As of March 27, the United Nations estimates that 275,439 Ukrainian refugees have crossed the border into Slovakia. Drahus Oslik knows that border well.
A pastor of Evangelical Lutheran in Waynesboro, Pa., Oslik has been given a two-week humanitarian leave by the congregation council to travel to his native Slovakia, where he is providing pastoral counseling and translation services to war refugees at the border with Ukraine.
“Everything here is super-hectic,” said Oslik, who once served as pastor to a congregation about 50 miles from the border. “We all can really feel God’s presence in these difficult times.”
Pribelce Lutheran, Oslik’s home congregation in Slovakia, is housing refugees in its church center and in the homes of its members, including Oslik’s parents.
“These times are the test of our faith.”
The volunteers Oslik has served with at congregations such as Pribelce and at the Lutheran Diacon tent at Vyšné Nemecké—the largest Ukrainian-Slovakian border crossing—work around the clock doing anything needed, he said. That includes welcoming refugees at the border day and night, transporting people and supplies, cooking, providing health services, finding refugees a warm place to lodge overnight or simply comforting people. With staff of the Lutheran World Federation, he has traveled to several facilities housing refugees and sometimes stayed for weeks.
“I am inspired by what I have seen,” he said. “The most beautiful people—the brave and courageous Ukrainians, whose stories are too many to share—and the caring and selfless volunteers, working nonstop to take care of the most vulnerable before them.”
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Partizánska Ľupča, a small town in northern Slovakia, currently houses 82 Ukrainian refugees, Oslik said—some in its parsonage but most in members’ homes. He remembers the congregation’s pastor, Jan Molcan, telling him, “These times are the test of our faith. Now we’ll be able to see whether we’ll live through our deeds and what we say with our lips. Many do—they are here to help their brothers and sisters in need.”
“These people are the very presence of Christ in this place,” Oslik said. “I’m humbled by the incredible love, cheerful spirit, hard work and selflessness to which I am bearing witness.”
Lutheran Disaster Response, through the Lutheran World Federation, is supporting companion churches, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia, in Eastern Europe.