By Ray Madrigal
It was the last Sunday morning of July, hot, humid and hazy. Poland had not endured a heat-wave of this degree since 1917. And although some TV panelists, weathermen and educators speculated about the ozone problem, it’s obvious that the Poles were more concerned about political uncertainties in 1917 (Bolshevik Revolution in Russia) than about the weather. As we drove across the gently rolling hills of Southern Poland and over the Wista River, I studied Kasia’ s somber expression. She and her father had visited this museum of honor before. We turned into the gate of Oswiecim, better known by its German name: Auschwitz.
As we slowly toured the meticulously clean grounds, exhibits and buildings of Auschwitz and Birkenau (which today more resembles an ivy-league college campus than a death camp), my afternoon sermon was taking shape. How could an all-powerful and an all-loving God permit such atrocities to take place? Why does God allow suffering, and especially the suffering of the innocent? Why are similar crimes taking place today?
Does God Exist?
In many respects, this visit to two World War II concentration camps determined the course of our teaching program during a month-long preaching mission to Poland. The people here are familiar with suffering, oppression, military occupation and survival. Any philosophy, world view or religion that fails to adequately address these issues will be quickly rejected by the modem Polish people. In the course of four weeks, beginning this last week in July 1994, my brother Dan and I were privileged to visit Poland and teach the gospel to many people. We realize at the very beginning that a simplified five-point sermon outline on the plan of salvation would not meet the immediate needs of the Polish people with whom we studied. Their questions were much more basic and fundamental than that. For example, does God exist? How can we know this for sure? Is the Bible the Word of God? Is the Bible subject to many different interpretations, or is there a way to arrive at common truth? Perhaps Christianity only offers a one-way ticket to nowhere. On what rational basis do I reject naturalism and atheism and accept the God of the Bible?
We found these questions to be honest, sincere and intellectually challenging. The people that Dan and I met were very well educated and intelligent, with or without university training. They asked good questions and carefully considered our “answers” in light of the Bible, the Word of God. Without exception, people who agreed to study with us did so “with much pleasure.” And although we did not always provide adequate answers to their many difficult questions, they were impressed with the fact that we appealed to the Scriptures for all our information. On some issues, the Bible simply doesn’t provide all the answers (Deut. 29:29). All that we do discover about God and his plan for our lives assures us that we can trust him in other areas as well. As Emerson eloquently stated: “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all that I have not seen.”
Our main contact in Poland was Kasia Bania and her family. Kasia is a bright, 19-year-old university student who was converted to Christ in Paducah, Kentucky last year (see GOT 10/23/93). While the main purpose of our visit this year was to strengthen Kasia’s faith, we also introduced the gospel to Kasia’s family and many of her friends. Each person received us and our teaching with great eagerness and treated Dan and me with wonderful hospitality. And although our teaching efforts centered around a dozen “quality” prospects, we also distributed Bibles and tracts to about twenty other acquaintances and mass-distributed 2500 tracts in the cities of Bytom and Katowice. Although only minimal response has resulted so far from these mass-distribution efforts, we are thankful that the seed has been sown.
During the last week of work, David Diestelkamp and Rick Liggin backpacked their way up from Slovakia to assist our efforts. They helped us “set up” for “Bible Studies in English” in Bytom, helped us distribute several hundred more tracts, participated in Bible studies and offered tremendous encouragement to me, my brother Dan, and to Kasia. We thank God for their dedication and devotion to sowing the seed of the Kingdom everywhere.
English or Polish?
Although Dan and I were able to do a significant amount of teaching, we were very dependent upon Kasia for her excellent translations. We met very few Poles in this region who were comfortable with the English language. Of course, much good work can be done using translators like Kasia. But it is my opinion that the doors to evangelism in Southern Poland will really open when the teaching can be done in the Polish language. As Dan and I fumbled our way through greetings, salutations and other survival situations (where is the bathroom?), the people were extremely tolerant of our language shortcomings and were quite delighted that we were attempting to learn their language. I believe that many doors will be opened and remain open to those who will learn and teach the Bible in Polish.
Will You Help?
I am making necessary preparations to learn Polish and return next year for a 3-4 month stay. Perhaps that visit will lay the groundwork for a more permanent preaching engagement. Remember, we are taking this krok po kroku, step by step. I have tremendous respect and admiration for those preachers, their wives and their families who have taken this big step in foreign evangelism. And while I find many merits to the “short-length” mission trips, it seems obvious to me that “longer” missionary journeys will have longer-lasting impact. Perhaps the greatest merit of the “shorter” trips is that they serve to introduce the gospel to foreign fields and also introduce those foreign fields to gospel preachers.
Next Spring, Lord willing, I will return to Poland to resume my studies with Kasia, her family, her friends and others that we taught this summer. One young student asked me, “What will we do if we become Christians and convert to your faith?” I replied that, although all the necessary information was available in the Scriptures, we would certainly return for further teaching and instruction. I am convinced that several Poles will take that grand step of faith upon hearing more about Jesus (Rom. 10:17). God has promised that his Word is powerful (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12-13) and will accomplish its intended purpose (Isa. 55:11). Although some resistance is inevitable, perhaps the next occupation of Poland will be spiritual in nature; where God controls the hearts of men and Christ himself holds captivity captive. Will you have fellowship with me in this great opportunity? More Bibles, literature and plane tickets will need to be purchased. I am already incurring some expense with language tapes, books and necessary phone calls to Poland. Let’s take this step, krok po kroku, together!
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 21, p. 9-10
November 3, 1994