Photos: Courtesy of Harpo Inc.

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Oprah calls it her "love note to viewers"—a special event that's been three years in the making. Belief, which airs on OWN October 18, is a globe-spanning exploration of love, spirit and the mystery of faith. Here, a look at what it took to bring the series to life.

Kindred Spirits

A dervish whirling in a brilliant sea of white. A man and his grandson walking along the coast of northern Australia. A scientist peering at a star-drenched sky through one of the planet's most powerful telescopes. None of them have ever met, but they all have one thing in common: a deep faith in something bigger than themselves.

Belief will tell their stories and others as it explores mankind's primal search for meaning. "Eight years ago, Planet Earth made me fall in love with Earth," says Oprah. "I want Belief to do the same thing—help people connect to their own faith, learn who they are and discover who they are meant to be. This is my Planet Spirit."

When production company Part2 Pictures brought the idea to Oprah in 2012, the OWN team was inspired. "Storytelling is in our DNA," says OWN president Sheri Salata, an executive producer on the project, "so we didn't want to just interview faith leaders or a panel of experts on religion. We wanted to meet real people and see their passion, feel their emotions." A plan was hatched to send the Part2 crew all over the world in search of moving and relatable experiences. "Yes, there were moments at the beginning when it seemed like a completely crazy task—like we were out of our minds!" says Salata. "But we all knew if there was anyone who could do this kind of story justice, it was Oprah."

Culled from over 800 hours of interviews with more than 100 people, Belief is a blend of personal, provocative vignettes and breathtaking imagery. The series introduces believers across the globe, from a 9-year-old Pacific Islander proving his courage and faith by leaping from a 65-foot wooden tower to a grieving mother struggling to forgive her son's murderer.

Creating the series took three years, dozens of cross-country flights between Part2 Pictures in New York and OWN in Los Angeles, and Oprah's own funding: "This idea came up when the network couldn't afford to take many risks, so it became my passion project—literally!" The challenge was worth it. "So many people say 'I'm not religious, but I'm spiritual,'" Oprah says. "Well, you cannot move through life without a belief system, whether that's art, music, fashion, science, or God. Whatever you devote yourself to, that is your belief. I'm in a good place now because I know that we've captured that. In my soul, I'd be proud for this to be my life's work."