I never thought that I would visit a concentration camp.
I never thought that I would visit a country that had one.
I never thought that I would be able to handle it emotionally.
Coming to Poland changed that.
Places of death.
of lost hope.
So many lives lost.
So many lives taken.
False hope given.
Torturous death dealt.
Arbeit Macht Frei.
Work Makes Free.
Work does not make one free.
Jesus makes one free.
This camp is filled with the memories of darkness. It is heavy. It is oppressive.
Walking through this camp, you feel the darkness and the heaviness.
It is stifling.
It is almost too much to bear.
Some say that many in charge did not come to justice.
God is the judge.
He alone deals judgment.
This place is an illusion.
The beauty veils the darkness.
Like this place.
Like this country.
Like this continent.
Beauty veils the darkness.
The spiritual oppression.
The dry bones.
Wolves in sheep's clothing.
Oppressed by the Enemy.
The Enemy thinks he's winning.
This place needs help.
This place needs Jesus.
Jesus + Everything = Nothing
Jesus + Nothing = Everything
No "and thens"
Jesus is light.
Jesus will shine in the darkness.
Jesus overcame death.
Jesus loves this place.
Jesus will be glorified.
"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throng, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever!! Amen."'
Pray for this place.
Pray for these people.
Pray for Poland.
Pray for Europe.
Pray for America.
I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."
Essentially it means that whenever you are in a foreign culture, it is polite and advantageous to follow the customs of that society or culture.
For most of my life, I didn't have much context for this phrase. But being in Poland, this phrase makes so much sense now.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
When in Poland, do as the Polish do, apart from sin.
The same goes for American culture.
I've only been in Poland for a few days, but already I can see that there are some stark differences between American and Polish culture.
Here is a list of some differences:
There are so many more cultural differences. These cultural differences aren't bad. They're just different. But it's really cool and interesting seeing how Polish culture differs from American culture. There are times though when the differences can feel overwhelming.
This week, Chelsea, Savannah, and I experienced shopping in a Polish mall for the first time during a break from our orientation week. We only went into one store, H&M (which is BIG over here), but it was a great lesson in cultural assimilation and dealing with culture shock.
As a side note: in the city we're in, American visitors are not common and neither is speaking English in public. In fact, most people assume that we're Hungarian because it would make more sense to them for a Hungarian to visit this city than an American.
While we were in H&M, we were stared at because we look different from Poles, and we speak English. Since Poles are generally quiet, we had to be more soft spoken in the store and speak to each other in a lower volume.
We also had to figure out how to convert the cost of the items we were purchasing from the Polish złoty to the American dollar to decide if we wanted to buy them. European sizes are also very different from American sizes, so we had to figure out how to convert the sizes of jeans and pants into American sizes. Even figuring out what some of the store signs meant was a challenge.
And when we paid for our items, we didn't have exact change, which is something Poles value. But luckily, the woman ringing up our items extended grace to us. And she even smiled when we said thank you in Polish.
Our trip to H&M was only one instance of trying to assimilate into Polish culture as visitors. It was challenging and humbling. I definitely felt like a small and helpless child, but the Lord was with me through the whole process.
Learning to "do" as the Polish "do" is definitely a learning process, and it reminds me a lot of Jesus.
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
Jesus was the Son of God, yet he became a man. He experienced what it was like to be fully human and assimilated into Jewish culture. He was raised like a Jew, he thought like a Jew, and he acted like a Jew. He entered into the world of the Jews. He was God incarnate, yet he humbled himself by becoming a man.
Essentially that is what the Lord is calling Chelsea, Savannah, and I to do. We're called to image Christ and to enter into Polish culture, to learn from them, to think like them, to act like them, and be one of them this summer.
Obviously, we're still Americans and we'll always be Americans. Even if we were to live in a foreign culture for the rest of our lives, we would still retain aspects of our American culture. However, if we really want to learn from the Poles, if we really want to become a part of their lives while we're here, then when in Poland, we should do as the Poles do.
And sometimes that looks like making a sacrifice like eating second breakfast (hehe). Or even drinking Coca Cola without ice.
All in all, I'm really looking forward to seeing how the Lord uses our time in Poland to draw us to Himself, showing us our need for Him in this foreign land, as well as His grace when we make mistakes such as when we speak Polish. And hopefully by the end of this summer, we'll really learn how to "do" as the Poles "do," learn from them, love them, and share our love for Jesus with them.
Savannah, Chelsea, and I with a Polish knight/cavalry while in the city of Krakow.
Read more about why the Polish cavalry wore wings as part of their uniform here.
Poles love lody (ice cream). We love them and their lody!
Dzien Dobry (hello) from Poland! I am finally here with my team! For the next few weeks that I'm here, I will be posting about what the culture is like here in Poland and what the Lord is teaching me.
