Few people walk into a church one Sunday and decide to call it home, especially if the whole idea of church is foreign. People are more often drawn to individuals who have something special about them, and they become the door to the body of Christ.
“In the summer of 1998, a good friend of mine had significantly changed and started inviting me to church. After a few invites, I finally accepted, but mostly because I had a crush on her,” recalls Travis Mielonen, now a church-planting missionary in Poland with Foursquare Missions International. “That first Sunday service didn’t go the way I expected, though. My friend wasn’t there when I arrived, and when she did show up, she was with her boyfriend!”
But Travis decided to stick around for the service anyway and got a chance to meet the youth leaders, Bob and Leanne Kaskes, and Mark Smith. Their warmth immediately made him feel welcome and accepted, and he knew that was a place he wanted to be. Thus began Travis’ journey with The Foursquare Church and, more important, his path to knowing Jesus.
While still in high school, he took a missions trip to the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana, serving with Ken Pretty-On-Top, senior pastor of Spirit of Life Light House for the Nations (Crow Agency Foursquare Church). It was there that Travis felt for the first time that God was working in him. “Seeing how this church family truly was, and is to this day—a lighthouse for God—deeply resonated in me His grace,” Travis affirms. A few months later, he surrendered his remaining doubts and committed his life to Christ.
Having not grown up in The Foursquare Church, or any church, for that matter, Travis was compelled, and still is, by the consistency and authenticity of the Foursquare family.
“Although we aren’t perfect, the people of Foursquare are genuine, always willing to seek God and are full of grace,” he says. “In each of the ministries I’ve served, whether in Washington and Oregon or out here in Poland, there has always been a focus on relationships and connecting with the community.”
Travis’ commitment to and passion for Foursquare’s initiatives has grown, due in large part to the encouragement and mentorship offered by the church’s leaders. “As someone who didn’t grow up in the church, the focus on spreading the gospel, making disciples and equipping the entire church for ministry is key for me,” he explains. “In my leaders, I’ve found a loving accountability, a graceful love of discipleship and a hunger for people to personally encounter Jesus.”
There are currently no Foursquare churches in Poland, but Travis, his wife and children, and his ministry team aim to change that. They are currently in the midst of a five-year plan to plant a church in Kraków. In a city of 2 million people, only about 1,000 regularly attend Protestant church services.
“Polish church leaders don’t trust one another. The stronghold of past hurts between churches continues to create tension and limits the ability of the greater church to work together,” Travis says. “We hope to break through those interdenominational barriers and demonstrate to the Polish people that the church is an inclusive, cooperative and forgiving community.”
To begin this process, Travis and other like-minded leaders are starting a Serve the City (STC) program in their community. Already present in cities throughout Europe, STC is a coalition of congregations and non-profit ministries that believes they can serve Christ by serving their cities.
“It’s a nonthreatening community service opportunity where we can invite people from all kinds of groups, and not necessarily religious ones,” he states. “Bringing people together in service helps build relationships, which I believe is the best gateway to the gospel.”
But Travis and his team are not lone Foursquare workers in these initiatives, left to fend for themselves in the post-Christian European landscape. Their sending church, East Hill Church Family (Gresham Foursquare Church) in Gresham, Ore., has provided invaluable support and keeps them in touch with the local congregation and with the North Pacific District.
In addition, Travis and his team are making new connections each day. “We are more and more connected with Foursquare Europe, as well, which has many activities, church-planting seminars and more throughout the year,” Travis says. “The same values of the U.S. Church are also evident here in Europe. The relevancy of love, grace, faith and hope are making an impact within and out from The Foursquare Church here.”
Aside from community service and church-planting activities, Travis and his family are working on learning the Polish language and connecting with their neighbors. “We tell people we have a five-year-minimum commitment to our ministry in Poland, but we are prepared to be here our whole lives if God calls us to that.”