Finding my female identity

Tonight I went to "So That" our women's ministry group at church. A woman from church called me last night to invite me to come and talk about my experiences in Poland at the women's ministry group that meets once a month. I dread these invitations. But before you get all hot and bothered, let me explain. I am not a typical female--and I sort of take pride in that. I have never been into girly things--when I was younger I dressed in boy clothes and tried several times (without success) to pee standing up, makeup is not my best friend, the color pink makes my head hurt, I don't like having my nails painted, and I dislike shopping. In high school I generally gravitated towards male friends because I couldn't stand the drama that my female counterparts often exhibited. I kept up this behavior into college, and now--at the age of 24--I find myself with only a handful of close female friends who I can share my dirty laundry with. Being around females is hard for me because it's out of my comfort zone--it's unfamiliar territory. So I avoid female gatherings. As humans, we tend to avoid what makes us uncomfortable.

But tonight as I sat and listened to other women share their experiences in Poland (we had five other New Hope gals serve in another part of Poland this summer), and as I talked with some of the women in attendance--I felt a sort of bond. Once I got past the initial awkwardness and hyperawareness that I was around so many females, I slowly began to feel comfortable. I am realizing the benefit of stepping out of my safe bubble in order to form relationships (I have come to realize this summer that relationships are often the foundation for fellowship in Christ--but that's another blog post!). Women can be a powerful breed of people when united under once cause--and that excites me. So one of my many goals this year is stretch myself to connect with more women--I guess I'm finally sort of finding my female identity....


Back to school...

Today was our first day of classes! I have mixed feelings about going back to school this year. I love my job, but our summer was so crazy busy with classes that I feel like I didn't get quite enough time to myself. I also have some anxieties about this school year--one of them is living out my faith throughout the year both in and out of school. But despite my apprehensions, the time has come and students are filling up the seats in my room. So, I wanted to pass along a few passages from scripture that are really challenging me to live better (for a lack of better terms) this year because it is tough to live out a Christian life in our society. I hope they'll be of some benefit to others who might be reading:
  • Romans 12
  • Galations 6:16-26
  • James 1:19-27
  • James 3


Poland Update

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my four year old niece, Denelle, wanted to do something to support us going to Poland. So, she and her mom went and bought three picture books about God to send with us. On the last day we handed out these books to a few kids.

The first picture is of a woman at the camp who served as a translator with her two daughters.

The next is of two little boys who attend preschool at the Chojnice Baptist church. What's interesting about this family is that the parents aren't believers...though this is a kids book, I think it will positively impact the parents as well

The last picture is really special to me. The little boy in the picture is Bartek--he is three years old and is going through some rough times right now. His 14 year old sister was in my classes, and I found out that their father recently left them. The mother is raising three children on her own...I am confident that this book will be a comfort to both Bartek and his mother.


Krys and Ola

This week we had the opportunity to meet and get to know a beautiful couple: Kris and Ola. They are around the same age as us and have been married for almost a year. They’ve been attending family camps for the past five years. In fact, Kris made a decision to follow Jesus at one of these camps a few years back.

We spent a lot of time with these two this week; on our last day in Poland, the two came and picked us up in old town Gdansk and we spent the afternoon together. They shopped with us and helped us find good bargains, translated for us, then took us to see the Baltic Sea, and finally we went back to their flat for coffee and great conversation. We ended up having dinner together and even went shopping at a hardware store to help them pick out paint colors. I’m having a hard time describing this new-found friendship because it feels like we’ve been friends with them for years.We’ve only known one another for 8 days—but we’ve made such a deep connection. It’s great to see how God brought this all about. I’m looking forward to seeing how our friendship develops over time.

This new relationship is another small picture of how God works at these camps. First, Kris developed a relationship with Jesus during this camp—it was just what he needed to give him that extra push in taking a step of faith. Many people who attended the camp this week felt this same push. Some decided to put their trust in Jesus at camp, but many more were driven one or two steps closer to God because of how He worked in the camp. Who knows where these people might be without the experiences they had at camp. Second—Kris and Ola’s marriage is another testimony to these camps. Ola mentioned that a few years ago she spent a lot of time talking with an Ogallala woman about marriage and what a godly marriage should look like (this Ogallala woman is the late wife of one of the men—John--from our church who came to serve at the camp this year). Now, Kris and Ola are married and are in a relationship that is glorifying to God. Kris and Ola’s marriage is also a blessing to John in that he could see how much of a blessing his wife was to this young couple. Finally, I feel invigorated to have met Kris and Ola. Because of them I am challenged to work more at my marriage and to make sure that God is the center of our marriage. I realize that camp isn’t the only event that caused all of these blessings to occur, but there is no denying that the way God works at these camps has played a role in many of these blessings.