But for my first post in Poland, I wanted to share about my Hobbit moment, the moment I felt like Bilbo Baggins on the way to my first international journey.
There is a moment in the first Hobbit movie that I absolutely love.
It's the moment when Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, runs after the dwarves and Gandalf. As he runs through the Shire to catch up with them, someone asks him where he's going, and he responds with, "I'm going on adventure!"
That moment in the movie perfectly captured how I felt as I boarded the plane for my first international adventure/journey with the Lord. It was a rush of excitement and a little fear. I had never been on an international flight before. I had no idea what to expect from a nine hour flight. I also had no idea what to expect once we landed in Frankfurt, Germany to catch a connecting flight to Poland.
In the end, it was a great flight. In fact, it was a movie lover's dream with access to a lot of recently released films. Choosing which movies to watch and whether to watch them or sleep was my biggest dilemma.
But we landed safely, and I got to spend nine hours in the Frankfurt airport with my team before our flight to Poland.
We learned some German from a family that was headed to Scotland.
I mistakenly tried to have passport control scan my passport... the officers laughed at me. You can watch a video where I explain what happened. It was very comical. Just click on the photo to go to the link.
We also slept in the airport.
Savannah ended up playing with several Indian children while Chelsea and I napped. They had story time with her.
We spent twelve Euros on chocolate and water.
We also made up cat phrases.
In the end, we were pretty exhausted when we landed in Poland after over twenty four hours of travel. But we are here now and we're excited to see what the Lord has in store for us this summer! That's pretty much it for my Hobbit moment, but for now...
Do widzenia (d-oh veedzenia), Goodbye! :)
P.S. One of the free movies on the flight to Germany was the second Hobbit movie! I felt so loved by the Lord!
You steady me
Slow and sweet, we sway.
Take the lead, and I will follow.
Finally ready now
To close my eyes and just believe
That you won't lead me where you don't go.
When my faith gets tired,
and my hope seems lost,
You spin me around and around
and remind me of that song
the one you wrote for me
and we dance.
WE DANCE by Bethel Music
I'm in the home stretch. I leave for Poland in about a month. There are so many thoughts and feelings bubbling up inside me at all times.
Anticipation, excitement, anxiety, fear, hope, wonder, and so many more.
This trip will be my first time out of the country, my first time traveling by myself, and my first time being in a foreign country.
Unlike Ron Weasley, I don't have the emotional range of a teaspoon. I'm more of Rapunzel from Tangled right after she leaves the tower. In a short amount of time, I go through a wide variety of emotions. Especially when I start thinking about the fact that I will be leaving for Poland soon. In this sea of conflicting emotions, the only thing that seems to steady me is God.
I was feeling a whirlwind of emotions when my friend Faith sent me a link to the song above. You can listen to it here as you continue reading this post.
You steady me. Slow and sweet, we sway. Take the lead, and I will follow. Finally ready now to close my eyes and just believe that you won't lead me where you don't go.
For the most part, I'm really excited to go to Poland, but there's also this fear and anxiety that keeps creeping up.
A few weeks ago, I felt like all of the people around me kept bringing up people that were martyred for their faith, so I started thinking to myself: What if I die in Poland? What if I'm martyred? What if I'm going to die young? Especially with everything going on in Ukraine, these fears seemed plausible and I started to feed them. If it wasn't for a friend, who went on a similar trip last summer, speaking truth into my life and gently encouraging me with, "Madi, you're not going to die in Poland. No one has ever died during this program," I probably would still be convinced that every time someone brought up suffering, that was a sign from God preparing me for martyrdom.
The human heart likes to tell lies. But God and His Word are the truth.
In a sea of fears about being martyred or about support raising or even sharing the good news of Jesus with people, God is steadying me, slow and sweet, we sway.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise -
In God, I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
Psalm 56: 3-4
To close my eyes and just believe that you won't lead me where you don't go.
When I go to Poland in a month, I'm going to one of the most spiritually dead areas in the world. It might look beautiful, but spiritually, it's very dark. Apart from my team, there are very few believers in the town that I'm going to. The community of believers is small, but we're not alone. I won't be alone. God won't lead me where He won't go. God is going with me, and that gives me so much hope.
When my faith gets tired, and my hope seems lost, you spin me around and around and remind me of that song the one you wrote for me, and we dance.
Right now, I'm at the end of the semester. I am tired. I'm ready to be done. The only thing getting me through is the fact that summer is so close and that Jesus suffered far worse than my measly papers and films due. But I think this "suffering" and exhaustion is preparing me for Poland. I'm guessing that there will be times this summer when I'm exhausted, believing lies, tempted to despair, and afraid. But God will remind me of that song that He wrote for me then as He reminds me of it now.
