By Laura McKillip Wood
I came to Christian Fellowship North soon after I moved. I was in a very difficult and dark place in my life. My relationship had just collapsed, I had moved to a new city and started a new job, leaving family and friends on the other side of the country. For the first few months I came in and out, with no energy to talk to anybody. I just talked to God.
One Sunday I sat on a chair somewhere at the back of the room, immersed in my thoughts, tears pouring down my face. It was cold, and I wore a scarf that had slipped down my arm. I was struggling to pull it back around me. Suddenly I felt a gentle touch. A woman sitting behind me took the scarf and gently wrapped it around my shoulders saying, “Maybe I can help you.” It was a little thing, but at that point I knew her hand was God’s hand, caring and looking after me, saying that everything was going to be alright.
It’s been six years since that day, and he has never stopped caring. Step by step, I started to get out of my shell, talking to people, trying to give back this gentle touch that showed me that God cares. He cares through his church. My church.
Eva sounds like a young Christian woman in a church in America’s heartland. But she isn’t. She attends Społeczność Chrześcijańska Północ, translated as Christian Fellowship North, in Warsaw, Poland.
In October 2001, Christian Fellowship North (CFN) began as a daughter church of Christian Fellowship Pulawska, also in Warsaw. The leaders of the older congregation have a passion for planting new churches and dreamed of starting one in another district. The youth pastor there, Krzysztof Zareba, eventually was chosen as lead pastor of the new church.
From its humble beginnings in the conference room of a local business, CFN has grown exponentially. Initially, this congregation leaned heavily on its parent church, but baptisms happened frequently and new believers actively began taking part in the life of the church, so it grew quickly. Within three years, Christian Fellowship North became an independent church, moved to a bigger location, and began its own daughter congregation in a southern district of Warsaw.
A New Location
In 2013, CFN’s leadership took a leap of faith. They kept outgrowing rented facilities so they needed a new place to meet. They dreamed of becoming a cultural center and serving the community with their property and through relationships built with people from the neighborhood. They found a building for sale that previously had housed a technical college. It had the potential to become a new home for the church family, but CFN did not have the funds necessary to purchase the building.
Through a network of believers in several countries, they reached out to The Solomon Foundation, a church extension fund that provides financing for churches from a Restoration Movement background to purchase or construct buildings. CFN is the only church TSF has provided a loan for that is located outside the United States.
“We saw the tremendous potential with their leadership, and their growth reminded us of growing churches in America,” said Doug Crozier of The Solomon Foundation. “It was a pretty easy project for us to get behind.”
Additionally, the Polish economy is strong, and the church’s leadership is solid. Both parties have benefitted from the relationship: The church purchased their facility in 2013, and Solomon has experienced the joy of watching God use their influence in a cross-cultural way.
Christian Fellowship North is determined to reach out to people in many different situations; they offer five weekly services and average 1,200 people in attendance. This includes a Saturday Messianic service for Jewish Christians in the area, youth meetings, two Sunday morning services, and a Sunday evening service. CFN offers live translation of the services into English and Russian, and they stream services online, thus reaching approximately 500 more people around the world every week.
After Russia annexed parts of Ukraine in 2014, Poland saw an influx of Ukrainians seeking asylum. Since roughly 3 million refugees entered Poland in the years following, the need for social services and resettlement help grew. CFN took advantage of this opportunity to minister to Ukrainians in their community. They offer a special Saturday evening service tailored to that population, and they help immigrants transitioning into their new Polish communities.
The church provides a variety of other ministries, giving believers ways to use their gifts and chances to grow in relationships with one another and with God. Some of these opportunities include a ministry for strengthening marriages, a counseling center, and a program to help integrate foreigners into the life of the church.
Focus on the Future
In addition to ministry to immigrants and adults, CFN is passionate about reaching the next generation and being a vital part of the community. The children’s program consists of monthly kids’ worship services and weekly Sunday school classes, as well as holiday programs, retreats, sleepover parties, dance parties, and banquets. The church works hard to support their teachers and teaching assistants through prayer and special events planned just for them. The children’s ministry is growing faster than any other in the church.
Christian Fellowship North is located in a flourishing area where new apartment buildings spring up on a regular basis and young families abound.
“Our dream is to become a fully developed and equipped center for families and children from our area,” says Katarzyna Dumanska, CFN’s communications manager.
The church hopes to deepen their relationship with the community by building a professionally designed indoor playground with a tunnel, ball pit, and trampolines for local children. Comfortable couches will offer parents a chance to relax and socialize. The church hopes to make their facilities as useful as possible by providing workshops for families and a kids’ club in the future.
Christian Fellowship North also hopes to create such community spaces as “a labyrinth—a multimedia installation presenting Christian values,” Katarzyna said. CFN also plans to build a “men’s shed” where men from the neighborhood can learn basic maintenance and complete do-it-yourself projects. In a city where many people live in apartments, this type of shared space provides room for people to complete tasks they would not otherwise do and helps create community.
CFN already runs a café open to the public. People can interact while using the workspaces and playground and while visiting the café. As the program grows, the believers of CFN would love to become an even more integrated part of the neighborhood. Christian Fellowship North hopes to focus on God, be open for everyone, be generous in love, and be ready for challenges.
“I love my church with all my heart!” said a member of the student ministry. “I am so proud to be a part of it. I thank the Lord God for all of them. The best family you can imagine!”
Laura McKillip Wood, former missionary to Ukraine, now serves as the registrar at Nebraska Christian College in Papillion, Nebraska, and works as an on-call chaplain at a nearby hospital. She is mother to three teenagers and wife to Dr. Andrew Wood, professor of intercultural ministry at NCC.