So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:20–21)
We don’t speak on our own behalf but on Christ’s. It isn’t our message that we convey but His gospel. God is making His appeal to the world through us as ambassadors of Christ. —Pastor Chuck Swindoll
His phone didn’t normally ring at midnight. But the brand-new Bible-teaching broadcast, Pełnia Życia, meaning “Fullness of Life,” ended at 11 p.m., so listeners assumed he was in the studio ready for their calls. Zygmunt, pastor of Insight for Living Ministries (IFLM) Poland, will never forget his conversation that night with a man feeling empty and ready to end it all.
“You are the last person I will ever speak with,” he told Zygmunt, “because I am ready to hang myself.” Zygmunt, however, knew this phone call signaled that the caller sought for a reason to live. So Zygmunt kept the listener on the phone and soon learned the man’s name and address. During the call, Zygmunt used another phone to call a pastor friend, who quickly travelled to the caller’s address and extended Christ’s comfort. In those dark hours, a ray of hope shined. The caller lived.
Ambassadors of Christ rarely know the details of His mission for them. They simply go. They proclaim. They serve, give, listen, build, organize—moving long-term initiatives forward while responding to the urgent needs of the day. It is the ever-present King who governs the ambassador’s time and orchestrates the ambassador’s schedule. The whole mission is carried out in faith, hope, and love while representing the Lord of Life and following His leading.
From the beginning, the IFLM regional office in Poland has operated with that biblical attitude and posture. Christ faithfully raised up its leaders. He is using them to expand the presence and influence of clear, accurate, relevant, practical Bible teaching in the Polish language across the world. God’s faithfulness is encouraging. The fruit is nourishing and inspiring. Our goals are God-sized because the needs are God-sized.
Zygmunt Karel did not begin his ministry with the aim of teaching God’s Word on such an array of platforms like we do at IFLM. IFLM did not have in place some strategic three-year plan for finding an evangelical Polish-speaking pastor, establishing a Poland office, and launching a Polish-language Bible-teaching ministry. Christ, however, prepares His ambassadors through immediate assignments and partnerships for later assignments and new partnerships—all to accomplish His unfathomable plan by His own manifold wisdom.
In 1955, when Zygmunt was only five years old, he and his family witnessed communist police beat his father, a pastor, in their living room. In those days in Poland, it was a crime to evangelize. Zygmunt lunged toward his father to help him, but his mother held him back, “If we attack them,” she warned, “...they will put your father in prison, this time, for good.” Authorities harassed preachers to spark retaliation. But there was none in the Karel home that day. The police left disappointed. Zygmunt’s father gathered the whole family in the living room where they all knelt and prayed for those who had just abused him.
In 1964, while travelling on a streetcar with his father, Zygmunt read about the need for personal faith in Christ. Immediately, he committed his life to the Lord Jesus Christ and desired to serve Him in full-time vocational ministry. Zygmunt’s mom and dad were reluctant about his career decision because they knew the hardships of such a life. Zygmunt’s father had been arrested numerous times and Zygmunt, too, would spend nights in jail for preaching the Gospel. Yet, God’s call was undeniable. In 1973, Zygmunt began pastoring his first church, and he married his sweetheart, Maria. This year marks both their 50th year in full-time vocational ministry as well as their 50th wedding anniversary. God is faithful!
In 1982, Zygmunt met an American missionary and Bible teacher named Mark Young. The two immediately realized they shared the desire to train pastors, so they developed curriculum and travelled across Poland conducting seminars from 1982 to 1986. During this time, they began dreaming of starting a Polish evangelical seminary. Earning a doctorate degree took Mark back to the states from 1986 to 1988 until he received a call from Zygmunt to move back to Poland and launch a seminary—underground! Communism still ruled Poland in 1988, so authorities would have never allowed an evangelical seminary. In their eyes, it would have been “too Western...too American.”
By April 1988, Mark completed his PhD and returned to Poland. As they developed their plan for the seminary in 1989, the first free Polish parliamentary elections occurred. The overthrow of communism and the overhaul of Poland’s key institutions shortly followed...including nation-wide upheaval.
The abolition of communism enabled Zygmunt and Mark to publicly launch Biblical Theological Seminary, now called the Evangelical School of Theology, in the summer of 1990. Zygmunt served as president from 1990 to 2005. Mark served as dean from 1990 to 1995 before moving to Texas to teach as a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary.
Zygmunt transferred the baton of leadership into new hands at Biblical Theological Seminary in 2005. Then, God led him to Brooklyn, New York, to pastor a Polish-speaking congregation until 2008. In fact, it was in 2008 when Mark invited Zygmunt to Texas to connect with Pastor Chuck and Cynthia. The Swindoll’s invited Zygmunt to serve as IFLM’s Polish translator and pastor. Zygmunt’s family history, education, ministry, leadership experience, and kingdom partnerships prepared him for and led him to his next ambassadorial undertaking. With joy, Zygmunt said, “YES!”
Upon returning to Poland in 2008, Christ soon connected Zygmunt with a fellow ambassador named Dorothy who worked as a lawyer and donated her time and expertise to establish IFLM Poland as a legal foundation, which occurred in January 2009.
