a heavy heart, joyful news, and a ring

No, not a wedding ring... my grandfather's would be worried if I came home with a wedding ring from Poland, not to mention my father.

Anyway. I am now at the hostel in Krakow - it is such a nice facility! I have my own room and it is maybe the cutest thing I've ever seen. I can see now why people set up camp in hostels for awhile - they are quite endearing. With that said...

Today was the day of leaving... the goodbyes, tears, sad faces. I can't begin to explain what an impact this week has made. With each day, i just asked, "God, is there really THIS much more of you?" Each person, story, and smile held something so special because I saw the mystery of His creation a bit more fully.

We just had a kind-of "de-briefing" session for our group here at the hostel (good thing, huh Al?). And we talked about what characteristics of God we saw more clearly. I realized so many things about who God is because I got to know more of His creation. The people here are easy to love, but hard to leave. I saw that, though we are different, we are people just the same and we all need Jesus and redemption every day.

I had some experiences that have forced me to look more introspectively at my life... I'll try to share some stories:
When we ate meals, we would go into the cafeteria and scramble for seats. Many families ate together, but there was often one or two seats open at tables. I became accustomed to sitting with new people. There were few Polish people at the camp who could speak English really well, so dinner conversation was a bit halting. .. I admire them so much for struggling with English to include me in the conversation. As the days went on, it was less important to me that they speak in English. Polish is a beautiful language, albeit one of the most difficult things I've ever attempted, and I was more willing to just listen to their conversations. I realized that I tend to talk to cover up my own insecurities or attract attention - both of these things are impossible when I cannot speak the language. There is SO much more I could say about this!

Another lesson in language is God's ability to overcome my own shortcomings. I love children - their thirst for adventure and that bit of mischief in their eyes. Well, Polish children are incredible... Most could speak only broken English, and some none at all. There was one little girl, Ula, who I connected with right away. she knew absolutely not a word of English, but we had the most amazing time all week playing, laughing, dancing, singing. I praise God for these moments when I understand that His language is above any words i could say.

the REALLY joyful news is that yesterday... I wish I could tell it all, but time is running short. Yesterday, Beata, a young girl in the teen conversation class, came to me and wanted to talk. The only problem was, she spoke very little English and our communication had consisted of smiling and my trying to learn Polish words. Well, she looked pretty emotional and we ended up in my room. I tried to figure out what was wrong and finally I asked her if it was about Jesus and she nodded. I kept trying to get somewhere, but she could not understand me. There was almost literally a wall in between us, even though I started to realize what she wanted to do - no matter how emotionally attached I became, nothing else could happen. I ran out to the hallway and asked someone for a translator, and five minutes later Agnieszka came. I slowly found out about Beata's life, her struggles, and her desire to belong. I told her, through Aga, that when we are part of God's family we belong to Him! I cannot express how humbling it was to be completely dependent on someone else for this process. I can truly say it was nothing I did, but God that pulled Beata to Himself, and allowed her to understand and trust Him as her Savior. Praise the LORD. Rejoice in the work He has done.

And lastly, the ring. Real quick: I have met a beautiful woman and her name is Ania. She is 19 and I think I already wrote about her. She speaks English well enough for us to connect and we've become great friends, sharing and encouraging each other all week. I can't explain how fast our friendship came, but I am so grateful for her smiling face and wonderful spirit. Last night, she gave me a ring to match one she also had. I was completely blessed by the gift. my heart is so full of love for the people here!

Rejoice and again I say REJOICE!

from Krakow with love,
Caroline