A Final Summary

Holly Yurkin   -  

As you may already know, our church sent out a short-term missions team to Poland to help our missionaries, Chuck and Vikki Franks, host a marriage conference. Our team had eight members: Nathan and Jancy Cecil, Jared and Charity Andrews, Isaiah Andrews, Steph and Holly Yurkin, and Julia Zischke. This past Sunday, our team recapped our trip going over the details of our transportation, the conference, and our lessons learned throughout our time there. This is a summary of our talk for any who were not able to be present on Sunday night.

Isaiah began by explaining our 30-hour trip to Iława, Poland. After a time of prayer with some fellow church members, Wayne Sawyer drove us by van at eleven in the morning to Dulles International Airport. Our first flight later that evening took us to Zurich, Switzerland and was roughly eight hours long. From Zurich, we flew to Warsaw, Poland where we met with Chuck and Vikki. We took a short bus ride from the airport to a mall where we were able to exchange our currency and make the short walk to the train station which was overly full due to the national holiday occurring the next day. The Franks were very insistent that we could not miss our train since all the other trains would be full. We thankfully made it on time and took a two-hour train ride from Warsaw to Iława where the pastor of the local church was waiting to meet us and drive us to our hotel. We had to stay awake for about another hour so that Chuck could show us where the local gas station and market were should we need them while the missionaries were not around. Finally, at eight p.m. Poland time, we were able to go to bed
and get some rest only to wake up bright and early the next morning to get started on preparing for the conference!

Julia continued our talk by commenting on the layout of the town of Iława and a little bit of what it was like to live there for a few days. She explained that the town itself was rather small and actually compared it to Hampton saying that there were lots of waterways and many walking paths along the water. The sidewalks were different than they are here, however. There, the sidewalks are split into two: one side for walking and one side strictly for biking which is a very common form of
transportation throughout Europe. Right next to our hotel was a beautiful lake with a walking path and various shops around it. Just on the other side of our hotel was a gas station and a convenience store
(which was often visited). The concept of staying in a hotel is a bit different in Poland. Essentially, the hotel becomes your second home! You are free to use their laundry room (no one was washing our dirty
towels for us), their kitchen (no free continental breakfasts), and anything else we could find lying around which worked in our favor since we found some bikes in the basement. We used the opportunity
to get to know the town a little better by biking around the lakes and through their wooded bike paths.

The hotel itself was quite small by American standards (maybe 6-8 rooms). Chuck rented out two whole hotels which were side-by-side to accommodate everyone coming for the conference. We were quite thankful for this too since we needed the kitchen of both hotels in order to store all the necessary food. The kitchens themselves were only about six feet by eight feet and the stoves and refrigerators were roughly two feet wide. We did most of our cooking in the kitchen of our hotel and
held the conference in the basement of the other hotel which had a decent sized conference center.

Nathan then began explaining the format of the conference. The couples began arriving (some living up to five hours away) on Wednesday night where they registered and got to meet us. Once we
had all congregated, Nathan held an ice-breaker game and introduced our team. We had dinner altogether then each went our own ways. Some stayed and fellowshipped with the attendees, others went on walks with some couples, but all used those few hours to get to know the Polish couples better.

The fist morning together, we served breakfast then jumped right into the lesson portion of the conference where Nathan lectured for three hours straight via a translator. Nathan commented that using a translator was a unique experience in that he had to mostly speak in shorter sentences with more basic words to ease the job of the translator. After lunch and a short break, Nathan spoke for another two to three hours. For dinner, the couples went out on dinner dates (whether alone or with other couples) and were encouraged to talk about the things they had heard that day. The second day was different from the first in that all the team members shared their testimonies regarding marriage and/or the influence of their parents’ marriage on their life. Jared and Charity spoke on the difficulties of drug abuse, molestation/rape, and divorced parents. It was said that there was not a dry eye in the room when they finished their talk. Many of the people were touched by the vulnerability the Andrews were willing to display. Isaiah and Julia both spoke on the influence of having Christian parents. Many of the attendees were first generation Christians and were very fascinated by the idea of second, third, and even fourth generation Christians. They had a lot of questions regarding Christian parenting and its effects on their children. Unfortunately, the day of the testimonies, Holly was ill and was not able to give her testimony. However, she commented that she was planning to say how true contentment can never be found in marriage but in Christ alone. Steph told his story of struggling with an identity crisis as a young immigrant and his pornography struggles and addictions later in life. Likewise, many men approached him touched by his vulnerability asking for advice and prayer regarding their own addictions. Nathan finished our second day by speaking on overcoming addictions. During the Q&A time at the end, rather than asking a question, many used the opportunity to simply share what they learned or comment on something someone had said in their talk. All in all, we were all very thankful by how encouraged the attendees were. They were very eager to receive Biblical marital teaching.

