Not long after I returned from my missions trip to Poland, I received a letter from my friend Magda. As I read her letter, I was touched by her efforts to express herself in English:
Dear Jennifer,My dear friend, I am very happy I would meet you and talk to you about my life. If it hadn't been for your words, I wouldn't be able to understand that I would lead a happy life. It is God who watches over me night and day and I always talk to him now when I am in a difficulty and that is why I love him so much. I wish you were here and I wish we could talk to each other. Thank you for your great sense of humor. You are a wonderful, full of love and understanding person and I hope we will meet again one day. I hope you will never forget me and I will never forget you. I miss you, my friend.
I could almost hear her saying the words she'd written. Especially the way she'd pronounce my name, changing the "i" to "e." "Jenn-E-fer," she would say with great enthusiasm. Before I got to the end of her letter, my eyes had filled with tears. God had actually used me to bring so many good changes in this Polish girl's life. He'd also given me a new friend.
Magda's letter arrived in the mail about three months after I'd met her in the fall of '99. I was on a short-term missions trip with an organization called Book of Hope International. I'd heard about this missions group while on a retreat with my church's youth group. One of the retreat speakers was a missionary with Book of Hope. He told us about reaching out to students around the world through publications called the "Book of Hope"—which combine the four Gospels and the beginning of Acts into one story. Translated into the language of the people where it's distributed, the "Book of Hope" also contains a section that explains how to become a Christian. The missionary stressed that many people all over the world were becoming Christians through this ministry.
At the end of his talk he challenged us to pray about becoming missionaries. He stressed that God could use each one of us to change lives.
The more he talked, the more excited I became about the possibility of doing a short-term missions trip with Book of Hope. But I had doubts about God really using someone like me. After all, I was only 19 and had taken only a handful of college-level Bible courses. I was skeptical that God could use a "just average" girl from Missoula, Montana, with such limited experiences and training.
Even so, I couldn't stop thinking about what the missionary had said. It was like God was saying, "Come on, Jennifer, trust me. Go for it!" After receiving encouragement from my pastor, I decided to do just that. I went for it.
In the fall of '99, I found myself in Woniesc, Poland—the small village where my missions team was staying. Before I knew it, I was talking in high school assemblies and classrooms, performing in gospel dramas, handing out "Book of Hope" booklets and, of course, meeting a girl named Magda.
I remember the first time I saw Magda. Her long brown hair was blowing in the chilly, late-fall breeze as she walked a big black dog on a leash. Actually, the dog, which came up to her waist, was pulling her down the street as she ran along behind it. I couldn't keep from laughing.