Beautiful People with Beautiful Stories – pt. 2
So, about Jozef.
After the church trip was ending, our coordinator, Heather, indicated that Jozef was going to be traveling to the Czech Republic to represent Slovakia in a big Christian ministry conference and would need a place to stay in Bratislava for the night. Since my roommate was off working with one of TWR’s partner ministries out in Portugal for the month, I obviously agreed to host him.
The ride home was a bit tricky, since he spoke very, very little English. He still managed to communicate his testimony for those of us riding in the car. He has a very powerful testimony, one that details Christ’s victory over his life of sin, struggle with homosexuality, and many other things. When we were walking to go get dinner that evening, he told me of how God saved him from that lifestyle of sin and spent years cleaning and refining his heart. He showed me a picture of his fiancé, a beautiful blonde girl, and quickly informed me of the obvious: she was not a Roma. He told me how it was difficult being accepted by his fiancé’s family. For those of us from the US, think of it as something like interracial marriage many years ago. A lot of people still have some hard feelings regarding this kind of a relationship. But Jozef didn’t need to convince me. They were both waiting for marriage. He was passionate about Christ and serving to His glory on this earth. I didn’t need convincing, but Jozef made a strong case in his soft, loving words. I could tell in the way he said it, the way he smiled about it. God is good and was unfolding some beautiful blossom before them (and me).
We weren’t really able to communicate on too much of a deep level because of the language barrier, but I did what I could to try and make him feel welcome and safe for the night he’d spend with me. When we woke up the next morning, I asked if I could get a picture with him so I could ask people back home to remember to pray for him, his ministry, and the other Christians he serves with. So here I am, posting this picture:
After he left, I hugged him and wished him well. I wished I could have spoken with him more. He had a beautiful, tender spirit and I still wished I could have had the time to know him better.
So, that was in May. This evening, September 5th, Jozef and his now bride, Julia, made an appearance on Slovak national television. National television!
A fellow Christian in the village back where they served had written in to this television show that tries to help bless people and help them with whatever they are struggling with. It’s kind of like a Slovak Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, only without the home part. She and her village wanted to bless Jozef and Julia with a honeymoon somewhere nice, but had absolutely no way to afford something like that.
Whether it was by God’s grace, the compassion of the show producers, or the producers smelling good ratings with a controversial episode, they were blessed to be selected. This Slovak film crew came out to Cinobaňa to film them, get to know them, and show where they lived and worked. Essentially, this was the storytelling stuff for the tv show.
As all producers on a major network seem privy to do, they spent a lot of time focusing on Jozef’s past in homosexuality. This actually turned out to be huge, though, because their entire episode turned into them preaching the Gospel and testifying of how God had changed them. Sure, the whole show was in Slovak, but some friends were loosely translating as we went along. It was awesome! I couldn’t stop smiling, and I usually despise these kinds of shows. Jozef spoke about his past, how God found him and changed him, and Julia spoke of how they believe in purity before marriage. It was so awesome. The show host and some of the live audience were getting visibly and audibly uncomfortable.
The show came out and filmed the whole wedding for Jozef and Julia in August. My friend, Heather, went out to see them get married. I would have loved to go, but I was just that stranger that admires from afar.
I managed to snap some shots of them getting married. Strangely enough, they got married in this church in a nearby town that I played bass for back in May. Here are some poor cell phone pictures of the TV that a bunch of us were watching:
The film crew then followed them around and sent them to Turkey for a beautiful and expensive honeymoon. Even there, they had these long moments of only speaking about God and how Christ had changed their lives. Even though we were watching this show about two people getting married, virtually none of it was them talking about themselves. God bless those two.
After the wedding and honeymoon, they all came to Bratislava to shoot the actual show in the television studio. A bunch of the friends and family from Cinobaňa were in the audience. I recognized a lot of their faces. Here is a shot of Jozef and Julia with two of the Christians helping minister in Cinobaňa:
The show host and the producers spent a pretty inordinate amount of time focusing on Jozef’s dark past rather than expounding upon any other element of his life, work, and ministry. Quite frankly, it made me angry. This is the exact reason why I hate shows like this. Producers and show hosts are out for blood, trying to milk every bit of any controversial detail from something for the sake of ratings or sheer controversy. My already short temper for these kinds of things was getting awfully close to being set off. I think all of us watching the show were praying that the show wouldn’t try to use its slick editing to manipulate the testimonies of these Christians into something it was never intended to be.
When speaking in front of the audience, Jozef’s past in homosexuality was again brought up and, again, he and Julia spoke with authority and confidence that I can only assume was a blessing from the Holy Spirit. They handled the show host’s ignorance and willful refusal to understand or validate their claims as legitimate with grace and slight wit. The show host flagrantly disagreed with their beliefs about sin and homosexuality, going on his own rant that it was nature and such. Jozef and Julia gave a pretty good attempt at explaining what temptation was and how all sins are the same, regardless of what they are. They were giving the Gospel. The show host was quick to try and shut this down and went out into the crowd to ask for other people’s opinions. I was ready to explode. I saw the train coming off the tracks, as some idiot was unhappy with being confronted with a reality he didn’t agree with and was trying to turn the crowd against them. Keep in mind that this show was supposed to be about blessing them by giving them a nice wedding and a wonderful honeymoon. It was more of a debate about morality and sin. My skin was going hot with anger.
Thankfully, though, when going out to the crowd, the show host handed the mic to another one of the guys that works with Jozef in his ministry out in Cinobaňa. I met the guy. You may recognize him from the picture in part 1 of these blog posts.
I never knew his name, but he was a blessing. He affirmed Jozef’s grace and mercy towards him when he had nothing and nowhere to go. It was beautiful, even in the midst of a jumbled English translation of a Slovak television show. You could see the conviction on his heart. God bless that guy.
So, anyway, in all of this ridiculousness, there was such a glorious opportunity to be the Gospel on Slovak national television. Do you have any idea how huge that is? They just preached Christ. On national television. On a popular channel. Channel 3. I am beside myself with how amazing of an opportunity that was. And, to Jozef and Julia’s righteousness, they did not squander it one bit, even for their wedding, which they already said was preserved as a testimony to God’s glory.
Maybe I’m a sentimentalist, but I find this all so precious.
I’m spitting proud. Who knew that the stranger I could barely communicate with in English would have such a massive opportunity to serve Christ and present the Gospel to the entirety of Slovakia?
Strange how God has a way of blessing you through the beautiful lives of other beautiful people.