Tribute to Alina Wieja, founder of Poland’s Inspiracje magazine
By John Maust, MAI President
Alina Wieja passed away in December after a brief battle with cancer. John wrote this article for the March issue of Inspiracje magazine, which gave tribute to Alina, its founder.
I first met Alina Wieja a year before the start of Inspiracje magazine. She told me that God had used a Scripture text—“Write down clearly on clay tablets what I reveal to you, so that it can be read at a glance”—to inspire her to start a publication as a ministry to the Polish people.
As Alina described her vision for a unique magazine targeting young families, I found myself getting excited. I also wondered, could Alina and her small team pull it off? Could they start and sustain a magazine in a country just emerging from decades of Communism and facing challenges on every level?
History has answered that question. Twenty-five years later, Inspiracje magazine continues to serve readers in the way that Alina conceived it. The magazine spawned a book publishing ministry, developed dozens of gifted Polish writers, and helped a generation of readers put down deep roots of faith and to flourish in their personal and family lives.
It is a remarkable success story, and a testimony to Alina’s courage, hard work and faith in a God who raised her up “for such a time as this.”
In the early years of Inspiracze magazine, Alina sometimes invited me to help equip writers and editors for the magazine. Thus, I enjoyed a front-row seat to the growth of the magazine and to Alina’s special qualities as a leader. Several things about Alina stand out in my mind.
Love for her readers. An anxious dinner host to Winston Churchill asked an aide to describe Churchill’s tastes in food and drink. “He’s easily pleased with the best of everything,” the aide said. Alina took this approach with her readers: She served them the best of everything.
This was reflected in the topics that she covered in the magazine, the quality of the editing, and the attractiveness of the design. She thoroughly knew and loved her audience, and painstakingly selected content that best spoke to their interests and need and helped them attain the abundant life for which God created them. She and her team prepared each issue of the magazine as a love gift to their readers.
Love for her writers. It would have been easier for Alina to publish mostly translated articles from the West. But she knew the power of “homegrown” writing, and from the beginning sought and nurtured Polish writers.
After a writer workshop in connection with the 10th anniversary of the magazine, Alina told me, “We believe that the training will bring many, many more fruits in the form of articles, which will have greater and greater influence on our society. Ten years ago we had hardly anyone to write for our magazine, and most of the articles were translations from English. God is so good to us! Praise His Name!”
Commitment to excellence. Alina’s commitment to excellence with the magazine was evident in every area of her life and service. Once, visiting the Life and Mission offices, I was struck by the beauty of the guest bathroom—beautifully painted walls, flowers in a vase, sweet-smelling poutpourri on the sink, a spotless floor. I commented on this to Alina, and she smiled, “Bathrooms in public places are sometimes dirty,” she said. “We wanted ours to be different….a witness.”
Humility and grace. For a woman of such uncommon skill as a trained architect and professional counselor, Alina epitomized humility and grace. At a writer workshop on the fifth anniversary of Inspiracje magazine, Alina asked me numerous times, “What suggestions do you have for me? What is your evaluation of the training?” Everything had been wonderfully organized, and I couldn’t think of anything to improve. But here was Alina, opening herself to critique in her desire to serve even more effectively. Her humility inspired me, as it did many others.
Lifelong learner and teacher. Alina was always learning, seeking any additional knowledge or training that might enhance her ministry and the readers she served. She did not hoard this knowledge, but she generously shared it with her colleagues and other associates, as well as her readers.
I first met Alina in the publishing and writing workshops. But she quickly transitioned from trainee to trainer. She helped lead MAI editorial and writer training workshops in Europe and spoke at our global LittWorld conferences, plus she became a valued member of our MAI-Europe Board of Directors.
Staying the course. Leading Inspiracje magazine could have been a full-time job in itself. But it was just one of Alina’s roles, along with administrative duties, public speaking, writing and responsibilities as a loving wife and mother.
“We look for counsel every day from the Lord,” Alina once told me. “There are so many challenges and doors open to do things. I pray that I do only what the Lord clearly shows me that I should be a part of.”
Yet somehow she persevered and stayed the course in leading the magazine. “It was not always an easy road,” she said, recalling the financial and other challenges along the way.
Thank God for the gifted and committed staff who worked alongside Alina over the years (it is truly and “team effort”), and for the unbending support of her beloved husband, Henryk, and two children Paul and Esther—now Christian leaders in their own right.
Sometimes we overlook treasures in our own back yard, and it takes someone from the outside to help us see afresh the wonders in our midst. I hope my brief words might help you see in a fresh way the wonder that was Alina Wieja and her life of service.
After more than 25 years of working with Christian publishers and writers in all the world regions, I can say without hesitation that Alina was truly unique in her vision and commitment to the ministry of the written word. Let us thank God for her life and legacy, and for the fact that her magazine and many writings will continue to minister to the Polish people for years to come.
-Learn more about Inspiracje magazine in English.
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