So my name is Jenny; I am that girl that ventured to a little country in Asia a while ago and the one who is currently on an adventure in Krakow in Poland. Not much difference I know. I’ve been here now 35 days and every day the line of the learning curve is steepening. God by His goodness and grace has been (as always) exceeding my expectations of what He is doing and is ever revealing to me the true need of the gospel of Jesus in this city.
For a little background, let me take you to the top of St. Mary’s Basilica Church Tower in the Old Town market square. After walking up 257 steps and surveying the vast expanse of the city, you’ll easily see 25 Catholic churches scattered in every direction of the compass. From the grandeur of the Baroque churches to the quite creepy Gothic churches, if you call yourself a Christian there are no shortage of churches to go to on a Sunday (and also weekdays from 6 am to 10 pm). Much like Northern Ireland, it is easy to call yourself a Christian here and also like our wee country, the people here too are split into those who are devoted to the church and those who are discontent. However, unlike our country, Poland is 90% Catholic.
The Catholic faith is deeply rooted and being tied so intimately with politics, has influenced all areas of life for almost 1000 years. The church I am in finds itself in that minority percentage of ‘Protestant’ and ‘Evangelical’ churches which are lower than 1%. The church is striving to fit the culture of Krakow and reach out to Poles from all backgrounds in a biblical; Christ-centered way to ultimately glorify God. At first, I thought “this is easy enough; you sing these songs, preach a theme like this, maybe run some programs, wee buns.” Oh how desperately wrong I was. Being a young girl from Richhill, the Catholic faith and the traditions which have stemmed from it, well and truly hit me and my reformed theology right in the face. Guided by God’s understanding and wisdom I have been communicating with local Christians and attending many mass services in order to understand the format of religion here. So far I have realised that what works in Northern Ireland, really does not work here. Holiday Bible Club? Nah mate. Drum kits? Churches aren’t concerts. Fellowship before the service? Unheard of. My role and main focus during my time here are to build true friendships with local people and through that to understand their way of life and bring them the truth of the gospel. By analysing their values, goals, ambitions and how they spend their every day I am helping the Kosciol Chrystusa Zbawiciela church during its first few years of being planted here to know their community. This involves daily research into the people who live, dwell and work in the city, known as the “Krakowites.” The church follows Redeemer Church’s format of church planting and how Tim Keller and the team established their church in 1989.
Here is a snippet of their “Researching into a community” guide:
“… knowing the values, the history, the heroes, and the formative concepts of the people you are trying to reach is an integral part of reaching them with the gospel of Christ. Indeed, to be effective, Christian ministry must take into account this “invisible world” of the audience you are seeking to reach. This research and the goal of deeply understanding a community is the first step in the process of contextualization. It must also be noted here the impact and importance of not only researching your neighbourhood but putting down roots and planting yourself within it.”
I am a small part of reaching this community but a part none the less. Much like Bilbo Baggins, I am on a quest to help reclaim the Lonely Mountain. Only instead of stealing the Arkenstone and reclaiming it for the dwarfs; the ultimate goal is to show the most precious gem in the mountain to all who dwell there. In the midst of riches and greed and loyalty to one’s own religion, the hope is to help the people reclaim their faith under one stone which isn’t the Arkenstone but the cornerstone; Jesus Christ alone (emphasis on alone).
Through surveys and services and the English Club Vox Box which I am running and my English Class on Thursday nights; these are small ways in connecting the people in the mountain to the building of the church and to the stone who is Jesus. Through these things, meet up events and university workshops the hope is to show Christianity in a new light which many have preconceived opinions on and lead them to Christ in a biblically true way. God throughout this past month has been constant when I have not been. In Him and Him alone, I have found comfort and rest. In an attempt to ‘contextualize’ I completed a one-month intensive Polish course with a guy from India who was a Bollywood producer, an American writer and a guy from Portugal, which a made me greatly appreciate how my English students feel (especially with my accent and the fact that Northern Irish people struggle to understand me). Vowels are quite rare and it is easier to find the Holy Grail than learning the present tense verbs, but the course blessed me beyond belief. Being able to semi-speak to people and sort of understand conversation has affected my ministry very much. To be able to affiliate with and become more than a tourist to the locals has given me opportunities to share my reason for being here and twice before my testimony and the gospel. In a place where church buildings are quite literally everywhere; religion can be active but faith passive. In saying this, however; the awe and reverence of some people here for Our Father is one to marvel at. Being in churches ordained with beauty in terms of architecture, paintings, sculptures and alters it’s difficult not to focus on God and honour the works of His hands. However, so many only know a part of Him in this setting and an intimate relationship with Him is difficult to comprehend.
So please, pray for the people of this city. Pray for the Kosciol Chrystusa Zbawiciela in their devotion to Polish citizens and for guidance on how to reach the Krakowites in the best most culturally appropriate way. Pray also for my English class; all of them apart from one are from Ukrainian (which highlights how diverse and cosmopolitan the city is). Please pray for their understanding of English to deepen and for them to come to Vox Box and become connected to the church. They are wonderful people who are very forgiving (especially when you accidentally use the USSR flag to describe “Russians”) and I will miss really dearly, so prayer for another English teacher to come and continue with them (would be lovely)! Pray also for Saszko who leads the church who is spending the next few weeks in Northern Ireland, for him preaching in English to different churches and for him to learn more and be filled while away from Krakow. Pray for the other churches in Krakow, for their mission work and for leaders in the churches to be Christ centred and culturally sensitive.
Thank you for your prayers for this country and this church; they are appreciated more than you will ever know. Missing you folks greatly, but am excited for each one of you learning every week about Him and having the best fellowship about. Just to leave you with an eternal truth and loving reminder from 2 Corinthians 4:
“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”