This article first appeared in the ITMI Monthly February Edition.
ITMI Monthly catches up with our own Daniel Machlowski, who’s been part of our Polish team for over two years now. Raised in America but 100% Polish, Daniel uses his past to build bridges into people’s future with Christ. Enjoy his unique perspective, from inside our dynamic team!
Daniel and Damien. Damien is one of the men Daniel disciples.
ITMI Monthly: You’ve been in Poland 2.5 years now. What have you been up to?
Daniel: I started serving with [ITMI’s] Andrew Gorski, singing in the Gospel Joy Choir, serving at the workshops by leading a teaching time, a prayer time or sharing my testimony. I was part of the team that worked to start the first Word Zone.
We decided to start a second one, meeting in homes and coffee shops. The third one met at my home, and I co-lead with another guy. It ended up exploding, in a sense, and now there’s five, with plans to start more.
I’m glad I got to be a part of it and see it multiply.
Daniel singing in the Gospel Joy Choir.
Gospel Joy is constantly developing leaders through training, so that someone’s always ready to take the reigns. It’s so well-run by Andrew and what we put in place, it is a self-containing ministry in that it produces its own leaders.
Now I’m working directly with [ITMI’s] Piotr Zaremba as he pastors K5N Church. K5N focuses on the New Testament, being open to new people, focusing on God and His work and allowing for ministries to be self-sustaining (like what happened at Gospel Joy with the Word Zones).
The goal of K5N leadership, [which includes Andrew Gorski, Daniel and of course, Piotr Zaremba] is for people to come and get plugged into community, where they can grow and serve.
Getting plugged in is actually pretty hard in Poland. That’s why I transitioned, to start discipling new believers coming to K5N. Gospel Joy reaches people who aren’t ready to go to an evangelical church.
A group of guys from Word Zone joined K5N and needed to be plugged in. I transitioned to disciple them and help them plug in as they joined.
Daniel leading his K5N small group.
ITMI: You said it’s hard to get plugged in. Can you explain why?
Daniel: To be Polish is to be Catholic. Anything else is foreign and unacceptable. The polish national identity is in Catholicism, which is mostly political, not faith.
Evangelicals make up less than 1/2 of 1 percent. There’s a lot of social persecution and ostracism. All non-Catholics are viewed as a dangerous sect.
That’s actually part of my testimony. I am an outsider because I’m an American, but I’m also an insider. I’m 100% Polish and speak the language. I used to be Catholic and did all the rituals.
My story helps show people it’s ok to be Polish and evangelical.
ITMI: What is the biggest thing God’s taught you during the last 2.5 years?
Daniel: The short answer is to love people who are hurting.
The long answer is that people have a hard time trusting outsiders or foreigners. It makes sense, given the oppression from foreigners for hundreds of years.
Many also have a hard time honoring authority – both government and in the church. It’s hard for them to tithe, establish leaders and train them.
Poland is a pretty poor country. It’s “first world,” but the economic situation is still not great. There are lots of people in debt; there’s no “protestant work ethic.”
They never learned how to save and invest as many in Western countries. As far as religious oppression is concerned, many equate religion with guilt and shame.
Priests have been known to demand lots of money for the performing of religious rites, like weddings or burials – we experienced that in my family. Then the priests will live rich. Taxes, too, are pretty high.
Daniel prays with people on the streets of Poland.
Daniel serving food to the hungry.
So there’s a learned helplessness. People work hard and don’t get much so they are discouraged and feel unloved.
All that to say that I’ve learned people need a lot of love and understanding. When people are hard to love I have to realize they are hurting and forgive them.
A View from Poland.
ITMI: What is different about being in Poland than you thought it would be?
Daniel: I ended up working the most with Andrew Gorski. That we would connect so well was unexpected. It really opened up my eyes to how God is working through those ministries, so much so that people are spilling into K5N.
I also really thought I would do a lot with student ministries. I knew one day I would transition out of student ministries, but I didn’t think it would be in the first two years.
I started feeling called to the K5N adults getting out of college, since I myself am one of them. God is stretching me through it and teaching me to be elastic.
ITMI: What have you enjoyed about being a member of ITMI’s Polish ministry team?
Daniel: I really enjoyed working with Andrew. He’s a huge visionary when it comes to serving and equipping. I’ve also greatly enjoyed working alongside Piotr.
Of all Polish people, Piotr is one of the most influential, in my opinion. He translated the Bible into Polish.
He pastors the largest Evangelical church in Poznan.
K5N Church is the largest Evangelical church in Poznan.
He encourages freedom in ministry; he gives his blessing for almost any ministry idea you can think of – as long as it’s biblical and culturally respectful.
He’s always encouraging and supporting.
He’s a busy guy, but he’ll drive out to kids camp for a couple days. I really enjoy his huge heart. He has a huge heart for helping people succeed.
He’s one of the few in Poland focused on helping others succeed. Not many in Poland will do that.
ITMI partner, Dr. Piotr and Krystyna Zaremba.
ITMI: What will your role in K5N be when you return?
Daniel: I’ll be involved in giving sermons periodically. I just started leading a home group with about 10 regular members, and quite a few visitors, too.
We are doing discipleship training with them, training how to share their testimony, evangelize, read the Bible – all the Christian disciplines – in preparation for them making their own disciples.
I meet together with Piotr and several leaders to prepare for preaching. We review Piotr’s translation, and the original Greek. We go deep. We call it “Greek class.”
I also teach an Old Testament class. We are going through from the beginning, focusing on truth and application. It’s a unique class because most people do not know anything about the Old Testament.
There’s no other Old Testament class that I know of in Poznan. Other than that, I’ll be involved with pastoral care, possibly teaching English, and translating services.
ITMI: What could you say to help ITMI readers understand the needs in Poland?
Daniel: People need Jesus Christ. They respond to the good news about Him with a blank stare; they don’t know what to do with it. They feel unworthy to have free salvation.
We really want to get to know people and share the good news in ways they can understand, life on life discipleship.
One guy in my home group does art galleries so we go to art galleries and evangelize. Another works at a recreation center so I help serve there. We serve at a local orphanage.
We try to meet practical needs. We’ve helped one guy who needs to learn English for school.
Then we share Jesus with them, get to know their friends, invite them all to get to know Christ, and many get saved and grow.
Piotr baptized 66 people in the last 2.5 years.
Of those 66, I’ve tried to get to know as many as possible. I follow up with them.
There’s a lot to do. K5N Church in Poznan is a dynamic church and I rejoice in the opportunity to serve there!
Video of a recent K5N Baptism!