OCF Launches New Program – Just Love
In October 2008, OCF launched our new Just Love program. Just Love is an opportunity for college students to get out of their comfort zones and put into practice Christ's Great Commandment to love their neighbor as themselves. In inner-city areas throughout the U.S. and Canada, Just Love trips allow students to spend a day serving the poor and homeless of the city while reflecting on what it means to live our entire lives in service to the "least of these" (Mt. 25:40).
Our first Just Love trip took place on October 18, 2008 in Indianapolis in conjunction with the grand opening of our OCF North American Office. Twenty-three students from around the country participated in this event. Our day began at the City Market in downtown Indianapolis where we split up into small groups to find homeless people to take out to lunch. We were pleased to have His Grace Bishop Tikhon of South Canaan join us for this event.
The rest of the day was spent working at the Brookside Community Church, which provides meals and after-school programs for the poor and homeless of Indianapolis. We ended the day with a debriefing in a park, in which we discussed the people we had met, what we had learned, and how we could apply it to our everyday lives. One of the student participants, Elizabeth Brown, writes the following about her Just Love experience:
Our discussion with Jordan and Father Kevin at the end challenged me in ways that I didn't expect. After my lunch with Louis, I couldn't wait to go home and try the same thing on the streets of Lansing. But then Father Kevin turned the attention away from the homeless people. He asked us whether we give our friends and family the same sincerity and respect that we had just demonstrated to the homeless people. I realized that the answer was "no." I couldn't remember the last time I had listened carefully and considerately to anything that my roommate or my mother or my classmate had said to me. This task of loving my neighbor suddenly became more difficult.
When I got home Sunday evening, I couldn't wait to tell my family about the adventures I just had! But my brother didn't seem interested in my stories. I could tell his weekend had not gone well. So instead of telling him about my amazing weekend and my plan for us to go out next weekend and find a homeless person, I just let him talk. He was taken aback at my sudden interest in his life. He said, “Wow, Elizabeth, you need to get a life. Why do you keep wanting to hang out with me?" I just laughed, but at the same time a chill went through me, and I thought "I don't want to get a life. You are my life."
Our second Just Love trip took place one week later on October 25 in New York City. We were pleased to have Dr. Fernando Arzola, Jr. of Nyack College join us for this event. Dr. Arzola, a recent convert to Orthodoxy, specializes in urban youth ministry and has been very involved in working with the poor and marginalized of New York City.
We began with an orientation in the Bronx with Dr. Arzola where we discussed the demographics of the district where we were located and how churches have sought to meet the needs of the poor in this area. The rest of the morning was spent at two wonderful ministries in the district – the Latino Pastoral Action Center and Care for the Homeless – at which we saw first-hand how God is working through people to reach out with Christ’s love to the less fortunate.
The rest of the day was spent in the lower east side of Manhattan where we participated in several interactive exercises including sharing dinner with homeless people in Tomkins Square Park. The students who participated found the experience very enlightening as we discussed the complexity of inner-city poverty and creative ways Christians can respond.
Jan 30, 2009 7:01 PM