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.
When Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world and was raised from the dead, the battle was won. It was finished. God is victorious. He is the hero of the story. He has won the battle. But the Enemy doesn't get that he lost, and he's still trying to fight the war. So until Jesus returns to show the Enemy once and for all his rightful place, those that believe have an opportunity to share the good news, the gospel. And the good news is that Jesus has won. He is victorious. He defeated sin and death, and he died for the sins of the world so that we could be made right with God. This summer, and for the rest of my life, I get to share that message. I don't have to, but I want to!
Why? Because wouldn't you want to share really great news?
So in the moments when my faith gets tired or my hope seems lost this summer, I will have to be reminded of the gospel and the good news! And that will restore my faith and my hope.
And we dance
When I imagine heaven, I honestly imagine dancing with God. When I sing to worship music, I imagine dancing with Jesus in a field of flowers. Why? Because dancing is AWESOME and it just gives me this overwhelming sense of peace and rest. But I also dance with Jesus in real life, let me explain before you start thinking I'm crazy.
When you dance with a person, you are connected with him/her. The two people have to be connected in order for progress to be made in the dance, and for them to move smoothly and in unity. In that case, dancing with Jesus looks like finding ways to connect with Him. That means praying and talking to Him, journaling, reading God's word, and just worshipping Him. These are the ways that I can dance with Jesus now and how I will stay connected to Him in Poland, or else I'll stumble during the dance.
This song's lyrics are so helpful as I prepare for Poland physically, financially and spiritually. And it really hit on the main things I need to focus on as I prepare to go.
1. Only God can steady me.
2. God will be with me.
3. There will be hard times.
4. In those hard times, remember the gospel.
5. Just dance with Jesus.
I have no idea what God is going to do with the two months that I'm abroad, but I have no doubt that He has a lot of things in store for me. Who knows how God will use a weak, emotional creature like me? But I'm excited to find out!
I'm going to Poland in a little over two months. Frankly, that scares me. I'm going to be in another country, in a completely different culture, and far from home. But I'm excited. I know that it will be a great experience. I have no problem believing that God will do great things during my time over there, and right now I'm at peace with going.
But I'm not at peace with raising the funds to go.
$5000. That's the roundabout cost of my trip. That is a LOT of cheddar. That is a lot of money to have to pay back if I don't raise the funds.
The funny thing is that I raised a similar amount for an internship with a Christian organization last summer, yet I'm still having issues believing that the Lord is going to provide for this summer.
This morning, I woke up anxious because I started thinking about my first support raising deadline. $500 by April 4th. That's a little over a week away. The balance in my account: $0.
That's when the lies kicked in: You can't raise $5000, Madi. You don't have enough time. No one wants to support you. You have too many other things to do instead of support raise. God doesn't really want you to go on this trip. God's going to make raising funds for this trip really hard. You won't raise the funds and then have to pay them back yourself. You will be a burden on the people you are asking.
On and on it went until God finally said in my head, "STOP IT, MADI!"
That caught my attention.
"Now, go for a walk."
So I went outside, and what was the first thing I saw? Birds. And then this verse came to mind:
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Woah. I am more valuable to God than birds. If He provides for birds, what makes me think that He won't provide for me?
I kept walking. I probably walked for a good thirty minutes around campus, and as I walked, God kept reminding me of promises in His Word.
My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Truly, truly, I say to you if you ask of the Father in my name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be complete.
John 16: 23-24
Therefore I say to you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
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 the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.
In scripture, Jesus fed the 5,000 and the 4,000. He healed the blind and the sick. He performed miracles. In my life, He's provided me with family, friends, food, and shelter. He has provided for me so abundantly already. What makes me think that He will stop providing? He provided funds for my internship last summer. What makes me think that He will not provide for this summer?
Essentially, the real problem isn't a provision problem, it's a belief problem. I have to have faith that God is doing a good work, that if going to Poland will glorify Him, He's going to provide the financial means for me to go to Poland. He might provide all of my funds at once or He might provide them after I return from my trip.
Either way, I shouldn't be anxious or worried. God is in control. He knows exactly how much I will raise. He knows what my support will look like. He even knows how this process will bring me closer to Him.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
At the end of my walk this morning, I surrendered. I gave my support raising up to God. I'm going to be faithful and make calls and ask people for support, but I'm trusting that whatever happens, God is still good, and He will keep His promises.
The best part? God does keep His promises. I received my first email from someone this evening saying that they sent in support.
My only response:
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and faithfulness!
P.S. I find it ironic that my Bible has a bird on it.
Welcome! I'm Madi, a laughter-loving, movie-going, spontaneous-dancing, follower of Christ. Join me as I seek glimpses of God's grace in the ordinary and everyday.
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She Laughs Without Fear