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Not Alone in Poland

In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. Communism was diminishing in Eastern Europe, and each change opened doors for evangelical ministries.

In light of these opportunities, Encompass Director of Strategic Initiatives Wayne Hannah and three other missionaries flew to Germany and visited contacts all throughout Eastern Europe, exploring ministry possibilities. One day, they stopped unexpectedly for lunch in the Polish city of Lodz.

As they ate, they asked each other if God might want to reach this little city through Encompass. Before leaving, they paused and cried out to God to send someone, even if not Encompass, to open the hearts of these people.

Twenty-seven years later, in the summer of 2016, Vance and Jenn and their family arrived at Engage 5 in Atlanta, GA, already dedicated to work in Lodz.

Vance and Jenn came to Encompass by an unusual route.

Jenn graduated from Eternity Bible College and went to northern Iraq to minister among an unreached people group. Vance was on track to become a U.S. pastor until a short-term mission trip to Poland focused his heart on global ministry. After they married, Jenn and Vance prepared themselves to return to northern Iraq to serve.

In the midst of their preparations, they received an amazing offer to lead a team which would make a documentary about the Kurds in Iraq. The Iraqi government was going to provide them with visas, money, military protection, and a crew. The opportunity seemed like a perfect platform to share Jesus with the Kurdish people, but Jenn and Vance both felt unsettled about it. They prayed for peace, but it never came.

Wondering what their next step was, they asked God to show them where they should go if not to Iraq. To whom should they minister to if not the Kurdish people? When they finished praying, there was no doubt in either of their hearts: God wanted them to go to Poland.

Vance’s experience in Poland years before was a sobering one. He had seen how spiritually dark the Polish cities were, so he knew he was taking his family to a place in great need of Christ. Sure of that calling, they joined an outreach ministry in a small town in Poland.

Their new ministry was not a good fit. Vance and Jenn felt like they were being used to create programs instead of relationships, so, with much prayer and guidance, they left the ministry. Instead of returning to the U.S., they decided to stay and minister to the Polish people on their own.

With no contacts, no resources, and no team, they moved to the third largest city in Poland, the city of Lodz. 

The first few months were difficult, but Vance and Jenn pursued relationships with everyone they could. They prayed for God to send them people, and they found one girl and one guy to disciple. Eventually, the group grew. God had answered their prayers, and Jenn and Vance poured into the group with all they had.

In time, members of the group were ready to take on leadership. The couple encouraged them to lead Discovery Bible Studies with their friends and family and trained them in evangelism strategies and Christian leadership. As more people were added, the group formed a house church. Jenn and Vance were thrilled and also very aware that they needed help.

Knowing that they could no longer handle the rapid growth alone, they left for the U.S. hoping to return to Poland with a team and more support. Through the help of Eternity Bible College and Cornerstone Church, Vance and Jenn were connected with Encompass World Partners and were soon enrolled in Encompass’ Engage 5 training program.

They now had an agency that would support their ministry. Cornerstone Church became their official sending church and one of the first non-FGBC church to request sending a missionary through Encompass. In addition to support from the U.S., Vance and Jenn  would also be joined by new teammates Brandon and Jessica.

While Vance and Jenn were gone, the house church in Lodz had grown to two house churches. They returned to Poland in the fall of 2016, excited to see how much more God would provide. They hit the ground running and began to incorporate all of the training they learned from Engage 5.

Now over 50 people are being personally discipled, and the number is growing.

There is a great harvest in the city of Lodz, but not enough laborers. Vance and Jenn’s strategy is simple. They want to invite others into their spiritual community, disciple and equip them, and challenge them to go out and do the same. Through God’s faithfulness, they hope to multiply workers for the harvest. Please pray for more people to meet the demand for discipleship in Poland.

Revival is taking hold in their city, and Vance and Jenn are happy knowing that as they face this challenge, they are not alone.