My translator

As most of you know, my husband and I have been in Poland for the past 13 days working and teaching at a family English camp in Poland. So many great things have happened during this short time—there’s no way I can describe them all, but I do feel that I need to process the trip. So, the next few blogs will be devoted to my experiences in Poland.

Meet my translator, Ester. Ester was born in Poland, but moved to Canada with her family when she was younger. This summer she was back in Poland visiting extended family, so she wound up serving as a translator for me this past week. Translating is tough work. Not only does it require switching back and forth between two languages, but it also means that there is no time for spacing off during a conversation! Ester’s job this week was particularly difficult because we were working with girls raging in ages from 10-14 who spoke little to no English. If you’ve ever worked with this age group, you know how much talking can go on in the course of an hour! By the second day the 12-13 girls felt comfortable enough around us and were in the habit of talking or shouting at once and expected Ester to translate all of it. Ester’s job was not limited to the three and a half hours we were together for Bible study, English class, and conversation time—she ended up translating a lot in the evenings when girls wanted to talk with me. I am so thankful for Ester’s diligence and willingness to serve. It was frustrating at times for both Ester and me, but she stuck with it until the end.

Not only was she my translator, but I also feel that she became a friend during our short time together. We had some time each day where we just sat and talked. I think it was the second day of camp when Ester and I were talking about relationships—she is about the age where she’s thinking about marriage, so we talked a lot about the joys and hardships marriage brings. She asked if Nate and I were thinking about having children. I explained to her that it’s something we’d been struggling with, and that medically—the chances of having our own children are slim and that we are interested in beginning the adoption process. Ester piped in and boldly asked, “Well have you prayed about it? Because you can’t just say ‘some doctor told us we can’t have kids so we’ll just adopt.’ You have to pray because God can do anything, you know. Do you want me to pray for you?” I couldn’t believe that this 19 year old was getting so personal with me so quickly. It was a bit unnerving but also refreshing in the sense that someone who I barely knew cared enough to ask if she could pray for me.

Sunday was our last day of camp, so we spent a few hours reading through camp evaluations and talking about our experiences. Our leader (a pastor from Washington) stressed the importance of digesting the trip. So as I sit on the plane (we’re flying from Munich to DC right now) I’m thinking about how I can describe my experience in Poland to others. The conversation I mentioned between Ester and me is a perfect example of what happens at these family camps in Poland: relationships are built. Because the camp has a focus on God, not on teaching/learning English, great things can and do happen. The relationship I developed with my translator is just a small glimpse of what I gained while in Poland---be watching for more!


Poland Update: Thursday

I would have to say that a highlight of my day was Connor's testimony. Connor is a 19 year old college student who is an Ogallala grad. I mentioned this in my last post, but he has made quite a few relationships here at the camp. Tonight he gave a very moving testament of his faith in Christ. There were not many dry eyes in the place. I've heard many testimonies before, but this one will stick with me for awhile because it was so genuine and heart-felt. Connor laid himself on the line in front of nearly 150 people tonight--and several people talked with him afterwards to get advice about what they were going through or how they were feeling...this was a big step of faith for him. If you're the praying kind, please keep praying for Connor--that he would continue to draw nearer to Jesus and experience a type of intimacy he's never felt before. Also, pray for the campers who were moved by Connor's testimony, that it would bring them one step closer to God.


Poland Update

My team, posing as pirates...
My girls during English class---playing American Candy Bingo
Worship at night...
Nate's crazy high school boys during one of the games
My girls posing for a silly picture

Author's Note: Forgive me for any typos or poorly written sentences; it's late at night, and I’m exhausted!

