News Release

Angels of “the Mortal Kind” in Slovakia

In humanitarian service, miracles often come through ordinary people.

Elder Scott and Sister Kelly Kozak are a senior missionary couple serving in Slovakia and Poland as Humanitarian Aid Directors for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They have been working to help a very impoverished Roma community near Karolov Dvor, Slovakia, a small town about 500 kilometer east of Bratislava, get firewood to be able to cook their meals and provide heating to their humble dwellings.

In February 2023, the Kozaks reported that were they were searching – and failing – to find a large quantity of firewood at a good price for the Roma village. It was February, and still bitter cold. They were very thankful to have received what they labelled “a tender mercy”, as two good men, not related to them or the Roma community, helped solved that significant problem.

The Romani people are considered outcasts in many areas of the world, and many live in extreme poverty, like those in this village. The only way to heat and cook food in their makeshift homes is with small, wood-burning stoves. But the price of firewood in Slovakia had more than doubled.  With the feared energy crisis in Europe, more people in central Europe anticipated heating their homes with wood, and Slovakia is a primary source of that wood.

The Roma simply couldn’t afford the wood they needed. Added to the challenges of high cost and the large quantity of wood required were distance and the cost of delivery - the Roma village is a three-hour drive from the nearest source of wood.

But then, “two angels among us came to the rescue”, recalls Elder Kozak. During a casual conversation with a new friend named Joseph Molnar, he mentioned the firewood challenge. Joseph took it upon himself to reach out to his friend Jozef Karahuta, who was in the lumber business. It was arranged that the Kozaks would meet Jozef at his lumber yard to discuss their need.  Although he traded with lumber and not firewood, Jozef graciously agreed to prepare a huge load of firewood – enough to supply the Roma village for the remainder of the winter – at a good price. And not only that, but they also arranged for it to be delivered in just three days. “These two men were literally angels, who orchestrated a miracle of relief for people in desperate need”, said the Kozaks.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has taught, “I testify of angels, both the heavenly and the mortal kind. When we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day.  Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods.”

In the words of the Kozaks, “Our Heavenly Father continues to bless us with the resources we need to fulfill our mission assignment of blessing God’s children. And in some cases, those resources are some of His other children.” The Kozaks are two of the 50 full-time Welfare & Self-Reliance missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serving in Europe, and more than 200 serving throughout the world in that capacity. Each of them can say from experience that, when we follow Jesus Christ’s admonition to love and serve our fellow man, God grants miracles – and sometimes, sends angels.

Saturday, 8 April is International Roma Day. It celebrates the Roma culture, history and art and their contributions to many nations.  It also seeks to expand awareness of the many challenges they face.  Like some other ethnic minorities, the Roma have been disregarded and disadvantaged for centuries.  Roughly 80% of the Roma people in Europe live in abject poverty, and those living near Karolov Dvor are no exception.

Numbering in the millions, the Roma form up to 12% (exact number unknown) of the total population in Hungary, Russia, Slovakia, Serbia, Spain, and France.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serves all people, regardless of race, creed, culture, or country.  The Church had 138 humanitarian projects in Europe in 2022, benefiting over 351,000 people.

A simple friendly greeting sparked Elder and Sister Kozaks’ friendship with Joseph and Ludmila Molnar.  Elder Kozak relates: “The Lord works in mysterious ways. Joseph and Ludmila Molnar are native Slovakians but lived in the U.S. for 10 years. Ludmila recognized Sister Kozak’s American accent when they greeted each other in a store in our apartment building”. After speaking for a few minutes, they realized the two families had lived near each other in Irvine, California more than 25 years ago. Each of them had a son who had played hockey at that time. When a new ice-skating rink opened in Irvine, both Elder Kozak and their son and Joseph and his son were at the grand opening of that rink and could have been standing next to each other.

Twenty-five years later they finally met – in Slovakia, 10,600 kilometers from Irvine – to bring “angels of the mortal kind” and a better winter to the Roma settlement on the outskirts of Karolov Dvor.

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