The Siege of Sarajevo was a particularly brutal event in the Bosnian War of the 1990’s. The assault on the Bosnian capital lasted over three years–the longest siege of a capital city in modern times. Nearly 14,000 people died in Sarajevo between February 1992 to April 1996. Residents faced constant bombardment from mortar shells and sniper fire as food, water, and other necessities dwindled.
On May 27, 1992, a mortar shell killed twenty-two people and injured more than 100 others waiting in a bread line in a central Sarajevo marketplace. As with many dark moments in history, from this horrific loss was birthed profound beauty that brought hope to the trapped people of Sarajevo and even to the world beyond.
Vedran Smailović earned the moniker “The Cellist of Sarajevo” when, on May 28, 1992, the day after the bombing of the bread line, he dressed in his formal orchestra tails and took his cello and chair to the ruins of the same marketplace. There he sat and played Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor as a memorial to the previous day’s tragic events.
He returned to the marketplace square every day for twenty-two days to honor each person who had been killed as they waited to receive their daily bread. He continued to play at funerals, the sites of other attacks, and ruined places in the city, until he left the country in 1993.
I don’t know if Vedran Smailović is a Christ-follower or not, but I do know that he offered hope in the best way he knew how, even if it couldn’t change the desperate circumstances. As Christ followers, we have even more of an opportunity and call to speak and create truth and beauty into the darkness around us. Just like Vedran faithfully played hope into his world in Sarajevo, we are called to bring hope into our neighborhoods, workplaces, and families through creating and speaking truth and beauty.
A distinctive of The Austin Stone is how much we value the clear communication of theological truth. I’m grateful to be part of a church that has taught me so much about God and trained me to share truth with others. It may sometimes get lost on us though, how powerful truth is when paired with beauty, which we define in the Writer Development Program as intellectual, spiritual, or emotional resonance. God’s entire breathed-out Word is full of beauty–parables, poetry, heartfelt and compelling letters from leaders to the churches. None of that beautiful, often emotional, language diminishes the power of the truth it conveys. It is in community, though faithful trying (and failing and trying again) that we learn to communicate truth and beauty in the same kind of resonant partnership we see in God’s Word.
Andrew Peterson, author of Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Creativity, Calling, and the Mystery of Making, writes, “agenda is bad when it usurps beauty. Christian art should strive for a marriage of the two, just as Christ is described as being ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14). Truth without beauty can be a weapon; beauty without truth can be spineless. The two together are like lyric and melody.”
Creating a compelling “song” that calls people to repentance, joy, and worship is what we want to do in our ASI development programs. Both the Teacher Development Program and the Writer Development Program seek to train our church to communicate clearly and compellingly with truth and beauty.
We encourage you to explore these programs and ask God if growing your communication, either written or verbal, is a good next step for your spiritual growth. What have you learned that you believe God is encouraging you to share with others? Do you have the skills, discipline, and desire to do that? These programs provide fun, challenging and collaborative environments that will help you take next steps to develop your gifts and share truth and beauty so that others might also know and worship God more fully.
You can find out more information about each program by clicking the links below. Applications are currently open, and programs begin again this fall. If you think the Lord is calling you to bring light to the dark and give hope to the church and world through writing or teaching, we encourage you to apply.
I’ll share a final encouragement from Andrew Peterson’s Adorning the Dark. (This admonition can apply to anyone in the church, as we are all creative because God is creative.)
“…This is why the Enemy wants you to think you have no song to write, no story to
tell, no painting to paint. He wants to quiet you. So sing. Let the Word by which
the Creator made you fill your imagination, guide your pen, lead you from note to
note until a melody is strung together like a glimmering constellation in the clear
sky. Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor, too, by making worlds and
works of beauty that blanket the earth like flowers. Let your homesickness keep
you always from spiritual slumber. Remember that it is in the fellowship of saints,
of friends and family, that your gift will grow best, and will find its best expression.
And until the Kingdom comes in its fullness, bend your will to the joyful, tearful
telling of its coming. Write about that. Write about that, and never stop.”
Apply for the Teacher Development Program here.
Apply for the Writer Development Program here.