MD Youth Calls Poland Mission “Life Changing”

In early April, I went on a mission trip to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees, and it changed my life. There were nine of us—three teens and six adult members of First Baptist Church, Easton. U.S. Army Chaplin Ben Sprouse, contacted one of our associate pastors, Joe Giles, in early October and asked if our church would be willing to partner with a ministry called Bread of Life, based in the city of Poznań, Poland. Sprouse was a former associate pastor of a church Joe attended in Virginia years ago. Joe shared this opportunity with our church, and immediately, people responded to the call to “go.”

Members of First Baptist Easton (Alan Lowrey, second left; Sharon Clow, third left; Robin Schweppe, fourth left), and Joe Giles, second right, with local students in Poland to made candles for soldiers in the trenches (Courtesy of FBC Easton).

As soon as we stepped off the plane, we received a warm welcome to the country. The Bread of Life staff showed us incredible hospitality by giving us insight and instruction and providing several meals. Ukrainian refugees who had lost their homes and were now living in the New Life Center humbly cleared some of their living space for our needs.

On the first day of the trip, we distributed food to low-income Polish families and Ukrainian refugees. The next day, we led a one-day kids VBS for about 25 children, organizing games and an Easter egg hunt with a gospel presentation about the death and resurrection of Christ. Each child got four eggs, and their generosity shocked us. They kept trying to give us candy. Even though they didnt have much, their thankfulness was astonishing.

Pastor Joe Giles (left) with high school juniors Autumn Redman and Jack Willey at the Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul in Poznan, Poland (Courtesy of FBC Easton).

When our time ended in the city, we moved 45 minutes outside Poznań to the New Life Center, where we stayed with a Ukrainian family. We shared work, food, laughter, a home, and even a bathroom. Sharing a bathroom with 15 people, the nightly disruption of loud snoring, and other challenges made for a lot of fun memories I will carry for the rest of my life.

While there, we helped build and work on Tiny Homes,getting them ready for Ukrainian refugees to move into. it was quite a job crawling in the dirt underneath the small structure insulating sewage pipes, but I had a sense of accomplishment that made the hard work satisfying and, in a sense, fun.

We also helped make candles and gained an interesting perspective on the war in Ukraine. The candles were for Ukrainian soldiers to use in the trenches. It has devolved into trench warfare with only inches gained per day. Sadly, as I write this right now, people are dying. Russians are dying. Ukrainians are dying. Innocent people are dying. Before this trip, I never really thought about how terrible the war in Ukraine was. It wasnt that I didnt care, but it had not impacted me personally, so I had never thought about it in depth. But now, with Ukrainian friends, it has become far more personal. I have seen the consequences of evil like never before and want to find more opportunities to bring light to a dark world.

Later in the week, we helped organize a barbecue for people from the nearby village, Ukrainian refugees, and our Bread of Life contacts. Introducing our European friends to smores and cooking kiełbasa (Polish version of hot dogs) over the bonfire and playing games was the most fun Ive had in years.

On Palm Sunday, we attended the Poznań International Church. It is an English-speaking church that brings people of all nations together to worship Christ. We met people from India, Korea, Japan, Poland, Ukraine, and America, as well as numerous African countries. It was eye-opening to meet so many interesting people from various nations. I believe it is a glimpse of what heaven will be like.

Members of First Baptist Easton, Associate Pastor Joe Giles (front left), Autumn Redman (back second from right), and Jack Willey (back right) worked on crafts at the New Life Center with Ukrainian families, and they shared the hope of Christ. (Courtesy of FBC Easton)

Early the next morning, we went back to Poznań for sightseeing before we left for Maryland. My heart was heavy as we said goodbye to our new friends. Even though we couldnt speak their language, we shared a close bond. I will never forget the new friends, the great food, and the satisfaction of this trip.   

Before I went on this trip, my dad talked about how amazing prayer was and how he had a friend who would pray specific prayers. His friend would pray for something and set a date. My dad told me how specific prayers impact your faith when you see God work powerfully.

I have a heart for helping people, and a couple of months ago, I began praying for someone who was lonely and needed a friend. I asked God to give me that friend within three months. After a while, I became discouraged and stopped praying for that specific request. But when I went to Poland on the mission trip, I expected God to work.

Jack Willey worked on steps for a tiny home with two young Ukrainian helpers — Tima and Beni (courtesy of FBC Easton).

Even though I had lapsed from that prayer request, God was faithful and remembered. He brought me those friends in a little over one month. They are Ukrainian and left when the Russians took their city, Kherson. They had lost their home and everything they knew. One family member confided to me that all her friends had betrayed her. Our group was able to come alongside them and make them feel loved. God answers prayers and works powerfully, and I will never forget that.

There are many things I will remember from this trip, but there are three things that stand out. The first is the new friends I made. Warm and hospitable, our Polish and Ukrainian friends helped us around the beautiful European country. I hope to keep in contact with all of them. The second thing is the mouthwatering food. Fresh and green, it was different than any American food I had ever tried. The numerous salmon dishes I sampled were delicious. The last was experiencing the culture. I was interested in Slavic history and mythology before the trip, and it was remarkable to finally visit one of the nations I had studied for so long.

Poland and the Ukrainian refugees I met will always have a special place in my heart. I hope to return soon and plan to support Bread of Life Ministries as regularly as possible. This mission trip was unforgettable.

Jack Willey is a eleventh-grade homeschool student and member of First Baptist Church of Easton.

Feature Photo: Members of FBC Easton’s mission team with Bread of Life staff and Ukrainian refugees. (photo courtesy of FBC Easton)