Country: Poland
Region: Europe
People: Johnson, Denise

Building People Transforming the Culture of the Community
Nowy Targ, Poland

The Story
In Polish, it’s called, Tajemniczy Ogród, The Secret Garden.
More than 10 years ago the Lord put on my heart the idea to create a place where the people I have been mentoring could “BE” the Church. It needed to be a place that is large enough to have a café where people can meet, provide jobs, and where the strengths of individuals could be shared to meet the needs of others. Ideally, the building should be a stand alone facility.

About five years ago while walking home and came across a stand alone building that is/was empty surrounded by park in the middle of eight blocks of flats. This building is a mess…from the outside. I think that it has “good bones.” It is a stand alone facility. The idea is for the building to be divided into two main purposes: Service and Business (café).

The community service side of the building will be used for:

  • Cross-generational drop in day care
  • Cross-generational and cross-age tutoring
  • Parenting and education workshops
  • Clubs, sports, crafts, etc., as determined by the youth in the area
  • This will provide a permanent meeting place for the church
    • In this area: a church with no building is a sect
    • Model for other churches how to be apart of the community and an answer for the needs of the individuals and groups in that community.
    • The actual transformation of the building will be a demonstration of God’s miraculous power, love and hope.
    • Because the church will own the building it lowers the overall costs (taxes) of the facility.
  • This of course is only the beginning of what we hope to do.

The café will:

  • Provide the resources to sustain the facility
  • Be the only café/food with true outdoor seating
  • Offer mom’s with young children a place to meet with friends and supervise their children without having to pay for them to play
  • Benefit paid workers at the “Mission” who are legally eligible for significantly reduced employee taxes
  • Provide a training location for handicapped
  • The owner of the most profitable café (she owns two) in town has become a friend and has agreed to help me with whatever I need

The Context
The community where the building is located, is one of the most needy areas in the town. It is surrounded by park. In Poland, today it is children who don’t get tutoring have a difficult time getting into the “right” schools to be able to attend university.

Volunteerism is often considered foolishness. Handicapped are ignored. The dynamics of the retired community is changing quickly and there are few resources or options for them. This area has no viable “family” café or eatery. The city will be expanding the current bike path that goes to Slovakia. They will be installing outdoor lamps and an outdoor gym.

The Development

  • The Mayor of the city is aware of the project and is supportive
  • A city councilman has come to me to help and is encouraging me in the process
  • Core team of three people are meeting nearly every week to keep moving forward with the process
  • In November 2016 we had a community Thanksgiving to share the vision. We had about 60 people who came together to learn and who participated in sharing their resources and information.
  • We are waiting for the paperwork to receive our status as a “Mission” organization, which will provide the initial organizational covering for the setup and beginning activities.
  • Once the building is purchased and functioning we will establish a foundation:
    • To be able to apply for grants
    • One of the members of my church has extensive experience in writing grants and training others to do so.
    • We have been made aware of city, county, and “state” funds that we may be about apply for to help with the renovation costs.