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Half of Polish baptisms generated from one, special campground

They come for many reasons – but they principally come because of the dream of one man, Ryszard Jankowski. Thirty years ago, he was Youth and Pathfinder director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Poland. 

Desperate for a campground for youth and Pathfinders he was told about a remote location deep in the forest. On visiting the campground he noted, among other things, graffiti on an outbuilding facing the lake, “God doesn’t exist”.

Through a series of remarkable miracles, the land became Adventist and two years later the first Camp Meeting was in operation on what was then a very basic site. It was during that camp that Pastor Jankowski found himself confronted by the very man who scrawled that graffiti. 

“I was a drug addict, and now I have become a Seventh-day Adventist. I am so sorry,” he said. “I want to do something with this writing.” He offered to help remove the graffiti and work to improve the site.

Jankowski was moved by that confession – and thirty years later, now serving as President for the Polish Union, he still finds himself moved by what God is doing at a camp meeting that attracts not just 20% of the Polish membership, but draws back many from the Polish diaspora scattered around Europe and even as far as Australia. Others watch the services online.

While defined as a youth camp meeting, and organized by the youth department, those youth who came thirty years ago are still coming, as are their children and now their grandchildren. Over ten days they worship, attend workshops, witness in the local towns and even the prison, splash in the lake and engage in a myriad of activities that keeps the church family connected. 

This year’s highlight included a romantic flower-strewn proposal on the deck of the camp-owned yacht – a result of the couple meeting each other at camp the previous year. They plan to get married, on site, at Camp Meeting 2020. But romance and marriage are not the only commitments made here, appropriate as the theme for this year was ‘w drodze’, ‘on the way’. 

Marek Micyk, Polish Union Youth director, confesses that almost half of all baptisms across Poland happen either at this site, or as a result of coming to visit the site. “While many of these have Adventist connections, youth also see this as a safe place to bring their friends,” he says. This year saw 21 people making a public choice for Christ during a lakeside ceremony. Very many more made commitments as the result of Spirit-filled preaching by the nightly commitment speaker, Dr Jeff Brown, Associate director of the General Conference Ministerial Association.

“I have never seen a camp meeting like this,” Dr Brown confessed. “The spirit is just wonderful and there is no generation gap. It is a little taste of heaven.” 

Pastor Sam Gungaloo from the UK would agree. He was morning devotional speaker for the first half of camp meeting and partly put the success of the event down to giving millennials permission to be in charge. “Every age is welcome and valued,” he says, “but I really appreciate the way that millennials were entrusted with the program – and that trust was rewarded.”

“We love that young people and children like to come here,” Micyk states. “They enjoy program, they enjoy nature, and it’s so natural for them to say ‘yes’ to Jesus.”

That enthusiasm can be seen by youth leading the children’s program, the fun they have on talent night, the passion for charity fund-raising on market day – and the significant numbers that go on off-site witnessing activities during the week.

That pays dividends in the local community that was at first very suspicious of this strange group of Sabbath keepers. “We have shown that we are Christian and are open to serve the needs of this place,” Jankowski says. Now the local mayor and council welcome them to town for their witnessing and sharing activities. 

Dr Brown saw this in action as he visited the local prison along with the youthful praise team. Sharing simple messages through an interpreter, he saw 13 prisoners indicate that they wanted Christ in their lives.

One person on site, who was once himself a prisoner, finding Christ in jail, now uses his skills to share Jesus on YouTube. Other youth and adults are doing the same – and during the Friday morning devotional period that focused on Communicating Jesus via social media, hundreds of campers pulled out their mobile phones to dedicate them in service to the Lord. 

Pastor Victor Hulbert, morning devotional speaker for the second part of the week, used a series of presentations to first encourage campers to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2), then to use their very lives as a living testimony to their friends and colleagues, both online and offline, as they return home to their everyday lives (Romans 12:1-2). 

Clearly what began as a miracle in 1991 is still generating miracles today over the varied generations that make up Polish Adventism, not just in Poland but in their world-wide diaspora. “This is a festival of our Polish Church,” Miyck concludes. “A festival of mission, both on site, in the local towns where they now want to partner with us, and back home as people leave here committed to service God in their local, sometimes isolated communities.”

See more:

Videos and recordings of plenary sessions can be found on the GLOSNADZIEI YouTube Channel. Sermons by Jeff Brown, Sam Gungadoo and Victor Hulbert are in English with Polish Translation. All other programs are in Polish.

Follow a fund-raising off-road experience as part of the Camp-meeting market day fundraising for charity.

Read Missionary book of the year launched in Poland.

 

This article was originally published on theTrans-European Division’s news site