December 16, 2017

On the Death of a Friend

Fred Moritz

Just this evening (November 16, 2016) I learned that Jan Tolwinski recently passed away in Poland. He was a brother beloved and a faithful servant of Christ.

I first met Brother Jan in the early 1980s at Engleside Baptist Church of Alexandria, Virginia, in a missions conference with Dr. E. Wayne Thompson. Jan and his brother participated in that conference. Some years later Jan came to Huntsville, Alabama, and stayed in our home while he ministered at Calvary Baptist Church.

In 1987 my daughter Christy and I traveled in France, Germany, and Poland. Baptist World Mission missionary Gene Mumford took his children Mike and Marcy, and we visited Poland for a week. I had the privilege to stay in the Tolwinski home in Warsaw.

In 2002 I flew to Warsaw, Poland to speak for some of our Baptist World Mission missionaries at a weekend family retreat. Dr. Tolwinski met me at the airport and drove me to the retreat site near the Polish border with Belarus. As we traveled through the countryside, Jan pointed out a sign that indicated the road to a village named Tolwinsk. He said: “That is my family’s village.” Then he told me: “I was born on September 1, 1939” (the day Germany invaded Poland and World War II officially began). With a wry smile Jan said: “That was a bad day for my mother.”

Brother Tolwinski grew up in Poland, trusted Christ as his savior, and trained for the ministry at a seminary in the country. During the Cold War years he pastored a church in Warsaw and led a group of Free Christian Churches in the country. These churches were Baptist in practice but would not join the Polish Baptist Union because of the connections to ecumenical evangelism in the country and the Union’s membership in the Baptist World Alliance.

Jan was firmly committed to the authority of Scripture and the fundamentals of the faith. He was equally committed to New Testament faith and practice in the local church. He was courageous in his stand for a consistent, biblical separatism from unbelief. He stood for the Lord in a country that was firmly in political alliances with Russia and the Warsaw Pact. He was a leader who was characterized by strong conviction amid intense political and religious pressure.

During our stay in Warsaw we visited the headquarters of the Polish Baptist Union. The leader of that organization was a friend and seminary classmate of Jan. As we sat in that building the two men conversed in my presence. The Polish Baptist leader said: “Jan, we believe the same doctrines. Why don’t you bring your Free Churches and join with us in the Baptist Union?” With kindness and firmness Jan raised his hand and said: “When you quit your ecumenical business, we will join the next day!” That was a typical display of the kindness and conviction that characterized the man.

A good man has gone to glory. Many were better known, but I knew no one who was stronger in standing for the Lord and for the faith. “When he served his own generation by the will of God, he fell asleep” (Acts 13:36). We thank God for his life and legacy.

Fred Moritz
Professor – Maranatha Baptist Seminary
Executive Director Emeritus – Baptist World Mission


  1. E.Wayne Thompson says:

    I had no better friend and brother in our Lord Jesus Christ than Jan Tolwinski. I encouraged many churches in the States to have him preach in their pulpits, and often would drive him to his destinations. He recommended me to preach in churches all over Poland. I was able to cultivate fellowship with many beloved Christians and churches. I am now 90 years old and I will soon complete my journey in this world and join Jan Tolwinski and many dear brethren all over the world. I thank our Lord for permitting me to evangelize and teach the Bible in many countries.

    I was wondering why I was not receiving answers to my email. If any could give me emails to his family and any other close friends; especially his wife and son I would appreciate it very much.

    Rejoicing in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

    Brother Wayne Thompson with Psalm 71:14-18

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