Day 7, Friday, July 7 (after leaving Chodziez)

After leaving Chodziez, we headed to Gdansk for our last 2 days in Poland. The drive was long with one long stop to tour the Marlbork Castle. It was a magnificent brick castle built in the 1,200s.

The three hour tour wore everyone out, so the final hour or so to Gdansk was quiet. We arrived at our hotel at 6:45, threw our bags in the room and returned downstairs at 7:30 to walk to dinner (literally across the street). An early night is welcome with just sightseeing on the agenda tomorrow.

 

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Day 7 (and some of Day 6), Friday, July 7

Thursday, July 6
Our last day for everything in Chodziez.

Tile team:
The construction and painting team departed first as they needed every moment to accomplish their task.

After 3 days, the tile team had the end in sight. Our only drawback to the day was a shortage of grout. Slawomir tried 4 or 5 places and none was to be had.

We finished all we could and by mid afternoon we were done.

When Magda (the woman who designed the pattern) saw it for the first time, we got our reward for our efforts.

It’s hard to describe, but her jaw seemed to drop and a look of wow appeared. It was better than she had imagined. Through Magda, we were given a gift from God that he was pleased at our work. That gift will be with me always.

Paint team:
As did the tile team, they began their mission impossible right off. Slawomir’s office was the target and it seemed daunting. Furniture, bookcases, lots and lots of books and other “stuff” had been moved.

As they worked the existing paint on both walls and ceiling often peeled off, but with perseverance they got it done. Nice job!! And I have no doubt they received a gift like the tile team.

VBS team:
No doubt the VBS team was ambiguous in their emotions. Glad their week was over, but sad as they had developed love for the children.

From the beginning, the Holy Spirit had given them their gift. After several difficult VBS’s in prior years, this time He gave them a unique group of children which would remind them that His fruits were not just for the children.

The entire team went for closing and the passing out of Bibles. And then the children gave us their gift.
Hugs, hugs and hugs. Wow – very few dry eyes.

Our final activity was a bar-b-que behind the church.  Lots of smiles and laughter and gift exchanges.

We said goodbye to Chodziez this morning and while ready to be home, there is a touch of sadness in our leaving.

For CUMC, this is their 4th trip to Poland. I have been blessed to be on three of those trips and each time we’ve left, a different part of me stays behind. Today, part of my heart stayed. I know it will be cared for by our friends and our forever brothers and sisters in Christ.

Day 7, Thursday, July 6

Today is our final day of VBS, construction and painting work. I have chosen to forego any details on that and instead focus on the evening activity of the group.

Tonight our team was blessed to take the sacraments of communion with our Brothers in Christ from Poland. It was a joyous occasion where two groups from different areas came together under the common bond of Christ.

Our 14 team members and 10 members of the church shared why or what we were thankful for.   For me, it was as meaningful a moment as I’ve ever had.   Different people, from different places – all bound by the thread of our love of Christ.

The taking of communion together tied us forever with our Polish brother and sisters.  It is an evening that enriched my faith journey today, and no doubt for years to come.

More tomorrow about our last day. For now, the joy we shared this evening did, does and always will take precedent.image

Day 6, July 5

We began our day as we have each morning – with someone giving a devotion followed by our Inspiring Travel prayer.

Then this morning the construction team departed a half an hour earlier than usual. We wanted to get started. And it paid off. We laid our last tile by 3:00 p.m. Grout comes next so we expect a short day tomorrow.

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All but one room remains for the painting team.  Mike Foley has done a great job of prepping for his team and having everything ready for them after VBS each day.  Not to mention the painting he did on his own. We were scheduled to paint the outside of the church, but rains today prevented power washing the walls, so that task may not happen.  The team launched into action with the last room (Slawomir’s office) – first removing hundreds of books.  They will finish tomorrow, but managed to finish over half the room in a short time.  Needless to say they work well as a team.

The VBS team had another awesome day.  The children have been so enthusiastic that it has made all the team anxious to get to the next day.  The kids have sensed the end of our time here is near, so many began to want reminders of their time with us.  One incredibly heart tugging moment was a note written by one girl that said:  “You have taught me how to smile in difficult times”.  If that isn’t transforming lives, then I will never know what is.

As we gathered for dinner, it seemed evident to me that regardless of which team one was on, this trip had a profound effect.  We don’t do this for the effect, it just happens.  We asked the wait/kitchen staff out and gave them gifts from Texas, and then we all participated in signing our names in Bibles they will receive tomorrow.  Michelle and Laurie wrote a note from us all in each Bible.image

Lastly, each morning and evening we are greeted by  one of the hotel cats Rudy.  A beautiful, friendly orange tabby.  He literally joins us at each meal.  And after dinner we were given a gift from God in a beautiful sunset.

Day 5, July 4th

Happy Birthday America!!

Despite being in Poland, our friends here held a “Texas” evening for us tonight. More on that later.

VBS gets top billing today. It was encouraging to hear that the excitement and energy of day 1 continued today.  From all accounts given, the children are both having fun and learning the “fruits of the spirit”. Those are – love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It is obvious that our team is getting as much out of the program as the children.

One of the crafts today were hats decorated by the children.  The hats were donated by a member of CUMC, and like many other donated items, brought joy to the children.   We can’t thank those who donate enough for what it means to the children.   The team members were happily surprised when the children wanted them to sign their hats!

The tile team was able to complete about a third of the wall work and definitely can see the finish line. Indeed, we will complete our tasks by end of day Thursday.  Also, much like HOTC, many came to sign the walls with scripture verses to bless the room.  When Slawomir the pastor saw this, and asked about what it was, we could tell he was moved by it.  Many thanks to April for getting this started.image

The painting team has almost completed their interior work and will turn to the exterior tomorrow.

