Each Sunday, I research and pray about the church that we will attend. It doesn’t always have to be in English. However, I found a church that had started underground 30 years ago when open faith gatherings were prohibited under communism. I read the following and knew that I had found the church. It sounded like the early days of the persecuted Christian Church that we read about in Acts.
Excerpts from the Warsaw International Church history lesson:
“Warsaw in 1984 was a city on edge. The fact that Martial Law had been lifted the year before made little difference in daily life, which was still quite hard, an extremely controlled, censored life marked by surreally long lines for very small shops frequently bereft of edible food. Many dissident men and women lived then in daily fear of arrest under the strong-arm regime of General Jaruzelski.
Of course there were small joys and a vibrant life inside one’s own four walls. As we know now, there was also a growing strength in the underground Solidarity movement. And the tragic murder of activist Father Popiełuszko in October 1984, almost certainly by renegade security police, was to be the beginning of the end of communism in Poland.
It was against this tense and remarkable backdrop, and coincidentally the same month as Popieluszko’s seminal martyrdom, that the Warsaw International Church had its embryonic beginnings. On October 28, 1984, about 25 expatriates interested in English-language Protestant services attended the first worship in the less than celestial surroundings of the U.S. Embassy cafeteria, and a church was born.
Early documents show that the nascent church was most notably the work of one man, U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission David Swartz. “One reason for founding WIC, clearly, was my own need for religious worship and fellowship,” Swartz recalls now. “I spoke Polish fluently but nonetheless found attending services to be less than satisfying.” Swartz’s position at the American Embassy, and the cooperation of his supervisors, allowed several likeminded people to meet there.
In his professional life, Swartz was causing “great heartburn for Gen. Jaruzelski and his team” by continuing to meet with the likes of Solidarity first leader and former President Lech Walesa. So Swartz was delicate in his management of the new church: “You can imagine how careful we tried to be in organizing WIC and, especially, to limiting our contacts with the local Polish populace. My great friend Adam Kuczma of the Polish Methodist church showed great courage in agreeing to preach at our services approximately once a month.” On those occasions, Swartz met Kuczma at his home and drove the minister to the embassy to prevent him from being harassed or detained by Polish security forces.
“When people were meeting in the Assembly Hall of the American Embassy, a spot reached by entering through one guarded door of one building, out the back, down a flight of stairs, across the parking lot, up more stairs, through a Marine-guarded door, and down more stairs.” He adds, “One had to be a dedicated Christian to endure these hurdles every Sunday.”
“We made the conscious decision to discourage Poles from attending services, because we knew the regime could make problems for them and also for us,” says Swartz, “particularly when we had to seek the Polish government’s support for and approval of the posting of the first pastor to WIC in 1986.” Fortunately, Swartz was on good terms with the chief of protocol at the Foreign Ministry at that time.”
By the middle of 1988, there were democratic rumblings from the underground. De-legalized but far from dead, Solidarity stirred restlessly as strikes rocked the country. In August 1988, Lech Walesa met with Gen. Czesław Kiszczak, and the now famed shipyard worker became instrumental in quelling the unrest.
On February 6, 1989, representatives of the communist government, the opposition and the Roman Catholic Church joined in the Round Table Talks, and the dismantling of Communism in Poland had begun. After an unprecedented two months of talks, the government agreed to open elections but called for an early vote to throw Solidarity off-balance. Still, opposition dissident forces swept all the races. The faces of WIC would change and diversify into a church that was rapidly transforming as more expatriates arrived for the purposes of work and study as Poles tasted freedom for the first time since before World War II.
There were visitors in the congregation every Sunday, and numbers grew rapidly as democracy and Western-style capitalism hit Warsaw like a small tidal wave.
Most people remained in Warsaw for a two- or three-year assignment, others for two to six months. “Turnover of members were very high with people new to the city becoming part of the congregation every week.”
I rejoice at their courageous beginning and pray for continued growth. This is a brave church.
I once knew a man who said, “I love Jesus but I really don’t want to wake up early Sunday morning and hold another man’s hands. Can’t we blow something up??” This is his kind of church!
Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. Psalm 96:1-4
This Psalm speaks about bringing the good news to all nations. The Warsaw International Church certainly doing just that. This international congregation consists of regular worshippers. Many of the members were off on vacation but those that we met were from India, Phillipines, Italy, Hong Kong, Indonesia and, of course, Poland. We visitors were from: Russia, Nigeria, Lithuania, Netherlands, Philippines and USA. We are one in the spirit worshipping the Messiah.
In this small congregation of about thirty, we shared the love of Christ with everyone in attendance.
Communion: We went to the front and formed a semi-circle. We were told that the wine in the cup will be darker and the grape juice will be pale. I wasn’t ready for the grape juice to be yellow. However, I recall reading about Mongolia in There is a Sheep in my Bathtub by Brian Hogan. They used undaa (carbonated beverage) or tsai(tea) and boortsag (hard fried dough) for communion elements because they used what was available and culturally relevant.
Testimony: Belinda Yeung of Hong Kong. Belinda attended a Christian kindergarten and loved the stories. As a teen, she would go with her friends to Christian Fellowship. But Jesus wasn’t real to her.
Her family received a 2am phone call. Her grandfather was on his death bed. She frantically ran out of the hospital room and said, “God, if you are real, give me peace.”
She heard a voice that said, “Come back to me, my daughter.” She immediately was given the courage to say goodbye to her grandfather. Sometimes it takes a special experience to know that God is real.
Scripture: 2 Kings 5: 1-5
Sermon: God of all.
Naaman was a commander of the Syrian army and he had leprosy.
Syria was an enemy of Israel but God showed mercy to Namaan.
A little Jewish girl was a servant with great faith. She was carried off in a raid and then made to tend to Naaman’s wife. She told Naaman’s wife that he should go to the prophet in Samaria and he would heal him. She could hate but she chose compassion. She could have kept this healing information to herself but she had the courage to speak up. Here is an OT example of loving your enemies.
Naaman goes to the prophet, Elisha. When he arrives, Elisha send out a servant and tells him to wash himself seven times in the Jordan River.
Naaman was insulted. Elisha doesn’t even come out of his tent him or pray for him AND he asked him to do a simple bath. Naaman thought that was ridiculous because the water in Syria was just as good.
Naaman’s servant had the courage to voice an opposing opinion to his master. “If he had asked you to do something difficult, you would have done it. Why not try it?’
Naaman follows the advice of his servant. Naaman is important but humble enough to take advice of servants.
Naaman is healed and proclaims that there is only one God, the God of Israel.
Don’t make the Christian life so difficult. Open the Bible and let it speak to you. Accept who Jesus is and what He has done.
Naaman, the leper, becomes Naaman, the worshipper. We ALL need to be healed. Don’t let pride get in the way.
Your background and your circumstances don’t matter to God. You are a new creation. The Cross reaches back in history and out into the future.