Jesus is in the business of restoration. And Slovenia needs restoration. Although this small and obscure nation in Eastern Europe is one of the most beautiful places on earth, it is also a country full of darkness and bondage. At first I thought these people were simply lost, but it didn’t take long to realize they are really unreached–and they have been for generations and generations. These people serve a counterfeit Jesus and the yoke of Catholicism keeps them from seeing the true gospel. In all reality, the Protestant Reformation never reached this people group. They are a people in deep spiritual need.
From the moment I crossed the border into Slovenia, my heart became burdened for these people and this country. I’ve always had a tender heart for the unreached people groups of the world. I never thought I’d find them in Europe. But I did. In the mountains of Slovenia I found people whom God has created and loved trading the glory of Christ for images, rules, and regulations. It broke my heart. It’s still broken.
But even in the darkest corners of this world, there is light. There is hope. And the Lord revealed it to me through a story from His word:
“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’ When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’ Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days…On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
‘Lord,’Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes, Lord, ‘she told him, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’ And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. ‘The Teacher is here,’ she said, ‘and is asking for you.’ When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’
But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said. ‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “’Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’ (John 11:1-6, 17-44 NIV84)
There are many encouraging things in this story. First, Jesus waited. He waited to heal Lazarus because it brought the Father and the Son the most glory. Death was not the end. Death would not have the final word. But at the time it didn’t make much sense to anyone. Jesus has waited to reveal himself to the Slovenian people, and it honestly doesn’t make much sense to me. Why? Why would he wait for hundreds of years to break their chains?
Secondly, the faith of Martha in Jesus. Her brother had been dead for four days and Jesus had yet to show up. I think I would’ve lost all hope. But Martha knew Jesus. An he had power, all consuming power. Her hope was in the fact that Jesus was the Messiah and even if she wouldn’t see her brother again until the resurrection, Jesus gave her hope. That is a beautiful picture of faith. I need to have the same faith in Jesus for the people of Slovenia. Looking around at the villages knowing there isn’t a single evangelical church in this region of Slovenia and only a handful of believers can seem pretty hopeless. It can seem pretty dead. Like over four hundred years of deadness. But, I need to have faith. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. And he can bring life to these people. He can bring life to his nation. He can bring life. I need to be more like Martha.
Thirdly, I love the heart of Mary. Jesus calls her and she immediately gets up and falls humbly at the feet of Jesus. This act of obedience caught people’s attention. And what does she do when she falls at the feet of her Savior? She honestly lays her heart before the Lord, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She was honest. Then she began weeping. And what was Jesus’ response? His spirit was deeply moved. A humble and honest heart can move the heart of God. When we come to Him humbly and plead with Him for the cause of others I believe Jesus is moved to do something. When I come to Him humbly and plead with Him for the cause of Slovenia, I know Jesus is moved. And so I plead with Jesus for the people of Slovenia.
Finally, Jesus brings life to Lazarus’ body. A body that had been dead for four days. A hopeless cause. The Jesus we serve brought back life to a hopeless cause. And I don’t just believe, but I know that Jesus will bring life to the country of Slovenia. These beautiful people are not a hopeless cause. Because they are loved by the King of the universe. And His heart weeps for them. He desires to restore their lives. And He will. Life is coming to these people. I know it.
As Jesus’ heart was moved by the death of Lazarus, so my heart has been moved by the death of Slovenia. My heart has been moved. So I am beginning to pray about returning to Slovenia next summer. I ask that you would join in praying for me as I seek the Lord. If He is calling me, I want to quickly get up and go to Him and be where he is. Death is not the end for Slovenia. Jesus will have the final word. I know Slovenia needs something. Slovenia needs restoration. Slovenia needs Jesus.
“Lord, I pray for the people of Slovenia who have knowingly turned from you Father. The people who have rejected the real message of Jesus and traded it for an idol. I pray that the name of Jesus would be restored in this nation. The cross is enough! It is all these people need. God raise up this nation! Raise them up! Bring the name of Jesus high! He deserves all the glory in this nation. I pray that you’d bring revival! True revival. Lord bring these people to yourself. Bring glory to yourself in this nation. Restore their hearts! Jesus is Lord!”