Missionaries Ted, Beverly Holmes plan to return to “our home” in Poland
By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
NASHVILLE — Instead of a “Pauline Damascus Road experience,” it was a quiet voice, the nudge toward, “This is the way. Walk in it,” said Ted Holmes of the couple’s decision to stay with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board as missionaries to Poland. He referred to Isaiah 30:21, which was used in a Bible school the Holmeses helped lead this past summer in Poland.
For Beverly it was several things, including hearing Jonasz Skrzypkowski, their recent guest from Poland, speaking to Carson-Newman University students in Polish. Though Beverly has struggled with the language, she thought as she heard Skrzypkowski speak, “That’s a beautiful language.”
The Holmeses were speaking of the staff cutting measures of the IMB in response to financial woes which included offering them early retirement. Ted and Beverly have been missionaries in Poland for seven years. Formerly Ted was associate pastor, Forest Hills Baptist Church, Nashville, and Beverly was a physical education teacher in Franklin.
They consider Poland their home now, they explained, though they were in their 40s when they and their youngest daughter, Megan, began serving there.
The couple were on stateside assignment when they were asked to make the decision, which was very difficult, but not because they were visiting the United States and enjoying their grandchildren and the ease of life in America, the Holmeses added. The couple are staying in one of the missionary homes of Wallace Memorial Baptist Church, Knoxville.
Instead, it was a struggle to leave Warsaw this past summer, they both said. “We miss the people we’re working with, our stuff, and friends,” said Beverly. They keep in touch by Facebooking but also in other ways. The couple recently received a letter from a friend in Poland.
They love their work with the Polish people, including many university students, said the couple. In fact, now as they run errands, they meet a lot of friends. Of course, strangers also strike up conversations with them because Polish people love America and Americans, explained Ted.
It took a while but after language school and moving to Warsaw, Beverly said she felt “a peace. I felt I could live here. It’s our home. … I finally feel like I’m a part of this community now.”
Ted noted that people in Warsaw, a city of 2.5 million, know more about the U.S. in some ways than him and certainly about President Barack Obama than he does. They want to talk about Obama but he wants to talk to them about Jesus, he observed.
The couple explained that they like their “more focused” and simple life in Warsaw, though they were living “the American dream” before they accepted the call to be missionaries. They were investing spiritually in people before they began serving in Poland, but now they are able to “invest in people deeply,” explained Ted.
The couple have grieved with other IMB missionaries and Southern Baptists as a whole “that we had to do this in the first place,” said Ted, referring to the staff cuts.
They learned not to play the “What if … ?” game or let their emotions distract them during their decision-making, they added.
The couple asked for prayer for all of the IMB missionaries and staff who are taking the voluntary retirement incentive and those who may voluntarily leave. The Holmeses also asked for prayer for the remaining missionaries whose work will be affected by “the leadership vacuum.”
IMB missionaries form “a missionary family,” explained Beverly. “The IMB is our family now.”
Finally, Beverly noted that Baptists should pray for missionary kids or MKs affected. Megan thinks of Poland as her home though she is a student at Carson-Newman University and as fellow missionaries as her family, she explained.
Their decision was a bittersweet one, said Ted. “People are leaving to make it possible for us to stay.”
They also have learned, once again, that “you can’t trust in organizations; we can’t trust in people. The best organization will have problems. But we’re very, very much blessed to be with the IMB,” said Ted.
“We very much appreciate your gifts,” said Ted of Southern Baptists and Tennessee Baptists. “We’re able to serve because of your gifts to the Lottie Moon offering and the Cooperative Program.”