Light and darkness
I recently made my fourth visit to Slovakia since 2000, this time accompanied by my wife Jean. I preached nine times in six days and the rest of the time was spent travelling, visiting believers in their homes and sightseeing in that beautiful country.
We flew from Manchester to Bratislava. In spite of there being other empty seats on the plane, a young woman was allocated the seat next to us. There was no conversation until ‘out of the blue’ she asked, ‘Are you going to Bratislava on holiday?’
My answer persuaded her otherwise and she immediately wanted to talk about spiritual things, as she had previously had discussions with Jehovah’s Witnesses. She was a Slovakian brought up in Lutheranism and visiting relatives in central Europe.
We spoke for the rest of the journey about the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. I was able to send her books by John Blanchard and Stuart Olyott already translated into Slovakian — together with another book given me by a lady in Slovakia who herself was a convert from the Witnesses.
Within two hours of arrival in Bratislava, I preached in the church where Jan Sichula is pastor. He and his wife Vanda have become joyful parents of twins since my last visit. The church in the capital city meets in a hired room in a culture centre.
On the Saturday, Peter Vadja, who is a research scientist, showed us the delights of Bratislava and district. He also allowed me to film him giving his testimony. By reading the Scriptures and seeing that death was the result of sin, Peter saw the deception of evolutionism and was saved. Now, in addition to his scientific work, he lectures on the Creator God.
On the Sunday, I preached at the 9.30am service before being driven a two and a half hour journey to Zilina where I preached at 3.0 pm. A young gypsy girl said she could not get eternity out of her mind!
Zilina was my base and I preached in that city five times. Brano Micieta is responsible for the work there, and the group usually meets in a high-rise flat, where he lives with his wife Lydia.
The congregations were not large in the Reformed Baptist churches, but there appears to be much zeal amongst those who attend and are in membership. To a large extent (but not altogether) the congregations are made up of professional men and women — medical doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, teachers, computer experts, etc. There is a good spirit and we were treated with much true Christian love.
To the amazement of my hosts and myself, I had been invited to preach in two Lutheran churches. This I did on the last Sunday of our visit.
Things were very different in the Lutheran churches, where many more people attended. There too we were treated with great kindness, but what we saw would have caused Martin Luther to frown!
The services were liturgical and I preached among burning candles and ornate crucifixes. At Koseca I preached on justification by faith alone. At Nova Dubnica my subject was regeneration, based on Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus and emphasising that ‘except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God’.
We visited other believers and were welcomed into homes and heard testimonies to the grace of God. We heard how the Lord Jesus Christ had rescued men and women from the errors of Rome and brought them to saving faith. One testimony was from a lady who had so wanted to know God as a youngster that she had finally sought him in a nunnery!
Today she is a happy wife and joyful mother of children. She and her husband (who was disowned by his family when he trusted in Christ) work with the Child Evangelism Fellowship.
We were driven hundreds of miles to see the beauties of different places and enjoyed ourselves immensely, but one or two places we visited we did not enjoy. How could we enjoy devout Roman Catholics in a village regaling us with stories about the intercessory prayers of the Virgin Mary?
One ‘church-keeper’ told us she had worked in the church for over 40 years and had recited the Rosary many times — and for each recitation had received 300 days remission from purgatory!
She also told us of the powers of a tub of ‘holy water’ that she was delighted to show us. This lady could not agree to read a copy of Ultimate Questions offered to her unless her priest approved it.
In another village church we were shown a glass case containing a dead body that had been ‘miraculously’ preserved without artificial means since the seventeenth century. The wall in the chapel where she was encased bore ‘evidence’ to her ‘power’ to answer prayer and perform ‘miracles’.
These people were happy for me to film them, as with great zeal they sought to evangelise us and tell us there is no salvation outside Rome and no way to Christ except through Mary!
Since we have returned home, Brano Micieta has been formally set apart by the church in Bratislava to pastor the newly constituted Reformed Baptist church in Zilina. When he completes his PhD in Robotic Engineering in September he will devote himself full time to the work of the gospel.
Slovakia is gripped by a spiritual darkness that can be felt. Even those with tenuous links with ecumenism need to remember what Rome is like where it is dominant. It must be met, not with force of arms or protest marches, but with the fearless preaching of the gospel.