For the last four years, I’ve had the privilege of traveling to Poland to work with our partner missionaries and Polish believers who are being used by God to plant churches and bring the good news about Jesus to the people in Poland. Why do the people of Poland, a nation that is almost 100% Catholic, need to hear good news about Jesus? This is a controversial question that I will try to answer as simply as I can for those who are interested at the end of this post. But first, here are my favorite moments from our trip a few weeks ago in October:
When we first came to this small city of nearly 15,000 in 2011, I was impressed by its square, architecture, and, of course, its castle. Never would I have imagined, that just one year later, the castle would hold the first worship service for the church we were praying to be planted. In 2012, we worshiped with around 50 people in a small room in the castle for their first service. The church had grown from a few home Bible studies to a worshiping community in just one year.
This year, we just happened to be back in Nidzica for the one year anniversary of the church’s beginning. This time we worshiped with nearly twice as many people and saw the beginning of church leadership developing. This new, young church reminds me so much of what God was doing in the beginning of the Book of Acts…
Sidebar — The Teutonic Castles of Northern Poland: The large, red-bricked castles of northern Poland were built in the 14th century by the Teutonic Knights, a group of mostly German “crusaders” who were commissioned by the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy to carry out military campaigns in central and eastern Europe. The Polish people defeated the knights in the fifteenth century and took control of their castles. While many of these castles were damaged or destroyed in various wars, they have been rebuilt according to their original specifications and are very impressive pieces of medieval history.
2.) School Presentations
One of the best parts of the last two trips for me has been sitting back and watching my oldest son do presentations in several Polish schools. This year was particularly memorable because several of the schools we went to last year welcomed us back and had fun things prepared for us. My son Adin did a great job with all of his presentations and we made lots of new friends in every school.
3.) First visit to Kraków
Kraków is a beautiful city with a rich history. It is the cultural heart of Poland and, quite amazingly, all its architecture was almost unharmed during the invasions and wars of the last century. Visiting Kraków definitely gave us a new appreciation for Poland and how deep goes its history. Our country is so young in comparison to nations like Poland — and yet we have been so blessed. It is very easy to forget.
If you go to Kraków, the most important thing you must do is visit the giant market square around St. Mary’s church. Every hour on the hour the chimes of the cathedral play, which is followed by a bugler playing perhaps the most famous song in Polish history — the hejnał. Except that the bugler plays a very unique version, stopping mid-note during the last measures of the hymn. Why, you might ask? Because of an arrow through the throat. Here’s the story behind it:
The most commonly read legend tracing the hejnał is that one morning in 1241 the Tartars invaded Kraków (as they always do). The warning song was blared to arouse the slumbering city to arms. The man playing was shot in the neck, thus abruptly cutting off the song in mid-melody. To this day, the tune cuts off in mid-recapitulation symbolizing Kraków’s vigilance as well as commemorating the lone night guard who aroused the city to defense, thereby saving it.
–See full article here.
–Want to hear the bugler? Here is a link to a YouTube video of the bugler playing. Notice how the song ends abruptly…
4.) And of course, getting to share all of this with my son and my mother again…
Poland has one of the most tumultuous histories you will find for a nation its size. Much like Israel, Poland is located in a geographical position that is advantageous to control for some of Europe’s most formidable superpowers. As a result, Polish history is checkered with invasions, wars, and genocide, all of which have brought about major shifts in the cultural and religious landscape. This has been happening in Poland for more than a millennium. For someone from a young nation like the USA, it is hard to fathom how much history has shaped a nation like Poland.
For the last 1,000 years, Poland has been “Christian.” Unfortunately, the definition of what it means to be Christian has been skewed in many different directions and many people have very little understanding of the Bible, of what it means to follow Jesus, and how to know Him personally. The religious landscape of Poland is somewhat of a hybrid, bearing the marks of ancient paganism, Judaism, early Western Christianity, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Christian Reformed traditions, and even Baptists. Confusing, huh?
I would imagine my Polish friends would agree. So we continue to bring Christ to them because with Christ comes the Spirit of truth. Only He can sort out this confusion and bring the true Light back to Poland.