Kawalec, Leslaw Olgierd

Country: Republic of Ireland
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Serving At: The Methodist Church of Ireland
Home Country: Poland

Leslaw Olgierd Kawalec is a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church. As a church developer for the Methodist Church of Ireland, his title is Church Planter in Polish and Eastern Europe Communities.

A layperson, Leslaw is a member of Good Shepherd Methodist Church in Warsaw, Poland. He and his spouse, Agnieszka Motylewska-Kawalec, are the parents of two young adults and a teenager. Leslaw studied archeology at the University of Warsaw and theology at John A. Lasco Seminary of the Polish Methodist Church, Warsaw. He earned a Master of Arts degree in English and philology at Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland.

“Born and raised Catholic,” Leslaw said, “I have had a winding religious journey so far.” In his early 20s, he was part of the Christian National Union (ZChN), a Christian-democratic and nationalist political party in Poland.

He participated in Unitarian and Baptist activities and was baptized as an adult in 2003. “When teaching a pre-sessional course at the University of Hull, United Kingdom,” he said, “I was inspired by a student’s project on William Wilberforce and his Methodist affiliates to fight slave trade. I dug into Methodism and joined the Methodist church in Poland in 2013. I did a bachelor’s in theology at the Polish Methodist seminary, became a lay preacher for two years and ran Bible study with English-speaking members of the congregation.”

Recalling his confirmation as a youth, Leslaw said, “I made an informed decision to take the Christian name ‘Paul,’ the missionary.

“About 21 years ago, my Bible kept opening on passages with ‘Antioch,’ the first missionary church. At that time, I felt certain I would be a missionary, but I thought this would come much sooner. Instead, I experienced a religious odyssey. Apparently, I needed to become prepared for the task, including becoming sanctified enough (which took quite a long time).”

As a teacher, Leslaw strived to share his faith and to witness to Christ, wherever he went, “be it UK, Tajikistan or China, and in Poland, too (the country is secularizing at the speed of sound),” he said. “I meant to serve in the Polish church and lead a missionary congregation if I become a pastor. I remember that the former superintendent and seminary teacher, Brother Edward, suggested I may one day serve within The United Methodist Church. This pushed me to submit an application with Global Ministries.

“It occurred to me that I would make a far better missionary than pastor. Lo and behold, UMC Mission responded.” Leslaw has completed part of his missionary training and contacted the Irish superintendent with whom he will serve.

He is excited, he said, about “working to involve East European immigrant communities in church life with a view to planting churches there. God can really guide you, close some avenues and open others!”