Życzenia urodzinowe, Dusty!

[caption id="attachment_121" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The Castle in Będzin"][/caption]

Hello to all who are following this blog. This submission is by Dusty. Today, I got the privilege of spending my 22nd birthday in Poland, which started with being woken up by Pastor Jarek waking me up with the Polish birthday song and a video camera. Apparently, he woke up all the other students in the same fashion, and we all agree that it takes a special person, someone we are all fond of, to get away with that. Were it anyone else, I may have thrown a pillow at him, but instead, I smiled and said, “Thanks.”

In the morning, we rode the tram to Będzin, where we separated into groups of two or three and went to classrooms to talk with high school students. Most of the students were shy, too embarrassed to try to speak in English to Americans. I tried to put them at ease by sharing how much worse my Polish was than their English. That seemed to help some. It was fun conversing with some of the students who were willing to share with us. My group had the privilege of witnessing one student perform a dance routine, another play guitar, and another show off his rapping abilities. One class even stood and sang for me when they found out it was my birthday. We tried to find out different perspectives Polish students have about Americans. It appears there is a strong correlation between Americans and hamburgers; I suppose that doesn’t bother me.

One class asked us about the difference between America in the movies and the America we actually live in. Our main points were that there is a lot more poverty in America than what the movies show, that many Americans actually do work hard, and that the image of the beautiful movie stars can have negative effects on the self-esteem of many Americans and others around the world. If we were unable to share much else, we were able to at least teach them that much and enjoy our time with the students. I think I may have earned some Facebook friends – hopefully not too many.  One of the boys bravely stayed after class and asked one of the “American girls” if she wanted to hang out with him after school.  Unfortunately, for the young Polish student, we had other events scheduled.

For the first time, we had Polish pizza for lunch. It was pretty good, but I’ll take pizza from the US in this match-up. I’ve enjoyed all we have eaten here, but this time I’m siding with America. I was actually probably just upset we weren’t given ketchup to put on our pizza because all I’ve heard about is that the Polish love ketchup on pizza.

After lunch (which is usually eaten at two or three o’clock), we walked around the town. Będzin is a city that is over 600 years old. It used to be a town with a large Jewish population. We saw a Jewish cemetery that was badly neglected (since few Jews remain to care for it) with trees growing among the gravestones; sadly, it has been further damaged by vandalism. The city is pretty run down and poor, but there is something about decaying buildings that I actually find enchanting. So I would say that the town is beautiful in its own way. We made a couple stops at a castle and a museum set up in an small palace of ancient nobility.

We made our way back to the church and attended the evening service, where Don Orr spoke on strengthening our faith. It was a wonderful sermon about forgiving others, loving our enemies, and being grateful in all situations. Don spoke with great enthusiasm, and made the subject matter very tangible for us all. There was also a special moment when Pastor Jarek called me up on stage to recognize my birthday, and then called the rest of the group up to pray for us all.

Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to Pastor Jarek tonight since we will be heading to Warsaw on a train early in the morning. It has been a real joy spending the last few days with him; he seems to be someone who can spread joy wherever he goes. We all hope that someday in the future our paths may cross again, but for now, it is on to the next part of our trip.

Dusty, for all the group

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