Young At Heart

Posted on Updated on

Yesterday was our big Olympic Games with the Survivors.  They are SOOO cute kicking soccer balls and tossing eggs.  They smile and laugh, but when it comes to the score things get very serious!  I was in charge of music, so we began with the Olympic theme, complete with torch-bearing and a parade of teams.  We later found out one of them actually carried the real Olympic torch in the 1980 games!  The events were accompanied by the Rocky, Eye of the Tiger and other sports themes.  Fun times.

 

 

   

Today is cool and rainy, so we did crafts this morning.  The Savannah team put together some great activities and they seemed to really enjoy them.  Some of them are real artists, producing masterpieces worthy of a much better canvas than the paper plates we gave them!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All of this is just good time to connect and get to know each other.  We pray that through these interactions, these people who have known so much hate will feel nothing but joy and love.

 

Our Jewish Friends

Posted on Updated on

The Holocaust Survivors arrived Monday evening, and we’ve been busy. Maxim shared with the US team that several people who have come to this retreat before have talked about it continuously since, and have been eager to return.  He said one man still has pages and pages of notes he took while he was here and he still gets them out frequently.  Andrzej asked me if I had brought journals for them like I did a few years ago when I was in charge of crafts for this week.  I hadn’t, so when we went into Ostróda for some shopping and ice cream, I managed to find some inexpensive journals in a bookstore.  I hope they will use them to write their thoughts and memories about their time here in Poland, but I also hope it serves as a gift that tells them that we are so glad to be with them this week.  Oksana showed me how the Russian so I could inscribe them with “Ostróda 2017 – Love, Rachel & Ben”.   ♥

One familiar friend shared his story last night.  Today we traveled with them to the beautiful cities of Gdańsk and Sopot on the Baltic sea. They decided not to visit the concentration camp at Stutthoff this year.

There is so much more to tell that I cannot post online, but we look forward to sharing with anyone who is interested when we get back. For now, just keep praying for all of our friends!

This just never gets old.  Love Gdańsk.

 

Come Alive

Posted on Updated on

I love watching as a new team of short-term workers comes together.  The first team we get to work with this year is made up of people from Georgia, Missouri, and Wisconsin.  Some of them we’ve partnered with before and some we are getting to know, but God never fails to bring together a unique mixture of gifts and personalities to fulfill His mission.

This morning we worshiped together at the Christian Church in Ostróda, divided up tasks for tomorrow’s work day, spent some time resting and relaxing, celebrated birthdays and then met for a time of prayer and worship to prepare our hearts for the week ahead.

 

George Bajenski was able to join us and he gave a nice devotion for us including some history of the camp, the Jewish people, and Poland.  Before leading us in singing Come Alive (Lauren Daigle), Deb read a writing from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and current president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.  He relates the Jewish people following the Holocaust to Ezekiel standing before the valley of dry bones.  I thought it was worth sharing, as are the lyrics of the song – one I love but sang from a different perspective tonight.   This will be my prayer as we spend this next week with the Holocaust Survivors.

 

“Come Alive (Dry Bones)”
Lauren Daigle

Through the eyes of men it seems
There’s so much we have lost
As we look down the road
Where all the prodigals have walked
One by one
The enemy has whispered lies
And led them off as slavesBut we know that you are God
Yours is the victory
We know there is more to come
That we may not yet see
So with the faith you’ve given us
We’ll step into the valley unafraid, yeah

As we call out to dry bones
Come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts
Come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes
Let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones, come alive

God of endless mercy
God of unrelenting love
Rescue every daughter
Bring us back the wayward son
And By your spirit breathe upon them
Show the world that you alone can save
You alone can save

As we call out to dry bones
Come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts
Come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes
Let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones come alive

So breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe, oh breath of God
Breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe

Breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe, oh breath of God
Breathe, oh breath of God, now breathe

As we call out to dry bones
Come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts
Come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes
Let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones come alive, yeah
We call out to dry bones, come alive

Oh come alive

Dishes & Pinecones

Posted on Updated on

Yesterday was a work and errand day. Between camps, there is no kitchen staff, so April & Kyle have the added responsibility (on top of all their other tasks) of feeding themselves and any volunteer workers that are around (like us).  And cleaning everything.  And getting the grounds ready to host the first full camp.  Wojtek, the camp’s maintenance guy, has a long list of stuff to buy, fix, replace, etc.  Oksana & Andrzej are swamped with paperwork and phone calls.  The first short-term team arrives today, so there are rooms to prepare and a bigger crowd to feed tonight.  So yesterday we all rolled up our sleeves and tackled the list of things that needed to be done.  I helped prepare breakfast for everyone, Ben did the dishes, we all grabbed rakes to clean up pinecones so they wouldn’t get caught in the mower, and the kids pulled weeds from around the chapel.  Then there was grocery and supply shopping that took us in different directions. Today I’ll start working on the supply room that needs some serious sorting and organizing, and set up the prayer room.

