REAL BREAK 2013 and beyond!!! Reflections…

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This year, OCF is hosting (or has already hosted) seven different 2013 Real Break trips spanning the globe.  If you’re not sure what OCF Real Breaks entail, they are alternative Spring Break destinations, offering students an opportunity to not only travel to different locations throughout the world each year, they often include all sorts of service projects related to but not limited to serving the needs of the poor and impoverished, serving the needs of orphanages, as well as rebuilding areas stricken by religious, economic and political conflict. We at OCF plan these various trips and opportunities for Orthodox Christian College Students during the pre-scheduled collegiate spring breaks already happening on college campus’s all across North America every year.  Thus far, we have completed or are in the process of completing five of the seven trips, which include Real Break Guatemala, Honduras, New Orleans, Constantinople, Mexico, Los Angeles and Toronto.  Students from all over North America have chosen to engage these experiences and often times, their experiences are no less than miraculous.  
We here at OCF send many of our own staff as both Lay and Clergy Advisors. Having trained and skilled clergy and lay advisors on our trips really helps and aids the trip in staying grounded in Orthodox Christianity. The experiences they share with the students continue to be no less miraculous and life-changing. For in truth, the experiences have become for both the students and us exactly what they were intended to be, opportunities to experience God through one another and through the experiences we have with the people whom we have come to serve.  And one of the most important things we learn time and time again, is that there is virtually no way to easily replicate for our college students these types of experiences outside of the OCF Real Break Trip, for this is a very important point.  Our faith is NOT SOMETHING WE MERELY THINK ABOUT, nor is it merely an INTELLECTUAL EXCERICSE.  Orthodox Christianity is something that can only, truly, like our relationship with God Himself, be EXPERIENCED. 
Now, it is certainly true that we could serve the poor and those in need in our own current cities (which we should be already doing), that we could travel with our friends to new and interesting places (of course, we already do that) or that we could and should be spending time with our fellow Orthodox Christians building relationships with one another and praying with one another (I hope). However, the truth is, we almost never, if ever, do all of those things in conjunction with one another now.  OCF has changed that on a North American scale.  OCF has created a program which meets all of those (before mentioned) important building blocks in the Orthodox Christian human experience by developing a near-perfect combination of opportunities which foster real Orthodox Christian relationship development, personal growth and change in Christ through the Orthodox Christian experience, combined with service to those in need. 
If we peruse the Holy Scriptures, we’ll see:
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil.
– Luke 4:1
When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.
– John 18:1
Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
– Matthew 15:21
Now admittedly, all of the wonderful scriptures referenced above have huge meaning and depth, well above and beyond our purposes here.  But one thing they all share in common is their witness to the fact the Lord was not averse to traveling outside his city and outside his “comfort zone.”  He also demonstrated to us that there were times in the life of a human being, during their spiritual journey, where it might be helpful for them to travel away from the familiar and to make pilgrimage somewhere else, even to witness to those outside of their own personal communities.  Let’s be clear, the time was specific and not unlimited, but rather calculated.  One must never be ashamed to return to their families whom love them and running from our pasts or our families often proves destructive.  The call to journey away from ones family and home was only intended to be a part of a temporary journey of growth and God-centered reflection, with the full intent of returning spiritually stronger and built anew when the time came.  In many ways, not only is the college experience itself much like pilgrimage (which again, can have wonderful or disastrous consequences), but more importantly, the Real Break experience was designed around the Orthodox Christian model of Pilgrimage with the needs of college students as full members of the body of Christ being in the forefront.  And while Orthodox Christian college students are not in need of a different type of salvation, nor a different Eucharist, nor a different Repentance than any other parishioner at any age, at any time, their experiences make the fulfillment of those needs, on pastoral level, a bit unique.  This is why the Real Break Trip allows students traversing through the years of the tumultuous college experience, an opportunity to pilgrimage together, struggle together and to (hopefully and prayerfully) win the Kingdom of Heaven together.  For we pray that they too will advance the Kingdom of Heaven by their own force (Matthew 11:12), which is not really their own anyway, but rather through Christ who works through them and loves them so!  
During a Real Break Trip, one will experience prayer (morning, noon and night, meals included) and even services at local Orthodox Churches if the location permits.  Students will have the opportunity to interact with one another, with Orthodox Christian chaplains and lay advisors in ways often more personal than might be typical during their college years.  On their pilgrimages, they will have the opportunity to see and meet those in need, witness their suffering, and fulfill for them a real need, witnessing the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.  Students will engage in real and joyful fellowship, eating meals together and experiencing the culture and surroundings of their destination in joy.  And again, the truth is, this is not an experience easily duplicated in any other way, other than just as it is implemented and experienced. 
The Real Break experience is exceptional and unique.  For many of us here at OCF, the experience has been life changing.  It is our prayer and our hope that the experience has been the same for the students whom have experienced it, and we desire most exceedingly that future Orthodox Christian college students will use this opportunity to do the same in the future.  So go to Orthodox Christian Fellowship on facebook, or visit and learn more about the Real Break experience.  Watch the videos, hear the experiences, and be transformed with us!  Christ is Amongst Us!
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