Over the past few months we've had a wide range of offers (including an invitation to stay in Nitra by the local leadership - which was highly affirming for us). There has been months of research and processing each offer to accompany the aforementioned praying and dialoguing. In the summer we were invited to be a part of a new project that, in all honesty, when we were first told about it we promptly laughed it off. However, the more we learned about the project, the more sense it seemed to make. Beyond being an excellent fit for both our dreams and gift mixes, we believe this is what God is asking us to do:
600 kilometers north of Nitra is a town of 120,000 people on the Wisła (Vistula) River. Włocławek, Poland is a highly industrial town whose history still impacts life today. Following the Nazi occupation in 1939, Włocławek became the first town in all of Europe to require Jews to wear the Yellow Star of David. The once thriving Jewish population, which owned a large amount of the local industry and prominent housing, was deported to the Łódź Ghetto or sent to the Chelmno Concentration Camp. To this day the buildings once owned by Jews remain unclaimed as the European courts decide their fate. Meanwhile, what should be the historic core of Włocławek, sits decaying and is occupied by squatters with no water or power, but port-a-potties. During a two day visit to Włocławek we were surprised at the visible amount of drug and alcohol use and prostitution. It is a made of brick, blue collar, hard working kind of town.
As far as we know there is little evangelical Christian presence in Włocławek. Our goal is not to create a modern version of a church in Włocławek (especially in light of the inseparable nature of being Polish and being Catholic), but rather to create a space in which to build a community based on kingdom values. To do this we have been asked to start and operate a social enterprise. More than just a community centre with drop-in programs, a social enterprise is to be a source of regeneration. We want to see art, business, learning and relationships come together to create positive change within Włocławek. Of course all of this is rooted in sharing God's love while in proximity to people who may never otherwise come into contact with genuine Christianity.
This social enterprise will be connected to a waste-to-energy project that goes online later this year. This company takes solid municipal waste and converts it into gas used for energy and alagaes used for bio-fuel while separating recyclable materials and reducing the mass of the waste. This company will be governed by kingdom based business principles and will play a role in funding the social enterprise (we should note, that this does not impact our fundraising as we will still need to cover our costs of living and other ministry costs, such as Amber's work with EMERGE womens leadership development). Together, the company and social enterprise, will take a holistic approach to helping God's people and planet.
- January 29 is the official end of our apprenticeship but we are involved with two regional conferences that will keep us involved until February
- our last day in Slovakia will be in mid February
- from mid February to the beginning of September we will be in Canada. This time will be used to: complete our exit interviews and transition from Apprentice to Full Missionary Status with the PAOC, debrief our apprenticeship, spend time with friends and family, connect with partners, share about what we've learned in Slovakia - we believe we grow together, eat borderline unhealthy quantities of Jr.Bacon Cheeseburgers from Wendy's, complete all of the necessary legalities of moving to Poland (quite the process)
- in September we will be moving to Włocławek and attending the nearby Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. Here they have a language course for foreign students wanting to study in Polish. University level Polish sounds like a good place to start and we will be in this program for 2 semesters.
- while studying we will be building our understanding of Włocławek and investing in relationships. Amber will also continue her work with EMERGE as there are 3 European conferences taking place this year.
Thank you for being a part of this journey with us. We would not want to do it alone.