This article originally appeared in the October 1, 2011 edition of ITMI Monthly.
One frigid Polish winter during post Communist rule, I fell sick. I couldn’t get out of bed for two days, and didn’t make it to work. Even though I followed protocol for the situation, when I returned, my job had been given to one of the thousands of available jobless workers. In the wake of Communism, workers were unmotivated, production was low and work was scarce.
I was an upstanding Polish citizen. I’d been raised in the Communist state. I never knew anything else. I did as they wanted me to. I went to school, worked at the profession they chose for me and lived by the law. I was thankful to have a job.
I didn’t stand out from the throngs of workers desperately clawing and clamoring for work and was unable to find a new job. Soon my money ran out and I was on the streets.
Without an address, all hope of finding work was gone. I slowly lost connection with society. My friends and family were no longer in my life, I was shunned, scorned and abandoned by all. There was no where to turn for help - except to drugs and alcohol, which were more readily available than food. I knew I would destroy myself by using them, but I honestly didn’t believe there was anything left of my life to save.
On the streets, we lived like animals, urinating wherever we were when the urge hit, eating from trash cans and alleys on our hands and knees, and fighting brutally for prime sleeping areas with protection from the punishing winters. Soon, we thought like animals and even almost believed we were nothing more than animals.
Economic freedom started to come, albeit painfully slow, but for me, the die had already been cast. Addicted to drugs and lacking skills, I had no chance of reclaiming my life.
Ten years ago, when ITMI’s Richard and Brooke Nungesser moved to Poland, their hearts were broken for the many Poles with stories like this one. They began by passing out hot tea and bread to the freezing and hungry homeless in a train station in Poznan, Poland.
Not long after, the Nungessers founded Bread of Life to equip and empower Polish nationals to serve and help the needy. The organization grew to multiple ministries for the homeless - clothing closets, counseling, food services, church services and shelters - and expanded to multiple cities under the direction of capable nationals who were well-trained and equipped by the Nungessers.
The organization worked to holistically meet the needs of the poorest of the poor in Jesus’ name, from food for the body to hope for the soul. When the New Life Center opened, Bread of Life could now enable a staff of professional nationals to help homeless men change their cycle of poverty.
The New Life Center provides not just a band-aid for the symptoms of poverty but true and in-depth help for the causes of it.
To accomplish all of these ministries, Bread of Life has recently relied upon grants from the European Union to the tune of over $500,000, which was the majority of their yearly budget. However, due to socialized governmental red tape, much of this money was required to be spent irresponsibly.
For example, the New Life Center was required to purchase digital cameras and expensive comforters for their residents - items that are unnecessary for their rehabilitation - while not being allowed to pay the Director’s salary.
Such micromanagement took up a great deal of time and effort from the Bread of Life workers, and could often become a distraction from their main purpose, which was to love and serve Poland’s homeless and bring them to Christ.
New Life Center Residents with ITMI Leadership
This year, due in part to the degrading EU financial condition, Bread of Life was denied these grants. While the Bread of Life team is eager to be free of EU red tape and turn a greater portion of their attention to the people they serve, this leaves a large portion of their core ministry unfunded.
In fact, they estimate they need to raise $50,000 USD this year or the New Life Center may have to evict its residents and cease the ministry of transforming lives.
We are praying that Bread of Life will not have to celebrate its 10th Anniversary by closing down the New Life Center. Either way, we will rejoice in God’s sovereignty and believe that His will is best.
Bread of Life Moldova
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Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe.
It was incorporated into the Soviet Union when WWII ended and became independent from the Union in 1991. However it was the first former Soviet state to elect a Communist leader, Vladimir, Voronin, who only recently resigned in 2009. (CIA World Fact Book, 2011)
Ana (pictured left) and her mother, Olga, lived on the streets of Ialoveni, Moldova. Ana’s father, an ex-con, abandoned them after his release from prison.
Olga, determined to survive, sold her apartment.
Her plan was to use the money to buy a smaller apartment, and survive on what was left for awhile. As was not uncommon in Moldova after the Soviet Union fell, she was swindled by the realtor she had hired and ended up with no money and no place to live.
Their life was tough. With no place to live and no food to eat, Olga suggested more than once that Ana go to an orphanage where she would be fed and schooled, but Ana refused. She said she would rather starve to death than leave her mother.
Thankfully, their hopeless path was averted when Bread of Life expanded to Moldova in 2008. The mother and daughter began receiving food, clothing and psychological help from Bread of Life’s projects. Soon Olga found a job and they were able to rent a place to live.
According to a Moldovan Bread of Life worker, while Olga’s focus turned to consumerism, trying to obtain more and more things, Ana was searching for peace with God.
Ana has confessed Jesus as her Savior and is part of a Moldovan community of believers. Her family and friends can see that she has changed; she does better in school and has a kind heart.
Summer Kelley is a writer who lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and three kids. She has had the privilege of telling ITMI's stories since 2006. She loves to write uplifting stories of God's work overseas, read and learn about the world around her and enjoy her family.
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 12 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.