Well another summer has passed and I (Joanna) have had the opportunity to return to Poland. I am so glad that God provided for us and opened the door to go back. The country is still on my heart very much, each year as we are landing back in England I always say to Mark “Take me back or book my ticket for next year!”. I don’t know why God has given me a love for that country, I just know that I enjoy helping the children.
This year was different to visiting the camp at Piatków, as instead of being in a remote village in the countryside we were in the middle of a suburb of Warsaw. The centre we visited was called ARKA, the name taken from Noah’s ark, meaning a place of refuge. All around the centre (which was quite big) there were factories and high rise apartment blocks. In a way it was a bit like St Matthews. The children that came to the centre were from impoverished families. In comparison to last year we had a third of the number of children, their attendance, because it was optional, fluctuated each day. However there was one brother and sister who came every day to ARKA, including to the church service on Sunday afterwards where they helped with serving the meal. They were the two children that I felt personally connected with us the most, they were both sad to see us leave at the end of the week. The most children we had was on the trip to the zoo and that was round about 10 children. So it was a smaller group to work with but nevertheless we had fun. The children would arrive after breakfast in the morning and then they would be taken on outings to places such as the cinema, swimming, bowling and to the zoo etc. The tickets were given to ARKA free by the local government, as the mayor of the district supported the centre and what it did for the community. Pray that this good relationship with the local mayor’s office continue as it is vital for the running of the centre.
The centre’s director Krzysztof, was very happy that we were able to go and help them out for the week. Pray for him as he learns how to run the centre. Sadly two months before we arrived in Poland the previous director died leaving no successor. The board of governors decided to appoint one of them (Krzysztof) to run it for a year, then someone else would take over. During this time we were also aware that the centre lost two of its Sunday school teachers due to an internal disagreement. So when we arrived the centre was in need of our help, especially on the trips out, during which there were only normally two helpers/volunteers. This week was definitely a test of patience for us all. I went there expecting it be like last year/ or at the very least organized like a holiday club would be back here in England. However some days we would agree with Krzysztof to stay at the centre and play outdoor games the next day. Waking up the next morning we discovered that the trip to the cinema was planned. So we had to just accept the change and put our plans on hold. It was a testing time as Polish time is not at all like regimented English time, we would be back at the centre for around 4pm for the hot meal, but if the children wanted to stay a bit longer on the park then we would. Although on the first trip we went on, by the end of the day we were dehydrated, footsore, grumpy, hot and hungry! That is just from walking around a zoo for 5 hours !! But we were appreciated and we were able to use some of the craft items we took, working in the damp leaky basement! The one thing I really regretted was that this year we were without a translator. At Piatków Anyah was translator and we could always call her over to explain the rules of the games or to translate the talks in the evening. At ARKA we did not have anyone, Krzysztof could speak very good English but he had his duties as director which had to come first. So this year Jack the monkey and the other puppets did not make an appearance. However the children did like the game of Uno and the outside toys we bought for them (footballs and throwing arrows, which are a bit like rugby balls with tail fins!)
So although we did not get to directly tell the Gospel to the children we hope that through being their friends they will be able to see the love of Jesus.
As for next year I cannot wait ! There will be some changes, as we are looking to raise some more money for a new project at Piatków (see the notice board at Carley) and we hope to send two teams, one to ARKA and one to Boleslaw’s camp. So keep praying for the work that is going on in both Poland and here. Thank you all for your support throughout the past two years :)