A Student Reflection: Poland 2022
by Duncan Voeglie, Class of 2023
The Poland Mission Trip was one of the most unique and eye opening experiences of my life. Receiving the opportunity to travel across the world to a different continent is a blessing, let alone for two weeks with such an amazing group of people. The team consisted of nine students including myself, along with three leaders. The group was determined to pour into the lives of the Poles and create relationships we would never forget.
Our Discovery trip began with flying into Warsaw and driving six hours across the entire country to the southwest corner of Poland, very close to the Czech Republic. We finished our drive near the city of Wroclaw and remained here for two days completing training and preparing for the camp where we would spend the next week. After finishing our training we started off to the northwest of Poland to a small city called Marylin. However, during our drive to the camp we stopped at Auschwitz. In my opinion, this was the most difficult part of the entire trip. The team was a part of a three hour walking tour throughout the original Auschwitz One Camp. While walking through the cabins, cells, and viewing areas, I felt a sense of evil around me. As soon as I passed through the gates reading “work sets you free” in German I noticed the sadness in the air. Throughout the tour we observed the living and working quarters of the Auschwitz prisoners. We saw their belongings: clothing, luggage, pictures, toys and more. However the most difficult thing for me to see was the thousands of pounds of hair cut off the female prisoners. The entire room was filled to the brim with hair and it was beyond overwhelming for us all. Seeing photographs of prisoners, hearing their stories, and especially witnessing their living conditions resonated deep inside of me. I will never forget the three hours we spent inside the brick and barbed-wire walls.
This was severely heavy for the team and it was a struggle for us all once we reached the camp. The bus stopped a few minutes before midnight and we all exited. About 100 campers stood in front of us cheering with sparklers and yelling with excitement. The change in tone from inside the bus to the summer camp was drastic. It shook my body and I had to change my demeanor fast. However, being in this joyful and new setting was beyond electrifying. I felt delight and happiness throughout my whole body. There were so many new faces to meet.
Each of our team members were immediately split up and our new cabin-mates dragged us off to our sleeping areas. I was extremely fortunate and was placed into a cabin full of amazing guys who were eager to speak with me from the first night on. My cabin listened to music together and made jokes until we fell asleep.
The first day was very hectic and there was so much happening without little to no breaks. The schedule was the same each day, giving us slight structure but each day was full of surprises. We were placed into five teams and competed in competitions each day, taught the campers English, learned Polish dances, worshiped as a group and especially built unique relationships with the Poles.
The week spent at this camp was like no other week in my life. I cannot think of another time in my life where I was mentally exhausted from joy and excitement. Leaving the camp was difficult for the whole team, we each had finally settled into our routines and gotten the names down of most of the campers. Each of the team members had built intimate relationships with the campers and were sad to leave our new friends. A few of them we would see in the days following in a small village called Nowy Tomysl, but that was the extent.
I was truly blessed to be a part of this experience and amazing team. The two weeks spent in Poland will always have a huge impact on my life, the way I treat others, and the relationships I will build in the future.