Now for Texas night. Our group shared information about Texas, our music and our food.  Also, many shared aspects of what being a Methodist means to them and why they come on mission trips.  It is amazing the power a personal testimony gives.  As the evening came to a close, our team offered to teach the Cotton-eyed Joe.  Kids and parents joined in and laughter and smiles filled the room.  Then the children took center stage to show their parents the power shuffle.  It was a great end to the evening.

 

Day 4, Monday July 3rd

What a glorious day for the first day of VBS and for our work on the church. Mostly sunny and 64 is easy to take in July for most all of us!

This will be different for me to write about, as this is the first time I have not participated in the VBS. I chose this year to help the construction team and was blessed to work with the CEO of tile – Don Kyle, and the COO April Kyle. I was able to learn more about the process of tiling a room than I ever could have imagined.

An intricate pattern on the floor with 3 different tiles in the bathroom was our first task. We managed to finish and set all the tiles before lunch, which was great. We then tackled the entry floor of the church. A good case of being tired set in, but we pushed through it and got all the tile set before stopping at 7 p.m.

It all looked great and finishing both floors meant we can tackle walls tomorrow. We were all tired, but pleased with what we had accomplished. No less of an accomplishment was the job our CEO of painting – Mike Foley did. Flying solo, he was able to prep every aspect of the hallway and the big room, so when the VBS support team arrived, they easily completed their painting task.

Now, a second hand account of VBS. Most of the team had been on previous trips such as this, so all had warned the less seasoned members not to expect much from day 1. Kids could be shy and reluctant to engage. Well, it was my high moment of the day to hear it was anything but that!

The kids got into it within the first few minutes and the descriptions given just couldn’t have produced bigger smiles for the team. The Holy Spirit was alive and working His magic. The kids loved the part where they were introduced to Kool Aid
and had enormous fun seeing their tongues and how red they were. Just imagine a room full of kids laughing and sticking their tongues out and laughing even more.
Just the picture it conjures up makes me smile.

All in all, it was a great first day for both the VBS and construction teams and those that did both.

On a personal note, my sincere thanks and gratitude to Glen Thornton for his tireless efforts in putting this trip and this team together. The children from Chodziez and the congregation of the church will likely feel the same long after we leave.

 

Day 3, Sunday July 2nd

This was a special day for the group – we were blessed to be able to participate in the worship service of the church we were helping.image

The service began at 10 a.m. with Slawomir welcoming us to Chodziez. The team had arrived early and both us and the congregation used that chance for introduction and being welcomed – much as we do in our services. Service began with the singing of Blessed Assurance. Some of the service was in Polish and some in English, but nothing was lost on the point of us all worshipping Christ together. Glen Thornton also shared his faith story with the congregation. The service ended with us singing Amazing Grace in two languages, with Glen accompanying us on his guitar.

Then we were treated to a picnic behind the church. Cool temperatures made it even more enjoyable to be outside. They treated us like we were family who had not been home in a while. One of our team members was in Poland over 40 years ago and he brought a photo album with him. His being able to speak Polish made him an instant hit. We still are unsure if he will stay here or return to Plano! Stan gave everyone a memorable moment.

 

We returned to our hotel for a brief rest and then back into town for a walking tour, ice cream and a boat tour around the lake. After the boat tour we went to the youth center to set up for the VBS. For me, watching this process almost leaves me speechless. So much work has gone into preparing and everyone pitched in to help and in less than 2 hours, we were ready.

Tomorrow the true mission starts with VBS and the construction work on the church getting underway. Most of the group will do both VBS in the morning and construction/painting in the afternoon – so it will be a full day.

 

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Day 1 & 2
Most of the team gathered at the airport (4 had gone over earlier for r & r) full of excitement that trip time was finally here. Preparations had been almost a year in the making, so the team was ready.

All went well on the flights and the team arrived in Berlin mid afternoon and mer Slawomir. While many of the group are new to Poland, the rest of us enjoyed the homecoming with our good friend Pastor Slawomir.

Dinner at the Hofbrau helped get the group over being tired from the travel, but needless to say, it was an early evening.

We began our first day of July at 9:00 a.m. And as always, were treated to many of the historic sites of Berlin. Brandenburg Gate, checkpoint Charlie and the remaining pieces of the iconic “wall”. For me, that remains a concept which is hard to get ones hands around. It would be like one day you could go from Plano to Richardson and then overnight (and for the next 22 years) you could not. You couldn’t see friends or family. Just hard to fathom.

A short stop in Potsdam – Truman, Churchill and Stalin met after the war to split up Germany – another difficult topic. And a stop at the giant Jesus statue in Poland. It is the largest state of Christ – eclipsing the one in Brazil. The Polish added a crown which gave it the title. The drive to Chodziez was long, but we made it after 9 – then a quick dinner and bed.

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Between jet lag and travel, all were tired, but you could sense their impending excitement about both the VBS and our work on the church.

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Susan helping a patient with glasses

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David is working his manic on the computers

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Dr.Brad helping with breakfast

It’s hard to believe a near perfect ending to this mission, but we all believed that is what we got.  Our day started early, with all of the team attending a breakfast fundraiser for the Center, and our Doctor even chose to serve those who came.  Then we got to work.

Very inclement weather was forecast and I admit there was  concern that this would keep patients away.  It did just the opposite.  Today turned out to be our busiest day and it required the full energy of all remaining team members to serve all the patients.  As always, they rose to the occasion.

When the door shut behind the last patient, the team went immediately into teardown mode, and within an hour, we had all gear packed and loaded into the van ready for return to Plano tomorrow.

Before leaving the center, we circled up and did our customary high moments of the day (there were no lows).  Then we asked our hosts and their children to join us as we prayed this mission to an end.

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