“From day one, I was translating Pastor Chuck’s sermons!” Zygmunt recalls. Patiently and faithfully for more than two years, Zygmunt translated and recorded sermon after sermon after sermon. Often, a solitary and unglamorous endeavour...but vital if there is to be a proper storehouse of Bible-teaching messages for the program’s consistency and longevity. Amid the production work, Zygmunt reached out to his close friend, Dr. Henryk Król, who owned Radio CCM, a Christian radio station in Poland.
In July 2011, Pełnia Życia hit the radio airways! To this day, Dr. Król serves on the board of IFLM Poland proving to be a vital partner in our shared faith and mission.
Kuba Cieslar joined IFLM Poland in 2013 as its first executive director. This young, dynamic leader helped Zygmunt expand the ministry’s presence on the airwaves and online. In 2021, Kuba transitioned to a pastorate, and Marcin Karel, Zygmunt’s son, stepped in as the new executive director. Marcin has now built on the foundation established by Kuba, taking the quality of their digital presence and the extent of their outreach to the next level. Marcin’s ambassadorial attitude shines through his recent statement, “I aim to do my work with excellence that God might be glorified in all we do!”
Christ wants His ambassadors to laugh a little. Regardless of the intensity of the mission, His joy enables them to have some fun. In the spirit of fun, Zygmunt likes to take visitors on “joy rides” in his car. When IFLM leaders, Bill Gemaehlich and Tom Hayes, travelled from the United States office to visit the Polish office, Zygmunt wanted to introduce them to Dr. Król who lived in Wisla—about a three-hour drive from Wrocław on the A4 motorway. In various sections, the speed limit is higher than in the United States. Wanting to give Bill and Tom the full experience on the motorway, Zygmunt once increased his speed to 125mph. Yet, sports cars were still blazing past them. Zygmunt recalls Tom’s grip on his seatbelt getting tighter and tighter as Bill’s eyes got bigger and bigger. Conversation froze. Zygmunt started to grin.
IFLM Poland would not be possible were it not for other ambassadors of Christ who pray for the ministry and fund its work. Consistent giving from the United States has enabled the continued operations of the ministry while key supporters from within Poland also contribute toward special initiatives. Zygmunt says some of the most touching gifts come from elderly people who live alone and depend upon the reliable presence of the broadcast. They receive a meagre pension to live on, but they wish to help so they give a significant percentage of their livelihood to assist the ministry. “All of us at IFLM Poland are blessed by their gifts which we view as signs of God’s favour and direction to continue in this work as His ambassadors.”
An Urgent Assignment
On February 24, 2022, Russian military forces began attacking major cities across Ukraine. Quickly, humanitarian organizations marshalled their resources to meet this urgent crisis. Displacement is one of the disastrous effects of this war. Millions of people have fled Ukraine into neighbouring countries such as Hungary, Romania, Moldova, and Poland, which has received the most refugees—topping nine million. Many refugees in Poland have since moved to other countries, but approximately two million currently remain.
Zygmunt recalls in 2008 reading a surprising provision in IFLM Poland’s bylaws: to “help war victims.” Zygmunt questioned Dorothy about it, but she said it was necessary to keep. What prescience! With that legal authority, IFLM Poland has partnered with other churches and organizations to alleviate agonizing pain created by the war and to extend biblical hope and compassion to those who are desperate for comfort and light.
IFLM Poland helps support more than 70 refugees, mostly women and children, by giving them long-term housing and daily necessities like food and clothing. Furthermore, IFLM Poland has helped sustain more than 350 families by delivering goods across the border into Lutsk. While the war may not be at the forefront of people’s minds outside of Eastern Europe, it remains an ongoing humanitarian crisis on the doorsteps of many in this part of the world.
Equipping church leaders for gospel ministry has been on Zygmunt’s heart for more than 40 years. That desire aligns well with IFLM’s vision. In 2018, IFLM began developing pastor-training curriculum to help church leaders who lack access to such training. The IFLM United Kingdom pastor, Terry Boyle, creates curriculum and seminars based on Pastor Chuck’s books, like Searching the Scriptures, to offer insight and practical tips from Pastor Chuck’s more than 60 years of ministry experience.
Zygmunt could not have been more thrilled to hear about this new curriculum and initiative. In fact, he began translating it, late into the night, the first day he received his copy! He finished translating the first volume in 2019. IFLM Poland has trained more than 100 church leaders since that time.
Your Prayers and Support
When you give to Insight for Living Canada, your money stays in Canada to support the Bible-teaching efforts in this country. However, people are able to support IFLM Poland through IFLM in the United States. Their global goal is to proclaim the truths of Scripture and the person of Jesus Christ to all 195 nations in the world. We are deeply grateful for the ambassadors of Christ, who take seriously His Great Commission, by sending out God’s Word across the world through this Bible-teaching ministry.
Zygmunt and IFLM Poland ask you to pray for:
- The spiritual impact of their Bible-teaching content
- The funds to translate more of Pastor Chuck’s books
- The expansion of our pastor-training efforts
- A deeper desire in Poland for Christ and His Word
Spending any amount of time with the IFLM Poland team will make evident that these ambassadors not only carry the message of Christ but also represent His heart. They embody the Apostle Paul’s expression about his own ministry in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ controls us.”