Later that year, I went on a trip with Josh to Michigan for our friend’s wedding. It was great catching up with our American friends and a lot of fun seeing the sites of Chicago! Before returning home to England, we took a trip to Nashville to visit Randall Morgan, the founder of SOZO festival. Randall has a heart of compassion for the nations and seeing unity amongst various church denominations. He’s a very encouraging and fun person to be around. We got to see a lot in Nashville and we also visited some local churches in the area. God loves the nations and it’s in His wonderful plan that one day, people from every nation, tribe, and language, will stand before His throne and worship Him (Revelation 7:9) Josh and I also love the nations! We enjoy traveling, experiencing different expressions of Christian worship, meeting people, and serving others, so when we were invited to lead the youth seminar at SOZO 2013 in Novi Sad, Serbia last month, we were delighted.
Novi Sad, Serbia
At the beginning of the week, we went with the SOZO staff team on a cultural visit around the city of Novi Sad. I was really struck by the architecture, cathedral, quaint cafe’s and pretty little cobbled streets. The sites of Novi Sad are quite charming and the Forte was really something special. One thing that really stood out to me while I was in Novi Sad was how friendly the local people were. Every time we went into a shop, or cafe, people made a real effort to talk to us, even though we couldn’t speak Serbian. It seems that a popular way of socializing in Serbia meeting at outdoor cafes and restaurants to chat.
As the backdrop to our week was a clear blue sky and hot sun, we found ourselves in need of refreshments several times a day! I noticed that the same people sitting comfortably in their seats as we arrived in cafes, were still sitting in the same spot with a fresh beverage, chatting away as we left. The Serbs seem to put more emphasis on relationships than individuality, which was lovely to see. I really enjoyed the food in Serbia. During SOZO festival we had a BBQ, which included lots of Serbian meat and salad. The tomatoes were very impressive! Unlike the perfectly rounded, polished, tomatoes in England, the tomatoes in Serbia were far more out of shape, yet way more tasty!
|The lovely view from The Fort in Novi Sad
|Burek- Delicious Serbian meat in flaky pastry
|Great hospitality & tasty food at our SOZO BBQ
|Chocolate & cherry filled pancakes… Yummy!
|Dinner at the top of the Forte with my best friend Irena and SOZO friends
We really enjoyed serving at SOZO festival. There were a lot of opportunities to help in the community. We had a few community outreach events including our Gospel concert by the River Danube where I really enjoyed singing my solo songs and with the choir. One event which really stood out to me was our outdoor concert for the Romani community. We had a lot of interesting conversations with people and it was just wonderful to be able to make a difference in their community. Face-painting and outdoor music, free for all the family is not something which happens very often. It was quite moving to see families walking into the car park area off the street and joining in. If you are a Christian and would like to know what to pray for; pray that God will move hearts and raise up leaders to plant and establish church groups in that community.
Every day the SOZO staff team met together for lunch outside a beautiful house, chapel and gardens. Helen Williamson, an artist from England, came up with a lovely idea. We each chose a balloon representing a color from our own national flag, then swapped it with someone from another country as a sign of peace. Then the balloons were all put together to build a bridge representing the nations. We had a lot of fun doing this!
|Helen and Gordon Williamson
|Our SOZO Gospel choir
|Fun and music with the local Romani community
|Beck Gambill- Compassion seminar leader
As well as having lots of fun and playing games with the young people, we wanted to leave them with some tools which they could apply to their every day lives after the hype and excitement of the conference.
We arranged the young people into smaller groups to discuss themes from the Bible and present their ideas to the larger group. Each group were given key stories from the Bible, then we came together as one big group and put together a timeline of events leading up to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus through to the early church and the second coming which is the last book of the Bible, Revelation.
We also discussed all the ways in which God has and still does communicate with people. Some of the answers which came back were; Through answered prayers, the Bible, A song, A movie, A word of encouragement from another person, a miracle… The list was endless! The youth also learnt, practiced the ‘Life house’ sketch within the space of one hour, which they then performed to the staff team 🙂
The young people also spent time praying for one another and we had some great discussions in the garden and walking to the river Danube. So much lays before these young people and God can and will use their lives for his great purposes. We are excited to see what kind of adventures each of them will take!
We spent a day in Belgrade, before flying out the following morning. Josh and I spent a few hours in the city and I must say it was beautiful. If you visit Belgrade, be sure to order a coffee at a cafe in the Bohemian quarter Skadarlija. We found a lovely little cafe and Josh tried a Serbian coffee which he loved, but I ate the Turkish delight of course 😉
We took a trip around the ‘History of Serbia’ museum. We ate Baklava, which was delicious My back and legs had been suffering on this trip, so we took a kid’s train ride around the park and forte, and laughed all the way round. We had fun… We met a group of very friendly Serbs in the park, who were dancing to traditional Serbian music being played on the accordion. They pulled me in for a dance, and I had a lot of fun learning it!
We were sad to say goodbye to Serbia and to our friends that we had journeyed with during SOZO week. We are praying for good things for the nation of Serbia, for the peace and presence of God to move throughout that land. We would love to visit again someday…