“But Immediately He talked with them and said to them, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I: do not be afraid.’ Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased.” – Mark 6:50-51

I wanted to share a few beautiful experiences that I have had in the past week. Christ’s love is so near to us, and there are many miracles that come from His love.

Early in the morning this past Thursday, our team made our way to the cathedral of St. Sava for Divine Liturgy, on the old calendar feast day of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. For the first time since we’ve been here, the liturgy was celebrated in English, and we were privileged to hear and understand the prayers we love, and sing the melodies we grew up with. When the liturgy was finished, I was caught off guard by the number of people who approached us to thank us. With tears individuals spoke of how beautiful it was to see how much love we had for our faith, they mentioned how moving it was to hear Orthodox hymns sung in English, and how God was giving them a gift through our songs.

Another experience that touched me occurred during one of the bi-weekly bible discussions that we have with Serbian students. We are studying the Gospel of St. Mark, and we were spending time talking about the miracle of Christ as He came to His disciples and calmed the storm. Because I love stories, I asked if anyone had a personal story of when a personal “storm” had been calmed in their own life, and what that was like. Then one girl who was attending for the first time, responded with tears, and told a story that I will never forget. One day, as a small child, she had been sitting under a table, and a giant vase began to slide off of the table towards her head. Her mother was watching this happen, but was too far away to come and help in any way. “But that’s not all,” the girl sobbed, “My mother has told me over and over again, that just as the vase was about to land on my head, she saw a hand appear, and gently push the vase away. It landed and shattered on the floor a few feet from me.” After our bible discussion was over, I had the privilege of following up with this girl, validating her tears, and listening to her as she shared her story. It was a beautiful story, and she has a very courageous heart that is longing for God and at the same time struggling to find Him.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon a small group of us travelled to a monastery about an hour outside of Belgrade. After a weekend of being grumpy and tired, I knew I needed a monastery visit, but I was not at all prepared for the holiness that hit me as I walked through the gates. The monastery radiated with joy, and the prayer that seemed to be contained in the monastery walls overwhelmed me. In the monastery’s small chapel I was fixated on the icon of the Theotokos, as simple byzantine chant kept me focused and entirely there. The whole experience was so real, and touched my heart in a way I can’t quite explain. On the way home I jotted down my thoughts in a short poem. I tried to capture and process my time at the monastery, as well as my time so far in Serbia.

Wanting to stay
In a place so real
With a life so full

Wanting to be
In a sea of flowers
With faces toward heaven

Wanting to weep
In a place so holy
With hearts wide open

Wanting to run
On a path so narrow
With eyes on The goal

I am reminded time and time again of how good our God is. He is calling each one of us to Himself, knows each by name, and continues to beautify the world around us by so many small miracles.