Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Last Day in Poland

Wow, this week has flown by. I can hardly believe that we are leaving Poland tomorrow morning!
First of all, there will be no blog from Claire and Joseph today. Everyone is pretty worn out, and we have to leave at 06:00 tomorrow morning. I, however, decided to push through, and bring you another blog post.
This morning we awoke and went down to breakfast for the last time. It was the usual meat and cheese fare that we have grown used to.
After lunch we packed our stuff into the vans which had just arrived. There was little bit of concern about how long it would take us to make it to Krakow, the town we flew into. It usually is a two hour trip from where we were near Zakopane. The cause for concern was a bike race (called the "Tour do Poland. And no, I'm actually serious) that was going through the town of Zakpane. So we started off, thinking we might have to sit in traffic for four hours. Thankfully, we beat the traffic, and had no problem getting to the hotel. We unloaded our luggage from the vans, and then went out to see the sights. We went to a castle, the square, the cloth hall, and a few other prominent landmarks around Krakow.

Then, my group (which was a subset of the whole group) went to eat dinner. Jerry took us to this restaurant that looked like a hole in the wall from the outside. We went inside, took a set of steps down, and went way back under the street it seemed. It was crazy and awesome. Melissa Andersen ordered fish, and she got fish all right. A whole one, with the eyes still in it. We started laughing, making fun of it, and taking pictures. Doug said, "You guys cut it out! Don't act like a bunch of hicks!" Ha-ha.

After dinner, we had a time to just debrief, and talk about how the week had gone.
After that, we went back out into the town for about an hour to see Krakow at night.

As I write this, it is 00:43 in the morning, and we have to leave the hotel at 06:00 tomorrow. I should be getting to bed. Goodnight!

Our Last Day in Szaflary

Today was our last day in the village of Szaflary. We piled into the vans after breakfast this morning to make the daily trip down. When we first got there, we took a minute to greet the kids, and then took some of the older ones to play soccer and volleyball.
We had a great time like yesterday, giving each other a hard time the entire time, and smack talking. We had the usual Polish Sausage for lunch, along with a special type of cheese that they cooked on the grill. Once lunch was done, Mrs. Carter, a translator named Monica, and I took food to two holocaust survivors that live in the village. They were overjoyed to see us, even on this, the third day of us bringing them food. One lady said it better than any of us could. She said "You must care a lot about us to come so far to visit us!"

Also today, the Roma people put on a cultural performance for us with song and dance and traditional costumes. After we were done, Claire, Pate, Amanda, Courtney, and a few others from our team put on a cultural American performance, and taught them the Electric Slide.
On the ride back down the mountain, we got close to topping a record for Jerry's van. We managed to squeeze 22 people into his nine passenger van. The record stands at 23.
After we ate dinner, we had group share time with the Christians from Szaflary. It was a great time of sharing, but what impacted me the most was when one of our Polish translators said that he thought it was a shame that a group from America has to come all the way to Poland to work with the Roma like the Christians in Poland already should be doing. Also, he said that he is ashamed of the way that most Polish people have treated the Roma, and that he is going to work hard to break that stereotype. What he said about the Polish and Roma peoples is also true of us in America. It made me realize how important it is to reach out to those around me every day.

Now, I'll turn it over to Claire and Joseph...

Hello friends and fans! This is Claire and Joseph for the last time. Don't be sad, for we will return home soon and you will be able to hear of our escapades and adventures in person. Today was our last day in the village. It was such an amazing day!

As you all may or may not know, the Tour de Poland is passing through our area right as we speak. (true story) Today, we were on our way to the village as a few of the racers rode by. Mark Andersen couldn't let the opportunity to join the race slip by. He demanded that the van be pulled over so he could jump out and begin racing. A moment before he exited the vehicle, he looked both ways before crossing traffic. From across the road, a brilliant idea came to his mind. This was going to be a family adventure. He yelled for the entire family to join him and soon enough, the entire Andersen family was going to make history.

