Outdoor Poetry School Connects Church With Community

Water motif helped participants connect not just literary, but spiritually.

News February 19, 2024

20 February 2023| Maruševac, Croatia [Đurđica Garvanović-Porobija with tedNEWS]

If ever an Adventist institution has the ability to be a shining centre of influence in the community, it is a well run Adventist school. In the heart of Croatia, 56 miles (90km) northwest of Zagreb, the Maruševac Secondary School (Srednja škola u Maruševcu s pravom javnosti) with over 200 students creates many opportunities each year to connect with parents and community life.

“A new and innovative mission project in recent years is the annual ‘Outdoor Poetry School'”, says Đurđica Garvanović-Porobija, the project manager. Following its launch in 2018, the aim is to create a festival of poetry which invites participants to research motifs from nature in biblical and other poetic texts, and to write new poems about them from a contemporary point of view, seeking to profile them thoughtfully and spiritually.

For the 2023 event, held in mid-autumn, the motif* was ‘water’, continued Garvanović-Porobija, “and we looked at it from the perspectives of precipitation, drinking water, stagnant water and stream water.”

The 2023 Outdoor Poetry School cohort focused on the motif of ‘water’.

Poet and Literary Critic Shares the Joy of  Salvation

To help stimulate the creative atmosphere, distinguished literary scientists and poets were invited to give presentations about the water motif. For example, a university professor and member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts was among those who presented. Another, a very well know poet and literary critic, spoke about drinking water and Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. His literary analysis was transformed into a sermon and he convincingly and powerfully testified that salvation and life eternal can be received only from God. This made a strong impression on those present and everyone was encouraged.

A view of the 2019 cohort. Each annual event, and staying connected via social networking, strengthens friendships and creates community.

Đurđica Garvanović-Porobija (the former school principal) presented two rivers in literature – the biblical river of life at the beginning of creation (Genesis 2:10-14), and at the beginning of the earth’s new creation (Revelation 22:1-5). In vivid contrast, Garvanović-Porobija shared a story from classical mythology and literature about the River Styx. Whereas the water motif from scripture gives tremendous hope about the goodness of God, the Styx is to be loathed and feared – literally meaning a loathing of death and its hopelessness.

With minds energised and expanded, participants separated into four working groups, creating together a team poem about a particular water motif.

The Outdoor Poetry School began in 2018, with the aim of using nature-based motifs to recognise the beauty of creation and the mighty power of the Creator.

“We thank God for the continuing biblical impact that the ‘Outdoor Poetry School’ leaves on individuals,” reflected Garvanović-Porobija. “As each annual event takes place, there is a growing spiritual impact. This year, some of the poets asked us to pray for them and we are planning to stay connected through social media networks. Our aim is to build community.”

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This report is adapted for tedNEWS from a report first submitted to the TED Adventist Mission department, which co-sponsors ‘The Outdoor Poetry School’.

* In case you have ever wondered “What is a motif?”, it is a word used to inform of a recurring idea in an artistic work. In the context of scripture, theologians use ‘motif’ in the context of  a recurring idea that reinforces central themes. 

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