Last week in our Sunday School hour we welcomed Ande Truman, a missionary who is raising support to go to Trnava in Slovakia with a Christian ministry called “The Building.” She will be doing several things there, including teaching English, building relationships with Slovak teenagers and sharing the gospel with them, and using her graphic design skills to publicize the ministry there.
When I was younger, I read quite a bit about life under Communism. It is now almost 20 years since Communist rule ended in Czechoslovakia (which split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993), but it appears that the scars of Communism still remain.
The most visible sign of Communist rule is in architecture. Buildings from the Communist era (1940s-1980s) are instantly recognizeable by their plainness and ugliness. (They are even uglier than American public housing from that era.) Marxism, as a political embodiment of atheism, had no place for beauty. Older Slovakian buildings had character, and newer buildings also look nice, but there is a 40-year period of ugliness. Even in their advertising, they do not use much color now, so Miss Truman is actually trying to figure out a good “look” for the ministry, which will be attractive but not “over the top.”
Social and family relationships were also harmed by Communism. I remember from some older books like “The Bridge at Andau”, by James Michener, that the Communist government encouraged everyone to spy on everyone else. Neighbors were encouraged to turn in neighbors for “un-patriotic activities”, and even children were asked questions in school to determine if their parents were “good citizens” or were “subversive.” Miss Truman mentioned that one difficulty with ministering in Slovakia is that people are not very open with each other, and it can be hard to form trusting relationships. This could well be a result of a generation when it was very dangerous to trust your neighbor, or even to tell your family what you really thought.
Finally, there is now a spiritual vacuum in Slovakia. The country was once Catholic, with some other religious minorities, but of course that was suppressed by Communism, which tried to enforce atheism. Now the Communists are gone, but the Catholic Church is weak and many Catholics barely practice their religion. Meanwhile, atheism is increasing, and there are probably some cults moving in.
The Bible pithily describes a period when Israel was oppressed by foreigners:
Village life in Israel ceased (Judges 5:7).
This seems to be an apt description of the oppression, both political and spiritual, which engulfed Slovakia and other Eastern European nationss under rulers who sought to banish God from society, and who sought to re-make man according to Marxist theory. As the rulers rejected God, they also damaged just about everything that people care about.
Let us pray that Miss Truman and the small ministry there provide an effective Christian witness in the town of Trnava, and that the gospel will work powerfully in the Slovak culture.