When COVID-19 became a global pandemic, many missionaries were forced to return to the U.S. or made the decision to return because it was the best choice for their families. My wife and I made the opposite decision. We delayed our planned return to the U.S.
Travel restrictions to Europe and the need to renew our Polish residency cards was an administrative concern, but realistically we simply did not have peace. As we prayed and prepared to leave Poland, a peace from God that we were making the right decision did not come. We felt as though God were asking us to remain in Poland and take our first steps into ministry in a new city.
So, we have remained in Poland during the pandemic. And God has blessed.
Just after making the decision to stay, a young man I have known and have been sharing the gospel with since we arrived in Poland prayed to receive Christ. I met him when we joined the same trail-running club just after we both moved to Poland in 2017. Both my wife and I have had many chances to share the gospel with him in the last three-plus years. He had been polite, but never engaged with the gospel. So, we waited and prayed.
After a summer day of trail-running high in the Polish Tatry Mountains, I brought up Psalm 19 and how the heavens and creation declare the glory of God. Instead of politely listening, my friend enthusiastically joined the conversation. For 45 minutes we discussed what it means to follow Christ, to give God glory, and to walk as righteous men.
When I arrived home, goosebumps erupted on the back of my neck as my wife told me she and his mom had been praying for us during our conversation in the car. They had been on the phone and felt impressed in their spirits to pray for us. A month later, after another long run in the Polish countryside and more spiritual conversations, I gave him a Bible and we arranged a time for our first Bible study. I shared from a study on the themes of repentance and belief and he prayed to receive Christ. This was less than six weeks before we originally planned to leave Poland, but just days after we had realized God was calling us to stay.
Being in Poland gave me the chance to disciple my friend face-to-face for six additional months. Just before Christmas he organized a Bible study with a mutual friend who also prayed to receive Christ! Even though my wife and I have moved to a new city, these two young men continue to grow through discipleship with co-workers. Recently my friend came to visit us in our new city and the excitement of studying about Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was overwhelming. My wife says I get as much from studying with him as he does.
We’ve seen other miracles since remaining in Poland and moving to a new city. In the fall, my wife and I began to meet with a struggling house church. A large family in the church had left, which resulted in a large hole in the church’s leadership. Only five adults remained when my wife and I began to meet with them. The Polish couple pastoring and leading the church had been praying for church planters to work with. My wife and I had been praying for God to miraculously provide ministry partners in a place where we know very few people. We know God has answered both our prayers. We enjoy sweet times of fellowship with the small group of believers who meet in a home to worship and grow as disciples.
Our connection to this new church is even more special because Poles have a tough exterior shaped by years of occupation in World War II followed by years of communism. Poles quickly warm to conversation and friendship, but it can take years to develop trust. We are so thankful for the trust that has built so quickly with this group.
When I stand in our apartment, which we rented after an amazingly quick search, I gaze out on our new city and think that truly God has gone before us. He kept us in Poland and has been going before us, confirming our calling to this new city. I knew that remaining in Poland because of the need to renew our residency was only the tip of the iceberg, we didn’t have the peace we were praying for, so we stayed. God has blessed the decision and I hope that He continues to open doors. I am praying that what God does in the future will be even more miraculous!