Warsaw, Poland Aug 23-25
This is my first visit to the wonderful country of Poland. We Americans tend to think of Poland as a former satellite of the Soviet Union, which it is, but this does not define Poland, which has a wonderful and deep history of its own, stretching back to its Christianization in the tenth century. It is the home of Nikolai Copernicus the great astronomer and FredericChopin, the great composer. When one visits Warsaw there is almost no evidence of the sad history of this country during and after World War II. This is a modern, thriving European capital. The city has been totally reconstructed, it is beautiful and it has a great night life and culture. Warsaw is a city of just over three million in a country of a little less than 40 million. Poland is now part of the EU and its vibrant economy has drawn a great number of immigrants, especially from Ukraine and Belarus.
The church I am visiting was planted about seven years ago. There are a bit less than thirty members, plus a couple of house churches in Krakow and one in Lodz. The church has struggled somewhat to grow, as Poland is a combination of youth with little if any faith, and an older generation with a relatively weak commitment to the Roman Catholic Church. They are still trying to figure out how to reach out to a culture which is caught between worldviews. Ivan and Masha Liashenko are the leaders here. He is Russian and she is Ukrainian. The church was led by Curt and Patty Simmons for a few years, but they returned to the US recently.
A group of six have come here all the way from Kiev, Ukraine as a kind of mission team to invite people to the presentations while I am here. I am so surprised at the commitment of every young disciples of Jesus who gave up their vacation to come here to Poland in order to share the gospel. On Saturday I taught a public lecture on the questions of evil and suffering, which is an ideal topic for people in Poland. Most here do not know a lot about the Bible, but this is something that all people care about. The church spent much energy inviting Poles, but few came, which emphasizes how difficult it is for a largely Russian-speaking church to reach out to Poles. My translator is Diana and she does a great job. Afterward, I tour the old center of Warsaw with Ivan. Again, this is a beautiful city.
Sunday I gave a lesson on Jesus in the Old Testament. There are about forty at the service, which is really good for a church of less than thirty. Several guests were at church. The service is in Russian, not Polish, as this is the first language of most here in the church in Warsaw. Ivan has preached in Polish and they are working toward creating a local, Polish culture in the church. There is no way to be really effective here unless they can be a Polish, not a Russian church. Please pray for the church here in Warsaw to see dozens of Poles won to Christ. The faith of the church here is really great, but I am sure they would appreciate your prayers. Also, if you would consider coming here for a few days of a few weeks in order to help the church to reach out to the Polish people, you would be very welcomed to this very friendly group of Christians.
In the afternoon I attend a free concert in a park of music by Chopin. He isthe greatest composer and pianist in the history of Poland. So many enjoybicycling, walking and spending time in the parks here. These are a very socialpeople. In the evening I get a couple of hours with the campus group, trying toinspire their faith and answering their many question. What a wonderful visitto Warsaw.
Copenhagen, Denmark Aug. 26-28
The flight to Copenhagen is just one hour. I am met by Kristoffer Kamhoft. He and his wife Tania lead the group of about thirty in the church I am visiting here.
Copenhagen is a city of just over one million in a country of about six million. It is one of the most livable cities I have visited. There are wonderful parks and beautiful buildings everywhere. There is hardly an ugly building here. Denmark is in some ways the perfect country. The people are prosperous. The government gives great support to the arts and education. Education at almost all levels is free or very inexpensive. There are virtually no homeless here and health care is nearly free. There is a great sense of history here. Denmark was a great world power in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Famous Danes include Hans Christian Anderson, the astronomer Tycho Brahe, Physicist Neils Bohr, and the philosopher and founder of existentialism Soren Kierkegaard. The Danish are fairly laid back, but they are also very polite and disciplined. Corruption is virtually unknown here. Denmark has also set an example to the world of being willing to take in refugees from war-torn parts of the world.
The churches here are really beautiful. The problem is that they are only attended by a very small fraction of Danes. The official state-supported religion here is Lutheranism. People may attend on Christmas or Easter and maybe married in the state church, but their religious involvement ends there, with very few exceptions. Most are agnostic or even atheist. This is the case throughout Scandinavia. This is a great tragedy as it was the Danes who began the Protestant effort to bring Christianity to all the world in the seventeenth century. There are some who predict that there will be more practicing Muslims in Denmark than practicing Christians within a generation. I believe this is overblown, but it does give cause for reflection.
The church I am visiting has been in Copenhagen for more than 20 years. After a brief spurt of quick growth, the number has held more or less steady at about 30y for many years. This is of great concern to all the members here. Yet, in this unreligious country they are struggling to find the “formula” to reach larger numbers. There are many mature and faithful Christians in this group.
On Monday I got to have Bible studies with a couple of people. After that Igave a presentation on the Problem of Pain and Suffering. English is so wellknown in this country that I am able to teach in English and translation is notneeded at all. In fact, everyone who has finished high school here speaks atleast three languages. There were several guests. Due to the people being largely agnostic, Christian apologetics is key here.
On Tuesday I tour the city. Of course, I have to visit the Little Mermaid statue in the harbor. The architecture in the old city is incredible. We visit a butcher shop, with all of the sausages and interesting meats. Very Danish. In the evening I teach the teens on finding Jesus in the Old Testament. The teen group here is perhaps the most “happening” ministry in the church. They are very eager to learn. Wednesday, I toured the city with Krisoffer and Tania and spent some time with Bo, followed by a lesson for the teens and a midweek lesson on Freedom in Christ. The church is very enthusiastic. I will really miss my new friends.