This article was originally published in the February 2013 edition of ITMI Monthly.
It had taken him years of studying and hard work, an international move from America to Poznan, Poland and many sacrifices, but he was finally about to taste the reward. Bruno was in his last weeks of medical school at Poznan University in Poland. Nonetheless, when the phone rang, he answered.
It was his pastor, Richard Nungesser.
ITMI partners, Richard and Brooke Nungesser, are Americans who answered God's call to work alongside ITMI's Dr. Piotr Zaremba in 2001. They left their family, friends and support system in Phoenix, Arizona to serve in Poland.
Polish native, Bible Translator and Pastor, Piotr Zaremba's finger is always on the culture around him. He saw that Americans have the ear of the Polish people in ways that Polish natives do not.
Polish Evangelicals are considered dangerous and shunned by many of the Catholic parishes, which represent 89.9% of the Polish population. This leaves little opportunity for sharing the gospel.
Undeterred, Piotr set out to find ways to convince the Poles to listen to the good news that Jesus wants a personal relationship with them. English speakers are put on pedestals and given great opportunity for impact.
So, with the help of ITMI, Piotr has welcomed, discipled and equipped many American workers in Poland.
After 11 years in Poland, the Nungessers have established the thriving and growing Bread of Life Foundation, equipping Poles to serve the poorest of the poor all over Poland, in Moldova and in Ivory Coast. This was while pastoring Poznan International Church (PIC), an English speaking fellowship reaching the many internationals in Poznan to attend Poznan University or work.
At first, pastoring a church body with such high turn over (20-30 leave each year) was discouraging. No sooner would they train a transient international to serve in a position than he or she would move, many times returning to their home countries.
Richard and Brooke soon realized that rather than losing church members, they were sending missionaries!
They began to develop their discipleship within the church around this idea, and came up with “Come-Grow-Serve-Go.”
Internationals come because they are reached and welcomed into the community, where they are surrounded by opportunities for God's Word to grow them. The Nungessers work hard to create a culture where there are many opportunities to serve, and if someone has an idea they are strongly encouraged to run with it.
Eventually, these internationals tend to move on. When they go, they are equipped to take what they've learned back to their home countries. They find places to serve and bring people along with them on their new journey.
As they do, the whole discipleship process begins again! What's great about these “missionaries” is that it doesn't cost anything to get them back to their home country and in true ITMI fashion, they already have connections and know the language and culture!
A group of women from Poznan International Church...including Brooke Nungesser! (top row, third from the right).
Putting Self on Hold to Invest in an Orphan's Future
This discipleship process was the reason Richard called Bruno during that last week of his medical degree.
Richard had received a call from an orphanage not too far from Poznan. Most of the orphans drop out of school and do not receive the Polish equivalent of a high school diploma. In fact, a high rate of Poland's homeless were once orphans and foster children.
This particular orphanage had one girl who was pursuing her studies, but her lack of English would prevent her from passing the test.
Bruno dropped what he was doing, drove to the orphanage, and spent a week tutoring her in English and encouraging her. He was even able to share the gospel with her! Not only did she pass her test, but the rest of the orphans were inspired to pursue their studies!
Another PIC member and medical student, Andrew (pictured right), wanted to learn how to serve people. He started by organizing a group of people to take hot tea and provisions to the homeless seeking refuge from the bitter Polish winter.
Andrew told PIC about the plight of the homeless; they are constantly out in the bitter cold without gloves or decent winter clothes, their hands were red, raw and frozen. The church gathered clothes to take back to the train station.
The fire of Andrew's passion was fueled.
When Richard and Brooke told the church about a kindred heart in another city trying to raise funds to feed some hungry children, Andrew was inspired.
With some guidance from Richard, he ended up gathering other medical students to go through the Poznan University dorms offering to clean and take out trash for a donation to help feed hungry kids.
They ended up raising enough to sponsor daily meals for the children for 2 months! Now Andrew is talking about opening a medical clinic through Bread of Life in his home country, Indonesia, after he graduates and completes his residency.
A temple in Ubud, Indonesia.
Photo Credit: Pahala Basuka via Unsplash
A Strategy that Brings it All Together for God's Kingdom
If PIC is equipping and sending 20-30 people a year back to their home countries, what if the same thing could happen in other Polish cities where internationals are coming to work or study? If they could replicate PIC in just 5 other cities, around 100 a year could be sent!
Meanwhile, Gospel Joy needs solid churches to receive and disciple those who express interest in knowing more about a relationship with Jesus in cities they travel to and put on workshops.
They launched City International with the goal of networking or planting international churches with PIC's vision in 10 new cities.
So far, they've been able to be a part of planting and networking in 3 cities. This initiative really needs some willing English speakers to plant and pastor international churches in Poland.
Pray with us that God would raise up workers to harvest the plentiful crop the Spirit is growing in Poland!
ITMI's Piotr Zaremba and Richard Nungesser baptize new believers in Poland!
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.