26 November 2008

All Saints' Day

I wish I could have had this up earlier, but none the less, here is the promised post on All Saints' Day in Warsaw on Nov. 1.

One of the major Catholic Holidays celebrated in Poland is All Saints' Day. Instead of celebrating Halloween on Oct. 31, as Americans do, Catholic Poles will participate in the Day of the Dead and visit graves of relatives. It is a time to remember. They will clean the graves the week before and on Nov. 1, will journey to the cemetery to place flowers and light candles on the graves of loved ones. 
It is a major religious holiday in which almost everyone will participate. Streets near the cemeteries are shut down and busses re-routed as people flood the streets and pathways, making their way to their loved ones' graves.
Our team took time to go to one of the largest cemeteries in Warsaw to walk through and pray for the people as we watched and experienced what this holiday is all about. I saw mothers teaching their children why they come and why there are so many candles at the memorials.
As I walked through the cemetery, there was a slightly eerie feeling as a faint glow from each headstone rose to create enough light to see fairly well, even though the sun was long gone. 
Some people just stood at a grave and stayed there for a while as the candles burned.
 In other places people shuffled by, stopped for a moment at an important grave site and kept moving to light yet another candle at another grave. 
The cemetery was full of people that evening. Entire families came.

I spoke with many of the people I have met here and everyone told of how important this holiday is to them. They can remember going ever since they were young children. Many will also travel to outlying cities to visit and clean parents' graves.
It is a time for us to pray and to reach out to these people who don't have the everlasting hope we do in Christ.

15 November 2008

Pumpkins and Prayers

Hello all!

So I sent out a brief message to many of you yesterday about how you could be praying for me this evening. I am sitting down at my computer, 5 minutes before midnight to begin this post... who is staying up way too late again? me! 

However, I had to give a quick update on how things went this evening with a little background first. One day I spotted pumpkins on the road and decided I just had to have one...it's 
not fall without it, right? 
And since autumn is so short here, I figured a pumpkin would help extend the season a little. My language teacher saw it and asked, "will you eat it?" 
My first thought...well, no. It's decoration. It got my wheels turning though and I looked up what it would take to make a pumpkin from scratch (aka, a real pumpkin) since, of course, they have no canned pumpkin here. I found this site: www.PumpkinPatchesandMore.org. It seemed easy enough to make a pie, so I decided I would. Then  got the brilliant idea to open it up to others at English Club to come and cook one with me! 

Yes, I have to admit, I wasn't thinking at the time about the fact that I had never made a pumpkin pie from a real pumpkin before and have no idea how to do it, nor have I ever made a pie period!

Everything went well and I am proud to say that here is pie number 1 and 2...and they're from scratch! crust and everything...there was NOTHING from a can in this pie (including the evaporated/condensed milk - that comes in a box).

I wanted to have a pie prepared before guests arrived for 2 reasons, 1 so I could do it once and actually have an idea of what to do, and 2, so if the pie we made together didn't finish cooking in time, they could still taste one. 

Overall, the evening was much a success. A good number of people showed up and things just played out so smoothly. I tried making a pie crust earlier this afternoon and it just wasn't coming together - it was clumpy and sticky and not mealy like it should be. This evening, I had a beautiful example in no time at all. Praise God for small miracles. Everyone seemed to be having fun and it was a great chance to enjoy conversation with those we have met, outside of the English Club setting. 
Does it look like I know what I am doing now?
We are scooping out the seeds and plan on roasting those later. :) yummy. 
God gave me a calm spirit and a LOT of help! The Browns were amazing and spent their afternoon helping me prepare the first pies and my apartment for guests. My other teammates helped clean up and show parts of the process.

By the end of the evening, everyone was very tired and just sat and talked about upcoming holidays, traditions, and cultures, among various other topics.

So thank you all for your thoughts and prayers as our evening progressed. They truly were felt and answered. If you would like to try making a pie from a real pumpkin, its a little mess but a lot of fun. Its actually quite easy and tastes amazing! You can't beat it when it's fresh!

I will update with more stories soon of our time during a major Catholic holiday, All Saint's Day which took place Nov. 1 and of a recent baptism of 3 new believers. 

Until then, thank you again and continue to keep us all in your prayers.
- open hearts
- opportunities to share
- relationships to be built
- needed rest
- Language