The Andersen family consisting of Mark, Beth, Katie, Dillon, Melissa, and Ian are the first family to attempt the Tour de Poland on foot. Mark should probably be on mile 47 by now. The others unfortunately did not have such luck. In fact, they are not with us anymore. Beth was apparently "in the zone" when she tripped over a log and barrel rolled off of the snow capped Carpathian Mountains. Fifty yards back, Dillon accidentally ran into an electric fence. Ian took a wrong turn and encountered the still raging Polish Beast that nearly obliterated Doug and Ricky the day before. Katie and Melissa sadly did not make it very far in the race. Around mile 1.5, inflammation began to occur in Katie's shins. Crippled by the excruciating pain, Katie had to be carried on Melissa's shoulders. A freak storm came over the mountains and the two sisters were struck by lightning. Last but certainly not least, Mark was approaching the finish line when the camera man from helicopter covering the breaking story dropped his camera on his head. Mark's idea did not turn out to be so brilliant after all. However, Mark, Beth, Katie, Dillon, Melissa, and Ian will forever be remembered as brave heroes. They have become legends and inspiration for people all around the world.

Signing off from Poland, for the last time :(
Joseph Wampler and Claire Guilliams (Undefeated pingpong doubles champions)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Story Connected With FUGE

To start with, let me clarify this for anyone who may have had a misperception about the blog. Everything Claire and Joseph have been writing is fiction, and what I write is what actually happened during the day. I did not get left behind in the airport, Matt does not have a massive head wound, and Doug and Ricky did not start a stampede of cattle (today's edition). I have allowed Claire and Joseph to post these bits of humor as way to lighten the sometimes serious mood of this blog. Just to make sure there are no misunderstandings, I will be moving their segment to the end of each blog post.
So, I want to tell you guys about something really cool. Several years ago at Fuge, during a missions emphasis on the Roma people group, we were told about a Roma child called Zachariah who was very sick. The Fuge staff asked us to write a "Z" on our hand with a permanent marker, so that when we saw the "Z", we would remember to pray for baby Zachariah. This week we are working with that baby's parents, in the village (Szaflary) were they live in! The parent's names are Andrei and Ola. Their baby did end up dying, but they now have a powerful ministry in the village. Andrei is now the leader of the church in the village. It's just amazing to see this connection. Sometimes when you sit in a pew and hear about these people, you might send up a quick prayer, or drop a few bucks in the offering plate, but not really think on the reality of the matter. It's really struck me this week how real these people are. These are real physical interactions, not just hearing about it second or third hand. The IMB missionary we are working with (Jerry Goss), was also featured in some of the Fuge missions emphasis videos about the Roma people group.
Now, the rest of what happened today.
We left the hotel in Banska Wyzna and went back to the village of Szaflary. We arrived and were a little disappointed to see that most of the guys that we had played soccer with yesterday were not there. So, we had and impromptu worship service, praying especially for Andrei and his work in the village.

We then cooked and ate lunch. We had some amazing organic bacon. Each slice was about a quarter-inch thick and tasted delicious.
After lunch we played a huge game of volleyball. It was hilarious, we were smack talking each other the entire time. Mr. Andersen was absolutely hilarious. Justin gained the nickname Pele for his soccer like volleyball moves. Ricky Wampler (6'7") kept stuffing everyone. There were some awesome saves.

On the way back up the mountain, we broke this weeks previous record of fourteen people in a nine passenger van, and went with twenty. Sometimes you've just got to do what you've got to do. The van record in twenty four, so we may see what we can do about that.
We then came back to the hotel, ate dinner, and had our nightly share time with the believers from the village. During our worship service, one Roma man rededicated his life to Christ, and one Roma lady became a believer.
So far it has been an awesome time, and I'm looking forward expectantly to what God will do tomorrow.

Now for Claire and Joseph's Blog

Greetings fans! Claire and Joseph here, back by popular demand! Today was an absolutely fantastic day for everyone except for Ricky Wampler and Doug Hayes. Ricky and Doug were taking a walk down the road to the local convenient store when Ricky spotted a cow begging to be milked. Being the type that Ricky is, he simply could not bear the thought of a cow remaining un-milked for more than a seven hour period. Ricky headed towards the un-milked, Polish Bovine when Doug put his foot down on the situation. "Ricky, I think we need to think through the matter at hand first before any action takes place," Doug hesitantly told him, "we do not know if there is any potential for aggressive behavior." After a moment of thought, Ricky exclaimed, "Let's go!" while grabbing Doug by the arm and dragging him towards the Polish Beast.

