Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Time of Great Mourning

This week is a time of Great Mourning in Poland. It is difficult for those of us who are not Polish and not Catholic to fully understand the significance of the death of John Paul II. I was raised Catholic and I have been in relationship with Poland and its people for nearly 20 years, yet there are many aspects I can’t quite grasp. For days now I have been trying to find a symbol or a person or even a group of people that could possibly have the same significance for an American. I think that it would have to be a combination of people: George Washington – a man who had a significant role in birthing the nation. Abraham Lincoln – the man who held the country together in the difficult times of war. FDR – the leader who cared for the needs of the simple people. A man who was connected to the hearts of the people, he was the father of people’s hearts. Billy Graham – a great spiritual leader and guide. Martin Luther King Jr. – A man who spoke out against social injustice.

For many Polish people a big part of their heart has a huge hole in it. It doesn’t seem to matter if they are particularly spiritual or if they agree with the Catholic Church they LOVED Pope John Paul II. Because they know that He loved them. In the Catholic Church the Pope is referred to as the “Holy Father”, here in Poland John Paul was referred by some as “Tata” “Daddy”. To others he was their beloved Uncle and still others a friend.

This part of Poland was a place of special meaning to the Pope. He enjoyed walking, kayaking in the mountains in this area. The people here are especially connected to him. Even though the Pope John Paul II, the man, was quite old and very sick there are people here that have a difficult time believing that he would actually die and leave them.

It is like any death of someone near to us, it makes us acutely aware of our mortality and it heightens our spiritual needs. For many people the death of this great man of God has left them with a spiritual void that is difficult to describe, define let alone fill. In some ways it is similar to the spiritual void that existed in Japan at the end of WWII. It is different as the Church is still here, physically, but many people have lost trust and confidence in it apart from John Paul. I really feel that in the months ahead many people will be looking for spiritual answers. But it will take individuals in love and patience who can listen to the Holy Spirit and give honor to the heritage of the Catholic while pointing the way to Jesus, the answer.

As a missionary in Poland, the question is how do I support these people in their grief and help them to see Jesus, the ROCK of our salvation, who will never leave us. I pray that the Holy Spirit would give me the words that bring the life of Christ into the lives of those individuals who loved the Pope but never really knew his Lord.

Proverbs 3:3-6

Two of the more than 100 Mountaineers at Sunday's Mass for the Pope Posted by Hello

Zakopane Mountaineers riding to the church in tribute to the Pope. Posted by Hello

The Pope's Flags in Zakopane Posted by Hello

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Easter: Reflections, Preparations, & Celebrations

Holidays are always interesting times to be away from home; family, friends & church family. In the last 20 years I have celebrated many holidays away from home but not so many Easters. I have always enjoyed Easter. I don’t know how much the fact that it comes in the spring when nature is promising new life has to do with it. But there is something very special about celebrating the new life that we can have by accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

It is strange to think about, but I have been walking with Jesus almost 30 years. It has been an incredible adventure of discovery. The discovery of who he is, who he has created me to be, and what good works he has prepared for me to do. It has been filled with many ups and downs and the unveiling of new possibilities around every corner.
This Easter was such an adventure. It really started with the unearthing of my/our heritage in the faith of our Lord Jesus – Judaism. A good friend of mine from Krakow came and did a Shabbat dinner early in March followed by a Seder dinner on Holy Thursday. Both of these events were a great time to better identify with my/our Lord, his life, his faith, & our roots in that faith.

The Shabbat Prayer Posted by Hello

Shabbat Fellowship Posted by Hello

The Seder Plate Posted by Hello

Worshipping together Posted by Hello

Liberated women Posted by Hello

The young and old participating in the celebration Posted by Hello

Family time Posted by Hello
Kids! I love children. I believe Jesus did/does too! So, for Easter we decide to invite some local children to make enchanted Easter eggs, something I used to do with my Mom when I was young. It was great fun, as the children had never seen anything like it before. Unfortunately, the date we scheduled the event for was when many children were ill. To end our time together we told the Easter story with the help of The Resurrection Eggs and a fantastic CD made by Piotrek, a young man in our church.

Team work Posted by Hello

A test of patience Posted by Hello

Enjoying one another while preparing Posted by Hello

Ania assisting her 2 nephews Posted by Hello

Everyone needs a little help Posted by Hello

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions...what should I put inside? Posted by Hello

Decorating can be difficult Posted by Hello

Children listening to the Resurrection Egg Story Posted by Hello
Finally, we spent Good Friday reflecting on the price Jesus paid for our sins. We actually crucified (taped them to a cross) to the cross and then the young people put together some scripture, music and 4 monologue to help us really focus our attention on what happened on the cross.

Easter Sunday was a time to celebrate all we received with our new life in Christ. Halleluiah He is Risen!

Kasia's monologue Posted by Hello