Monday, January 26, 2009

Personal Space (Or the lack thereof)

I've blogged before about "personal space" and how it doesn't exist here, at least not in any form that we Americans can appreciate. This time I'd like to show you. The video is of the kid's preschool program yet I couldn't help but pan the crowd. I counted somewhere in the neighborhood of two hundred people crammed into an area a little larger than an American living room. I am taking the video with my back pressed up against the back wall of the room. The final line from an old soap commercial popped into my head. Aren't you glad you use dial--don't you wish everybody did?

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Trip to the Consignment Shop

This is a little footage of a used clothing store here in Siedlce. It's Ginger's favorite store because every Wednesday they get in a huge shipment of slightly used designer clothing from America and Great Britain and sell the designer clothes for $1 or $2. Since the clothing is so nice and cheap it has begun to cause quite a stir and the large store is "standing room only" on Wednesdays. As they dump a new barrel out onto the table it can get quite physical. Ginger has seen wrestling matches over handbags and she's been hipchecked by a Grandma on more than one occasion. All that to say, that we had hoped to get some great footage to share, but the manager was having none of it. In fact, after only about 15 seconds of video footage, Ginger and Sarah were called upstairs to the manager's office where they were faced with the decision of deleting the video or dealing with the police. Unbeknown to us, a few weeks earlier a story, with pictures of the wrestling that went on, had made it into the town newspaper, so the owner's were on edge. The girls handed over the camera and an employee deleted the footage, or so they thought. Long story short, 15 seconds of footage remain, it's not much but you get the idea of the amount of people we are talking about. If you ever make it to Poland, you need to visit Krakow, see Old Town in Warsaw, visit our church, and visit the used clothing store in Siedlce. You'll never forget it, I promise. I just hope my new jeans Ginger bought for me don't make me look fat.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Polish Wedding

Forgive me for posting this a day late, but we're busy getting ready to return to the States the beginning of February and my post got pushed back. A few months ago Ginger and I were invited to our first Polish wedding. Our language teacher married a soldier in the Polish army and we were honored to be invited to the ceremony. I have a couple of observations about our experience. First, the woodwork, stained glass windows, and metal work in the church were spectacular. The attention to detail was astonishing. Second, the greeting of the bride and groom at the close of the ceremony was not for the claustrophobic. Finally, artwork aside, the building felt large, cold, and empty. Certainly a metaphor for the Roman Catholic Church. We were saddened to see so many bowing to man made idols and clinging to family heirlooms for some kind of hope. The dedication of some RCC followers is both convicting and heartbreaking. I watched as people came in off the street to the confessional. Instead of being told of their need for the Savior they were sent away with prayers and penance to accomplish. In some ways they are so close to the truth yet their continued belief in justification through righteous acts will damn them. II Timothy 3:7 came to mind "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." Pray for the people of Poland.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Polish Blog

Christians in Poland are in desperate need of good Christian literature. Simply put, not much has been translated into the Polish language. As a result there are very few resources to aid a believer in their study of God's Word, and there are very few if any resources for pastors. Our coworker, Ben Layer, has started a blog that we are hoping will turn into a resource for pastors and Christians alike. You can check it out here. On Mondays we post articles that I find from various sources, on Wednesdays we post articles that Ben writes, and he hopes soon to be posting Spurgeon sermons translated to Polish on Fridays. As well, whenever we learn of a good book that has been translated into the Polish language we make it known on the blog. In a very short time the blog has had nearly 3500 hits, it will be exciting to see how God uses this in the future.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas in Poland

Being it's our second Christmas in Poland, we have been trying to learn about Polish traditions around the holidays. Christmas Eve is called "Wegilia" (ve-ghi-li-a) and its a busy day for Poles. Wegilia is a big shopping day, probably similar to the day after Thanksgiving for us in the States. It's not uncommon for Polish people to set up their Christmas trees on this day either. So you can imagine some of the strange looks we got when we put up our tree the end of November. Though Poles set up their trees quite late, they will leave it up for weeks after Christmas. On the evening of Wegilia is an elaborate feast at which all the extended family gets together. No matter how many people sit at the table there will always be one extra plate and chair at the table. Though mostly symbolic, the extra plate is set just in case a stranger comes to the door in need of food and shelter. Twelve courses are served, the number twelve symbolizing the twelve apostles. Something else that is common is the placing of hay either underneath the tablecloth or underneath the table, symbolizing the place of Christ's birth.

The main course on Christmas Eve is always carp. It's rarely eaten the rest of the year, but always eaten on Wegilia. However we haven't met too many who really care for it but it's tradition--kind of like the cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving right? The grocery stores in town have huge five feet tubs in which they keep the live carp, and it's rather amusing to watch as people try to grab them with the net. To keep the carp fresh Polish people will let them live in their bathtub until Christmas Eve.

Through our language study and through talking with some Polish friends we have begun to learn about the importance of "wishes" in Polish culture. "Wyszystkiego najlepszego" is a common phrase heard around the holidays and it means "I wish you the best in everything." This wishing culminates on Wegilia when after dinner the family brake off pieces of a specially made bread called "oplatek" (o-pwa-tek) and wish good things for eachother over and over again. Sharing in "oplatek" can also be a time of forgiveness or of letting "bygones be bygones" like we Americans do on New Year's Eve. Christmas morning is more of a time for immediate family and for opening presents, but Poles often travel to the homes of extended family later in the day. Ginger and I want to thank you for your continued prayers we wish each of you "wyszstkiego najlepszego."