"THIS TRIP MEANT THE WORLD TO ME..."
- Faith and Deeds Forum participant Stephanie Elko
June, 3 2010
It seems that I have left my heart in Russia with all the people, culture, delicious food, but most of all the home of our faith. Never have I felt such a strong connection to my faith than when I was in Moscow. Visiting all the different monasteries, churches, and cathedrals has opened my eyes to not only what we have in America, but what our ancestors once experienced long ago. In Russia, being Orthodox is normal, where as in America, everyday people have no idea what it is and we end up living a double life.
One of my favorite places was Kremlin in Izmailovo. I enjoyed listening to the presentations put on by students. It was very interesting to hear how they lived with their faith versus how we do in America. It was a lot of fun meeting new people and being able to practice my Russian with them. I am very thankful for all those who helped translate when I couldn’t understand.
My favorite day on the trip was Pentecost. We went to Holy Trinity Sergius Monastery outside Moscow. We had to wake up very early to get there, but it was definitely worth it. Being able to see two patriarchs was very exciting and possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We were treated like VIPs because we stood in the front of the church, and got to go the top of the bell tower in which other locals were not allowed to do, and were put in the front of the line to venerate the relics of Saint Sergius as well as many other relics.
Hearing the bells calling the people to church was a thrilling experience in itself. I felt love towards them, not only because they were beautiful but for what they have done in the past centuries for our people and what they continue to do: carry the sounds of hope and faith. Words cannot express how blessed and honored I felt being able to venerate not only Saint Sergius, but the relics of my saint: Saint Stephen. Some of us cried others were in silent shock. This day was the most spiritually moving and life changing.
This trip meant the world to me. I am so thankful for those who sponsored it, and organized it. It was through them that I came back a different person. I am now even more thankful for what I have in America, and am in a better place with my faith.