Many people are disillusioned about mission work.  I’ve seen it in the interns and short-term workers we’ve met over the years and, it has been part of several conversations with friends at home.  There is a glorified perception that it is going to be entirely sharing Jesus all the time.  But that isn’t the reality.  In education training, we learn about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – that children can’t learn if their physical, mental and emotional needs are unmet.  The same is true in ministry.  If the camp is falling apart, dirty and broken, the people won’t be able to come and receive the Message we came to bring.

Jesus tried to teach us this.  “…he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”   John 13:4-5.

We want to teach God’s love, but first, we must live it out.  We want to bear witness, but it often begins with picking up a toilet brush and mop.  We came to serve, not to be served.  To give, not to take.  Jesus calls us to follow his example.  To humbly serve whatever the task, and to remember that He who sends us is greater than those who bring the message.  (vs. 16).

So we pick up pinecones for hours in the dust and sun, scrub backwash from glasses and cobwebs from the rafters.  If that isn’t spiritual enough for you, the work time is a perfect opportunity to pray for the coming groups of workers and participants.  But make no mistake, it’s all a part of the mission.

Prayer Requests:

  • For the family of Beata Kołak, a young ministry partner who passed away last week
  • For the team from Compassion Christian Church ( Savannah, GA) traveling and arriving today
  • For Kazik Barczuk, one of the directors of the Holocaust Survivors Camp, whose mother just passed away
  • For the Holocaust Survivors arriving at Ostróda Camp Monday
  • For my friend Iwona who was hit by a car crossing the street the other day.  She is ok, but badly bruised and banged-up.  She is a working mom with two small children.

Dear Grace,

Posted on

Embracing Grace

My Dear Grace,

Today, on the day you went to be with Jesus, I’m preparing to celebrate the life of a sweet lady who now joins you in heaven. In a way, Beata knew you. Several years ago she was instrumental in helping to organize the event in which I shared your story with the city of Ostróda.   She knew there were many families who had suffered the kind of loss we experienced when you left us, and she wanted to help me share that God’s love is unending, even when we face this kind of tragedy.  Beata leaves behind a husband who loved her and a college-age son who will terribly miss his Mom.  But she is free from the pain and suffering of cancer, and has now regained the joy that I always think of when I think of her.  Just as God has done with you…

View original post 67 more words

Home Sweet Home

Posted on Updated on

Since I last wrote, Ben visited one more church in Połczyn Zdrój with a service and meeting of the church leaders with the PCM leaders.  The kids and I have been able to stay in Kołobrzeg during these meetings since we aren’t involved in any way, but that required me to drive Piotr Karel’s car!  Yikes.  It was my first time driving in another country and the first time I’ve driven in a stick in about 20 years, but I did it with no problems.  Whew.

We just did our first solo train travel with no problems (even changed trains once), cutting our visits to churches in Northwestern Poland short (Ben will miss just one PCM Board meeting) and coming to Ostróda a day early for the funeral of our friend.  The camp is empty and quite, but it feels like coming home.

 

 

  

 

 

Beata & Kołobrzeg

Posted on

I must begin this post with some sad news because my heart is heavy today. We learned this morning that Beata Kołak lost her battle with cancer and went to be with Jesus.  Beata was about my age, and although I didn’t know her very well I just thought she was an amazing lady.   I first met her in 2013 when she was one of the primary organizers of my talk in the city of Ostróda on infant loss.  Two years ago she and her husband Zbigniew were the deans of the Ukrainian Children’s Camp.  They came each evening and helped with the final session of the day as well as our big “Olympic” event.  She was just overflowing with a joyful spirit that I admired, and it breaks my heart to hear of her passing.  The funeral is Thursday.  We just changed our train tickets to go to Ostróda a day early to be able to attend.   Will you please pray for her family?  She leaves behind a husband and son, who I think is in his early twenties.  

The second stop on our church tour is the one I have been particularly looking forward to visiting – Kołobrzeg.  Ben has been here twice and Rockville Christian has had a long relationship with this church, supporting them in prayer and financially.  I’ve been told that Pastor Piotr Karel used to write letters to RCC which were read before the congregation, a tradition I encouraged him to bring back!  Piotr sat down next to me the first night we were here and said, “Rac-hel-a,  (the Polish pronunciation of my name – I love it), tell me how Rockville Christian Church is doing.”  So I filled him in on some recent changes and asked him to be praying for us in our transitions.  Yesterday, we were privileged to worship with the congregation.  Ben stood at the start of the service and gave greetings on behalf of the brothers and sisters at Rockville Christian.  There were several baptisms and the church is facing the good problem of finding themselves in need of more space.  There was standing room only this week and they had to set up an overflow room with the service broadcasted to a large TV.    We are actually living at the church for several days, as they have quite a few rooms with beds and baths for housing guests.

Ben and the other PCM board members met with the leaders at Kołobrzeg, and then did the same yesterday evening at church #3 – the Christian Church in Koszalin (a different church than the Messianic Jewish congregation mentioned before).  This morning, Piotr Karel took us on a tour of his city, then the kids and I got to spend a little time on the Baltic Sea with the Korytkowski family while the men visited church #4 in Białogard.