Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Before a Mission Trip to Poland

A letter in response to a request for support from a short-term missioner.

People gather in Warsaw to mark Poland's Independence Day (Nov. 11, 2012)
Thanks for your letter and the opportunity to support you in your trip to Poland, both financially and through prayer. We’re not well off in the financial department, which is reflected in the paltry sum I’ve enclosed—sorry it can’t be more! Prayers, though, we’re loaded with, so we’ll be sending plenty your way. Count on it!

The trip sounds terrific, and I’ve no doubt you’ll be a true blessing to the students you encounter, work with, and befriend. And, as you noted, it will be an adventure that will help you work through some of your own questions and strengthen your faith.

One thing I wanted to mention, though. You wrote that many of the students grew up in an “atheist culture” and that they “do not know many Christian people.” While it is true that many Poles grew up during a time of atheistic Communist rule, their culture remained steadfastly Christian throughout. In fact, it is largely because of their strong Catholic Christian faith (and the encouragement of a strong Polish Pope) that the Poles were the first Eastern European country to challenge Russian-led Communist totalitarianism back in the ‘80s.

And “know many Christian people?” A quick check of Wikipedia (not terribly authoritative, I know, but a rough estimate) tells us that Poland is approximately 88% Catholic, with a smattering of other Christian traditions making up most of the other 12%. Obviously, large numbers of these folks may claim a church affiliation without any real faith commitment, but that’s no different than it is here in the U.S.

St. Mary's Basilica in Krakow, Poland, a day before President Lech Kaczynski's funeral there
All I’m suggesting is this: It might be helpful to conceive as your trip as primarily an opportunity to fellowship with other Christians rather than a missionary trip to evangelize the unchurched. Sure, you’ll meet some young people who don’t know the Lord and who are hungry for the Gospel—maybe even some who grew up in practicing Catholic and Protestant homes—but it’s still a good idea to take into account their Christian upbringing and traditions, and encourage them to discover Jesus Christ anew.

God bless you! I remember when my parents and sister travelled to Poland, and it delights me that you’ll be following in their footsteps. We’ll definitely be praying for you, and I hope you’ll keep us updated while you're there!