Poland (MNN) — Saturday, April 10, a plane engulfed in flames crashed to the ground in Smolensk, Russia. Poland's President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others died in the disaster.
Sources say the aircraft was carrying its passengers to a commemoration ceremony for a World War II massacre in which Soviets took the lives of more than 20,000 Poles. According to BBC News, those aboard the plane included Kaczynski and his wife, the president of the National Bank, the head of the National Security Office, the head of the air force and the head of the navy. The fatal crash left no survivors.
The Russian government has responded with compassion and condolence after the disaster occurred on their soil. Many reports show that the one good thing politically that could come from this tragedy is a restored relationship between Poland and Russia.
Still, this has proven so far to be a trying time for Poland, which, according to the Associated Press, has not lost a serving Polish leader since 1943 during World War II. Several sources suggest that even those who previously had qualms with Kaczynski have now united in mourning for their country's loss.
Kaczynski, who was elected in 2005, had been planning on running for a second term this fall. Now elections will need to be held within the next 60 days.
Amber Smith, a missionary to Poland with Pioneers, says the country remains in shock as it soaks in the impact of lives lost.
"There were [radio] announcers that were just trying to hold back tears, I think, reading off the list of the dead and reading what their titles were," says Smith. "Listening, I was just shocked at how many leaders from this country were killed."
Smith, who teaches English as a second language in Poland, says she hopes this might be an opportunity to talk with her students and share the peace of Christ during turmoil. Many people are already looking to their faith for answers.
"On a lot of [radio] channels–even some of the secular channels–people were calling in, tearfully, to pray ‘Hail Marys' and ‘Our Fathers' over the phone with the radio announcers," says Smith.
Poland is considered a deeply-religious country, and several news networks have picked up footage of formal services to mourn this loss and pray. Most of these religious people, however, seem to be nominal Catholics.
"Religion [in Poland] is made up of traditions and a lot of family responsibilities. So when something like this happens, it appears that everyone is very religious, but there are very, very few believers here," explains Smith. "It's one of the least-reached countries in the world."
As the people of Poland respond to the many changes heading their way, their greatest need is prayer.
"Pray for the people of Poland, especially during a tragedy like this, that they will turn to Christ and that they'll seek Him and that believers here will be unified and be able to share Him with their friends."
Smith says any who choose to leave the Catholic Church as they turn toward a true faith in Jesus Christ will likely have many family trials ahead of them. Pray that Polish believers, as well as those who come to understand the grace of Jesus Christ in the wake of this tragedy, would be bold, would be a comfort to those around them, and would unite with other believers around the country.
Poland is in desperate need of more faithful Christian workers. If you would like to learn more about serving the Lord in Poland, click here.