They came from all over the city of Lodz, (pronounced "whoosh") Poland.
The elderly. The homeless. The lonely. All in one place on Christmas Eve. Some were there to serve, bless and welcome the marginalized of their city. Some were there because they love Jesus. Others didn't know Him as a personal Savior.
Over 600 were there because they had no where else to be and no one to be with.
Lodz has one of the highest unemployment rates in Poland. Many are left alone as their children move away to find employment. As they age, they have no one to care for them. Others' lives are plagued by loneliness after the loss of family members related to poverty or alcohol.
But no matter why their paths converged in the largest town hall that Christmas Eve, they all witnessed a beautiful preview of what Jesus' promise that, "many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven," might someday look like. (Matthew 8:11)
ITMI's Leszek Wakula shares the good news with the lost and lonely in his city on Christmas Eve.
And they all heard ITMI's Leszek Wakula, Pastor of the Baptist Church in Lodz, share a short message of encouragement and hope.
The event was organized by Leszek and his church, the only Baptist Church in this second largest city in Poland. Many of the more than 100 volunteers were members of Leszek's church, there to demonstrate compassion to their city and share Jesus. Others were citizens of the city who wanted to be involved.
The event truly united the city, as representatives from other churches and various public servants threw their support behind it. The mayor of Lodz granted the hall for free, and the newly appointed Archbishop of Lodz was present.
More than unifying city resources, this event was a bright spot for the droves of lonely, forgotten and suffering in Lodz. Simply holding the event shows them, "You are not forgotten. You are not alone. We are here."
The effort to cheer and encourage was evident. Cheerful red, plastic cups brightened each place on long, slender tables. The end of each table was adorned with a unique, handmade Christmas decoration.
Holding the event says, "You are not forgotten. We are here."
Jurek's Story, Unique but Common
Jurek attended the event because he was lonely. Jurek's only family, his father, died 10 years ago from alcohol poisoning. But knowing the damage alcohol did to his father, he stays away from it. Still, the loneliness is hard for him.
At the event, Leszek chatted with Jurek. He shared Christ, and invited him to come talk anytime.
"God was and is at work in lives of many. We praise His name for it," Leszek reflected.
Leszek and his church are known in the city for their compassion for the marginalized and forgotten. The ones no one else wants to help. They operate a ministry of visiting homes and caring for those in places no one else is willing to go. The places where the personal sacrifice to go is the highest.
But Leszek and his volunteers go joyfully, happy to demonstrate the all-encompassing love of the One who sent them. Hear Leszek's moving and unfiltered description of this ministry in this video.
Thank you for your support of ITMI's Leszek Wakula and the lost and lonely in Lodz.