Missionary Interview with Emily, Part I

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Name: Emily Watkins
Age: 18
Family: Richard (father), Lisa (mother), Kevin 20, Allison 14, Daria 13, Joel 9

How long have you been a missionary?

16 ½ years (ever since I was 1 years old)

What mission organization are you with?

Mission to Unreached Peoples (MUPS)

Where were you a missionary at?

In Poland, first, for 10 years in Luban Slaski, and then 6 years in Gorzow Wielkopolski.

Tell us more about this area…

Luban Slaski lies in a quaint area of Poland, surrounded by many villages. As a child, I enjoyed the relaxed feeling of Luban. On Saturdays every shop would close and, in the evenings, most people would retire to their gardens to tend to their fruits and vegetables. A gypsy family lived across the street from my apartment. During the holidays, I would often watch them sing and dance from my window.

Gorzow Wielkopolski is a city of many lakes and parks. The Warta River splits the city in two, into what is called the old town and new town. A few months before I moved back to the States, Gorzow celebrated its 750th anniversary.

Tell us more about what your mission work has looked like in Poland…

When I was younger, my parents mostly worked with youth. On Friday nights and during holidays, my house was always jam-packed with the young people that came to my parent’s youth group. In the summers, my dad organized evangelistic English camps. These were filled with lots of fun, but also balanced with times of fellowship with Christ and each other. As I watched many lives transformed by the gospel, a strong testimony of faith began to form in my heart.

We moved to Gorzow in 2002, and when I was fifteen, my dad decided to start organizing English camps again. This time, I took a more active role, serving as a leader and the main interpreter for the team from the United States. For two years, I and a group of our Polish friends led the same model of camps that I remembered my parents leading during my childhood. We saw a lot of people blessed and changed during those camps as we sowed love and hope into their lives.

In Gorzow, my parents mostly concentrated on working in the poorest neighborhood of our city, which was also where are church is located. This neighborhood is called “Sunny Neighborhood,” but that was pretty much all that is sunny about it. The stores and sidewalks around our church are hangouts for alcoholics, while the apartments building around shelter many shut-ins and broken families. Each Saturday, my family along with other church members would pick up trash (especially beer bottles) from the streets. In the winter, I would give out coffee and tea to the poor salespeople who stood outside our church in the freezing weather. At first, when I started performing these small acts of kindness, people stared at me in disbelief. When I would offer them something warm to drink, they would scold me for belonging to a “sect.” (Protestant churches in Poland are often regarded with suspicion because 95% of Poles are Catholics). Yet, after a while, the barriers slowly began to melt. Now, years later, the people in “Sunny Neighborhood” no longer view our church as a “sect,” but as dear brothers and sisters in Christ as well as crucial partners in reaching their community.

During Christmas, we would give out Samaritan’s Purse packages to the poor children in our neighborhood. Then, we would invite them to church for the Vacation Bible School which we led during winter break. On every Christmas Eve and Easter, we prepared a Christmas feast for the homeless, poor, orphaned, and lonely in our city.

As soon as it warmed up outside, my church would begin organizing children’s festivals for the schools in the neighborhood. There, I would usually paint faces or make balloon animals for the children that would line up at my stand.

For over a year, I gave private English lessons to adults, but many times our discussions would lead us to talk about our faith. Despite its strong Catholic ties, Poland is one of the least receptive nations to the gospel. Anyone who begins to attend a Protestant church is usually rejected by his family and friends. Many Polish Christians were thrown out of their homes when they gave their lives to Christ. Their parents even refused to speak to them. Only now, as the religious climate has begun to change, their parents have renewed contact with them. Today, most Polish young people go to mass merely to please their parents, who in turn merely wish to keep peace with theirs. When asked by their peers if they believe in God, most teenagers would say that they are atheists. Throughout the years, I have had many opportunities to share with my friends about Christ. However, I have learned that many times love speaks louder than words.

Another important part of my family’s ministry were national conferences and end-of-year youth gatherings. These were great times of encouragement and dynamic worship that left everyone refreshed and ignited with a new passion for Christ and to serve in their communities. My dad co-organized and spoke at every national conference while my mom played in the music group. Since my dad was the main organizer of the year-end-youth conference, I got to help out, especially with translating.

Last summer, I also participated in my dad’s six-week discipleship camp in Lwowek Slaski. There, I took part in a variety of different ministries – everything from visiting old people in hospices, packing groceries at supermarkets, giving free English lessons, leading small groups and the puppet ministry during our Children’s festival to translating my dad’s teachings during our meetings. Despite the intensiveness of the camp (our mornings began at 5 a.m. with a brisk run around the campground), this was one of the most precious times in my life.

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