Cell church conference a first
Delegates represent 11 former Iron Curtain countries.
Warsaw’s historic Old Town city square, with its cobblestones and gabled buildings, was the site of another historic event recently: The Salvation Army’s first Polish cell church conference.
Nearly 40 delegates representing 11 countries were part of the event, which provided three days of intense teaching on the principles of cell church ministry.
Major David Robertson, Nottingham Arnold Corps, UK, led the six-member team responsible for the teaching. In addition to presenting cell church concepts, Robertson provided numerous practical exercises in relationship building as well as breakout groups, which enabled delegates to identify ways in which the principles could be incorporated into their corps’ ministry. Translators were kept busy, making sure delegates firmly grasped the material.
“I am convinced that through this conference, the mission in Eastern Europe has received an impulse that will result in effectiveness and growth for years to come,” said Colonel Viebeke Krommenhoek, Project Warsaw leader and France territorial president of Women’s Ministries.
Project Warsaw team member Major Hervé Cachelin provided support; Captains Andrei and Olga Inuitochkin, Warsaw corps officers, provided local leadership; and Colonel Dick Krommenhoek, France territorial commander, brought special music. Western officer Major Kelly Pontsler, who planned the conference, was unable to attend due to illness.
On Sunday, at the conclusion of the conference, a public service was held, attended by Salvationists, friends, and newcomers. A highlight was the enrollment of Poland’s fourth soldier, Jolanta Kapusniak, who called it “the happiest moment in my life,” and testified of the many ways in which God has changed her life.
Everyone has a story
Throughout the conference, delegates—who were mainly from former Eastern European countries—grew not only in their understanding of the cell church concept, but in their relationships with each other. Many found that their corps face similar financial and spiritual challenges.
A common thread linked many of their lives: The Salvation Army’s unconditional love and its commitment to meeting human need. For some, a seemingly chance encounter with the Army forever changed their lives and that of their families.
Cadet Rodrigo Miranda, from Brazil, is in the Army’s flexible training program in Finland where he and his wife serve as assistant corps officers. There are six other cadets in the program. He explained that his father, who is a doctor, found the Army in Rio de Janeiro as a 6-year-old street boy. “We will be commissioned in June,” said Miranda. “We feel we are paying the Army back.”
The Internet was the key to Lucas Skurcynski, 24, Warsaw corps sergeant major, finding the Army. He had heard of The Salvation Army through a friend in France, and turned to the Internet to find the Army was starting in Poland. Currently a third year theology student—as well as a French teacher—he would like to become a Salvation Army officer. “I was in need of a church,” he said, “and felt welcomed by the Army. It has a place for everyone—both men and women. I like it that the Army has women pastors.”
Captain Jana Coufalova and her husband are corps officers in Prerov, Czech Republic; they were the first Czech officers trained locally in 50 years. Originally pastors of another church, they traveled to Prague (a four-hour round trip) to attend a corps, while learning more about the Army. “We liked the style of its meetings and its outreach,” Coufalova said.
They have an educational ministry to Gypsy children at their corps. “Without education, they can’t get jobs—and they can’t get help from their parents, because they are uneducated.” They work with youth of all ages—preschoolers through teens, providing Bible studies and help with reading, math, drama, and other subjects.
While delegates had gathered to learn about cell church ministry, the benefits of the conference extended far beyond. Said one German Salvationist after a time of small group prayer, “We were from five different countries—yet we had an intimacy as we prayed for each other…such a realization that we were all a part of God’s family.”