Ron Owens shares our experiences in Slovakia just after the Velvet Revolution. We had planned the trip when Communists were in charge, but everything changed, and we were privileged to be among the first Christian leaders in 42 years to openly proclaim Christ in theaters and meeting halls wherever we went. Read about our experiences in “The Communist White House.” I still am amazed when I recall those days. Thanks, Ron, for reminding me of that beautiful time. I think you’ll be very glad to read of these experiences.
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We recall watching on television, along with millions world-wide, as the Velvet Revolution came to a conclusion on December 29. 1989. Having previously ministered in Czechoslovakia when it was under Communist rule, little did we realize that within six weeks we would be witnessing what can only be explained as the sovereign hand of God intervening in the affairs of man.
February 12 -25, 1990
Kosice (Pron: Kosheetsay)
Kosice Newspaper Article (Translation)
Without tickets or special passes, people were allowed to get into the Great Hall of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Slovakia. (Known as the “Communist White House.”) They came to attend a Christian concert, an evening of Christian songs presented by Ron Owens, Director of the International Congress on Revival, and his wife, Patricia, both seen singing in the above picture. They come from Texas, U.S.A. Also with them was Jim Elliff, a minister from Little Rock, Arkansas.
Ron and Patricia write their own songs and also preach. They were able to involve the 1,200 people in a time of group singing. This service was sponsored by the local Baptist church congregation that has an average attendance of 120 believers and its pastor, Juraj Pribula.
Tracing God’s Hand
As you might imagine, when we first walked into that auditorium where we were to hold the event that evening, we felt “goose bumps.” This was the place where only the Communist Party had met, where all their laws were passed, that is up until the Velvet Revolution had ended six weeks before, on December 29, 1989.
At the front of the Great Hall, overlooking the auditorium, was a large bust of Klement Gottwald, the first Communist Premier of Czechoslovakia. His photos and monuments were sprinkled all over the country — his influence was notable.
But not tonight!! As we walked in, the young people of the local Baptist church were doing something that two months earlier would have landed them in jail. They had made a banner on which they painted a cross, and over the cross they had printed in Czech, “JESUS IS SALVATION”. Yes, they hung that banner right over the bust of Gottwald so that his nose was touching the back of the cross! When reference was made to this during the evening program, the people cheered!
The audience that night was one of the most responsive we’d ever faced, even though all but those of the Baptist Church, and a few others, may never have heard the gospel before, having been raised to believe that there was NO GOD.
They had placed an upright piano on the platform, and to Patricia’s astonishment, before anything had happened, Pastor Pribula turned to her and said: “I want you to begin the program by playing something on the piano.”
What in the world do you play in such a situation? Help, Lord!!! “The thing that came to mind was an arrangement of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” which I blended into an arrangement of “Father, we love You, we worship and adore You. Glorify thy Name in all the earth.” The words of that second song were certainly what I was praying that He would do at THAT spot on the earth right then!”
The people in that auditorium heard about God that night. We sang, some in Czech and some in English, sharing the Good News for about an hour, before Jim Elliff got up and preached the wonderful gospel. Then we came back for a couple of additional songs.
There was an unusual sense of God’s presence throughout the evening. Two young men in their mid-twenties spoke to us at the close of the service and said they could not explain why, but, from the moment the first note was sounded on the piano, they began to weep. They were among the many who came to ask questions after the program.
During the time Jim Elliff was with us, in addition to his preaching, God used him in a significant way during counseling times such as in Kosice. We were so thankful he was with us. Every night in every city, after the services, there were “inquirers,” often asking questions for over an hour.
That night, again to our surprise, Kosice television carried “the event” on their late evening news, showing us singing the gospel in the Communist White House! Then, the next morning, the radio station actually carried the part of the service when we had everyone in the audience sing the little chorus, “Alleluia,” that Ron had explained is a word out of heaven’s language that is basically the same in every language on earth. With the help of our friends at the Kosice Baptist church we had learned how to teach them additional words in Czech, using the same melody: “Lord, we praise you, Alleluia; Christ is risen, Alleluia,” etc. What an experience, to be able to proclaim the Gospel and to praise God in that place!
This sort of response occurred from city to city as we traveled from the western most city of Decin to the most eastern city of Kosice—nine cities in all, with more than one service in three of them. In all but two of these cities, these “concerts” as they were billed, were held in city auditoriums, theaters, and Cultural Halls. Think of it! The first time in 42 years that Christians were able to go outside the walls of their churches to share the gospel!
And they made the most of the moment! Posters were made, handbills printed, advertising “an evening of Christian music.” Everywhere, auditoriums were packed. In the city of Lipt. Mikulas, at the foot of the High Tatra Mountains, even the entrance foyer was filled. Though the people could not even see, they stood for two hours, listening.
Finding ourselves in the middle of all this, we knew we were just a part of something much larger that God was doing. We saw that it was “a new day,” but what would it all mean? We knew that only time would tell. We had learned that with the new freedoms in Eastern Europe, many different groups previously excluded were now wanting to come into these countries. This included not only western evangelistic groups, but also various cults. It was a day of opportunity and challenges.
Looking back—from Patricia’s Journal
February 26, 1990, British Airways flight, Prague to London
“This has been an intense two-week period with many reasons for thanksgiving. God entrusted us with special opportunities—some truly historic moments, though I cannot name all the cities and towns we visited. We were privileged to present the first publicly announced Christian message in over forty years, in theaters, cultural centers, etc.
“The highlight was in the city of Kosice, where we sang in what is called the Communist White House of the eastern area of Slovakia. The place seated 650, but a newspaper reporter said there were 1,200 people packed in the auditorium. The mayor was present, and the event was covered by radio, TV, and newspaper.
“Only God knows what He did in the hearts of people, but what an honor to share Christ openly where it has been illegal to do so for so long. Soli Deo Gloria!
We’re so thankful that God has allowed our ministry to go so many places. He is powerful to change the lives of people all over the world. We will have to wait until the future in the Kingdom to know how many were converted during this momentous trip so many years ago. We will not be aware now of what God is doing fully with any trips our team is involved with. Pray for our travels to resume after Covid-19 days. We’re thankful for some strategic travels even during this time, but long to do more.
Right now we are focusing on publications and writing. Expect, God willing, to see some new items and some revised reprints in the next few months. We’re excited about what we hope God will do with these.
Another important prayer request: Rachel Farney just had surgery to relieve her Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which causes immense pain and difficulties related to restricted nerve and vein pathways. This should be a welcome relief.