Teaching, however, was only one part of our job while at the conference. The other part was hospitality. Holly and Jancy shared the intricacies of shopping while in a strange country as well as the
difficulty in finding the proper ingredients. As was already mentioned, the refrigerators and stoves are much smaller in Europe than they are in America. Also, all temperatures are taken in Celsius. All this
combined necessitated detailed planning regarding when the food was to be cooked, at what temperature, and where it could be stored once it was done. There were other cultural obstacles as well. For instance, Europeans do not have any ice and thus only have one very small freezer. Also, their trash is all separated by type (glass, paper, plastic, compost, etc.). While this would not normally be considered an obstacle, it was in this case since none of us could read Polish enough to figure out which trash bin was for which type of trash. However, once the details were figured out, the whole team jumped in ready to help with whatever needed to be done. (Jared mixed all our cookie dough and brownie batter by hand!) There was not a single team member who did not help in the kitchen. Everyone was wholly invested, and we worked as a well-oiled machine. Most nights, we were all up until
midnight or one a.m. preparing the next morning’s breakfast and awake by seven the next morning to start baking everything. By the time breakfast was over and cleaned up, we immediately had to begin
cooking everything for lunch. And by the time everything was cleaned from lunch, the conference would be over for the day. However, that is not to say we never got the chance to fellowship with the couples.
We used the mealtimes as an opportunity to serve them food and mingle with them.

For church on Sunday, we visited the Franks’ church which is held in their local community center. Their church has about 20 members (which is average church size in Poland). Nathan was able to
preach one last time there with the local pastor’s son as his translator. Mostly, the format of church itself was very similar to our services in America. We sang, had communion, listened to the sermon, and
had a church luncheon afterwards. Later that afternoon, Chuck and Vikki brought us back to the train station where we said goodbye to them. The Franks were such a blessing to our whole team, and we
were all fascinated to see the daily life of missionaries. We are all very thankful for the opportunity to meet them and get to know them.

Once we finished explaining the conference’s structure, we finished our talk by sharing our individual thoughts on the whole trip. Isaiah mentioned that he was grateful to meet with other kids his age. One night, we had a few teenagers over and played games. He was thankful for the opportunity to fellowship with teenage believers of another culture. Jared said that he was touched by how many people were encouraged by the testimonies given on the second day. Charity shared that she was moved by the cost of true Christianity in Poland. About 98% of Polish people are Catholic and to become a protestant/Baptist means you will essentially be cut off from your family. The Polish people truly do need Christ. The Christian population there is considerably small. She said that she was not sure whether there was truly a need in Poland, but after this trip she is convinced that there is. Julia was encouraged by how receptive the people were and how vulnerable they were willing to be with our team. She was encouraged by the reminder that the gospel translates to every culture, not just ours. Jancy highlighted on our time with Chuck and Vikki. While she has had the opportunity to meet them before, she was able to truly get to know them through this trip. The Franks were settled in Arkansas
with corporate jobs before being convicted to go on the mission field. They were willing to leave their home behind and move overseas with their two small children. They have since integrated themselves
into the Polish culture, but plan to retire in the next few years. Nathan then said that he was grateful to have the opportunity to encourage the Franks while we were there. Being missionaries can be lonely at
times and he was thankful that we were able to fellowship with them. Holly commented on how most people at the conference really needed a listening ear. Two or three of the couples at the conference were Ukrainian refugees and used the opportunity to come to Steph and speak to him of their struggles in leaving their homes. However difficult the last few years had been for them; they were all encouraged that God is still in control. Steph was reminded that the Scriptures we read and even the Christian songs we sing are true. Even in the valley of the shadow of death, God is with us. While this is something we
often sing about, it is not something we have had to live through as some of these people have.

All in all, this short-term missions trip was encouraging, convicting, and eye-opening for the Polish attendees and for our team as well. We praise God for the opportunity we had to go on this trip and for the other team members with whom we were able to go. If you did not already know, our team members wrote blog posts summarizing our days while we were in Poland! If you would like to read them, go to our church website and click on the tab labeled “Poland Updates.” We are so grateful to all who supported us on this trip whether financially or spiritually. Your thoughts and prayers while we were gone were coveted and we could not have done any of this without the support we received. So, thank you to all who helped make this possible!

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever
and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

With gratefulness,
Your Poland Team