Strengthening Ministry

By John Birnie

John Birnie

Within the region of Central and Eastern Europe there are significant differences from country to country in terms of economy and prosperity.Some are struggling, and living standards for large sections of the population remain low and unsatisfactory. Others are evidently more prosperous, and people are enjoying a quality of day to day life which mirrors that of the west. Poland and Slovakia may be put in the latter category, with life in their respective capitals, Warsaw and Bratislava, as sophisticated as any in the west.

The spiritual needs of both countries continue to be acute and deeply challenging. Poland is predominantly Roman Catholic, one of the most religious countries in Europe, to the extent that many equate their citizenship as Poles with adherence to the Catholic faith. The vast majority of the population of almost 50 million have no knowledge of or contact with a Gospel church. Slovakia too has a large Roman Catholic majority, although Lutheran and Reformed traditions are also represented. Sadly however, true spiritual life is at a low ebb and there is much formalism. Evangelicals make up only a tiny minority in both countries.

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As is typical across Central and eastern Europe, false cults continue to grow, and in some areas to flourish. The presence and unremitting efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular have drawn many into error, as the spiritual void created by empty, formal religion is filled by alternative false and deadly error. Some reports tell us that growth of the JW cult in Slovakia outstrips that of the evangelical churches.

Slovakia also has a sizeable Roma population which is marginalized and often discriminated against, but in which God has been at work with significant and encouraging results – the establishment and growth of Roma churches which are reaching out to their own communities.

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SGA has been involved over many decades in assisting the believers in both countries to develop mature leadership, to prepare evangelists and church planters, and to reach out by various means to reach their own people with the truth of the Gospel.

The Biblical Leadership Training programme has been offered through Mission Schools in both countries and this has been profitable and helpful for the churches. A number of Christian workers in both countries are supported in their ministry under Leadership Support.

Camp ministry features large in both countries as believers attempt to reach the younger generations with the Gospel. In Poland the involvement of SGA goes back over thirty years, when staff members were involved directly in the teaching programmes of many Gospel camps.

Today that ministry is in the hands of Polish nationals, some of whom themselves were converted in the early camps! In Slovakia SGA provided substantial help for the building of a permanent campsite beside the evangelical church in Hermanovce. Support for a camp worker was also provided and it is a joy to know that God has used that Opal Camps programme to touch many lives with the Gospel.

Please pray for both countries, Poland and Slovakia, also for the faith and witness of their Evangelical Churches.