We came to the USA fifteen years ago, with a plan to stay 2-3 years and then go back to Poland. Initially we led a very temporary life, keeping strong ties with our home country. It quickly turned out, however, that God had other plans. One memorable day, while we were praying and asking God what is His will for us, we opened the fragment from the Bible:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their fruits (…)
Only after seventy years have elapsed for Babylon will I deal with you and fulfill for you my promise to bring you back (…)”
We decided to finally embrace the life in the USA. However, the cultural difference and language barrier were very real. It did not help that we were the only Emmanuel family in Pennsylvania, with about 3 hours drive to nearest brothers and sisters. We felt truly alone, left out in the desert. We prayed hard about it and worked hard, but years were passing by and nothing seemed to move forward.
Then one day, at a National Gathering, we meet a couple from Canada – simple, joyful and holy people. Patricia knew immediately – these will be our companions! Not even realizing how much trouble it is to find a companion in the USA, neither what is the proper way to do that, we approached them with our request, and they joyfully agreed!
This wasn’t a normal way of finding a companion, but we were desperate. We realized well: the weekend gathering will end soon and we’ll be back to a harsh reality. So, this was the kind of “now or never” moment. We were excited they said YES! And then, to our relief, the Leaders approved of that decision.
This was the beginning of a new chapter in our community life. We started to meet with our new companions via Skype monthly — sharing our hearts, our life struggles and spiritual battles. They were always there for us! No matter what, we knew they are praying for us and thinking about us daily.
Being ‘alone’ in the Community for over 8 years, we didn’t give up on community life. No households, community gatherings so rare… The only thing that kept us going was our monthly companionship.
To this day it feels like having an older sister and brother who not only accepts you without judging or lecturing, but truly loves and cares for you. This is an amazing experience – we know this first hand.
We are sure that their prayers (and honest, sometimes stern advice) got us through some serious marriage problems and hard times when the kids were hitting their teenage years. All the sicknesses, bad news, more bad news – they were there. They were praying and holding us in their hearts as if we were their own ‘kids’. They offered novenas and masses for us. They even offered to fast in our intention while we were homeless for a brief time. So many times in so many ways they showed us their love. To experience this – is a true grace! We found that Companionship is one of the biggest graces in the Emmanuel Community!
Eventually, that experience opened us up to being companions to others. This, in turn, opened our eyes on the broader perspective of Community life. We realized there are many other brothers and sisters that are alone, feel ‘left out in the desert’, going through marriage problems and dealing with teenage children – just like us.
We have much to learn in order to serve them well – to ‘be there’ when needed, listen and pray. However, we have learned from our own companions that it is not so much about being perfect and holy. It’s about simple love and care. It’s about finding the time to ‘walk together’ on that spiritual path.
May God bless all of us, and may we never cease to answer His call to serve others!
Patricia & Michal (PA)