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."

Monday, December 15, 2008

For the Animal Lovers

Polish people love their animals, an estimated one in three Polish families have a pet. Because most people travel by foot in town, their dogs accompany them everywhere from the store to the post office. Being involved in the daily routine of their owners, the dogs here learn to walk on a leash quickly and obediently. After a time, it is not uncommon to see dogs walk with their owners without a leash. All of the crosswalks here have an alarm that sounds for as long as the light is green. Mainly this is to help the seeing impaired know how much time they have to cross the street. But it has also served to train the dogs. On three or four different occasions, Ginger and I have seen a stray dog wait at the crosswalk with the rest of the people and only cross when the alarm rings. It's quite amazing to watch really.

Because they are used to routine, older dogs are controlled simply by voice commands. The funniest example of routine is of a dog in our building. The dog and the owner are quite old and they live near the top of our building, so when it's time for a bathroom break the owner opens his door and sends the dog downstairs. He then waits until someone lets him out, does his business, and waits for someone to let him in the building again. Being old, he's learned a few tricks and instead of climbing 12 flights back to the top, he waits for someone to open the elevator door and give him a ride to his floor. Fortunately there are a few sympathetic ladies in our building who aid him in his journey back to his apartment.

One tip for visiting Poland, don't walk in the grass. Grass is for the relief of domesticated animals only. Children don't play in the grass because many people view it as something to be viewed rather than something to be tread upon. Besides, it's not worth all the time that it takes to clean your shoes later.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Serving in Peru

Loren Fitzgerald---Peru

I was thinking about what has helped me thus far. (I have only been in Peru for 7months)

1. Being able to speak the language (in order to have deep relationships with people)

2. Fulfilling my desire in having ladies Bible studies

3. Having nationals as friends

4. Having other missionary ladies to confide in here in Peru (There are 3 other couples

within 30 minutes) We get along great!

I am a people person and I have needed to be able to interact with other women: do what they do, have heart to heart times with them. I am pretty busy here, which has helped. I have three Bible studies going with different groups of women on different subjects. I have been learning to cook from scratch, for real! I try to get out and get to know people, the culture and such. There are times that I get frustrated and yell, “These people, this place!” Even though I speak Spanish, it is very different here (which can be frustrating), but I have forced myself to be teachable. There is so much to learn that it can be overwhelming, but I recite to myself the song “Little by Little, Inch by Inch.” I get up every day and ask myself, God, and my husband, “What’s the plan for the day?” I am learning to give God my plans and schedule. I know this isn’t much, but it’s what has helped me.