Monday, July 30, 2007

Monopoly Money

Adjusting to a new country means, among other things, adjusting to a new financial system. This involves new currency, watching exchange rates, and comparing prices to the U.S. When we first moved here I joked with some of the other missionaries that Polish money looked very similar to monopoly money and was thus easier to spend. Then when reality hit I realized that passing go was not going to give me another $200. We have found some things in Poland to be a real steal compared to the states and some things are quite expensive. Many of you have asked about this very thing so I thought I would give you an idea by listing the prices of certain commodities and services here in Poland

1.) Labor---$3 to $4 an hour
2.) Groceries---weeks worth is roughly $70 (and thats for a family of Stovers)
3.) Pizza delivery---$10 for two large pizzas and it comes in less than 20 minutes (much faster than Dominos and without the Botchulism)
4.) Restaraunts---family of four can eat at a mid range place for roughly $30
5.) taxi--picked up my car from the shop today and the fare was $3
6.) hotel---outside of Warsaw $50 can give you a very nice room
7.) Rent---$500 a month can get you your choice of any apartment
8.) dentistry---Ginger had two root canals done at a state of the art place for around $100

1.) Utility bills
2.) cell phones
3.) internet

1.) pair of average jeans $80-100
2.) electronics---probably a 20% markup from the states
3.) Simple oil change---$100+ (oil is ridiculously expensive here)
4.) gasoline---roughly $5.50 per gallon (please stop sniveling about $3 gas-when you get over $5 then call me--but I'm not bitter)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Language Barrier

Our main purpose in this blog is to give you a firsthand account of missionaries adjusting to a new country. Some adjustments are a pain, some hilarious, and some downright scary. In my mind there is no bigger barrier than overcoming the language gap. This should be a missionary's primary concern in the first few years and a secondary focus for the rest of his time on the field. I cannot emphasize how important language acquisition is to effective mission work. Think about it this way-----when a foreigner speaks to you in broken English (this most often happens at the McDonald's drive-thru in the U.S.) your first thought, whether you admit it or not, is that they must be ignorant and uneducated. The reality is, its their second language and that's one more language than you speak---so who's the uneducated one??? Ever think about that? My point is, when a missionary cheats on his/ her language study he is placing an unneccessary barrier on his ministry and he needlessly sounds ignorant and unlearned. Here's the kicker, studying 20 hours a week is not enough. Fully acquiring the language demands that you drag yourself from the haven of your apartment and into the lion's den, also known as the grocery store, gas station, and restaurant. Here you must use your second language knowing full well that people will not understand and respond by speaking louder to you, like you have a problem hearing (never understood that one). Ginger and I certainly fight the feeling to just stay inside, so to battle the urge we've made it a point to just laugh about our mistakes.

One quick example: I was in Warsaw by myself awhile back when Ginger called and asked for an apple pie from McDonalds. I'm always up for a "gut bomb" but without thinking I pulled right up to the Drive-Thru window. Typical McD's drive-thru with a separate order and pick-up window. No one was at the order window so I was ready to pull out when I heard a voice over the speaker. I froze with fear, what do I say now? Fortunately, "cheeseburger" is the same in Polish and English. I proceeded with my order ------dwa (two) cheeseburger, duge frytki (large fry-pronounced doo-ze) and duge cola z lodem (large coke with ice). All of this was said correctly--I am a quick learner when it comes to food--but then I got to the pie and I have no clue what that is in Polish, thought about skipping it but I remembered there was something about pie in our wedding vows so I proceeded to embarrass myself. The person in the speaker started spouting off in Polish--I thought she was asking about the pie--and decided to answer with "tak" (yes). This worked but another question followed so I said "tak" again. She didn't sound satisfied with my answer this time and started speaking louder and slower. I said "tak" again, this seemed to frustrate her and suddenly I heard two people speaking now louder than ever. The cars were lining up behind me and finally I looked up to the pick up window and there were three employees banging on the drive thru window and motioning for me to pull forward. Years of drive thru experience kicked in and I realized that in Polish she was saying "please pull forward for your total," to which my reply had been a repeated yes. Sitting at the pick-up window was the longest 90 seconds of my life as I watched three employees trying their best to hide their laughter to no avail. As I drove away I called Ginger, we had a good laugh, and I felt better. I got off the phone, secretly spit in her pie, and felt much better, but lets keep that between us.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Three baptisms

