Well here we are in sunny… Err I lie, it is currently raining… Szczecinek, where we are working at a local baptist church with some http://www.pioneers-uk.org/ missionaries. Ahem, I lie again – they’re actually from the U.S., but I thought the U.K. site may be of more interest to most of you reading. Anyway, Szczecinek is in the North-West of Poland – in an area known as a ‘black hole’ – where missionaries and pastors tend to go and die! That said, it is a very beautiful place and people generally seem very friendly.
Why are we here? Well partly because it is a requirement of my degree course (I need to spend a minimum of 4 weeks working in a cross-cultural environment), and largely actually because this is an opportunity we couldn’t turn down – to experience life as a family, living and working as missionaries in the country of Poland. It has been a while since we visited last, and we wanted to have a ‘real’ experience of what life would look like here for us. We have many questions to answer – such as when we would move here, what exactly we would be doing, what our specific location will be etc. Being here will give us the chance to answer some of these questions, whilst supporting those already working here – and building up some helpful relationships.
What will we be doing? Well I (Rob) will be involved in speaking at the Sunday services here at the baptist church (I did my first talk this morning), and assisting in some preaching classes for those exploring this Kind of thing for the first time. Anna will be involved in teaching adult English classes, and collectively we will be doing a bit of music ministry, whilst attempting a list of tasks/projects that we have been set – such as visiting local pre-schools, viewing local apartments, learning Polish worship songs etc. to help us engage fully with Polish life and culture. We are also taking Polish lessons, and trying to retain some semblance of family life – so that the kids feel a part of this experience. There may be a little bit of youth-work thrown in too along the way.
What are the challenges? Protestant Christianity is scarce in Poland, and it is believed that there are probably fewer than 10 congregations numbering more than 100 people throughout the whole country. There are 6 churches within a 70km radius of Szczecinek, catering for approximately 80,000 people. These churches are small in number, and a number of them do not have a full-time pastor or leader. Missionaries are also minimal in number, and churches below a certain number are considered to be cults or sects. Although Catholic belief is widespread, this tends to be fairly nominal in form, and western influences are threatening what level of interest currently exists. Building the church within this climate, with limited infrastructure, resource and personnel will not be easy. Fortunately, God is much more capable than we often allow ourselves to believe, so we will do our bit and leave the rest to Him!
Anyway, we are here to learn (something which is somewhat unavoidable) and hopefully we will manage to be something of a blessing to the lovely folk we are working alongside – whilst helping others see that Jesus really IS worth getting to know. Thanks to those of you who are praying for us, please remember Poland, and specifically Szczecinek in your prayers – and we look forward to seeing many of you at some point soon.
P.S. – for those who generally follow these all-too-infrequent posts, that’s 2 in one day! Hopefully it won’t be too long before the next one, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!… :-)