We have had an eventful couple of months. Springtime's blooming flowers and longer days have lifted spirits, even though Jack Frost revisited us off and on these past couple of weeks. Besides spending our weekdays in school and studying, Jordan is teaching four students four-nights-per-week. Additionally, we've spent several weekends over the past couple of months travelling to build up relationships with individual Christians and preaching in other congregations in Slovakia. We look forward to Mary Ann and her son Mason Hill visiting us from Robert Lee, Texas over the month of June.
We are especially excited to inform everyone about a new door of service opening to us on the opposite end of the country from where we presently live. True to our original plan, over the past year we have lived and studied language in Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia just down the road from Vienna. This August, however, in a slight alteration to our original plans, we hope to relocate to Košice, in order to work with a congregation deeper in Eastern Europe where there is a great need for full-time workers. We're happy to field any questions you may have about the change. And, while we may not be able to answer every sweet note you send, please know they are all read and cherished.
Košice (pronounced- Ko-shee-tseh) is the second largest city in Slovakia, with roughly half the population of Bratislava (240,000). It is the capitol of the East, within an hour of the Ukrainian, Hungarian and Polish borders. The most significant industry and largest employer in the city (employing about 7% of city population) is US Steel, an American firm. Roughly 12% of Košice's population are university students. Taken with foreign investment, consumer and supporting industries, there is inherent broad-based appeal for English learning opportunities and a generally positive attitude towards Americans among the population than in western cosmopolitan areas like Bratislava. Furthermore, unlike Bratislava, the Protestant/evangelical/biblicist-type religious "market" is unsaturated, with only 4-5 significant non-Roman Catholic denominations currently proselytizing (compared with the 15-20 active groups in Bratislava). The cost of living is marginally less in Košice, though it is much more remote than Bratislava. From Košice it is a six-hour train ride to Vienna, three-hours to Budapest, six hours to Kraków, etc.
Churches of Christ works have been active in Košice for over 20 years, but to date with no sustained long-term missionary efforts in the past several years. Nor have there been fluent Slovak-speaking missionaries in Košice at any point In the past. At its height the congregation and visitors in Košice numbered 25-30. Currently church attendance is down to 8 adults (4 households) and a handful of children. Many of her members have moved away for work, some have defected, etc. Frankly, the church suffers from attrition and needs refreshment. Peter Haluštok, a successful businessman (who studied at Sunset for a year) is the church's primary patron, currently shouldering the congregation's leadership roles in preaching, worship planning, fiduciary and pastoral duties. Unlike in Bratislava, the church in Košice does enjoy the stability of owning its own building (auditorium for space for 40-50, two classrooms, storage room, office area and kitchenette).
Unlike the relatively transient Bratislava population, workers and students in Košice are more stationary--for example, the people in Kosice who study with missionaries during the week are more likely to be in town on Sunday than folk in Bratislava, who tend to travel home for the weekend.
At the invitation of the Košice congregation, we would relocate to the city in August, committing to a minimum of five years helping to strengthen the weary and evangelize the lost. In no way are we "abandoning" the church in Bratislava, and it's not because of personality conflicts or anything like that in Bratislava, but for the sake of our struggling brethren in Košice, our effectiveness in the country and the future of the church of Christ in the nation at large (the close ties between the Bratislava and Košicecongregations and between Roman and Jordan would not be loosened but strengthened and their potential multiplied) we are considering this move. Indeed, we would not entertain the option if we felt leaving Bratislava would leave the congregation here in a precarious spot. In addition to our continuing to grow in Slovak fluency, the Arnolds would (along with interns, Let's Start Talking groups and short-term mission works from American congregations and universities) have more evangelistic outreach opportunities in English, a ready facility to host and conduct programs (while not detracting from the distinctively Slovak identity of church) and the support of Slovak Christians eager to work with us in the growing of the of gospel in Eastern Slovakia.