The Mercy Ship Sails for Poland
The Friends of Israel recently had the privilege of joining thousands of others in an unprecedented relief effort to Poland. On Tuesday, April 24, 1990, four of our workers drove to New London, Connecticut, where the mercy ship Anastasis awaited supplies from various Christian ministries and individuals. Our contribution to the cause of Christ (made possible through the generous giving of area churches and friends) included barrels of clothing, bedding, household items, office supplies, toys, Christian literature, building materials, and three commercial gas stoves donated by Campbell Soup Company many years ago.
Those stoves are a testimony of how the Lord showed His sovereign hand in the entire relief effort made by The Friends of Israel. Donated years ago, the stoves lay in our basement without apparent purpose. Several months ago, word was received from Poland that propane stoves were desperately needed for a retreat center. The stoves had to be cleaned, converted from natural gas to propane, and securely crated for shipping. Maintenance workers Glenn Beckley, Steve Carter, and John Harris worked into the night gathering needed supplies (salesmen went out of their way to provide), cleaning (it took three solid days), fixing (the stoves worked!), building (would the crates be strong enough?), packing (would everything fit?), and loading crates (would the trailer sustain the weight?). Workers from the Data Entry department sorted clothing and other items and packed them into the barrels.
As these photographs show, the Lord answered all our prayers, and everything was loaded as planned. Our supplies, along with the myriad of relief from others, are expected to arrive in Poland by the time you read this article. Let us pray for their safe arrival and the Lord’s blessing on the recipients and crew of the mercy ship.
Fresh Breezes in Poland
In its thousand-year history, the country of Poland, sandwiched between Germany and Russia, has experienced a bitter past of wars and partitions. Having emerged from its long domination by Russia into an independent state in 1918, the country then fell prey to the Nazi hordes in 1939 and lost fully one quarter of its population in the following six years.
When the smoke mercifully cleared following the Second World War, a Communist regime was imposed. Repression of religious and civil freedoms followed, as the Stalinist dragnet covered all of Eastern Europe. Discontent over unemployment, high prices, and economic difficulties, however, led to riots and strikes in the late 70s, spearheaded by the Solidarity labor movement and its leader, Lech Walesa. Imposition of martial law by staunch Communist leaders only resulted in further strikes and demonstrations.
Finally, in April 1989 the ban on Solidarity was lifted, and in June its candidates won a majority in the first free elections allowed since 1946. In January 1990 the Communist party actually voted to dissolve itself.
With regard to religion, Poland is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, while evangelical Protestants compose less than one percent of church membership. There is presently official religious freedom in Poland—churches are permitted to be built, a few new Christian schools have begun, and Bibles and Christian literature are freely distributed.
We do not know how long these governmental freedoms will exist for believers, or even if repression may someday be exerted by the powerful Catholic hierarchy. We do know that we have the opportunity to minister physically and spiritually to a faithful remnant of the Lord’s people there, and we ought to be eager to seize that wonderful opportunity! A quality Polish couple just graduated from the Institute of Biblical Studies, and we are looking forward to greeting three additional Polish believers as students in September. Our co-workers in Poland testify of increasing open doors to minister to both Jew and Gentile alike in that spiritually needy land.
Yes, new winds are blowing in that old land! May our participation in the relief effort made this past April be the first step The Friends of Israel takes in following the Lord’s Spirit as He opens these new doors of opportunity.