Hello again. I hope you are all keeping well and safe. It will soon be Christmas again – doesn’t it come round quickly? I am looking forward to it, although it obviously won’t be the same as last year, or any previous Christmas in my experience. It will be a lot quieter and more low-key but I am sure I will still enjoy it, anyway. For the first year ever, all my presents are bought and most have been wrapped, but this is the first year of my retirement, so it’s easy enough to find time to do it! I was always last-minute in previous years but I have no excuse now.
I was looking for a good Bible verse to start my blog with and happened upon the above. It seems so appropriate to me, as my daily Bible study inspires me to try to live as Jesus did. When I first became a Christian, I used to look on my Bible reading as a chore to be got through. A vital part of a Christian’s life is to refer to the Book of God on a daily basis, to read and learn God’s word and try to apply it to their lives. I didn’t use to enjoy it though; with sinking heart, I would dutifully open the Bible and read my allocated passage through gritted teeth, quite often not understanding what it meant. I would feel relieved that it was over for the day and I could get on with more interesting things.
For my 60th birthday, my church presented me with a study Bible. This made all the difference to my reading, as there are explanatory notes at the end of each chapter. They are interesting and relevant and help me to apply God’s word to life today. They also cross-reference to other parts of the Bible, to provide further explanation. It has taken time but I can now say that I actually enjoy reading and studying God’s word. My advice to anyone who is new to the Bible is to get yourself a good study Bible – it makes all the difference in the world. I still have my favourite parts, eg the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and the New Testament will always be my favourite but I can at least make a decent stab at the rest. It’s like anything else, I suppose. The more you read it, the more you understand it and the more sense it makes. I usually ask God to help me understand His word and I believe that helps me too. There are, however, still days when I really don’t feel like opening the Bible and have to force myself but, oddly enough, I always enjoy it when I do read it. It’s just a good habit to get into. Well, I’ll get off my soap box now!
Anyway, I was telling you about my teaching post in Wroclaw, Poland. I had enjoyed my hectic induction period and it was now time to get down to work. Finally, I was expected to put my teaching theory into practice. There was so much to learn and remember. I had taught in Brighton the previous summer and this had given me a bit of confidence. I was very glad I had decided to do this as I really would have struggled, otherwise, as my last teaching experience had been in China about eight years previously.
Poland was such a culture shock to me. Being a Lancashire lass, I am naturally a very friendly person and felt snubbed when my smiles and greetings were ignored by the locals. The Polish are quite difficult to get to know but, once they accept you, they are warm-hearted and wonderful people.
My first visit to a Polish church was at the Baptist church affiliated to the school where I was teaching. Elaine and Marek took me there on my first Sunday and it was a very interesting experience. The congregation was quite large and of course the service was conducted in Polish; however, headphones were available to tune into the English interpretation, which was a blessing to me and other non-Polish speakers. All the hymns were in Polish and the words were presented on PowerPoint, similar to most churches, and I would hum along to the tunes, while studying the Polish words and trying to make sense of them. I went to a few services there and quite enjoyed it but was fortunate enough to be invited to the Wroclaw International Church by Patrick, my mentor and the Head of Teaching at the school. He and his wife attended on a regular basis and Patrick actually preached there some weeks.
The International church was held in the basement of the Baptist church, virtually next door to my apartment, so handy for when I had got up a bit late! All the services were in English and the congregation consisted of people from all over the world. Many, such as myself, were studying or working in Wroclaw, either temporarily or permanently. From the first day I attended this church, I absolutely loved it. The atmosphere was so warm and friendly and welcoming and I know it may sound corny but I felt like I’d come home. I made so many friends there and we had a rich and varied social life. I met people from Poland, Sri Lanka, USA, South America, China, Thailand, Japan – just to mention a few. After every service, we would have coffee and cake, have a good chat and really get to know each other. The tradition was for us to go for lunch together in the food court across the road; this was in Magnolia shopping centre, and the choice was tremendous, from Chinese to Mexican, from vegetarian to Big Mac. We would bag some tables and then go and choose our lunch. While I was there, I made it my mission to try every stall but there was just too much choice! The food was very cheap, and always tasty and substantial.
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to give my testimony during one of the church services and equally blessed to hear several other people’s. I love my own story of how I came to meet the Lord but enjoy hearing other testimonies. All are so different. My own conversion came after a 43-year struggle with my selfish desires to live my life my own way, and one of my biggest regrets is not answering Christ’s call a lot earlier, but here I am, in the right corner at last. My husband became a Christian at the age of 13 and he has never wavered from the path. Lots of people, including me, turn to Christ after adversity – tragic circumstances, difficult struggles with addiction, crime, bereavement. Others have no doubt from the beginning but, however and whenever you get there – you’re finally there and that’s what matters.