This article was originally published in the January 2020 edition of ITMI Monthly.
When Jim LaRose returned home after serving at a weeklong summer camp for youth, an email was waiting for him, and it meant big changes.
An American by birth and a school teacher by trade, Jim’s role at camp was to provide English lessons as part of the daily camp activities. He’s been serving in this capacity for years.
Jim’s English lessons are heavy with hands-on activities and manipulatives, for which he provides all of his own supplies and transportation. He is able to do this because he has faithful supporters standing behind him each month.
Summer camps are an important part of Jim’s ministry. His service as an English teacher is powerful motivation for Polish parents to allow their kids to come to camp.
These are parents that would otherwise not allow their children to participate in any program done by Polish people who don’t attend the state church.
His service teaching English at summer camp has also led to year-round opportunities for impact.
As an extension of a relationship Jim built at last year’s camp with a camper named Jakub*, he teaches a weekly English lesson at a center for at-risk children that Jakub attends.
He also developed a mentoring relationship with a young man named Filip*, which he has been able to extend past the week of camp by providing English lessons to a small group of boys in Filip’s town.
Over the years Jim has held many roles using his ability to connect with children and teach effectively.
Jim's engaging teaching style and knowledge of the English language is instrumental in opening doors to redemptive relationships that are typically closed to Polish believers outside the state church.
This is the challenge our partners have always faced in Poland. Doors are closed to those outside the state church, where the message of the saving work of Jesus is often left out.
Through his English lessons, he develops relationships with kids and their families. Sometimes that leads to them attending a camp he’s involved with, and that has led to the Polish speaking believers Jim works with getting the opportunity to share Biblical truth with the parents.
When Jim returned home from camp last August, he had an email from his landlord, requesting a meeting to terminate his lease. Although this was a little out of the blue, Jim wasn’t surprised. He’d felt the Lord preparing him for this for awhile.
Leading up to the email, Jim had even wondered if it was time to leave Poland, but the Lord had confirmed for Jim previously that he should stay.
Jim had gone to the immigration office two months early to apply for his permit to stay in Poland. As a result of the attacks on Ukraine, there are 2 million Ukrainian workers applying for residency in Poland.
The backlog was overwhelming, and he needed to be there two months early, so he was only just on time. There was a waiting list just to get inside the door.
To make a long story short, Jim’s paperwork was fast-tracked and his application was processed and sent to Warsaw on the spot, which is simply a miracle of epic proportions in the red-tape-loving EU.
Why did the Lord intervene on Jim’s behalf?
Perhaps Antoni* was one of those reasons, along with many other children and young adults who are regularly blessed by Jim’s presence in Poland.
For many years, Jim volunteered weekly at a state-run children’s home. He was a ray of sunshine and normalcy invading the dark and painful pasts of many children that passed through the home.
That is where Jim met Antoni. The pair developed a special father-and-son connection. Although Jim never legally adopted Antoni, today Jim is honorary “Grandpa” to Antoni’s children, Jacek* and Maja*.
Now an adult, Antoni still struggles to overcome the demons of his past intense childhood trauma and deep emotional scars. Though he does his best to hold down a job and provide for his family, his family struggles to make ends meet.
Jim still has frequent opportunities to be an instrument of God’s provision and grace in their lives. Antoni and his wife, Amelia* regularly seek Jim’s advice and friendship, which Jim gently saturates with the Good News and Biblical wisdom.
Though Jim lives on a limited missionary’s income, he takes Antoni’s family grocery shopping once each month, and they are allowed to get anything they feel they need for the month.
This is something else he wouldn’t be able to do if not for his supporters standing with him.
Antoni and Amelia live rent-free in an apartment Jim paid for.
Jim makes frequent visits, spending hours with the two children, and fills in other financial gaps, such as helping with gas, school supplies and the children’s developmental needs.
Jim was making the half-hour drive to visit Antoni, Amelia, Jacek and Maja the Lord intervened once again!
On the trip south, Jim was driving down a gentle hill, following a gradual curve in the two-lane highway as it eventually makes a 90-degree change in direction.
As Jim’s vehicle rounded the curve, a little white car was approaching the highway from a side road.
For some reason, the white car didn’t stop to wait for the highway traffic to be clear before entering the highway. It pulled right in front of Jim’s car, which was traveling at the highway speed limit. At just the same moment, a small, flat-bed truck was traveling in the oncoming traffic lane.
Jim knew there was definitely no space to squeeze between the white car and the oncoming flatbed truck.
Though a major accident would likely derail his application for a permit to stay in Poland, Jim had a sudden sense of peace. He thought, “I’m going to get in a wreck.” In an attempt to minimize the damage, Jim swerved to avoid the white car.
“In the blink of an eye, my car was in front of that white car! I instantly knew in my spirit, it was a miracle I avoided that accident,” Jim testifies.
Jim believes the Lord, once again, intervened on his behalf, for the at least one purpose: sustaining Jim’s long-term ministry in Poland. So when he got his landlord’s termination email, he didn’t panic.
“I didn’t fret as in the past. I knew it was God moving me to something new now. I believed there would be provision coming.”
Jim spent a month looking for a new place online. Others even helped, but he couldn’t find anything that would work. He continued praying for a solution.
Then, one Sunday after the service, a woman from the congregation of Jim’s church, called K5N, approached their pastor, ITMI’s Dr. Piotr Zaremba.
What she had to say was incredible.
“Piotr, I am confused about something,” she began, ”I had a dream. In my dream, God came to me and said, ‘Take Jim into your home.’ Does that make any sense?”
As it turns out, having an English-speaker in their home, with his experience mentoring and discipling youth, is going to be an answer to prayer for this family, too.
They offered him a room in their home, rent-free, in exchange for several regular English conversations with family members each month.
Having come to the conclusion that the Lord wants him to remain in Poland until he dies, Jim needs to save up a downpayment to purchase property, but couldn’t do it while paying rent on his limited income.
Now, just as he had been demonstrating the Lord’s provision to Antoni and Amelia, this family has been an instrument in extending that same provision to Jim.
At the same time, double underlining the confirmation that Jim should stay in Poland so that he may continue pursuing redemptive relationships with the many youth in difficult situations and adults with painful pasts that the Lord has placed in his path.
Those are lives that wouldn’t be reached if not for those supporting Jim so that he can share what he has with the hurting and needy in Poland.
*name changed to protect privacy
About the Authors
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 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.