Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday, July 27

Well today was our last day in the beautiful country in Poland and it will probably go down as the most powerful day of the trip. I am going to save the more powerful part of the day for last because it will be the most meaningful part of the day so I would like to end the blog with that part. So the second part of our day we spent in the tourist city of Krakow, there we did a bunch of souvenir shopping and had our last meal in Poland. In Krakow there was tons of people everywhere and there was plenty of neat things to buy, it was definitely worth the drive to go there. So that was the second part of our day

In the morning for the first part of our day the bus picked us up around 8 AM to take the hour or so drive to Auschwitz. All of us were ready for the powerful and meaningful tour of Auschwitz, when we got of the bus we took a short walk and met at the front with the group from Texas and that is where we met our amazing tour guide. We started off the tour at the first Auschwitz camp which is called Auschwitz 1, this place was previously a place for Polish soldiers before the Nazis took over, so all the buildings were already built. The first prisoners at this camp were 728 Polish people. At this place we went through numerous buildings looking at several different things like the living conditions and all sorts of other stuff that was extremely sad to see like peoples' luggage bags, shoes, kitchen items, and hair. It is crazy how all these people were psyched out into thinking they would all be totally okay and that was all part of the Nazi's master plan. All the prisoners were told to pack personal belongings in a suitcase thinking they would be able to keep them but little did they know it would be taken from them and sent to warehouses nicknamed "Canada." In Auschwitz 1 we also got to see the 1st and only still standing gas chamber and furnace room, all the other ones were destroyed. It was a very powerful moment to be standing in the same room that many had stood in before and it is something we will never forget. After our tour we went to Auschwitz 2- Birkenau, this is a much bigger site than Auschwitz 1. Here is also where the train would let off and all the prisoners would get off and go through the selection process where people would either be sent to be killed or sent into the camp. We took a walk down a pathway that prisoners that were sent to the gas chambers would walk down, at the end of the walk they would end up near the chambers where they were told to take their clothes off and be put in a room to take a "shower." All four of the gas chambers at Birkenau were destroyed and it is all just rubble now, but to think they built these gas chambers solely because the first one was not big enough of efficient enough is crazy to think about. I will end the talking of the Auschwitz tour at that so you can ponder and think about that for a while, because it is truly a horrific thing.

So our trip in Poland is over and now all we are doing is packing and getting ready for our bus to pick us up at 2 AM to take us to the airport. This trip has been truly amazing and I am extremely glad I got to be a part of it. Thank you to our wonderful leader Ben and all the host families here in Poland, your hospitality is truly one of a kind and you will never be forgotten. Also thank you to our adults on the trip: Jenna, Jake, and of course Jim. Thank you to the congregation and our families for the support and prayers. We will see you all soon.
                                                                          - Allen Middlebrook

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday, July 26

Today was one of the most memorable days in missions trip history. All of us, no matter which hosts we were with, were fully submerged in both Polish and Czech culture, food and nature. The Cieszyn group of us (Jenna, Kirsten, Ben, Haley, Hunter and I) were given the privilege to experience a trip in to the Czoland (Czech and Poland - word made by Hunter)  mountains. On this endeavor we used a ski lift to get to the top of a mountain on which we hiked for just over three hours hiking through some of the most breath taking forests. About half way through our hike we stopped at a look-out tower on the border of Poland and the Czech Republic. Although this border is currently very neutral, less than twenty years ago there were guards patrolling the border for those trying to cross the border, smuggle, and any other illegal activities etc. The pastor that my group had been working with actually had an interesting adventure with one of the guards. One day the pastor was hiking near the border listening to music using headphones when one of the guards yelled at him to turn back but because of the headphones, he didn't heard the guards warning. Apparently if a guard had to tell you three times to turn back, they were allowed to fire at you. It just so happened that the guard had given his third warning and as he was looking down the scope he realized the the pastor was wearing headphones. The guard then proceeded to chase him down to let him know to turn around. Nevertheless, the view was stunning and the border remains as part of Polish-Czech history. From there we continued trekking on the trail to the end where there was a small cafe with an outdoor barbecue. Some of us had potato pancakes, some of us langos (Hungarian fried bread topped with cheese and garlic mayo) and it resembled Indian tacos. I decided to get kielbasa figuring that this is as close to the source as I'll ever be! We all also shared some grilled cheese which was similar smoked Gouda but better. From there we journeyed back to the ski lift where we decided that we had to go on a bobsled ride, some of us more than once. This ride led down the ski slope and had many fun tight turns and straight aways. Once back at the bottom of the lift, some of us had ice cream and others decided that we didn't want to spoil our dinners. From the mountain we drove to a small lake where we had a barbecue for dinner, where many of us agree to having the best burgers in a long time. It was over all a great day, my personal favorite of the trip so far!

