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Slovakia 2019: Thus Far the Lord Has Brought Us

June 30, 2019

Our mission team of 28 people arrived in Vienna on Friday morning, spent the night in Bratislava, and then made our way to Martin. We woke this morning refreshed (mostly) and worshipped at the Lutheran Church near the Center for Christian Education. We received, as always, a warm welcome. Our group, comprised of members of Grace as well as folks from Our Saviour’s in Naperville, plus a few people from around the country, was joined by the ESL teaching group from New Heights Church in Vancouver, Washington. Heck, even Dr. Robert Kolb, esteemed Lutheran theologian, was in worship today.

These hordes of Americans, however, were definitely not the most important people in worship this morning. In the above photo you’ll see the featured worshippers, if I may use the term: ten members of the confirmation class of 1949. Their class originally consisted of 92 students (amazing!); these ten women and men were here today. To be sure, it was simply cool to celebrate and bless confirmands seventy years on. But it was more than just cool.

As Pastor Milan Kubik reminded us in his sermon, 1949 was not an easy time to be a Christian in what was then Czechoslovakia. The pastor of these confirmands’ early childhood had been sent to a Nazi concentration camp. The pastor who confirmed them would shortly be hauled off to prison under the rule of the communist regime, leaving a wife and five children behind. A representative of their class spoke, noting that it was remarkable they were still here, alive. They did not expect to live long. Not as Christians in the iron grip of communism. And if to live, not to live well. To profess one’s faith in Christ was at worst a death sentence; it was at best to put oneself out of good opportunities in life, shut out of university and the careers to which education could lead. To profess one’s faith in Christ was to take a material stand against oppression, guaranteeing that this oppression would land squarely upon you.

And yet there they were today. Still standing. Still faithful. Can you believe it? Pastor Kubik preached on 1 Samuel 7:12: “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.'” Thus far, indeed. And if the Lord has helped us thus far, will not that same God continue to grant us grace, peace, and the courage to be faithful?

God continues to build up Ebenezers, faithful stones built upon the living stone that is Jesus Christ, our firm foundation. Dr. Kolb noted that the class of 1949 was confirmed on the day marking the 419th anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. In 1530 a group of Christians were willing to stake their lives on the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In 1949, 92 young Slovaks did the same in Martin. How do we not follow in their footsteps, witnessing to the God of grace and freedom in a world in which both are in such short supply, in which justice and peace are scare?

In Bratislava, a few of us met with Pastor Ivan El’ko, the recently-elected bishop of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia. When asked what he hopes for the Lutheran Church in Slovakia, he replied that he hoped it would have “a little of religion and a lot of Christ.” May we, with a lot of Christ at work in us, be bold to faithfully follow where Jesus leads. And wouldn’t you know, our closing hymn today was “Jesus, Still Lead On.”

And as our team has taken to reminding each other, even when things change, go wrong, or turn out differently than expected, Jesus still loves us. I hope and pray that we – that I – can live faithfully in this love in a way that even partially resembles the faith of those who have gone before us.

Anyway, I think it’s going to be a pretty amazing week of Vacation Bible School in Martin. It seems like the Holy Spirit is up to something around here. Thus far, indeed. Where next, Jesus?

See you in the morning…

From → Slovakia 2019

One Comment
  1. John Lattyak permalink

    Confirmand’s story very inspirational. Hope you all have an enjoyable week of ministry at the CCE.

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