While this blog has primarily been a personal one and focused on my call to Poland, there is a reality beyond that. I have friends who are missionaries in Turkey, and they live in the capitol city where Christian churches are having more difficulties, even though Turkey aspires to join the European Union.
Wow a lot has happened in the 10 days since we returned. We find out we’re having a baby, our head pastors change (we knew about this for over a year though), and my company has the equivalent of a divorce (long story, might mention some other time).
However, the most significant thing (the baby thing) is so wonderful the other things are overshadowed (and only one of the other things is bad, the job thing). In this time since we have returned we’ve had some culture shock that happens each year, yet this time it seemed more surreal.
You see, the church we attend has nearly 5,000 people each weekend walking through its doors. The church we help with in Poland, has probably close to 5 on average, and 15 on a good day. The difference? Nothing, they are both part of the church of Jesus. The biggest difference is that while most people in our home church have a “shopping” mentality (despite the urgency of our leaders and pastors to plug in, take ownership, even if its at another church), a lot of people in this culture see church as something to “get something from”. I hear the phrases “I just didn’t get anything from the sermon” or “I just don’t get into worship”, or a number of other “I just don’t get….” all too often.
However in Poland, yes there’s a few choices, nearly all are seen as a sect or cult (in American terms, cult is more of the perspective). Even the small church plant we work with is seen as a sect, and the local religious radio station has warned parents and adults to “be ware” of our activities we could be out for “brainwashing” them. Of the choices of Christian, bible believing and teaching communities, there’s a large schism between them. Some are ultra Pentecostal in the scary “what you see on TV” kind of way, others are very closed, and preach to people that they should “repent of their Catholicism” (in a country that identifies themselves as more than 90% Catholic this is not a grace based teaching).
For Polish Christians to find, a safe place, where all are accepted, even when their are disagreements, where some still identify to be Catholic, is extremely rare.
Then Alexis and I come home, and we reenter our home church for a worship service with 1,000 other people, it brings us to tears each time. For us to take this place for granted would be for us to commit the same act as Judas.
Never forsake the fellowship, even though it may drive you crazy, that person driving you crazy is put there by God, to grow grace and character in you. Some people don’t have the liberty to simply choose a place. The church is all we have, love it, as Christ loves it.
This kind of stuff happens on smaller scales all the time throughout Central & Eastern Europe, and sometimes on larger scales but never reported. Poland, at least to this point, appears to be more tolerant, however, there is still resistance, mostly from the established church at this point. Legally it is very hard to register a protestant church in Poland, but many non-registered fellowships exist without any government intervention…
Persecution comes in many other forms though, such as propaganda from religious radio stations stating that protestant churches are running Bible camps to brain wash their children… We’ve been on the receiving end of that one… not too much of an affect though, praise God. When I lived in Poland my roommate lost his job at a college because he was simply accused of “converting” or “attempting to convert”, he simply was inviting people to our fellowship, but that was enough… poof he lost his job. Most people in Poland have begun looking other places, pray that they look at a relationship with Jesus.