                                                                          -Dayton A. Dangel

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saturday, July 25

The day started, for team Jenna, with our bible camp parent closing presentation. We explained our week to the parents, sang goofy songs and ended with tea and cake. After our long morning we were joined with team Jim and toured around the city which included climbing up a castle tower that presented us with an amazing view of the city. From that point the world was put into perspective. How small we are in God's plan but are able to have a gigantic effect. For lunch we settled back at the church and ate one of Ben's favorite Czech dishes, fried cheese. I greatly enjoyed it but not everyone agreed with the quantity of cheese. Once we finished our lunch we headed over to bowl with the Polish team. We all had a lot of fun getting to relax and cheer on each other as we played. We finished our day with a fried chicken dinner with mash potatoes, green beans, and broccoli. I am so glad I got to prepare dinner for our team this week as well as getting to know our Polish host. I am blessed to be on this trip. I cannot believe it is coming to an end I am going to miss all the people we have bonded with and the spectacular open landscape of the marvelous Polish greenery. Miss all of you at home too so I am excited to get home and share our stories with you. Good night from Poland.

-Haley Beebe

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday, July 24

Well the main purpose of our time in Poland came to an end today.  We finished our camps today.  I think we can look back at our time over this week and feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.  We didn't really have any idea if the ideas we generated in the Youth Room were really going to work in Poland.  Surprisingly enough they did.  We had to tweek a couple things here and there but not to much.  I think that just proved to me that God's hand was on the whole process and we were simply blessed by His guidance.

If you are a parent of a youth on this trip, you can feel a sense of pride in what your child did over this last week.  I know that I do as their DCE.  They stepped into some very unfamiliar territory and did an amazing job.  They cared for kids and told them about Jesus.  I don't think it could get any better.

If you are a member of Community Lutheran Church, just know that these kids did you proud.  They have been amazing ambassadors of your congregation and the state of California.  They reached out with the arms that makes Community Lutheran Church so special and did it simply out of their love for Jesus and their desire to care for the children of Poland.

A little recap of the day.  Both teams focused on the theme of Superheros and how Jesus is our REAL superhero and completed the camps in the middle of the afternoon.  Team Jim was in Golesaw and the day was highlighted with a water balloon fight with some 240 water balloons.  They then met up with Team Jenna in Cieszyn for a little shopping, dinner and dessert.  If you haven't picked up that dessert time is very important to this group then let me reassure you that ice cream is one of the most important foods we have consumed.  It started raining while eating our dessert so it was since to walk a little in the rain back to where our bus driver met us.  It has been a pretty warm week here in Poland and the Poland people are really looking for some rain.  (Not as bad as we are but still lacking what they are used to.)  We then got back to our "home" did devotions and are know just wrapping up a couple things before bed.

Tomorrow Team Jenna will be doing a short program for their parents in Cieszyn and then we all are going to do some hiking and shopping and maybe go bowling.  Thanks for all your continued support.  We look forward to completing our time in Poland and flying home on July 28.


Jim Meyer

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thursday, July 23

Hello from Poland!  Our group is sleeping better and better each day, and most are now able to ignore the 6:00 am church bells and roosters.  Today was Day 4 of English camp at our two villages, Goleszow and Cieszyn.  In Cieszyn, Team Jenna continues to celebrate the small moments we have with our students.  Many children know our names and come running in to camp in the morning with a huge smile on their face.  We can feel their excitement to learn English and to come to know the Lord through our presence there.  In English class, we have been teaching how to hold a conversation in English using complete sentences which link back to our daily topic, which for today was all about courage.  Sometimes students do not feel as comfortable using their English in front of a group, so we try to find small moments throughout the day to speak with them individually.  These moments are so special to us because we learn so much about their lives.  In Bible class, the students heard stories about courageous people from the Bible, such as David defeating Goliath, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  The weather was beautiful in the morning, so Dayton was able to hold Bible class outside on blankets on the lawn. They continue to ask thought provoking questions, such as "What will judgement day look like?" and " How did the rest of David's life turn out after defeating Goliath?"  We are encouraged by their curiosity of the Word. During craft time, students made necklaces and bracelets that spelled "Courage" as a reminder that they can be courageous in their lives through Christ.  My favorite time of our day together is eating lunch at a canteen.   The Polish children politely help serve the younger children, and clear the plates of the adults.  It is also a time for us to teach them English, and they in turn teach us some Polish...there are so many sounds in their language that we just are not used to pronouncing!  It started to rain in the afternoon, so we had to move our game time indoors.  It was difficult to organize  a game with 45 students in one small room, but we managed to play 4 Corners, balloon games, and a really difficult game of charades. (They have some very interesting ways of acting out animals!)  We start and end our days with worship music, and it is such a blessing to hear our students singing the songs to themselves as they go about their day.  Back in Cisownica, Allen and Haley cooked an amazing dinner of barbecue chicken and salad.  After dinner, some of us went on a hike/run through the country trails around town. We finished the night with devotions and a yummy apple crumble, courtesy of Jenni.  We are all so grateful for your thoughts and prayers as we finish our last day of English camp tomorrow.

Polish faces