When I accepted a call to volunteer in Poland, I thought my work there would be a piece of cake. After all, I’d be serving in a European country, and I wouldn’t have to worry about disease or discomfort. But I had no idea of the immensity of the work awaiting me.
I knew I’d be teaching English to little children. But I didn’t know until I arrived that I would be teaching during the first year of the country’s first and only Adventist elementary school! I’m from Brazil, where I took Adventist education for granted. We had Adventist schools everywhere. Suddenly, the job that was supposed to be easy had become a huge responsibility. I wanted to do everything I could to ensure its success.
The project started with three women who decided it was about time for children in the Podkowa Lesna area to have an opportunity to receive an Adventist education. The school year started with eight children, four in preschool and four in first grade. I’ve seen these women praying every day for each of these children and pleading with God for more students.
After being here for eight months, I’ve started seeing changes in the children. Some of them were difficult to deal with and didn’t quite know how to interact with others. I’ve seen them start to bloom, to be kind and, of course, to start speaking some sentences in English!
I’ve taught the children some of my culture, and they’ve taught me how to ride a sled. (Imagine, it was my first time seeing snow!). How can it be that the children could feel and receive my love and attention and give back, even though sometimes we couldn’t understand each other? I’ve seen some of them learn to pray for the first time. It brought me tears.
I believe that through education, the church can reach people—not only the students but their parents, who see their children change and feel that there is something special about our teachings, the Bible stories that we tell, and the way we live our lives.
The school is growing. More children have already registered for the next school year, and I pray to God that this project never dies, that it may grow and spread like it did in Brazil long ago.
Sometimes it seems that being a volunteer has to be a pure sacrifice to help people who have nothing to eat or who live in terrible conditions. But what I’ve come to realize is that no matter where I am, people are thirsty for love and for God and that I can help change a life by simply being kind.
These past months have changed the way I see the service of God, and I pray that other people can also see that no matter where you are called to go, God will use you there.