I Returned Like a Lost Daughter

About a Miracle of St. Gabriel (Urgebadze)

St. Gabriel (Urgebadze) St. Gabriel (Urgebadze) In honor of the feast of the uncovering of the relics of St. Gabriel (Urgebadze), celebrated on February 22, we are publishing a story about another miracle the venerable Elder worked in Belarus.

For ten years, I was a member of the so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses sect. My mother, the now reposed handmaiden of God Joanna, begged me to come to my senses, to leave my life of delusion and turn to the path of truth. It irritated me then. I protested quite a bit, and I ended up arguing with my mother and other friends and relatives many times.

When my mother departed to the Lord (or “died,” as I said at the time), my family buried her according to the Orthodox tradition: They called for a priest, they had a funeral, and generally did everything as called for. I left when they started serving her funeral, so I didn’t hear any prayers or the homily, because I considered it all unnecessary and wrong then.

After my mother’s funeral, I felt unwell: I had severe headaches, high blood pressure, and problems with my balance. They took me to the hospital and ran some tests, including a tomography. Given the results, they sent me to the oncology department. I was diagnosed with cancer of the heart muscle. This diagnosis requires multiple examinations and tests to determine which organs are affected and what kind of treatment to undergo.

Before leaving for an examination and treatment in Turkey, I went to the city of Tolochin where I had spent most of my childhood and where my mother was from. I just wanted to visit my hometown, where as a child my mother and my family and I would go for walks, have fun, sing songs—where I spent the best days of my childhood and adolescence. I would visit Tolochin from time to time, but after my mother’s death, and with such a serious diagnosis, I wanted to take a “goodbye” walk through the streets that were so dear to my heart. And that’s what I did. I was walking, remembering every step I took in my childhood along these wonderful streets. I was crying.

Along the way, I passed Holy Protection Monastery. I remembered how my mother went there two years ago to light some candles, how she pleaded with me just to go inside with her, but I resisted, and in the end, I firmly declared that I would wait at the gate. I’ll never forget her eyes, filled with tears; I’ll never forget her, forsaken and abandoned by me…

But this time I went into the yard and walked along the path my mother had walked along. I looked back, I looked around, and I thought I would just go in, look at the places associated with memories of my mother, go round the church, and not tell my “brothers and sisters” in the sect about it. And that’s what I did. I went in and walked around the yard, and I heard some very beautiful singing. It wasn’t in Russian, but some language I didn’t understand. The singing was so filled with melancholy sounds, notes; with some, I would say, mysterious voices, that I involuntarily went into the church. I listened to the singing and wanted to cry my eyes out. I found out that some Georgians had come and brought some large icon, which was standing in the center of the church. They were chanting in Georgian.

One of the parishioners came up to me and said: “What are you standing there for? Go watch the film about Mama Gabrieli.1 They brought it from Georgia, and we’re showing it.” Out of interest and a desire to hear more Georgian chants, I followed this parishioner. We went down to the hall, where they were already showing the film, The Elder’s Diadem. I didn’t agree at all with the content of the film, but there was some force that wouldn’t let me go. And I wanted to listen to the Georgian chanting. When the film was over, the Georgians distributed icons and photos of this Mama Gabrieli, whom the film was about. As I left the hall, they handed me an icon, but I didn’t take it. I quickly walked to the stairs and hurriedly headed for the door.

I soon went to Turkey for an examination. They put me in an oncology clinic, ran all the tests, and conducted all the examinations. The tests showed a low blood count. They started me on treatment, with IVs, injecting a number of drugs.

After nine days, I had a dream. My mother came into my room, and invited someone else too. In came a priest in an old robe, thin, with a white beard, with a staff in his hands and incredibly kind eyes.

“Her?” the unknown priest asked my mother.

“Yes, her,” my mother answered sadly.

“But I know her!” the priest said clearly, with conviction.

He looked at me, smiled, made the Sign of the Cross over me, then said something in my mother’s ear. They both smiled and left the room.

I started calling for my mother at the top of my lungs. Just then, a nurse woke me up. A few hours later, the doctor came in with a folder in his hands. He explained something to the translator, who was listening to him closely for a long time. The translator said: “Lena, the doctor says you’re healthy. You don’t have any tumor. Everything’s clean, and your tests are normal.”

I was speechless. At my request, the translator asked again and clarified with the doctor several times that everything was really fine. With each question, I saw the smiling doctor, joyfully repeating the same thing to the translator. And the translator joyfully translated to me: “Everything’s very good. You have no tumor, and your tests got better very quickly. Everything’s normal, as it should be. You’re completely healthy.”

I was the happiest person alive. But the most unexpected thing was still ahead.

As I started packing my things, I opened my bag and froze in surprise. In my bag was an icon of the same Mama Gabrieli, whom the film was about. It was the icon the Georgians were giving everyone after the film, and which I had refused to take! I held the icon in my hands and couldn’t figure out how it ended up in my bag.

At some point, while carefully examining the icon, I went breathless, realizing that the man depicted on the icon and the unknown priest whom I saw coming into my room with my mother in a dream were one and the same person. I was holding an icon of Elder Gabriel in my hands. I burst into tears. Something happened in me; something turned upside down. I involuntarily crossed myself, embraced the image of the Elder, and just sat on the hospital bed for a long time.

I soon returned home, where I converted to Orthodoxy, or rather, returned like a lost daughter, through the prayers and direct intervention of Mama Gabrieli—the great saint of our times, Archimandrite Gabriel (Urgebadze). Glory to our God!

Elena Senkevich
Translation by Jesse Dominick



1 “Mama” in Georgian means Father.—Trans.

Mka E 11/4/2022 6:12 am
Lord have mercy. The power of a mother’s prayers! It gives me hope!
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