songs and words from the previous lesson. Teaching English to tiny humans definitely takes more energy and planning than adults or teens but I’m excited about spending this year with them and hopefully showing them love and care. The most difficult children I have usually come from dysfunctional homes and I pray I’ll be able to reach out and, at least in small ways, bring a sense of love and security through our times together.”

Agape church cookout

Financial Needs

The expenses of language lessons for new volunteers and team members, along with the other expenses of the summer, leave us with basically no funds on hand at the end of September. We need nearly $4,000 to pay our bills due by October 10.

The Board is working with Jaden and Jewel to raise $30,000 for their financial support this year. If you would like to contribute to that need, please contact us at homeoffice@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.

July Partners Update

singing songs during day camp

July Happenings

Day Camp

Imagine a room of over seventy children ages five through 12, along with about twenty-five adults, all loudly singing praise songs. A major event of the summer was working together with the Baptist church in Minsk to organize what we call day camp, essentially vacation Bible school, for area children. The American team and youth from Agape taught English, organized games, and led groups of children, while the Baptist church had craft and the Bible lesson.
donkey rides during day camp
Sharon teaching English during day camp

Some of the highlights from the five days of day camp were these:

  • Working together with the Baptists. They have a vision for evangelism and outreach for our town, so it is encouraging to work with them in ministry. When we work together, our resources and energy go further!
  • The picnic on Thursday afternoon, when parents and grandparents attended with their children. The children enjoyed the games, face painting, and donkey rides (pictured), while adults enjoyed talking together.
  • The joy and love the camp leaders showed the children who attended. The spirit in which we relate to the children is as important as what they are taught.

Face painting during day camp

Hope Singers Tour

Over forty people traveled from the US, Australia, and Canada to form The Hope Singers 2018 choir. AIM has been organizing this choir every two years since 2004. After spending three days rehearsing, the choir left on a five-day tour to Southern Poland. The choir will also spend five days touring Northern Poland, as well as recording a CD. The choir will give around half of their concerts in evangelical churches, several in cultural centers, and one in a Catholic church. You can follow the choir on Facebook and read their daily updates. Please join us in prayer that we would be able to bless and encourage those we meet on tour.

Staff Transitions

Summer is also a time of staff transition. Kristin Herrin arrived in Poland on July 20 to begin her two-year term of service with AIM. Alex Yoder and Alyssa Zimmerman are arriving on August 4. We are grateful for their willingness to serve in Poland. Please keep them in prayer as they adjust to Polish culture, including attending a three-week intensive Polish language course.

Financial and Personnel Needs

In August, we will need $9,750 in general donations to support the team and the ongoing activities in Poland. In June, we received $5,025 in general donations. We have some reserve for August, but we anticipate a shortfall of several thousand dollars by the end of the month.

Prayer Requests

  • Pray for the new team members arriving in Poland and finding their place
  • Pray for the Hope Singers choir tour
  • Pray for planning and preparation for the next school year

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.

Spring 2018 Newsletter

Matt and Deborah Gingerich introduce themselves and tell how they are connecting to Poland and working with their fellow teachers at Gateway to English. Also, Lavern reflects on his family’s time in the U.S. on a home assignment to recharge emotionally and spiritually. Read More