четвртак, 03. март 2016.

Our Work with Our Brethren in Need and a Request for Help

“And the King will answer and say to them,
‘Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you
did it to the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’.” – Mat. 25:40

When our sisterhood chose this remote place for our monastery, we were expecting a life of solitude and service to our neighbor mostly in the form of prayer.  Over the years, however, as God has sent many of the ailing and world-weary for spiritual comfort and shelter at our monastery, we have realized that He asks of us a more active service for our neighbor.   

     Loyal helpers 

Proud of the harvest at the garden skete

On the road to the harvest

Although we have visitors of all ages and origins, we especially have been sent children and youths who are in need of spiritual and material help.  These usually fall into three groups: Serbian refugees (from Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia), those abandoned by their parents, or those who have fallen into bad company, delinquency, and addiction.  With Abbess Efrosinija’s secular training in psychology, along with, more importantly, many years of training and experience in the spiritual life, these youths receive much help under her care.

 At the same time, life at the monastery itself has proved to be miraculously healing.  We have seen many youths who seemed like a hopeless cases utterly healed and transformed through the grace of God and the prayers of St. John the Baptist. Without any specific “program” on our part, but just by living at the monastery where life is centered around service to God through prayer and obedience, many have naturally drawn closer to Our Sweetest Savior or tasted the grace of closeness to Him for the first time.  Here many souls who have experienced nothing but suffering from the many cruel blows of the world finally find comfort and shelter in a safe port.  Though our life is simple, it is deep, and this is wonderful after life in the world which is so complex and yet so shallow.  After time spent at the monastery, some have chosen the monastic life, while others have left the monastery renewed and strengthened for the battle of living as Christians in the World, which is in many ways much harder.  Unfortunately, some, because of their unhappy circumstances, are not capable of either path but put their hope in us that we will take care of them. In any case, Novi Stjenik is always there as a spiritual anchor.

Mati Efrosinija reminisces about one of these brothers:

  “The story of  Nenad Ðurđević is particularly moving.  As a student of psychology I used to volunteer at a home for abandoned children, where I was considering staying on to work.  I worked with a group of the youngest children, ages six to eight.  With the help of a few other friends we would organize outings for the children on certain occasions, to monasteries, to the zoo, for lunch at someone’s house, or to people’s family Slava, where we were always welcome.  Nenad was one of those children, although he was not actually in my group, he was present now and then. After I joined Stjenik monastery, the children also came to visit me there. After many years of my monastic life had passed, and we had established Uteshiteljevo Monastery ,a young man appeared there two years ago, saying that he had grown up in a home for abandoned children.  His story fit in with my own and it became clear that we had known each other.  After we had gotten to know each other again he told me that those times when we had worked with them, as professionals but also as Christians, offering them various comforts, were the only bright spots in their otherwise very sad lives, without any other rays of light.  These children had been abandoned by their parents, but however much those parents were bad ones and unfeeling towards their own children, those children would faithfully wait for them for years.  They waited for them to come and take them home.  It did not matter how poor that home might be, just that it be theirs. They never judged their mothers and fathers for abandoning them and forgetting them.  These children were abused in every sense, by various violent personalities, pedophiles, and criminal rings who forced them into thievery, begging and prostitution for the profit of the lowest of the low.  One child of from those horribly sad stories, who had no chance of passing a single day without suffering and horror, who was more often hungry than full, was Nenad Ðurđević.  His life was featured once on the television program “More than Life.” His mother lives in a home for the elderly (also a charitable institution for the elderly who have no one to take care of them), not so much because she is old, but because she was left an invalid after her merciless husband abused her so much that she attempted suicide by jumping of Sava bridge, surviving only by a miracle. Since then she has been struggling with illness and receiving therapy, both physical and spiritual.” 

Through all of that suffering, Nenad turned to Our Lord Whom his grandmother taught him about when he was very small. As he became more mobile and independent as a young man, he began singing in a (Patriarchate) church choir.  He just prayed and prayed, and this helped him recover from all of the suffering and horror he had endured.  Eventually the Lord led His suffering one to the True Church, and his mother soon followed him thanks to visits from our sisterhood and good pastors. Now she is regularly ministered to by our priests, receives Holy Communion, and has a new family of our sisters and faithful in the Belgrade area.  After joining our parish at Uteshiteljevo (Belgrade) two years ago, Nenad spent the past two summers at Novi Stjenik which he recalls as the happiest periods of his life.

    Off to explore the wilderness with the brave Novi Stjenik pack

At the end of the fall, however, when the winter snowfalls send all of our guests home, it is very difficult for him to go back to the homeless shelter, as it is for many others to go back to their sad homes. Then Uteshiteljevo is their only comfort, an oasis in the cruel desert of the World.  Unfortunately, however, as many know, we do not have regular living conditions for ourselves, much less for others but because of such brothers like Nenad, whose lives are truly unbearable and who, because of all of the trauma they endured, are incapable of surviving by themselves in society, we wish to make a place for them to stay at Uteshiteljevo, if only the most basic one for starters – for now, a container house.  In order to raise money for this project, to simplify making donations for our friends abroad, we have made a gofundme fundraising account which can be accessed here: https://www.gofundme.com/helpNShelpothers

Mati concludes,
“We have to find enough generosity and understanding in our hearts for these people from the margins. They suffer not because they wanted or deserved it, and are entirely unnoticed by us. Now they stand before us, with a silent plea for just one smile or one comforting word, which all of us who love Christ are called to give them.  For before Christ they and we are the same. The Lord tests all of our souls, without regard to position, reputation, power, vocation or property.  Paupers and the mentally ill are also those “little ones” who quietly live among us…” 

May the Lord reward all of you for your help and support! 

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