On this blog, we do a superb job talking about and giving advice for the daunting transition from high school to college. It’s a big change, most likely unlike anything you’ve experienced in your young life so far. OCF welcomes you with open arms to college life, providing a safe haven of friends, faith, and Jesus. I don’t need to tell you more — you can read about it here, here, and here.
What we don’t talk about too much on this blog is transitioning out of college and into the “real” world. As I prepare to graduate in five short weeks, I’m beginning this new phase of transition. I feel ready to move on after I receive my diploma because of OCF.
OCF taught me how to go to church on my own. It connected me with priests and friends at my college that made the task much less daunting. If you’re like me, the church you grew up in became like your second home; the parish your second family. To enter such a close knit environment as a foreigner is awkward and little scary. Through OCF, I’ve church hopped in the best possible way, both at school and various retreats and events. I’ve been exposed to various jurisdictions, chanting and singing styles, different ethnic traditions. OCF has made me more comfortable with Orthodoxy holistically, not just my isolated parish or jurisdiction.
OCF gave me friends. We have a running joke on the SLB that “OCF gives you friends,” but it really is true! I have friends from my chapter whom I’m blessed to see on an almost daily basis, friends from OCF events I joyfully reunite with at College Conference or Real Break, friends from the SLB I drive or fly long distances to see. I’m moving to Mobile, Alabama (you know, the Ortho-hub of America) after graduation. My spiritual advisor for OCF knows the priest at the only Orthodox church there, and one of my friends from my chapter and the SLB has a cousin who goes to that church. The Orthodox world is already tiny, and OCF just extends your reach even more.
OCF helped me grow as a person. Through my various roles in OCF, I’ve become a more self-confident person. I use to be cripplingly self-conscious and care much too much about what other people thought of me. Through the people I’ve met, the relationships I’ve formed, and the immense pouring of God’s love upon me, I am more comfortable with myself than I’ve ever been. I feel well-established in my faith, confident to go out in the world beyond the edges of college, to turn from Orthodox college student to Orthodox young professional.
I could go on and on about how OCF has been exceptionally transformative in my life; the heart of my college experience. But I leave you with just these three in the hopes that you, too, will reap the benefits of OCF. Join your local chapter, go to a retreat, apply to the SLB. OCF has so much to offer if you just give of yourself and trust in God.
Marathoning from workshop to workshop sustained only by mediocre conference center coffee, equipped with legal pads and a really nice pen, surrounded by people nerding out over the same thing you love so much – there’s no bigger rush.
The only way conferences are better are when they’re grounded in Christ. When you take the conference atmosphere of education on topics that are cool and interesting to you and fellowship with people who also think those topics are cool and interesting and add in that extra level of faith and service, that is my ideal world.
The Orthodox Christian Fellowship Summer Leadership Institute is the Christmas of conferences. During SLI, you grow as an Orthodox Christian not only by learning about your faith in the theological or doctrinal sense, but by harnessing essential life skills like public speaking, servant leadership, organization and planning, and conflict resolution – and giving them back to the Church. This comes with the added bonus surrounding yourself in prayer and fellowship with quality OCFers from across the US and Canada who are guaranteed to inspire and encourage you in ways that you won’t be able to repay.
Even if you’re not a conference junkie like I am, SLI is the only place which provides you with the tools and training you need to develop as an Orthodox Christian leader. One day (if not right now), we will be the priests, deacons, clergy wives, parish council presidents, church school teachers, youth department ministers, and parish members of the Church and together we all play our part to make up the body of Christ. As it says in the book of Romans:
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. —Romans 12:4 – 8
Come to SLI to gird yourself with your God-given strengths and weaknesses and become a warrior of Christ. Come to SLI to find your unique calling of God’s will. Come to SLI to pray, to learn, to grow, and to lead.
Even if you’re not a conference junkie like myself, you’re sure to come away from SLI a changed person. I leave you with another verse from Pauls’ letter to the Romans:
I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. –Romans 1:11-12
REGISTRATION FOR 2017 SUMMER LEADERSHIP OPENS FEB 20th!
