LUBAWA, Poland—At first, Bailey Hughes didn’t want to go to Poland. She crossed it off her list of possible missionary destinations. She’d “been there, done that” as a tourist and wanted a new and challenging adventure.
Six years later, the Keller native said that God could not have found a more “personal” place of ministry for her than northeastern Poland. It was such a fit that, after serving there in short-term missions as a journeyman and an International Service Corps member through the International Mission Board, Hughes was appointed as a career missionary in February and returned to Poland.
“I understand their struggles in coming to faith,” Hughes, a member of Fellowship of the Parks in Keller, said regarding her Polish friends.
“I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. I remember the first time I heard the Word of God. I was in the fourth grade on the playground. I pretended to know but I had no idea who this ‘God’ person was. From that day on, I was intrigued.
“For me, coming into a personal relationship with my Savior was a process,” the 29-year-old missionary said. “It was a process of asking questions, seeking answers, reading the Bible and figuring out for myself who Christ really was.”
Hughes sees her Polish friends struggling as she did through a similar process in coming to know Christ. As she explained, it doesn’t just happen overnight. For most, it takes years of working through questions.
Hughes explained that Catholicism is ingrained in every part of the Polish culture. Operation World estimates that around 90 percent of the population in Poland claims to be Catholic, while less than 1 percent is evangelical. Of the Polish people Hughes works with, 98 percent are Roman Catholic.
According to Hughes, statues of the Virgin Mary and other Catholic saints are found in towns and villages. People come from all over to pray at a special statue of Mary that sits at the end of a well-kept sidewalk in Lubawa, the town where Hughes lives. The statue depicts Mary stepping on a serpent with an apple in its mouth.
“It’s a picture of how Mary is powerful and put on a pedestal,” Hughes said. “It’s the darkest oppression that I’ve come across in northeastern Poland. And it’s one reason we wanted to extend our efforts in sharing Christ here [in Lubawa].”
Hughes will spend the next few years in Lubawa helping to start new work. She’ll continue teaching English, the same strategy she used with her team in the previous city, Olsztyn, to reach out to neighbors. The young missionary explains that offering English conversational classes has been an open door for meeting people and sharing the gospel.
“In my last city, there was an older lady who wanted to learn English so she could visit her daughter in England. She’s not a believer but she came to my class,” Hughes said. “At one point, she wanted to know why I was there. I told her that I was working with Baptist churches, and that led into us talking about spiritual things.
“We do English conversation so we can share the gospel. For example, one day we were practicing past tense words. So I told her my testimony,” she recounted. “This lady now loves to hear people’s testimonies. She is not a believer yet but I pray one day it will happen.”
While Hughes lives in a country where she can openly talk about Jesus, it doesn’t mean hundreds come to salvation each year. In fact, it was years before she even saw one person commit his life to Christ. Veteran missionaries warned her that it could take years to see fruit—if she sees any.
Hughes said this doesn’t bother her, though. As she stated, she reminds herself that God calls some people to prepare the way for the harvest.
Her attitude doesn’t surprise Shannon McMahon, children’s director at Hughes’ home church in Keller.
“I remember Bailey as a seventh-grader asking our women’s group to pray for her mom to be baptized. She was influential in leading her entire family to Christ,” McMahon said, remembering how Hughes never gave up on her family coming to faith. “She has always had a heart for following God and sharing his Word with others.”
Hughes’ goal for sharing the gospel starts with being “intentional”—or keeping her eyes and heart open to meeting people God puts in her everyday life. She said she is asking Southern Baptists in Texas to join her by praying for people of peace to come along and progress in building relationships. Hughes explained that “people of peace” are those who are open to her team and can help them get established in the community. She also hopes fellow believers would pray for openness to the gospel and that people would respond to the Holy Spirit—a request her mother, Mary Hughes, said she hopes Southern Baptists in Texas would really take to heart.
Mary Hughes insists that a revival in Poland can take place and said she believes it will happen one person at a time—just as it did in the Hughes family.
“I’m so excited that our Bailey is sharing the gospel in Poland. They won’t know how to break free in the Lord until someone tells them,” Mary Hughes said. “Pray for the Holy Spirit to work. It’s time to make a new chapter in history for Poland—one that involves a personal relationship with their Savior.”