A Guest in the House is God in the House
Mar 11, 2022 | 5 min read | Elyse Jackson
I have had the privilege of experiencing Polish people and culture since 1995. In general, Poles are warm, direct, and hospitable. A very well-known Polish saying goes: A guest in the house is God in the house. I can personally attest to this tradition. Being a guest in a Polish home is a rich experience, one that often leaves you full of conversation and also sausage.
Poles additionally tend to love a good argument—many say that where there are 2 Poles, you’ll find 3 opinions. For (maybe) the first time in my experience, it would be more accurate to say that there are currently 37,950,000 Poles, but only one opinion. Our guests are here, and it is time to treat them well.
16 days into the war, Poland is experiencing an influx of guests that we have never seen before. At present, 1,412,502 people have crossed our border and the lineups are only getting longer. The scale of this refugee crisis is astounding.
We are not prepared for this. The official response is now well underway, but, as it develops, the big story is how many Polish people have gotten involved in a very personal way. Stories abound of people jumping in their car, driving to the border, and driving Ukrainians anywhere they need to go. Countless people are opening their homes and preparing places to sleep for a night or longer. Tons of food and clothes are being gathered and sent to the border. Companies are offering services to Ukrainians for free or in incredibly accessible ways.
In the midst of all this, there is a huge role for the church in Poland. We have an opportunity to take that Polish saying one step further—that we will not only be welcoming people into our home, but into God’s home. And that is happening all over the country.
In my own church in Gdańsk, the response has been overwhelming. We went from zero to running a network of Airbnbs for Ukrainian refugees in roughly 3 days. Two girls in my youth group are in a family that has personally taken in 25 Ukrainians.These stories are not even the tip of the iceberg.
One of JV’s partner churches in Żory has essentially become the city’s main partner in welcoming refugees. Hundreds of Ukrainians have arrived and the church is working to care for each one. This Sunday, they will already be offering a service in Ukrainian.
Just last Thursday, I visited a church in Chełm close to the Ukrainian border. Several of our teammates were there supporting their efforts to provide a night of rest to refugees after the difficulty of crossing the border. Their youth leader shared that on the first day of the war they bought 40 mattresses in faith they would be needed. Today, there are over 175 refugees sleeping in the church in safety each night. When I asked the pastor why they chose to get involved so intensely, he summed things up well:
“We love Jesus and want to imitate him. We know that if he were here with us, he would be doing all this but more.”
On my way back from Chełm, I stopped at a McDonald’s in Warsaw for a snack. It was packed, and all I could hear was Ukrainian being spoken around me. I stood up to go and heard someone call my name. There, I saw Piotr, a former JV missionary and current lead pastor in Nowy Tomyśl, Poland. It turns out he was on his way back from the border with 3 Ukrainian families in tow. We sat and ate some cheeseburgers and fries together with his guests before heading home.
As this crisis deepens, this work will get harder. None of us know exactly how many people will transit through Poland in the coming weeks. Each day feels longer than the last. But each day also brings new opportunities. Neighbors are interacting more than usual, strangers are acting kinder, and people who two weeks ago would not have had a reason to enter a church are seeking us out looking for ways to help and serve.
Please pray that the church in Poland will continue to love Jesus and imitate him by doing all he would do for each Ukrainian we come into contact with, as well as to the Polish community around us.
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