Ricky approached the seemingly harmless cow while it stared back in return. Moments after Ricky began her milking session, this cow no longer seemed so harmless. She began bucking, kicking, and mooing to warn her herd of her current danger. Before Ricky and Doug knew what had happened, Doug felt a blow to his pancreas, knocking him flat on the ground. Before Ricky was able to give him aid, he too was dropped to the ground with severe pain in his lower left extremities. Helplessly they attempted to inch their way towards civilization. Thankfully, Katie Andersen spotted them and heard their faint cries for help and was able to carry them back to safety.

Ricky and Doug are a little sore, but their blood pressure and spirits are still high. We will be sure to keep you all posted on their recovery. Our team is both excited and sad about our last day in the village tomorrow. We have truly had an amazing week thus far.

Signing off from Poland, until next time,
Claire Guilliams and Joseph Wampler (STILL REIGNING Polish pingpong doubles champions)

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Post That I Couldn't Think of a Title For

Hello Franklin Heights! Greetings from Ezra! Today was a stupendous day in the village. We packed into small vans and headed to the village at approximately 10:08 a.m. It was still precipitating today, so we were very limited to where we could minister. Children's ministry was inside a small house. There were probably around one dozen children, seven adults, and eight of our team members inside one room. We did balloon animals, crafts, stories, drama (where I, Ezra, made my acting debut), and songs. Outside, the fellows on our team played soccer for the majority of the time. I volunteered to be the goalie so my delicate body would not become battered and bruised. I remained unharmed PTL (Praise the Lord) but Matt Mays on the other hand cannot say the same. Matt is suffering from a minor head wound today resulting from an unfortunate encounter with a soccer ball. Apparently Matt thought his skills were a match for the Polish expertise and finesse. Well, he thought wrong. Matt is resting as we speak and we hope that the tremendous swelling will go down and he will regain vision in his right eye by tomorrow. I will be sure to keep you all posted on Matt's recovery, as the swelling incrementally recedes. Today was a remarkable day and we are all certainly looking forward to what tomorrow's day will bring.

Signing off from Poland until tomorrow,
Ezra's replacements and still reigning pingpong champions,
Joseph Wampler and Claire Guilliams
So, what really happened.
This morning we got up and ate breakfast as usual. We then packed into one van and two cars and rode down the mountain from the hotel to the village. We made two trips, and I stayed behind and waited for the second trip.
When we got to the village, it was raining, but after we played a round or two of spoons, we decided that we would play some hardcore soccer. So in the rain, under a volleyball net, running around in the mud, we played football. Hard core football.
I was playing goalie, and some of those guys looked like they could take my head off if they were able to take a straight shot at the goal. Luckily, I didn't have to take too many straight on shots, thanks to my team who did a good job blocking the shots so that the other team wouldn't get a good angle. We also made balloon animals and acted out the biblical account of Adam and Eve. We then cooked Polish sausage and chicken wings for lunch.
After lunch we took a plate of food to holocaust survivor who lived in the village. During the holocaust, her entire family was killed, and she was the only one left alive.
Once we were done at the village, we crammed back into two vans (+one small car) to ride back to the top of the mountain. We managed to fit 14 people into one of the vans, and that's with Ricky Wampler!
After a light dinner, we had a great time of singing, testimony, and sharing with the Christian Roma from the village we are working in. It's hard to put into words the power of a time like this. It's just so amazing that a group of people who have just met can be so connected and so real with each other after only knowing each other for a day or two. It just shows how the love of Christ can reach a across oceans, country borders, and language barriers to connect a group believers to each other.

