He was one of several bystanders who hovered near the courtyard gate of an old church building.
Across the street behind him, “Welcome to Gangland” sarcastically welcomed all to the area where no one really wants to go.
The grease-stained sidewalks of the part of Kalisz, Poland, tagged “Gangland” by one would-be artist are hard to spot underneath all the trash.
A gang member hovers outside the courtyard gate.
Not the “clean” trash that do-gooders might venture from their clean homes in pristine neighborhoods to pick up, like gum wrappers or crumpled printer paper. We’re talking about face-twisting trash: diapers, used needles, rotting food and used unmentionables.
The stench of such a place and its people is also mouth curling. You know, when you pull back your lips in disgust as if choking back a sudden turn in your stomach?
That kind of disgusting.
The kind most of us are blessed to never have to live near.
The gang member leaned casually on a bright green gate, gazing into the courtyard of the building that belongs to Kalisz Baptist Church. He watched those inside participate in “Children’s Day,” an event organized by the church for families to enjoy time together.
He wanted to go in, but remained outside, uncertain whether he should enter – or could enter. It was the kind of event gang offenders like him were rejected at by the high and holy state church, whose religious rules he’d clearly failed to follow all his life.
But he knew this group of people was different. His friend, Tomek, was their leader. He wasn’t anything like the holier-than-thou leaders of other churches.
He’d seen Tomek welcoming and helping the filthiest and meanest of street children. He didn’t make that choking face, either.
Instead, he was a young man with a quick, genuine smile and a casual “I’m-one-of-you” appearance.
Tomek Jezyk is the Director of Bread of Life Kalisz, and the driving force behind everything Bread of Life does in the city. He is also currently shepherding the Kalisz church without pay. Tomek is not a trained pastor, but he cares deeply about the people of Kalisz.
He overseas the Bread of Life office which serves over 3,000 people a year providing social and spiritual consultations. This is basically help for anyone in need with whatever they need, but often its job search assistance, help finding a place to live, support for single moms or spiritual guidance.
Tomek also leads “David’s Club,” which is karate training for about 250 underprivileged and street kids.
It gives them discipline and purpose. It demonstrates to them that they matter.
For a couple years now Tomek has been leading his church to join him in loving the unlovely of Kalisz. The church is using their facility for a daily after school program for the kids of the neighborhood.
Tomek’s compassionate, shepherd heart noticed the self-dubbed “outcasts,” hovering outside the gate. Realizing they wouldn’t come inside the building, Tomek brought the event to them. Rounding up his go-to men of the church, he had them move the church pews into the courtyard, knowing the gate-hoverers would be more comfortable there.
Then Kalisz’s drunk, stoned, depressed, abused and estranged not only heard about Jesus that day, they witnessed a powerful demonstration of what He did.
Because Jesus didn’t wait for us to come to Him. He made Himself one of us.
Just like Tomek and his church brought the pews to society’s unloved that day, Jesus brought His Kingdom and its restoration to us. He ate with sinners. He hung out with the unlovely.
And the man standing by the gate?
It seems the inexplicable force that propelled him to risk rejection and hover near the gate was the Holy Spirit making a divine appointment. He became a citizen of Jesus’ kingdom that day.
Tomek is freed up to serve because of the support he gets through ITMI and Bread of Life. You, dear partner, through your support of Bread of Life were a part of that day, too. We couldn’t do it without you.