WHERE: ST. IAKOVOS RETREAT CENTER, Kansasville, WI
A wonderfully wise woman gave me some advice: “Please consider when you write/speak/think about Orthodoxy: are you writing/saying/thinking “the faith” “Orthodoxy” “the Church” when you should be writing/saying/thinking “Jesus Christ.”
OCF sponsors October as Orthodox Awareness Month and during this time, we encourage college students, spiritual advisors, lay advisors, and the like to spread the word about Orthodoxy and OCF. Change your profile picture on Facebook to the OCF logo! Participate in our #ShareAThon and flood your newsfeed with Orthodox related articles, videos, podcasts, and pictures! Take the Come & See Challenge to win points and prizes for your chapter while bringing others to the Church! Speak at your church on College Student Sunday (Oct. 2) to inform your parish about the work of OCF!
OAM is a wonderful opportunity to bring attention to the Orthodox Church to a lot of people who might never have heard of it. I encourage each of you to take this to month to do so. But it’s important to remember that OAM isn’t just about celebrating and spreading awareness of Orthodoxy. It’s about bringing people to know Jesus Christ and His Church. Yeah, it’s cool to tell people about all the crazy awesome saints we have or to explain how icons are windows to heaven or to blast beautiful Byzantine chant and bellow the ison from the bottom of your lungs, but ask yourself – am I bringing people to the nuances of Orthodoxy or am I bringing people to a life devoted to Jesus Christ?
Nathanael tells Philip, “Come and see.”
The theme for OCF this year is Come & See, which fits perfectly into the theme of OAM. This means that during October, we are doubly responsible for spreading Orthodoxy! Make a true effort this month to share the good news of Jesus Christ to the people in your life. Let it come to them through the way you live your life – by going to church, fasting, praying, loving your neighbor. Take time to talk with them about the teachings of Christ and his Church. Show them the way, the life, and the truth that they then may experience through the beauty of Orthodoxy.
The month of May was full of transitions. Twelve of them to be exact, with a couple more to come. As I meet with each outgoing member of the SLB and their incoming replacement for this year to transition from the old SLB to the new SLB, my feelings careen from excited to nervous to anxious to happy to sad to scared. Change is hard.
The seniors on the 2015 – 2016 SLB took OCF to bigger and better places, served the Church and the Faith, and became some of my dearest friends. It’s hard to say goodbye to them as they make their own transitions into the real world, whether that be further schooling or a career. They have been models of faith, strength, leadership, hard work, love, and dedication for the rest of us underclassmen who were on the SLB this past year. I am excited for them and scared to let them go.
2015 – 2016 Student Leadership Board
As I get to know the incoming members of the 2016 – 2017 SLB, I already know they will also do great things. They’re motivated, excited, faithful, smart, and kind people. I can’t wait to get to know them better and work with them to serve Christ and His will.
This month of May hasn’t just been a period of logistical transitions – changing email accounts, updating the incoming Regional Student Leaders on the current state of their respective regions, etc. – but also of personal transition. As I step into my position of Chairman for the upcoming year, I go from team member to team leader. Suddenly there is a lot more to do – my email inbox has tripled in size, my to-do list continues to grow without end in sight, my calendar is cluttered with conference calls. I’m passing the torch of Publications and assuming the raging bonfire torch of Chairman. What has surprised and scared me the most about this transition is the power. The power of making decisions, of starting new programs and ending old ones, to control what OCF looks like for this year. It could either be really good or really bad.
As myself and the incoming SLB begin feeling our way through our new positions, I remind myself to keep these words of Christ in mind:
“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” Luke 17:10
We are called by Christ in whatever we do, not just serving on the OCF Student Leadership Board. As each of us transition into new aspects of our lives – leadership positions, jobs, relationships, moving, a new semester, we must remember that all things are for the will of Christ and His glory.