In May, Willis Metcalfe and I revisited Slovakia. The glorious countryside abounded with evidence of the Creator’s handiwork – spectacular mountains, rivers and vast prairie-like plains.
The villages are engulfed in vineyards, though the Communists scarred the landscape by erecting towering tenements in the cities.
Tourists from the west may not yet have put Slovakia on their itineraries but it is a place worth visiting. Prices are low by western standards. Everything, of course, is relative, and £50 per week is a normal wage.
We felt material standards had improved since our last visit. Much of what we saw can be seen in any UK town or city.
The weather was glorious but there is a constant fog that hangs over the country. It extends into Austria through which we travelled to and from the airport. It drifts over the surrounding countries.
It is the superstitious fog of Catholicism. It obscures from view the glories of the gospel. Catholic churches and their shrines abound, be they Roman, Greek or Eastern Orthodox. The sight of a pathetic figure, in an apparent trance, standing before a side altar holding his rosary beads, is fixed in my memory.
There are also many Lutheran hurches. The Reformer would disown them because of compromise with Rome on the scriptural verity of justification by faith alone in Christ alone.
The purpose of our visit was fourfold. We wanted to visit brethren in Christ; to do what we could to further the work already begun through the translation of literature; to gain an impression of the current Slovak situation; and for me to preach.
Everyone we met was friendly and helpful. Whilst we stayed overnight in hotels, homes were opened to us so we could meet families and enjoy warm Slovak hospitality.
All the believers we met were young. They appeared to be sincere godly people, living in an environment not conducive to evangelical outreach.
They were hungry for and appreciative of the Word of God. These people love the doctrines of free and sovereign grace.
We spent three days in Pezinok, meeting for worship in a home high in a tenement. There were 8-10 people present. I was impressed by their spirituality and openness to the Word.
One man told us of the transformation in his life over the last three or four years. Salvation by grace had delivered him from sin and the psychiatric effects of drug and alcohol addiction.
Presov is a university city and even more idolatrous than Pezinok. The pastor when we visited in 2000 was Jan Sichula. But he has linked up with others of like Reformed convictions and moved to Pezinok to pastor the work there. Peter Nedelnik now oversees the work at Presov.
The ‘Independent Christian Fellowship’ in Presov meets in a hired building at 9.30 on Sunday morning. After a dignified time of prayer, and singing accompanied by guitars, I preached on ‘The uniqueness of the gospel as the only way of salvation’.
Jan Sichula translated and I preached for well over an hour. My concern that I had preached too long was unfounded, and I was kept in the pulpit for a further 45 minutes answering the questions of the 20-25 enthusiastic young people. There is much evidence of a work of God amongst all we met.
There are tensions between churches in Slovakia. Those we met have suffered opposition from so-called Evangelicals who want to appoint women to eldership and be involved ecumenically.
As a result, co-operation in church-planting has been hindered. If those claiming to be Evangelicals were so not only in doctrine but also in church practice, many problems would be avoided.
Jan Sichula is busy translating books we have provided into Slovak. May God bless that endeavour, and the continuing gospel ministry to Slovakia.