Saturday afternoon and evening 17th September 1988
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3
By the afternoon, the mist had rolled away and the mid-September sun shone as we formed up outside the Europa Hotel for our first engagement in Lublin. We only had permission from the authorities to march the streets once on the following Sunday afternoon so we compromised; we marched along the wide pavement to the the steps of the Courthouse where the leaders from the local churches had arranged for us to share the gospel. Again, change was in the air, as up until now, overt witnessing by the churches was ‘zakazana’ (forbidden).
Again, tv and newspaper reporters as well as more political police where there and the high profile of our visit in the past week seemed to have given our fellow polish Christians the courage and the incentive to share the word. When we arrived outside the courtroom steps and started our outreach service, crowds gathered around with Lublin’s minority Free Church members openly sharing their faith with the assembled number. I recall that the crowd was the largest we had encountered so far.
In the weeks following our visit we received word that over 600 new people from across the city engaged with the local churches in Bible Studies.
Along with the a cross-section of our new church friends, a number of those contacted in the afternoon were encouraged to attend our evening gathering at the 200 year old Evangelical-Augsburg Holy Trinity (Lutheran) Church with over 450 in attendance.
That evening, the Colonel spoke of coming face to face with Jesus, and it was so encouraging to see the young people, who in the afternoon had distributed leaflets hanging on his every word. What a day of contrasts.
However, just to give a sense of the underlying tension, I recall how three of us went for walk after supper to try and process all that we had experienced that day. As we walked the cobbled streets of the old town (not in uniform), we mulled over the extremes of the day. One of my colleagues kicked a bottle top on the pavement and as we continued our stroll we tapped the top back and forwards to one another. We hadn’t gone far before we became aware of a blue flashing light coming down the road behind us and drew up next to us. Two police men got out of the car and approached us with stern faces. My linguist colleague managed sufficient Polish to convince these lawmen who we where and that we were not football hooligans from the UK. On production of our passports there was a complete change in their attitude, and I read in their faces, a sense of dissonance, as if they were uncertain of how to react to these UK visitors who had such a high profile on their television screens.
As we returned to the Europa Hotel, I could not but help reflect upon the three Hebrew lads in the 3rd Chapter of Danial. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were the three Hebrew men thrown into a fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar, when they refused to bow down to the king's image; the three were preserved from harm. As I got ready for sleep that night, my prayer was that the Lord would protect the young people moved by the Holy Spirit to witness in their own city in spite of the challenges of doing so under martial rule.
Lord, thank you that our comfort abounds through Christ. Nothing in the world can bring us the comfort and peace that you alone can offer. Thank you that you understand our trials, and you care. Through our own struggle and pain, help us to be your vessels to offer comfort and strength to others who are hurting. Amen
Tomorrow Close fellowship and Green Shoots