Bird's-Eye View of Ministry in Slovenia
A member of the European Union since 2004, Slovenia has a strong economy. However, high taxes and a limited job market are challenges people face.
Slovenians are proud of their rich culture and long history. Nestled between Western and Eastern Europe, it has endured pressures from all directions over the centuries.
Roughly half of the population identify themselves as Roman Catholic even after the years of communism as part of the former Yugoslavia. A growing disdain for organized "religion" and suspicion of the evangelical churches being cults have allowed Eastern thought and atheism to grow rapidly, especially among the younger generations.
Q & A with Slovenia National Campus Director Don Green
Q: What is unique about working with college students in Slovenia?
Don: It is a country of 2 million with its own language and cultural history. Students in Slovenia like their country; they're proud of it. They are not looking to emigrate somewhere else for a better life because they already have a good life right here.
It's an easy place to live, but spiritually it can be difficult at times. Over the years, the initial openness to the gospel has faded.
Slovenia has become more modernized. It's no longer novel to meet Americans. It takes a long time to get to know people because they tend to run in close circles with people they've known for most of their lives. Most people are very suspicious of missionaries, categorizing them as [members of] cults.
Q: Why did you and your wife Jodi go to Slovenia from the United States?
Don: I had been to Eastern Europe on a summer project and began praying for that part of the world. As I prayed, the door opened. I believe this is where God has led us.
The majority of people [here] would describe themselves as Roman Catholic; but for most, their religion has very little correlation to how they live their lives. Most people have heard about Christianity, but they really don't know how they can have eternal life through Jesus. We feel like if we don't tell them, who will?
Q: Despite the obstacles, what is something that has been easy about doing ministry in Slovenia?
Don: Slovenians, especially students, are interested in American culture. For example, American football is a good draw.
Several years ago, some missionaries started an American football team as a way to build relationships with Slovenians. They asked me to be the chaplain for the team. Now, I've known some of the guys for several years, and they asked me to coach.
One of the captains on the team came to Christ a few years ago and has been growing steadily in the Lord. I have been able to [explain the gospel message to] everyone on the team either one-to-one or in a large group. Every year I get about 60 new rookies to work with.
Q: What would you like to see in the future for the ministry?
Don: I want to see us multiply. There have been many staff members and interns who have come and gone over the years. There's a trust factor that we contend with. Slovene students definitely respond better to fellow Slovenes.
I dream of having national staff members who love the Lord with all their hearts and, in turn, want to love others by telling them the best news the world has ever known, that Jesus died for them so that they can have life.
Overall, our time in Slovenia has been a time of real personal growth. It's been a joy living here and serving the Lord. While we don't know what the future holds for the ministry in Slovenia, we can be faithful because He's faithful.