After a long day in the skies, we’re back in the United States! Thank you for your thoughts and prayers during our time in Poland. We are grateful for your ministry to us, both spiritually and financially, while we learned and served together in schools and churches across “Polska.”
A recurrent word our team used to describe the Polish people was resilience. When we visited Warsaw at the beginning of our trip, we spent time in the Warsaw Uprising Museum. There, we learned that the majority of Warsaw was decimated during World War II, leaving the city demolished. Standing on top of the Palace of Culture and Science, a “gift” from Stalin, built by the hands of Polish laborers, we felt a bittersweet sort of resilience. A building once founded on communism and the principles of darkness, could be interpreted as a big person looking down at little people – how it once was.
We saw another narrative. Today, the palace boasts a theater and several museums and restaurants. It is a center for expression and enjoyment. It is a center for the people. The view on top of the building looks out over a sprawling metropolitan area. Warsaw is a huge city with a skyline of modern buildings, many built after the fall of communism. Though many “commy condos” – gray, plain apartment buildings – still stand, so does new development and modern architecture.
This new development shows resilience. The people of Warsaw did not leave their city a war zone. They did not settle for a communist, expressionless horizon. They rebuilt their city – both in architecture and in identity – and they gave their city a restored meaning. For the older generations who remember life before or during the war, this can seem like being a foreigner in one’s own city. It can also seem like a sign of victory. Life as they once knew it was gone, but the city is rebuilt and bears witness to the stories of the past. For the younger generations, they seek to establish a new identity for the city. They want to find meaning and purpose, some creating that through street art. (Graffiti is prevalent across Poland). They are finding their voice, some through protests, others through graffiti and for some, through faith. Our prayer is that the people of Poland will find their meaning through the Lord Jesus Christ and His presence in culture and history.
During our final week in Poland, we went to a place of remembrance that remains a memorial to what once was a fateful reality for millions in Poland and across Europe. We traveled to Auschwitz and Birkenau. It was disorienting at first because several of us imagined driving through miles of forests before finding the sprawling concentration camp. We were shocked to find it in the midst of a city. (Of course, much of the city was built after the atrocities during the Holocaust).
As we walked down the uneven cobblestone streets of Auschwitz, we saw the buildings, many in good condition and realized the Holocaust didn’t happen that long ago. Each step we took carried a weight because we knew that this was a place of death – innocent lives were lost under our feet. It felt surreal partly because the day itself was perfect. It was sunny and the frost sparkled on the trees. Yet, it felt wrong to call a day beautiful in a place, dark and dismal, which serves as a warning to never forget and to never allow genocide to occur again.
We visited at the same time as Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship for the EU Commission. He told us he came to remember. We must learn history, he told us, so that we may never let the Holocaust happen again. It’s hard to describe the feeling of standing in a gas chamber and imagining what took place underneath and all around. For many of us, that realization did not sink in until later. We realized the true darkness of human nature, the destruction that one human can do apart from a relationship with Christ Jesus. We felt a deep grief for the stories of millions whose voices we have never heard. We walked where they walked to remember. It is hard to understand or try to understand why the Holocaust occurred and why genocide and evil still occurs. We find comfort, only in knowing that Christ Jesus bore the weight of the Holocaust on the cross and He knew each victim by name. Each one was created by Him and loved by Him and grieved by Him.
We transitioned from Auschwitz to Krakow where we spent our final few days, processing our trip and preparing to travel back to the Chopin Airport in Warsaw before traveling home. In Krakow, we thought of the history we learned, the people we met and the courageous, resilient culture and lives we had come to love. Krakow, unlike Warsaw, was not decimated by World War II and contains many buildings, preserved throughout centuries. We visited several Cathedrals with stunning architecture, pointing us up and into the awe of God. Much of our team was feeling better and overcame the illness that was prevalent near the midpoint of our trip. We discussed our experiences as a team and said “Do Widzenia!” to Adam and Chris. We are blessed by their willingness to take time away from their families and community to drive us around, a time and energy consuming endeavor. Yet, they blessed us with joy and smiles, often sharing their stories of God’s providence in their lives as they drove us across Poland.
On Thursday, we said goodbye to the Hatfields and to the nation of Poland. Dave and Sandy are amazing people. Their leadership and love for the people and nation of Poland is established in a deep love for Christ and hearts of worship. Their faith encouraged us, and their passion for their ministry partners and community members was beautiful to observe. We were blessed by Dave and Sandy and grateful to join with them to see a little bit of the Holy Spirit’s ongoing ministry in Poland.
Now that we are back home, please ask us more about our stories! We would love to share our experiences with you and the stories of those whom we’ve met. Please continue to pray for the ongoing work of PCM in Poland and for the local church there. Praise God for His continual work in the hearts and minds of the Polish people!