This past weekend I found myself in Vukovar, a city settled upon the mighty Danube River.
Vukovar is a place that can teach us many important lessons because it’s rich in painful experiences. As I walked its streets, saw its still ruined facades, contemplated by the river and spoke with friends and locals alike, I tried to gather my emotions into a few lessons to take home.
Lesson 1: there is no time to lose – we need to be those who love first. What do I mean by this? Vukovar was one of the most severely damaged cities in all of Croatia during the war for independence. Despite its agony for lost loved ones, Vukovar lives on quietly. Perhaps many of them are left without hope, or grudges from their horrifying past. But life calls for us to love on, and sometimes there’s no time to waste. We need to love first.
Lesson 2: I reminded myself that to learn how to love again, we need to be able to forgive. Forgiveness is the only thing that truly gives us peace to move forward. Forgiveness betters us. Without it, however much we tend to lie to ourselves, somewhere deep inside, we are doing ourselves and others harm.
Lesson 3: hope cannot die. Hope never dies, because when hope dies, we die. And you know what? Souls cannot die. Souls live on. Be the hope you want to see in this world. Share that light you carry.
Where beautiful, fertile plains of the region of Slavonia were once full of farms, industry, and families — today, what’s left are only memories.
My hope for Vukovar and for Slavonia, where I witnessed over 30 thousand young people walk peacefully in the name of love, hope, truth, and Christ — is that one day, it will regain its glory. Let us start from ourselves.