I have had a wonderful week in Poland as a guest of Piotr & Christina Zaremba.
Their story is remarkable. Growing up in communist Poland, evangelical Christianity was illegal, as was owning and selling Bibles. Piotr’s grandfather and father were Bible smugglers and used to transport Bibles through Poland to Russia and other communist countries. An old Volvo (which Piotr was having lovingly restored) had been in the family for 34 years and had been used for smuggling Bibles for much of its life. Piotr’s father also used to befriend Russian air force pilots and do a little black market business with them for boots and food… whilst doing this he persuaded some of them to take Russian Bibles back to Russia in their Mig Jet Fighters.
Partly because of this and partly because of his theology professor at college who persuaded Piotr that the source languages were the best for Bible Study, Piotr devoted himself to learning Greek and Hebrew at University. There was no modern translation of the Bible into Polish, so Piotr decided that he would do one. He thought he’d get some help along the way, but none emerged, so for the past 16 years Piotr has translated the whole Bible himself from original languages into modern Polish.
However, for Piotr, it wasn’t just about translating the books of the Bible, but he was passionate about meeting Jesus through the Bible, and he had the heart of an evangelist and pastor. So, during these 16 years he did street evangelism and ministry in Poznan and planted 5 churches (one of which now has over 1000 members). The current church he regularly pastors started 10 years ago and is an international church which now has 300+ members. It meets in a theatre which they rent each week and it was wonderful to be part of for their Sunday worship.
Piotr is extremely disciplined, structured and ordered. But there is a ‘certain something’ (his words, aka Holy Spirit) a person finds in relationship with God, which really excites him, which is unpredictable and unstructured and it’s this which fires his work and ministry. He is constantly hungry for more of God, and somewhat dissatisfied with things as they are because he wants a greater awareness of God in his own life and for others. There is a bright twinkle in his eye. This made a deep impression on me. For most of us ministers we’d be more than happy to have a church of 300+ to pastor. For Piotr, who has planted 5 churches and single handedly translated the whole Bible, he is hungry for more of God.
It was a joy to share a little at their Sunday service and to meet some of the other ‘guests’ in the church that day.
Aaron is a young American missionary who is working with some of the thousands of refugees from Syria in Germany. He’d come to visit his friend, who worked at Piotr’s church, and he shared a little about his work during the service. They minister amongst the refugees (in a temporary village of 2000+ refugees). They are predominantly Muslims, so, as missionaries, their approach is to share the stories about Isa (Jesus). They have done this by teaching gospel stories and parables from the Bible and asking people to consider 2-3 questions in the light of each Bible story. This has resulted in many becoming Christians and then in turn they share their new found love for Jesus with others. The message of the gospel is now spreading throughout the refugees without western missionary input and purely by the witness of converts. There are hundreds turning to Jesus.
For me, it was a lovely week. Not so much bush ministry as in previous weeks, but a chance to reflect on what God has been teaching me through the people I’ve met on this remarkable sabbatical.