It's Thursday morning...we just finished the fourth day of camp and are ready to start the fifth. I can't believe we only have four days left. I would have to say that this has been one of the best experiences I've had in a very long time. Here are some of the highlights:

•Watching one of the guys from our church connect with the Polish teenagers--Connor Max (he graduated from OHS in 2009) has really gone out of his way to form relationships with many of the Polish teens. He is leading junior high boys while we're here, and they have really connected with him.

•Seeing my girls (ages 10-14) come out of their shells. The first day they were a timid bunch who didn't speak a word--now they are chatty as all get out! I've also had a few girls ask if we could talk one on one at the end of the night--(with a translator translating). These conversations haven't been too deep, but it's a good step in the relationship forming process. I'm hoping that my girls can open up even more to explore deeper topics and converse about their faith.

•My Bible study time: At the end of our time yesterday I asked if anyone wanted to pray for the group. An outgoing little girl (Gabi) volunteered to pray, and she prayed the Our Father (most of my girls are Catholic) in Polish. So, I took advantage of this knowledge they had today and taught them the Lord's Prayer in English (Luke 11:1-4). They LOVED it! And I think it was eye opening for them to see the prayer in the Bible. In fact, when I asked them to turn to Luke 11 one girl asked, "You don't know it by heart?" I told them that I did, but I wanted them to read it from the Bible. I know I only have 8 days with them, but I'm hoping that reading our Bibles each day will get them familiar enough with it so that they aren't intimidated to open their Bibles.

•English classes: Though I am accustomed to teaching English, I am not familiar with teaching English to non-English speakers. Yesterday was our first class; I was trying to write a few vocab. words on our little white board and the girls kept shouting at the translator that they could not see the board. So naturally I taught them the phrase, "I can't see the board." I turned the board back onto my lap to write a few more words, and about 30 seconds later, in unison the girls screamed, "I can't see the board!" It scared me so much because I wasn't used to hearing English during that time! Our lesson today was fruitful, and many of the girls have been following me all over the place during the day practicing their newly learned English.

•Testimonies: Each night we end the day with about an hour long service where we sing (the worship band here is AMAZING) and an American gives his/her testimony (how they came to have a relationship with Jesus). Sunday night Justin, a youth pastor from Washington, gave his, Monday I gave mine, Tuesday was Bob from Washington, and today was John from Ogallala. I can really tell that God has been working during this time. I am a nervous person who doesn't like to speak in public, so I was terrified to give mine. I wrote four drafts of it! But I prayed over and over that day that God would just give me the right words to say to speak to the hearts of the campers. After the first line my nerves faded, and I felt a sudden sense of peace as the words flowed from my mouth. A few Polish people approached me afterwards and thanked me for speaking; some said they could relate to my story. I think that's a step...

•Seeing God work in the camp: Here's one example--our group leader from Ogallala, Chuck, drove us all the way to Denver, we got to DIA to check in, but when he the passport to the clerk he realized he had grabbed his wife's passport rather than his own! Passport-less, he drove back to Ogallala. Our pastor tried to book him another flight out, but the possibilities looked bleak. Chuck and our pastor prayed together over the phone and a few minutes later the pastor called back saying that the travel agency had found tickets for Chuck. He arrived at the end of our first day. Chuck is a legend here at camp as this is his 12th time here. He has formed many lasting relationships and has seen many people devote their lives to Christ. It's a blessing to have him here despite the minor passport glitch.

•Becoming familiar with Polish culture: Polish food is amazing. Polish people are EXTREMELY competitive (we've played a lot of evening games as social activities) and have a TON of energy, which makes for a lot of fun!

I know that's a lot! I do want to post more tomorrow about my amazing translator, Ester--so be sure to check back. I will leave you with a few prayer requests: handed

1. Connor is giving his testimony tomorrow night. Pray for peace for Him that God would work through him to really touch the hearts of some of the campers.

2. Energy! It's the middle--so some of us (including me) are dragging.

3. That we would be able to continue forming relationships with the Polish people.


More prayer requests...

I have a few more prayer requests for you all if you feel inclined to pray:

--One of our team members from Nebraska, Chuck--who has been to help at this camp 11 times--will be traveling to Poland today. We had a small hiccup at the airport--he was checking in at DIA and realized that he grabbed his wife's passport rather than in his own. So he had to drive all the way back and then rebook his flights---please pray for safe travel for him.

--Open hearts for the Polish people attending the camp.