The Real Break Detroit 2014 team worked alongside Orthodox Detroit Outreach (ODO) to serve the needy in the surrounding city area. The student team began their trip housed at the St. Andrew House in Detroit (see more information below) and retreated for the last night of the trip to the Dormition of the Mother of God Orthodox Monastery in south central Michigan. The goals of this trip were to love and serve a community of people who are experiencing deep struggles, to develop a better understanding of poverty, and to enter into a week of worship, service, education, and fellowship with other Orthodox college students from across North America.
Joining the parishioners of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Cathedral in Honduras, the Real Break Honduras team participated in all of the various large ministries run by St. John the Baptist Cathedral. The only Orthodox Church in the country of Honduras, Fr. Jorge Faraj works non-stop to serve his flock and the surrounding regions of San Pedro Sula in order to teach the Holy Orthodox faith and share the love of Christ. The goals of this trip were to support the work of the Orthodox community in the impoverished country of Honduras by playing with the children of their orphanage, serving the sick and homeless, and interacting with children at the school run by the Church. Team members also experienced the life of the Church in a different country, and interacted with the parishioners of the Church.
On Saturday, March 8, 2014, at the request of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) program and with the blessing of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, eleven American college students traveled from New York to Istanbul for a pilgrimage organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The students received matching grants from the Kulis Foundation for the trip and were led by Fr. Evagoras Constantinides, Director of Ionian Village, and Ms. Donna Elias, OCF North American Programs Manager.
Arriving at the conclusion of the 2014 Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, the students attended the Concelebration of the Primates on the Sunday of Orthodoxy at the venerable Patriarchal Church of St. George, during which they were present for the official reading of the Message of the Primates from the Patriarchal Ambon and the procession of the Holy Icons afterward by the Primates.
His All-Holiness officially received the students on the Monday following the historic Synaxis. He also spoke to them about the centuries-old experience of the Mother Church, which they would have a first-hand encounter with on all levels over the course of six days.
Throughout their pilgrimage, the students met with and were addressed by Archbishop Anastasios of Albania on contemporary Orthodox missions and evangelism, Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima on the ecumenical movement, Metropolitan Stephanos of Kallioupolis and Madytos on the spiritual ecumenicity of Orthodoxy, Metropolitan Elpidophoros of Bursa on the Holy Theological School of Halki, Metropolitan Athenagoras of Kydonies on the Holy Myrrh and Chrismation, Archimandrite Bartholomew Samaras, Chief Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod, on the Synodal system and Pan-Orthodox relations, Grand Archimandrite Bessarion of the Patriarchal Court on St. Euphemia and the implications of her holy life for Great Lent, Archimandrite Zacharias from the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex on our common identity in Christ, Archdeacon John Chryssavgis on the twenty-year ministry of His All-Holiness and Archon Lakis Vingas, representative of the Minority Foundations to the Turkish government, on the contemporary developments of the minority parishes of Istanbul. Additionally, the students had the opportunity to reflect upon other topics with their team, such as marriage and family life, the significance of liturgical and non-liturgical hymns in the life of the Church, as well as the celebrated miracles which have taken place in the life of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Furthermore, the students were hosted for dinner by two local parishes. They visited and learned about the former Churches of Haghia Sophia, Haghia Eirini, Christ the Savior in Chora, Panaghia Pammakaristos and Christ the Pantocrator in the Fatih district, the Synodikon of the Ecumenical Throne, the Holy Theological School of Halki and the Holy Trinity Monastery, the Life-Giving Spring Monastery and Patriarchal Tombs in Baloukli, the Cathedral Church of Panaghia in Pera, the Church of the Archangels in Arnavutköy, the Church of Panaghia Vlachernes, the Church of Panaghia in Yeniköy, the Great School of the Nation, where they presented the students with a gift of love, and the Grand Bazaar. Through this, they venerated numerous sacred relics, icons and springs (haghiasmata), including the relics of over twenty former saintly Ecumenical Patriarchs, Sts. Basil the Great, Euphemia, Solomone, Theophano and various new martyrs, as well as the column of Christ’s flagellation, the miraculous icons of Panaghia Pammakaristos, Panaghia Phaneromeni and Archangel Michael.
Guatemala – AFR Podcast, Photos Coming Soon!
For many years now, OCF Real Break teams have traveled to the Hogar Rafael Ayau Orphanage in Guatemala City, Guatemala where they live with, care for, and love the many children who live there. The Hogar Rafael Ayau is a safe haven for children who are victims of broken homes. The 2014 Real Break Guatemala trip was very special as this team was the first to serve the orphanage in their new location in San Miguel, Guatemala. It is quite the change from their original home in the middle of noisy and crime-ridden Guatemala City. The team participates in work projects to aid the continued construction of the orphanage. College students spent a week filled with hard work beautifying the new orphanage, but more importantly they saw how Christ fills each one of the children with His grace and mercy. Having time to spend with the children was one of the greatest blessings of the trip. Here, the students played sports, did crafts, and just sat and talked. The children always adore the Real Break team members that join them in their home, and they showed this through their unfailing love, openness, and joy.
Alaska – Photos
The 2014 Real Break Alaska team worked alongside the community of St. John Orthodox Cathedral in Eagle River, Alaska on community service projects with the poor and homeless in the surrounding areas, as well as projects at the Cathedral itself. Students bonded incredibly well and everyone made new friends. The exposure to different Orthodox jurisdictions within the same culture gave students a unique lens when reflecting on the differences and their own practices at home.
With many families and individuals left without a home following the brutal storms along the Gulf coast, the Real Break New Orleans team put love into action by offering relief to those affected by these natural disasters. This trip brought together OCF with IOCC and Habitat for Humanity, to provide an opportunity for college students to change a family’s life by building a home. Students participated in four days of hard work – laying cement, building frames, roofing, and painting. The goals of this trip were to assist in building a home, witness firsthand the damage done by natural disasters, interact with families who have lost their homes, and enter into a daily life of prayer and hard work with other college students from across the country.
Romania – Photos Coming Soon!
Valea Plopului is a remote village about 70 miles north of Bucharest, Romania. This community takes care of about 220 orphans, handicapped children and children from families with financial hardships. The orphanage is a ministry of the Pro Vita Association, an orthodox, non-profit, non-governmental organization.
Fr. Nicolae Tanase and his wife Maria founded the association. It’s activities take place in the villages Valea Plopului and Valea Screzii, Posesti, Prahova. In Valea Screzii there are houses already sheltering many children. The association receives homeless or abandoned children, young people thrown out of orphanages because they are 18 years old, future mothers who have been sent away by their families, children kept temporarily because they belong to families with financial problems, and children abandoned in hospitals because they have certain deficiencies or who are on the way to recovery. Father Tanase has invited the members of the Valea Plopului community to take care of a child. Although some of the families already had up to 6 children, they found a place for helping yet another child. Because of this, the association supports them financially, with food, clothes and shoes for the children.
The association receives no help from the Romanian state. It is the families in Valea Plopului who support these children. Because these villagers earn their living through agricultural activities and small crafts, their incomes are extremely small. Unfortunately, despite their goodwill and desire to help the children, the adults are often not able to offer the children an appropriate healthy meal.
With the income from the selling of religious objects (icons, painted wooden crosses made in their workshops) and some limited donations, Father Tanase has managed to acquire two peasant bread ovens, some animals, and two cars needed for the transportation of basic food supplies, construction material, and agricultural produce. Students on this trip worked on maintenance projects at the orphanage as well as interacted with the children who live there. There was also a two-day excursion to the nearby city of Bucharest.