I began to see God calling me to serve in Eastern Europe in 2001 when I went on a mission trip to Russia. The trip was through a school I didn’t attend, and by all earthly reasoning was not even open to me. I had been saving money and praying for a year about this specific trip when God orchestrated events to not only allow me to go, but to use it as a pivotal moment in my Christian walk as he opened my eyes to spiritual need and sharing the gospel.
In college, I returned to Eastern Europe twice and felt God was preparing me to serve there long term. In my mind it was a simple trajectory: God calls, I say yes, I move to Poland. This plan derailed as doors closed to Poland and opened to Asia leading to conversations with God such as:
“But God, I love the people of Eastern Europe…”
“I know, but I want to broaden your love.”
“My experience in Europe has prepared me for future ministry there…”
“I know, but I want you to rely more on me.”
“I don’t like Asian food and I CANNOT use chopsticks.”
“I know, but you can learn.”
I came back to the States after nearly three years in Asia confident that I was where God wanted me for that season – yet expectantly waiting for God to answer the questions of when, where, and how He would fulfill my call to future international ministry. In 2013, as I was appointed with Pioneers as a missionary along with Springdale Community Church as my sending church, it became clear that God was leading me to Poland. Twelve years after that first trip, it finally seemed like this calling and plan for my life was coming to fruition.
I was ready to go, but part of this calling is the gathering of partners who will carry the ministry needs through prayer and financial giving. So I began diligently setting off on that task. Then October brought health issues, some of which are still lingering. On top of physically feeling miserable, I became discouraged knowing I had lost so much time. That discouragement snowballed and I found myself kicking and screaming, “But I was supposed to be in Poland by now!” In April, circumstances outside mycontrol changed the plans again. Instead of moving to Szczecinek, I would be sent to the city of Rzeszow on the opposite side of Poland. It was hard to see an area with such deep spiritual need taken away – an area that I had spent almost two years investing towards.
My heart keeps repeating Psalm 138 which we recently read at Kairos where David says, “Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will protect me from the anger of my enemies. You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand saves me. The Lord will work out his plans for my life – for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.”
It’s easy to look at these last nine months and see troubles. But, I choose to see the hand of God who protected me against being that sick in a foreign country where I didn’t yet have a support system, didn’t speak the language, and from settling in Szczecinek only to move a year later. I see God’s power at work preparing opportunities and future ministry in Rzeszow. I will be partnering with a local church, participating in youth ministry, and teaching English – all within the vision of multiplying disciples in the surrounding towns and counties that have no evangelical church presence.
One of these towns is Kolbuszowa (you can call it “K-town”). The Rzeszow church began praying specifically for K-town last year & around that same time, with no connection to the church, a couple in K-town felt they needed to seek God. They found the Rzeszow church online & have since accepted Christ & were baptized this spring. They are the only known believers in K-town & are looking forward to how God will expand ministry among their neighbors. There is also a café in K-town where God seems to be opening doors for future ministry. This is just one small snippet of what God is doing in Poland. The Subcarpathia region of Poland, where Rzeszow and Kolbuszowa are located, is about the land size of New Jersey with a population just over 2 million with only about 1,000 believers. There is so much need and my heart longs to be in Poland taking part in that vision & work.
I know God has called me to share His gospel with the people of Poland. As I reflect on this calling I see the years of ups and downs, encouragement, discouragement, waiting, and trusting. I’m reminded that as confident as I am in His calling me to Poland, I’m even surer that ultimately God’s plan for my life is to make me more like Christ. Whether or not things happen as I hope, expect, or plan, I will trust God and say with David, “the Lord will work out His plans for my life”.
– Sarah Britton