By Paula Schlueter Ross
As a placement counselor for LCMS World Mission, Jennifer Mustard knows the value of sending teams of U.S. Lutherans to teach weeklong English “camps” in other countries.
So she wasn’t too surprised that sending five short-term teams to Poland for the first time this past July would be just as successful.
The only problem was that there weren’t enough teams to serve the 21 Polish congregations that had requested them.
“I’m going to need a lot of teams for next year,” Mustard said — a minimum of 14, to be exact, with six to 10 members each.
News about the weeklong English camps has spread, Mustard says, “across the whole region,” thanks to advertising by congregations of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland — which co-host the camps as outreach events; the church body’s Center for Mission and Evangelism; media coverage by Polish TV stations and newspapers; and word of mouth.
Even the mayor of Zabrze, in southern Poland, who visited a camp hosted by the local Lutheran church there, “was so impressed,” Mustard said.
In a thank-you letter dated July 18, Mayor Malgorzata Manka-Szulik told Mustard, in part:
“I am glad that representatives of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod have organized the project from 13 to 18 of July 2009 in our city. It was a very precious and fruitful time for children living in Zabrze, very appreciated by all participants and their guardians. I hope that the project will be continued in the next years.”
Continuing the project is just what LCMS World Mission plans to do. Teams for July 2010 will lead camps at the seven congregations served this year, plus seven others in various parts of the country.
Poland has Christians, according to Mustard, but many are “uncommitted” to their faith. The weeklong camps give local pastors opportunities to reach both congregation members and non-members, she said, and all of the hosting churches and communities are “very welcoming” to their U.S. guests.
Through the camps, LCMS volunteers are expected to share their faith while helping Polish youth practice their English-language skills. The camps include Bible study, skits, crafts, games, music, dance, and sports competitions.
Kathy Witto, a teacher at Martin Luther High School in Queens, N.Y., helped lead a camp in Lidzbark, in northern Poland. Her team consisted of two adults, three college students, and a high-school student. Their camp was similar to a vacation Bible school and involved 33 young people ages 9 to 18, “so our young team members fit right in,” Witto said.
Since the neighborhood around Martin Luther High School is largely populated by recent Polish immigrants, her short-term mission experience provided “a wonderful opportunity to build bridges between our school and community by learning more about the Polish culture and language,” she said.
Witto said she also enjoyed meeting the Polish pastors and congregation members, as well as the students, because “it was obvious their passion for — and faithfulness to — the Word was the reason they were there. It was another reminder of how far and wide the Body of Christ extends.”
Mustard said teams can come from a single congregation, or several, and no special training is necessary to serve as a short-term missionary. Team members can be any age, and families are welcome.
All you need, she said, “is just a desire to speak to youth in English and share the Gospel.”
This year’s cost totaled about $2,000 per person for 10 days, which included airfare, food, lodging, ground transportation, and international health insurance. Volunteers flew into Krakow, Poland, from their home cities, so airfare costs varied.
For more information or to volunteer, send an e-mail to email@example.com or call 800-433-3954 and ask to speak with a placement counselor.
Posted Sept. 2, 2009