George F. Miller, a missionary singer from South Buffalo, was attending a conference in 2000 on "Healing the Balkans" when he saw the Kosovo Choir and the Serbian Choir arrive in the same auditorium.
It wasn't an encouraging day.
The only American singer at this conference in Athens, Miller performed every day with choirs from all over the Balkans.
"I was preaching and singing that day," recalled Miller, who sings in a powerful baritone but speaks with a gentle voice. "I was preaching about people moving forward -- saying that God can't use you if you have grievances in your heart."
Then it happened.
"The Serbian Choir got up to sing," Miller recalled, "and people from the Kosovo Choir -- even though they're Christians -- walked out."
Later that night, a peculiar thing happened.
"Some of the Kosovar people were outdoors at 1 a.m.," Miller recalled. "I heard singing together -- and I said, 'That's gorgeous.' We woke up the next day and found out what happened: The Kosovar Choir went over to the Serbian Choir and asked for forgiveness. And the two choirs sang together. Isn't that something?"
Miller, 50, burst into laughter as he told the story. He would like to believe that something he had preached about forgiveness stirred hearts and brought about reconciliation.
But Miller is just as likely to burst into tears as he tells other stories from his travels to the Balkans, Ukraine, Uganda -- and, most recently, to Sudan.
"I'm a wounded healer, so I have compassion for children who are down and out, like I was," said Miller, who had a difficult childhood in South Buffalo but is now an "ambassador to children" in Uganda for Advancing Ministries of the Gospel, a group out of Chattanooga, Tenn.
Miller had never been to Sudan, so when an opportunity opened last month, he quickly raised $5,000 from supporters and friends and spent two weeks in Nimule, in southern Sudan.
He lived in a tent in the desert, ministering to children who lost their parents in the genocidal warfare that has spilled over from the Darfur region to the northwest.
"The kids I worked with saw their parents burned alive," he said. "They drew these crayon drawings. The Muslim militia did this; horrendous. Houses set on fire. Persecuting the Christians. These kids live in the desert. The school feeds them and stuff, but they're on their own."
Miller served in Sudan with Make Way Partners, affiliated with the Voice of the Martyrs, which was established by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, the evangelical minister who resisted the communist government in his native Romania.
"When we arrived, we landed right in the middle of the desert," Miller said. "The children were all so glad to see us. Many of the kids were suffering from malaria."
The children sang to Miller in the native tongue, and he taught them to sing in English such songs as "This Little Light of Mine."
"Every day I taught them two or three new songs -- songs that would be an encouragement for them," he said. "I was able to put a smile on their faces. They love America. But the kids -- they have no shoes, and their feet are cracking and bleeding. I saw kids collapsing. We didn't know what was going to happen to them when we left."
Miller helped Voice of the Martyrs distribute blankets to the children, who are prey to diseases in the cold desert night.
Back home, Miller is assistant pastor at Silver Creek Wesleyan Church but finds himself on the road throughout the year, singing in churches from Maine to Florida.
His latest CD is titled "When Answers Aren't Enough."
He and his wife of 30 years, Diane, have three children and two foster children. She works with troubled kids at Compass House of Buffalo.