The first Sunday in May, two days after we flew back to Texas, the church in Bratislava resumed in-person gatherings for the first time since before Christmas. From that first Sunday in May till now they have witnessed an anomaly for summer months: a stream of visitors—not just passers-through, but stickers-around. On the 12th of September the elders will host a meeting for those interested in joining the church, and they expect 15-20 people. That number doesn’t include seven children. In other words, the congregation could swell by 50%-80%.
Your first response should be something along the lines of Praise the Lord! Your second should be like unto it: We thank our God for his blessing of fruitfulness to his church in Bratislava, for his steadfast love endures forever!
I’ll let you carry on in praising and thanking mode for as long as you like. When you finish, come back and I’ll suggest some petitions on their behalf….
Back so soon? Well, think about riches in the Bible. They come from God, and when received as from him and enjoyed in him and shared in his Name they sweeten life. But remember the camel and the eye of the needle, and the temptations that can threaten to turn sweet riches bitter.
The church plant in Bratislava has been a gathering of believers who have shared their lives and ministry. They rely on each other, depend on each other, serve each other, and even like each other. They open their hearts to each other, forgive each other, encourage each other, and therefore all people know that they are disciples of the One who laid down his life for them and us.
As Edenic as I have made their fellowship sound, you know they are sinners, subject to weakness and prone to wander. And a sudden influx of new folks, people who don’t yet share the congregation’s close-knit culture, will shake them up. At first they will be delighted to welcome the newcomers; but if I know anything at all about human nature, trials will come. They will be stretched. They will miss what they had, and pine for the Lost Golden Age.
Pray for them. Ask God to give them humble and grateful spirits—especially grateful for these new folks, even after the newness wears off. Ask him to open their hearts to the strangers, to make them welcoming and hospitable, eager to share the riches of the fellowship they have known with every new face God leads to their door.
And pray for Tomáš and the elders: shepherding people through such change is one of the great challenges of ministry.
One more thing: Wednesday the members are meeting for their annual planning day (in the same room pictured above, from the 2020 Planning Day). Please ask the Spirit to guide them as they think and pray together about their ministry over the coming year.
August had its moments.
Last month I asked you pray for our trip to Ridgehaven for ReConnect. God heard you. Of all the MTW events we’ve attended over the years, this one sticks out as especially helpful. We had time to talk about the beloveds we miss in Slovakia, and to talk about them with people who could empathize, since they are missing their own beloveds on the other side of the planet. And we received some encouragement and direction to explore concerning life and service after this HMA. Thank you for praying.
On the 18th we celebrated Paula’s birthday with a visit from Karen and her brood, along with my parents. In a classic Paula moment, she invited her grandkids to decorate her birthday cake, and they went all out. (The expected shortcomings of “design by committee” were overcome by their enthusiasm, delight, and innocent pride of accomplishment.)
On consecutive August weekends we reported to churches in Austin: Redeemer and All Saints. It was, as always, refreshing to worship and fellowship with old friends, as well as to meet new. And there’s not much I enjoy more than talking about what God has been doing (and is doing: see above) in Slovakia.
And for the tenth birthday of Karen’s oldest (a.k.a. Griffin), we celebrated with a few days at South Padre Island. Seeing your daughter, her husband, and their children frolicking in the surf brings an unexpected, quiet satisfaction.
September will start with a report to Westminster in Bryan. Mid-month we’ll participate in a missions conference at Southside Community PCA in Corpus Christi, along with long-time friends and fellow missionaries Dan and Becky Young. And I’ll begin a study of the Trinity with my Theological Reading group in Slovakia. You are more than welcome to pray for us regarding all these.
And please thank God with us for these opportunities to celebrate his work, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Good news for Lubica Kovac, the dual-citizenship Slovak-American who has been itinerating with MTW: After more than 30 years in New Jersey, she will be moving to Bratislava in late September to serve Paradox. She’s thrilled and filled with hope. Please join her and us in thanking God for providing her to his church, and ask him to enfold her into the congregation in that sweet communion of service I talked about above.
Now may the Fountain of all riches pour out on you all the spiritual and material blessings you need in order to serve him with all your heart, and may he guard that same heart from the temptations to rest in his gifts rather than him, for his glory and your joy.