One Million Drunken Polish Youth
Sometimes God allows us to be close to sin so we don't forget where our story started.
I’m not implying His intentions are us jumping back in again.Quite to the contrary, He’s calling us to rise up and stand out like a beacon of beckoning hope.
Woodstock was not a festival I would have ever set out to attend, nor was it even remotely close to being on my bucket list of cool things to do before I died. Woodstock Poland 2016, a modern day nod to the hippie fest of 1969 was met with nearly 1 million drunken Polish youth and a very reluctant me. My role was in helping train 50 students of the Steiger Missions School in Krogis, Germany while on their outreach to the massive, no-rules, “peace and love”, Eastern European festival.
I’ve never seen anything like it. Part of me wished I would have brought camera friends to capture the unrelenting stream of ambulances, four-wheelers pulling hurting youth out of crowds via make-shift stretcher attachments, mass influx of Polish youth donned with back-packs, sleeping bags, and beer. Did I say beer? These event-goers were serious about bringing in (and consuming) lukewarm cans of cheap beer - in large quantities. At one point I was even offered a Tequila-flavored Polish beer as a “toast” to having prayed for two young men. I politely turned them down.
Woodstock Poland was a hard place to breathe - let alone advance the kingdom. Even with 50 or so eager, excited students from all over; we were outnumbered something like 20,000 to 1. People congregated everywhere and it was overwhelming even to know where to start. For me it became a game of “Pin the tail on the donkey,” at least in the sense that I could have been placed amongst the crowd blind-folded, twirled around an umpteenth number of times, and still found someone open to talking Jesus or willing to receive prayer.
In addition to the overwhelming throngs, one day it poured cold, hard rain from 4am until midnight. Rain lead to mud, which lead to a vastly more miserable crowd, landing our outreaches at the only two covered places on the entire festival grounds - the cell-phone charging area (filled with hundreds of phones and respective owners) and the Hare Krishna tent. Apparently the daughter of the festival’s promoter is a Krishna devotee and their presence went far from unnoticed. Even so, we watched Jesus heal, encourage, and even save people. Restoring souls in the least likely of places (which technically, all of Woodstock qualified for) - underneath the Krishna tent - with open permission from the Krishna leader who was ironically an American and former theology student.
For all the challenges I/we faced at Woodstock, there was no denying the fruit. We collectively prayed for and with hundreds, openly sang praises to Jesus in the form of a flash mob, creatively portrayed the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and were reminded of God’s heart to see His kids reconnected.
I struck up a conversation with two Polish girls - one of whom was wearing a “free hugs” sign around her neck. Those free hugging people are always a dead giveaway for a Jesus encounter. We hugged and began talking. I shared (thanks to my Polish friend’s ability to interpret) why we were there and how much Jesus loved them. Asked if we could pray for them and whether they had ever sensed the love of the Father.
They had not. We prayed and both girls simultaneously expressed surprise at what they were physically feeling in that moment. I asked if either had any physical pain. “We don’t have any pain but our friend is feeling horrible!” The two girls rushed us over to their friend who I had not noticed until that point. She looked flustered, and was hunched over in stomach pain that she claimed was a 10 of 10 on the scale. I asked the friends to lay their hands with me on their hurting pal. A few seconds of praying in the name of Jesus and her pain was reduced to a four. A few more seconds of round two praying and she was completely healed. Tears streamed down her face as she began hugging each of us.
I shared Who had healed her and why. All three girls gave their hearts to Jesus on the spot and were able to connect with my Polish friend. Unfortunately we ended up heading back to camp (yes, we were camping and no, it wasn’t fun camping) right around the time Mark had run off to find his Polish friend and bring her over for prayer. Mark was the only other American I met at the festival. He was entirely unsure of all my Jesus talking but was intrigued enough to hang around and pray for a bunch of people (the whole while with a beer in his hand).
I didn’t end up seeing him again (and likely never will) but I know that hour together will forever “mark” his life. Jesus, thank You for Mark and thank You for these girls and for everyone in-between. I praise You for the way You will continue meeting them with Your power, presence, and person. Next year I’d love to film a Youth Rising: Poland at Woodstock - would you please help make that possible? I believe seeing the stories and the need would carry greater weight than only hearing of them.