It was a special weekend for our church here in Siedlce. Three believers publicly identified with Christ by following Him in baptism by immersion. In the New Testament, baptism was often a pulic statement that brought scrutiny, separation, and persecution from one's friends, family, and government. Baptism by immersion is also a dividing line here in Poland. One can draw the ire of their family by attending a Baptist church, friends and family certainly won't like a testimony of salvation in Christ alone. But to publicly be baptized, that is the line of demarcation. For Poles it is an open dismissal of the teachings of the Catholic church. It is identifying with a "cult." Its an open display of the inward change and therefore an embarrassment for the family. Ginger and I were challenged by their courage in moving forward in obedience to Scripture. You have to understand that Siedlce, though a population of over seventy thousand, has a small town feel. Most people are born, raised, married, and buried here, so everyone knows everyone else. The baptism took place at the one small lake in the town. It was nearly 90 degrees so the place was packed with people. Most of whom were wondering what that group of 50 or so people were doing on the other side of the lake. So when I say it was a public baptism, you understand the peer pressure these young Christians were facing. I have to say that the best part was when one of the men in our church took out his guitar and began to play/sing "Amazing Grace," the entire church soon joined in and they were so encouraging and supportive of these new Christians as they took this step of obedience. They came out of the water and were greeted by bearhugs from everyone.

The testimony of each of these young believers is another story. Slavek (Swa-vek) gave a testimony last week and told the church that a year ago he was a terrible alcoholic who's marriage was about to end. He met Ben Layer (our co-worker pictured above) and was saved a few months later. Jesus Christ saved His soul and his new birth has saved his marriage. He is a hungry Christian who cannot get enough of Scripture and has become a good friend of mine in the last two months. Goscia (Go-sha) is a single mom, rough past, with two children and little money. Every week she faithfully cleans the church, this was a hard step for her to publicly identify with Christ, but she did. Olah is a young girl with five sisters, her mom is a Christian who spent time in Chicago and speaks good English. Two years ago her dad was shot dead by his drunk brother (for no apparent reason). Its enough for anyone to want to give up, but her mom has them in Church every week and faithfully teaches Jr. Church. Everyone is Catholic at school, so Olah has definitely opened herself to ridicule when school begins in the fall. As you can tell by the photo, she was not ashamed. Ginger and I felt privileged as we witnessed their faith in action and it makes us all the more anxious to learn the language so we can soon communicate Christ to those around us.

Jason Stover

P.S. I have a 2 minute video clip of the baptism. If you'd like to view it, just send me your email address

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Familiar Face

When you live in a foreign country any familiar face is a welcome sight, no matter how distant a relative (see first picture). On Saturday we decided to take a 2 hr drive to the city of Lublin. Upon arriving into town the kids where itching to get out and do something so we decided to look for a McDonalds (preferably with a playplace) and after driving around the city for 25 minutes we found one. Its always funny to watch our kids interact with the Polish kids. The boys each got a "Shrek" toy in their happy meal and they began throwing it down the big slide first and then they would come down right after. A Polish boy about their age caught onto their game and began to wait for the toy. When it came down he would take it before the boys could get it and throw it as far as possible. This really bothered my boys and they asked him to stop but there is that whole language barrier thing, though I think he knew what they were asking. Ginger and I just sat back wanting to see what they would do. It was funny to watch their problem solving, they literally huddled in a corner and came up with a plan that required Caleb to wait at the bottom of the slide for the toy to come down, grab it before the other kid, and save it until Bradey came down. This worked to perfection a few times until Caleb and the Polish boy got to the toy about the same time, Caleb preformed a textbook box-out/ hip check and the toy was secure. Is it bad to say that I was beeming with pride?

I guess my point in all of this is to say that the boys have some big hurdles ahead of them in the months and years to come as we try to adapt to this culture. The biggest being starting school this fall in a completely different language. Yesterday we got a glimpse of how they'll conquer these hurdles---as a team. No doubt it will be years before they realize the great blessing God has given them in each other but Ginger and I are seeing the blessings already. They are evidenced everytime we send them off to sunday school, they're not only the new kids, they also don't understand a word, but they have each other(imagine what it takes for little kids to walk through that door). When they walk out to play in the park, they are foreigners and the new kids on the block, but push comes to shove and they are a team. Now I know some of you are wondering why I haven't mentioned Aubrie, but if you know her you know she'll be fine. I think she has a Polish vocabulary of almost 20 words already, doesn't know a stranger, and will most likely publish her first book in the fall : ) Ginger and I are beginning to see some of the different gifts and talents God has given our children and we find assurance in knowing that He has prepared them for this great adventure. Remember to pray for Caleb, Bradey and Aubrie--but don't pity them, they're having a blast "wiving in Powand" as Bradey says.