What's Really Been Happening

Wait, wait, wait. Don't believe a word that Claire and Joseph write. I'll be locking my door from now on after that post.
Here's what's really been happening.
So, the time since my last blog has been a whirlwind, and I'm going to use that as my excuse for not getting out another blog sooner. Also, once we finally got the key to the internet, it actually went down for a while.
So, nothing really exciting happened from the time I wrote my last blog post until we got to the hotel. We landed in Munich yesterday at 8:00 AM Germany time (2:00 AM Eastern Time). We had a three hour layover in the airport. We crammed into the shuttle that took us to the airplane, and climbed on. I got to my seat and went right to sleep. Unfortunately, while I was asleep, I missed my in-flight pretzel. Oh, well. We arrived in Poland and met the Goss family and our translators. We then took a three hour bus ride into the mountains where we will be staying and serving this week.
That's when things began to be a little more interesting.
After we unpacked, we went outside in the 45 degree whether to play volleyball in the rain. We were all slipping and sliding and getting soaked. That was a lot of fun. Then, some of us took a walk to the local convince store. There was a small soccer/basketball court behind the store, and we walked over to have a closer look. There were a few kids hanging around on the court. Almost immediately, one of them asked (in fluent english) "So where are you guys from?". I responded with "The United States". Apparently, the girl that asked the question didn't like the answer. Let's just say that that's the first time I've been cussed out by someone in a foreign country, speaking English. Joseph, Dillon, and Matt all thought it was hilarious, of course. Actually, when we played soccer with the kids a bit later, the girl that cussed me out actually helped us communicate by translating a few things for us.
That was yesterday, now to today.
This morning I wake up to "Ezra, Katie just blew up your transformer." I thought "Great way to start the day, huh?" Apparently, she had knocked on our door at about 6:30AM asking for my transformer. Matt got up, answered the door, and gave it to her. Well, Katie decided to run her hairdryer through it, which blew my transformer up, and killed the power outlets in both our rooms. OH, boy.
This morning we went to a Polish church service. It was very similar in many respects to our church, barring size. They had a praise band who did praise and worship, a stage and sound system, etc. Oh, I forgot to mention, their service is two hours long! It was a great time of worshipping with fellow believers. It was blessing to me, and think to the rest of the team as well. It's just amazing to hear other believers singing songs in another language ,that you know ,while trying to sing along yourself… in english!
After lunch, we had a time of planning and prayer with the believers from the Roma village in which we will be working this week.
For the rest of today, we have been hanging out and just getting to know the Goss family, the translators, and each other better.
So far, it's been great, and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the week!

An Important Message

Greetings from Poland! Everyone is doing well here except Ezra. I regret to inform you that Ezra was unfortunately left behind in Munich, Germany. Our team was in a mad rush to catch our flight to Krakow when we realized Ezra was missing. Apparently, Ezra was filling up on hot chocolate when he accidentally spilled some on his brand new macbook pro. We told Ezra not to wipe up the mess but his exact words were, "Save yourselves! This macbook is my life. I can't leave her behind! You must go forth to Poland without me. I will be okay! If my macbook makes it through alive, I will book another ticket and meet you all there." So, we had to leave Ezra. However, he arrived early this morning, but is still very shaken up. Joseph and I (Claire) have taken on Ezra's blog responsibility because he is simply unable to perform the task at hand. Please send your condolences to him. He could really use some encouragement. However, his macbook seems to be okay! Otherwise, you would not be receiving this update.

No seriously, (Sonja) Ezra is okay. That was all fiction. Our team really is doing great! We can already see the Lord moving here and our team is enjoying building relationships within our team as well as with translators and the Goss family. However, we almost broke a relationship with Ezra by stealing his computer... BUT we did not shatter our relationship completely and that is why this message is allowed to be brought to you by Claire and Joseph (reigning ping pong double champions). Anyway, I hope this was a fun update for you all. It just goes to prove how great of a time we are already having together. Thank you for your many prayers. We look forward to updating you tomorrow and the rest of the week about the incredible things that the Lord is doing here!

Signing off from Poland (until the next time we steal Ezra's macbook),
Claire Guilliams and Joseph Wampler

*No Ezra's or macbook pro's were harmed in the making of this blog.*