Fantastic Weekend in Milan, Italy

We have all felt recently in our hearts that the Spirit of God is calling for us to move from our comfort zones. He doesn't want us to simply care for ourselves and our own spiritual well-being but is eager for us to go out and learn from and encourage those in other churches throughout Europe, and then to go out and share the good news with those who haven't heard of Him. So responding to this calling, a trip to Milan was quickly organised.

Going into the trip we were unsure what to expect. We did not have a set programm for the weekend and could not even speak the same language, but we soon discovered that such problems are so small when compared with God's greatness.

The Italians we met were as the title says – fantastici. Even though we had never met before, they served us with great love and generosity: selflessly driving us around and willingly depriving themselves of precious sleep for our sakes.

Communication was easy, with Arabic as a common language, and we soon laughed and joked together as if we had known each other all our lives. Together we even managed to translate some worship songs into Italian and also French, as there happened to be two French girls also staying at the monastery. Also at the monastery were some younger children on a retreat, who soon joined with the singing. It was beautiful to hear the hall resounding with praise and worship of God. "...be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" Ephesians 5:18-19.

During the weekend we spent time alone with God in quietness and it was beautiful to see the excitement with which some returned, eager to share with all what the Lord had spoken. "So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend" Exodus 33:11.

Perhaps the most memorable time of the weekend was our last night with the group. After walking through the centre of town we sat in a large circle on the floor in front of Milan's cathedral wishing to simply sing and pray together. But as always, God's plans are greater than our own. We found that when we are willing, God uses us in every opportunity to bring others closer to Him. It was not long before two non-Copt Italians had joined our group – an old professor, and a young Muslim. The old man, interested to hear we were from the Coptic Church, began asking questions, and even requested for us to sing a Coptic hymn, while the other sat quietly, soaking up what was being said. After we finished one of the group talked with the Muslim youth, took his details and invited him to their weekly youth meeting.

During the weekend we had great fellowship with each other and we learnt many things, but above all I believe that God used this time to increase our faith. He wants us to remember that He, the Almighty God, is in control. All He asks from us is a willing heart, willing to step out of the boat and take a risk, the rest is up to Him. If we are willing, then His Spirit will work in us, to make us lights for His kingdom. St. Paul wrote "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the mighty..." 1 Corinthians 1:27.

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory...forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church in London is one of the oldest Coptic churches in the lands of the immigration, and one of the first to be supported and cared for by our beloved patriarch, HH the late Pope Shenouda III.

  • St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church
    Allen Street, Kensington
    London W8 6UX