Hotel Zatoka, Senec, Slovakia
Dusk, Sunday afternoon, January, 22, 2006
The sun is down and the winter twilight has fallen on the frozen lake outside our hotel. All the frolickers are off the ice now except for one lone ice skater. There was a snow squall early this morning, and the newly fallen glaze is blowing in the biting cold wind, creating snow waves on the now gray ice.
Nothing pictures the spiritual situation of Slovakia more perfectly than this frozen lake and the lone ice skater. The spirits of Slovakia are as frozen as that lake. Slovakia, an unknown and forgotten country, on the world scene, is a nation of five million sandwiched between Austria on the west, Hungary on the south, and Poland on the north. Once a member of the Russian empire and united with the Czech Republic as Czechoslovakia, it has been on its own since 1993 and is now nominally a Roman Catholic country. But Roman Catholicism is only a label the nation wears and not a religion it practices. Slovakia is as frozen as the lake outside our hotel room window. And that lone ice skater represents those who have come to reach the nation with the Gospel. Theirs is a lonely and daunting task.
That Sunday night the temperature plunged to near record lows in central and eastern Europe as a Siberian front muscled its way across the continent, bringing the coldest weather in three decades. Monday morning dawned with a red-ball sun rising over the frozen lake. It was a red-ball of hope. Gone is the usual dull gray European winter sky. In its place was a cloudless brilliant expanse of deep blue sky. The wind is strong and sharp, causing exposed faces to ache with pain from the cold. The sun's warmth could barely be felt--but it could be felt. That wan warmth was a promise of the refreshing season of summer when the pain of cold is replaced by the delight of new life and renewed beauty.
This too is a picture of Slovakia's spiritual realities. That lone ice skater moving across the frozen spirit of the country is making a difference. There is some response, some interest, some who say yes to Jesus. It seems the response is greatest where the ice skaters are the most. I wonder why.
We think of Europe as sophisticated and we take delight in being there, in enjoying its culture, its food, its history, its beauty. But what about its spirituality? Think about this. All of Europe is a frozen lake spiritually speaking. Slovakia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain Portugal, Scandinavia--there is virtually no interest in the Gospel anywhere in Europe. And places like Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal have never in history been reached for Jesus. Beneath the surface of Europe beats hearts never touched with the Gospel, hearts that have no sense of need for God. For virtually all Europeans Christianity is a been-there, done -that kind of thing as they see themselves living in a post-Christian era. Yet millions of Europeans have never truly heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In many ways much of Europe is more pre-Christian than post-Christian.
You know what we need to reach Europe? More ice skaters. More men and women who will seek to break through the spiritual coldness of the Old World with the warmth of new life. Ice skating anyone?