Road Notes: Communist Coke and shared grace in Central Europe
John Mark Hicks, right, talks about the book of 2 Corinthians with theology students at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia, as Roman Halamicek translates his lecture into Slovak. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — “How do you convince a group of people to share their wealth with people of a different ethnicity who live far away?”
It’s a question the apostle Paul faced as he wrote his second letter to the church in Corinth — and it’s a big question in missions today.
An advertisement, mostly in Slovak, for John Mark Hicks’ lecture. (PHOTO PROVIDED)
John Mark Hicks pondered that and other questions raised by 2 Corinthians 8-9 as he spoke at Comenius University in this Central European capital — once part of Czechoslovakia and the westernmost boundary of the Iron Curtain. Hicks, a professor at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., teaches courses in theology and history. He’s spending the semester in nearby Vienna, Austria, with Lipscomb’s study abroad program.
I got to visit with Hicks and a couple of Lipscomb students during a brief stopover in Bratislava, en route to Ukraine.
My gracious host was Roman Halamicek, a native of Slovakia who ministers for a Church of Christ in the city. He told me about growing up during the Cold War — just minutes from “the West,” and about the challenges of ministry and mission work in post-Soviet Europe.
And he introduced me to “Communist Coke,” a beverage served east of the Iron Curtain when “the real thing” was hard to come by. It’s still around, and it tastes … interesting. I really enjoyed my time with him.
Theology faculty and students at Comenius University listen to John Mark Hicks’ lecture. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)
Hicks told the students and faculty members about the way grace flowed from God to the people of Corinth. Paul urged them to share that grace, as they had pledged, with people in need — the poor, Jewish believers in Jerusalem.
A mix of old and new in downtown Bratislava. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)
“This is not merely a humanitarian effort,” Hicks said. By sharing an abundance — which comes from God — with those who will praise God as they receive it, the Corinthians become “instruments through which thanksgiving returns to God.”
The students asked some thought-provoking questions — in a mix of English and Slovak. Halamicek translated. (I honestly don’t know how he managed words including “theocentric” and “Christological.”
After the lecture, the Lipscomb students got a great walking tour of the city from Zdenka Hamerlikova, a tour guide and member of the Church of Christ in Bratislava.
I enjoyed spending a wee bit of time during the tour speaking with Tony Coffey, minister for the Ranelagh Church of Christ in Dublin, Ireland. He was in town after speaking at an Easter weekend retreat for church members in Slovakia.
My next stop is Kiev, where I’ll visit refugees displaced by “Ukraine’s Religious War.”
Tony Coffey, a minister in Dublin, Ireland, thanks tour guide Zdenka Hamerlikova for her tour of downtown Bratislava — and her devotion to Christ. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)