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Southern seminarian’s ‘touched twice’ ministry demonstrates Christ’s love

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The idea surfaced during a lantern-lit Honduran worship service. As Perry Polnaszek watched the villagers’ fervor, he remembered revival had spread so quickly because missionaries had first met temporal needs.
Yet Central America is not unlike Louisville, Ky., he thought. Louisville, too, has people in need, both physically and spiritually. People who need food, but even more need to feed on the daily bread of God. People who need medicine, but also need to be shown the eternal cure.
In that jungle years ago, Polnaszek, an M.Div. student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville decided to employ this same outreach in the Kentucky city — “touching people twice” by first demonstrating and then proclaiming the gospel.
For more than six years now, Touched Twice Ministries has organized 11 volunteer clinics which meet eternal needs — opening doors for gospel proclamation by first providing for Louisvillians’ temporal needs. “Our first touch is that of the temporal — people who need glasses, or dentistry, or clothing, or food or jobs,” explained Polnaszek, a native of Thorp, Wis.
“We put together on a Saturday an event where people can come for free and have as many of those services met as possible.” While people wait at the various stations, volunteers see to the people’s biggest need — to hear the gospel, he said.
“The ultimate goal of this whole ministry,” Polnaszek said, “is to build the kingdom of God and not just to do social ministry.
“We have a Christian to walk with those people, get to know them and share his or her testimony,” Polnaszek said. “Volunteers are there to serve them. They’re there to get them food. But, first and foremost they’re there to testify.”
Even while these volunteers witness, on the main stage Touched Twice provides preaching, Christian music, teaching, puppets and drama. “It’s almost like a festival,” Polnaszek said. “It’s fairly ruckus. But God is glorified in the fact that we present the gospel message in a very excellent, clear and concise way.”
Polnaszek has seen these gospel seeds bear much fruit. Not only have many attendees turned to the gospel, but the ministry has also reached non-Christian volunteers who help Touched Twice merely for the social aspects.
Follow-up also is important for Touched Twice. After the event, Polnaszek employs local churches to re-contact the people who attend the clinic.
Polnaszek even sees this follow-up as a method of building core groups for church plants — an idea that may soon be tried in conjunction with Southern Seminary’s Church Planting Center.
At each event, according to Polnaszek, response has proved tremendous both to the follow-up and to the clinic.
Yet, when he and 12 other volunteers planned the first event in 1993, they prayed, “God, if you just send us two people, we’re going to do the best we know how.”
But as they arrived at the church three hours early, hundreds of people had already lined up waiting to be served.
“We recognized that we had stumbled over something,” Polnaszek said. Since 1993, the event has averaged about 300 people in attendance. Unfortunately, each time workers are forced to turn people away because of lack of resources.
But Polnaszek believes the ministry has an opportunity for tremendous growth. Various individuals, churches and parachurch organizations have offered services which could allow Touched Twice to increase the frequency of the clinics and thus provide for community needs on a larger scale.
“What I thought was a big vision of having a clinic a quarter, God seems to be showing something a lot different,” Polnaszek said. “Our goal is that from April 2000, to April 2001, we can become a part of making sure that everyone in the city of Louisville hears the gospel message.”
Polnaszek pointed to two stories that exemplify the ministry of Touched Twice. One woman claimed her eyes were “broken” — she had not been able to read in 19 years. In God’s providence, Touched Twice had a pair of donated glasses which closely matched her prescription.
“We put them on her,” he said. “At the end, she was using a Bible. She went right to her favorite part and read — the first time in 19 years.” At another clinic, an elderly woman entered the building and started crying. As volunteers took turns holding her hand, the woman said she had terminal cancer. She had come to a previous clinic and had come back for one purpose.
“The reason she came back is because she felt loved,” Polnaszek said. “She didn’t want anything else.
“There are countless stories,” he said.
Both of these women demonstrate one thing for Polnaszek: “The need’s out there. It’s just a matter of bringing in the workers.”
While many Southern Seminary students and members of the community have helped in the past, Polnaszek believes more help is needed.
“I don’t think we could ever become fully staffed,” he said. “We need people who have a heart for the lost — not next semester but now.” Polnaszek encourages prospective volunteers merely to “come and see.”
The next clinic will occur Jan. 22. Anyone interested in participating can contact Polnaszek at: [email protected]

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  • Bryan Cribb