Sunday, July 27, 2008

It's That Language Thing Again

When you are learning a language, new situations provide new challenges in communication. Pray for us this week as we along with Kris and Mariola Kolt will be running a teen camp in southern Poland. If I'm honest, my stomach gets a little queasy when I think about the week ahead and the language barriers this camp presents. But it's also a great opportunity to share the Gospel with 25 people, most of whom are not believers. I'll leave you with some Polish vocabulary that you can put to use.

: (ko-ha-nie) honey/ darling

żabciu: (ge-ab-chew) little frog--husbands and wives often use this endearing term, sounds funny to us Americans

rybko: (rib-ko) little fish--same as żabciu (imagine referring to your wife as a little fish)

miśu: (me-shoe) teddy bear/ bear cub, another term of endearment

wyszła za mąż: (wy-shwa za moange) a phrase used to describe a lady who is about to get married--it literally means she is going out to get a husband. There is a joke in there somewhere but I'm afraid to use it

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Good Stuff From Spurgeon

I was reading the Pyromaniacs blog the other day and came across this Spurgeon excerpt taken from a sermon he preached on January 24, 1869 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was speaking to the Christianity of his day, but the message is still relevant.

hough I rejoice in sudden conversions, I entertain grave suspicions of those suddenly happy people who seem never to have sorrowed over their sin. I am afraid that those who come by their religion so very lightly often lose it quite as lightly. Saul of Tarsus was converted on a sudden, but no man ever went through a greater horror of darkness than he did before Ananias came to him with the words of comfort.

I like deep ploughing. Top-soil skimming is poor work; the tearing of the soil under surface is greatly needed. After all, the most lasting Christians appear to be those who have seen their inward disease to be very deeply seated and loathsome, and after awhile have been led to see the glory of the healing hand of the Lord Jesus as he stretches it out in the gospel.

I am afraid that in much modern religion there is a want of depth on all points; they neither deeply tremble nor greatly rejoice, they neither much despair nor much believe. Oh, beware of pious veneering! Beware of the religion which consists in putting on a thin slice of godliness over a mass of carnality. We must have thorough going work within; the grace which reaches the core, and affects the innermost spirit is the only grace worth having.

To put all in one word, a want of the Holy Ghost is the great cause of religious instability. Beware of mistaking excitement for the Holy Ghost, or your own resolutions for the deep workings of the Spirit of God in the soul. All that ever nature paints God will burn off with hot irons. All that nature ever spins he will unravel and cast away with the rags. Ye must be born from above, ye must have a new nature wrought in you by the finger of God himself, for of all his saints it is written, "Ye are his workmanship, created anew in Christ Jesus."

Oh, but, everywhere I fear there is a want of the Holy Spirit! there is much getting up of a tawdry morality, barely skin deep, much crying "Peace, peace," where there is no peace, and very little deep heart-searching anxiety to be throughly purged from sin. Well-known and well-remembered truths are believed without an accompanying impression of their weight; hopes are flimsily formed, and confidences ill founded, and it is this which makes deceivers so plentiful, and fair shows after the flesh so common.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Siedlce Is Getting A McDonalds!!!

They started building it a month and a half ago, and it's supposed to be done by the end of the summer. The project has been a joke for a quite awhile in Siedlce because for the longest time it was nothing more than a rumor. It turns out that every year the city council voted overwhelmingly against it. Not anymore. Maybe because of a new mayor or maybe because they purchased property outside city limits by a few feet, whatever the reason, they are building it and I will go. I wonder how you say egg mcmuffin in Polish?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Underdogs Don't Win

Maybe a year and a half in Poland has left me somewhat nostalgic, but I love America, I miss America. As we learn the language and observe this culture so foreign to our own, we often catch ourselves comparing the two. One culture is home, and the other, well . . . it’s growing on us. Many similarities can be observed but a few stark differences exist. The longer I’m away from home the more I see “American Individualism” emanating from across the Atlantic. We Americans love stories about people who overcome all odds, we root for the underdog. Whether its pilgrims surviving the first winter, or sending the world’s great superpower back across the pond with its “tail between its legs”, or a handful of men holding off Santa Anna’s army allowing Sam Houston to rally the troops, stories of one man or a handful of people making a difference are forever engrained in our folklore. It’s why Sylvester Stallone made six Rocky films and it’s why Jack Bauer has saved the country, from certain destruction, something like five times with another adventure planned for this fall. Though we know the outcome we can’t avert our eyes. American fascination with sports has fed this obsession as well. One needs look no further than the Milan Indians. In 1954, Bobby Plump’s last second shot rocketed his team, from a little school of 161 students, to victory over the heavy favorites and enormous Bearcats of Muncie Central. Made famous by the movie “Hoosiers,” this story wrestles with “The Miracle On Ice” for the distinction of the greatest upset in sports history.

