We went through fire and water, but He led us to a place of abundance. (Psalm 66:12)
Rybnik, Poland, Easter of 1978
A young woman befriended these Americans and invited us to spend our first Polish Easter with her and her family. She attended the university in Kraków, but her home of origin was the mining mecca of Rybnik.
Not knowing what to expect, yet wanting to deepen our cultural roots, we accepted. On the appointed day we packed and drove the 128 bumpy kilometers from our home to hers.
In spite of her gracious, Polish-perfect hospitality, the joy of the resurrection failed to affect our mood. We missed our families, the food tasted strange, and the weather bore little resemblance of spring.
Larry and I took a walk with our toddler in an attempt to quell the smothering sense of cultural stress; outdoors provided little relief.
Our environment depicted the grim grayness of the Communist world. Buildings were constructed with the same dark bricks of the concentration camps. The air was thick with coal dust, and the streets were covered with the awful grunge of mud and melted snow. Mixed with the pollution was my concern for our little girl's bright yellow snowsuit - how would we ever manage to get it clean again?
I remember saying to Larry, “What on earth would you do if Rybnik, Poland, was your ministry assignment?”
His reply stopped me in my tracks, “Debby…Rybnik, Poland, IS your ministry assignment.”
How riveting! I stood motionless, and took in my despairing surroundings. I felt extremely small.
Reality rolled over me like an avalanche as I calculated the daunting challenge of ministry in another country, in another culture, and in another language. This missionary certainly had a long way to go. Standing there on a cobblestone street, I wondered if could God ever use me in such a place as Rybnik, Poland.
Our visit ended; we returned to Kraków for our language studies, and the fledgling beginnings of a clandestine ministry. Months, even years, passed, but the memory of that Easter experience never left us. Our commitment to live out our calling to Eastern Europe spanned decades, and eventually we witnessed the historical Fall of The Wall in 1989.
Fast-forward 30 years to February 2008
While traveling from our home in Hungary to a church congress in Poland, we received an invitation to speak to a local high school in, yes…Rybnik, Poland. Imagine my feelings as I stood to speak to the audience gathered within just a few blocks of that original walk on that bleak Easter holiday so many years ago.
Using a power point presentation of the Four Spiritual Laws, we openly shared the Gospel with two hundred high school students. Along with their twenty teachers, these students were given an opportunity to receive Jesus.
The rare Rybnik visit also included a connection with our original hostess. Over a meal of delicious Polish cuisine, which we now relished, we rejoiced at God's astounding faithfulness in each of our lives.
Later, on a deeply personal level, and with a sense of worshipful awe, I reflected on the difference between my two visits – my first visit in 1978, and my current visit in 2008 - to this town buried deep in the coal-mining region of Silesia. God’s thirty years of miracles within the Communist government, and God’s thirty years of miracles within me, were equally shocking. Standing there on a cobblestone street, I celebrated the joy of His work in my life to equip me, and His gracious plan to use me, even in Rybnik, Poland.
Despise not the day of small beginnings. (Zechariah 4:10)