By Laura McKillip Wood
Andrzej Korytkowski survived a complicated and traumatic family life that resulted in his parents’ messy divorce when he was 13. His mother became preoccupied with recovering from the breakup of her marriage and re-establishing herself, so she did not focus much energy on Andrzej and his brother.
The boys spent most of their days with friends, at school, and finding things to fill their free time. They became independent, but they did not have much of a family life or support from parents. Andrzej especially missed having a father figure in his life.
At this vulnerable time, a friend invited Andrzej to the gym where his dad worked. There Andrzej met a group of teenage boys and men who became like family to him. He spent the next six years training in that gym, building an identity as a weightlifter and athlete.
Spiritual Growth and a Christian Camp
At age 18, he also began attending a church with his friends from the neighborhood in Warsaw, Poland, where he lived. The church, Christian Fellowship, existed in the country where Communism and Catholicism had reigned for many years.
Church offered Andrzej an escape from a difficult family life, while providing a solid experience with God and other people his age. Andrzej loved the simple worship and the encouraging messages he heard at Christian Fellowship. His faith became real to him through the example of believers he met there, and his faith took root.
At age 19 an injury ended his weightlifting, and Andrzej began to focus more on the life he had built for himself in the church. He went to Ostroda Christian Camp with a group of people his age, some Christians and some non-Christians. At the camp, he decided to commit his life to Christ. “It was the greatest camp I had ever attended,” he said. “One reason was my encounter with Jesus Christ. That meeting put my life on a new trajectory.”
At this same time, April, a teenage girl on the other side of the world, was also listening to God speak to her. Almost 10 years later, while working as an associate pastor at Christian Fellowship, Andrzej spent part of his summer at Ostroda Camp with kids from his church. April traveled from her home in Connecticut to Ostroda that same summer to build bunk beds and participate in a short-term mission trip with her church. April and Andrzej met, and a little more than a year later they married. They lived in Poland for six years before moving to the United States in 2005.
Moving Away and Returning Home
After living in the United States for several years, Andrzej and April decided to move back to Poland and work with the camp that had been so instrumental in their spiritual lives and in their marriage. The couple packed up their three children and moved to Poland in 2012.
Ostroda Christian Camp has a long history in Poland. Since 1971, thousands of people from Poland and other countries have heard the gospel and decided to follow Jesus while at the camp. In fact, many of the pastors currently working in Polish churches came to know Jesus through their experiences at Ostroda. The camp has hosted people from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, the United States, Israel, and, of course, Poland. Ostroda’s influence has been wide.
In 2018, Andrzej and April and their family moved back to the United States but continued their work with Ostroda Christian Camp by strengthening the support base for the ministry. Their work now involves meeting with churches and individuals interested in the ministry and looking for people who have hearts open to and interested in joining God’s work in Poland.
“We pray that God will lead us to people that look beyond their own lives and are ready to make a step to invest in lives in faraway Poland,” Andrzej said. They work with Polish Christian Mission to maintain alliances between Christians in Poland and America.
Changing Roles with the Same Goals
The Korytowskis travel to Poland about twice a year. They encourage leaders and help them with outreach efforts. They also lead short-term trips that offer Americans a chance to do various construction projects at the camp and work with campers.
Some participants minister alongside Polish believers in the villages, while other supporters help with scholarships that send Polish children to camp. This gives those children an opportunity to meet believers and learn about Jesus. Andrzej knows it is important work because he came to Christ in this way. By bringing Americans to Poland and by furthering the ministry of the camp, he said, they are “arranging encounters of individuals with God.”
People who serve on the short-term teams in the ministry of the camp have an opportunity to give their best to God and his kingdom. Andrzej and April enjoy seeing them grow closer to God in the process.
“Some of them just don’t stop with one or even several missions, but with time they fully engage and pursue full-time ministry.” Andrzej and April, or members of their team, often visit churches to encourage them in their partnership in this vital work.
The Korytkowski family hopes to maintain and build relationships between American and Polish believers that strengthen both groups. They also have begun working in a ministry to couples in their new home in Connecticut, and they hope to see that ministry work powerfully in the lives of those families.
Andrzej and April work to honor God and promote better relationships between his people in Poland, the United States, and around the globe.
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 and her husband, Andrew, have three teenagers.