Polish people respect Americans, consider us allies, can’t get enough of Hollywood or our stories, but they don’t buy the underdog stuff. Theirs is a completely different history. Around the time we claimed our independence, Poland was completely dissolved. Polish history is littered with invading armies and neighboring countries that pillaged and claimed what was rightfully Poland’s. One of the great uprisings in modern history ended in tragedy for the Polish people. The book “A Question of Honor” documents how for 63 days 40,000 soldiers, including 4,000 women held off the Germans though having only 2,500 guns at their disposal. Hoping for rescue by the Allies the opposite in fact occurred. The Russian Army camped outside Warsaw counting on the Germans to eventually annihilate most officers and resisters. The purpose, of course, was so that Stalin could have a much easier path in establishing his puppet government. In that uprising, 22,000 soldiers and 200,000 civilians sacrificed their lives only to see the country fall into Soviet control for another fifty years in spite of the incredible efforts. Underdogs don’t win in Poland. Individuals are crushed. Strength is found in family, protection is found in community. Ginger and I have seen this played out time and time again in our neighborhood. We live in a block, which can be described as several high-rise apartment buildings in close proximity. For many, these apartments have been passed down from Grandfather, to father, to son. In the apartment below ours three generations, totaling ten people, live in roughly 800 sq. feet. Yeah, I have no idea how they do that. Living like this creates a tight community. In other words, if your neighbor has a problem it becomes your problem not out of pressure but because it’s the right thing to do. Four teenagers had planned on attending our teen camp this summer but they have all backed out because of the wedding of a former unrelated resident. Two nights ago, a drunk driver clipped our neighbor’s car at midnight. We watched from our window as the entire building sprang to life--not to gawk, but to chase down the car, phone the police, and check for injuries.

This aspect of their culture has ramifications on how the Gospel is shared in Poland. Don’t miss the point, the message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is for all cultures, but the presentation is not a “one size fits all.” Though this is changing some now, for years American Christians have presented the Gospel to their neighbor as “a personal relationship with Christ” or emphasized to their unsaved colleague that “Jesus died specifically for you.” Without overstating, the individual aspect of the Gospel has little appeal for a Polish man or woman. Why would they want something that singles them out from their family and neighborhood? Why would they want to forge ahead alone? Underdogs don’t win. Individuals are crushed. In our first few weeks, Ginger and I noticed a word that kept coming up in the church service. “Kościół” (kosh-chewl) is the word for church in Polish, yet over and over we heard the pastor and various Christians refer to the church as a “zbór” (zboor). During one of our Polish lessons I asked our teacher (a staunch Catholic) the difference. Her reply was very negative, she told us that it described the church in a very informal way, it turns out that most Catholics in Poland agree. The problem is that “zbór” is the Polish translators’ word of choice in many places throughout the NT, though most Polish Catholics have no idea having become accustomed to the spoon feeding of their priests rather than the meat of God’s Word. The word denotes Christian family or Christian community and it’s precisely the message that must be emphasized while sharing the Gospel to Poles. For converts who risk alienation from their family and their neighborhood, the idea of being part of a Christian Family, or of members who know each other by name, who pray for each other and open their homes for Christian fellowship, the idea of being part of the Body of Christ, that resonates. In our short time here one experience stands out. Last summer we had the privilege of witnessing a public baptism for three Christians in our church. We went to the lake in town and watched as they were baptized publically in front of hundreds who were swimming 200 yards away. What a test for those young believers, publically distancing themselves from their former lives. It was the hugs and prayers of support coming from their “zbór” as they came out of the water that left the greatest impact on us. For those new believers, the message of reconciliation from alienation in Colossians 1 changed their lives forever.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Family Camp

Last week our family was invited to join a church in Warsaw for family camp. We spent the week in southern Poland near the border of Czech Republic. Ginger and I were anxious to explore that part of Poland and excited about spending an entire week with a group of Christian families. It certainly stretched our Polish speaking abilities, gave us a little more insight into Polish culture, but it was a blast too. On Monday we hiked up to the highest peak in the immediate area, about 4000 ft above sea level. We learned that when Polish people say they are going to hike, they are really going to hike. Before the hike began we were debating on whether or not to bring the kids, especially Aubrie, but were told it was a fairly simple climb. At 11 am we started out and finally got back home EIGHT HOURS and 10 MILES LATER. At times the trail went straight up and in other places it wound endlessly around the mountain. About three hours in it began to downpour but all in all the kids were real troopers. We kept Aubrie motivated by stopping for "chocolate breaks" every thirty minutes or so. It seemed to do the trick and Bradey made the entire hike even though he was battling an ear infection. The picture of the kids is at the peak, you can see they were in good spirits (probably handled the hike better than mom or dad).

One observation from the week was the sense of "family" or "community" we got from the other families. Everyone called each other "aunt" or "uncle" but well beyond the names, all of the activities were done together. Our family took a day to go exploring on our own and when we returned it seemed like we were genuinely missed. I think the term "Family Camp" could be expanded to "Extended Christian Family Camp." I had the opportunity to preach three times and one of those opportunities I forced myself to preach in Polish again, they were gracious and didn't smirk when I slaughtered the grammar or blends. We had a great time and made some lasting friendships.