SLB Applications | Quotes from the Board Members

SLB Applications | Quotes from the Board Members

After the positive response to our post last week of unattributed quotes to the New Orleans Real Break workers, we decided to do it again–this time, with our SLB members, encouraging you to apply to the SLB!

Quotes from: Markayla Stroubakis, Dan Bein, David Munkres, Emma Solak, Isabella Calpakis, Kathrine Sackllah, Mark Sultani, Nicole Petrow, Niko Wilk, Nora Haddad, Oana Grigoras, Peter Savas, Quinn Marquardt, Rachel Howanetz, Spiro Morris, Spyridoula Fotinis.

Question 1: How has being a member of the SLB affected your day-to-day life? What about your life overall?

“Hilarious group chat.”

“First, a GroupMe and a Snapchat group that never stops and kills my phone battery. Second, a GroupMe and Snapchat group that makes me literally laugh out loud, inspires me daily, and fills me with joy.”

“I now have 16 extra people that I pray for daily and look forward to hearing from in our GroupMe chat.”

“Honestly, the board has made me more motivated to keep my faith in the center of my life. Being in constant communication with people like Dan Bein, the Solaks, Niko Wilk, Nikky P, and literally everybody on the board makes me constantly see the benefits of living a Christ-centered life and it reminds me of how much I want that, and motivates me to do it.”

“My life overall has been affected in one of the most beautifully positive ways from being able to serve on the SLB. It is difficult to put words to the experience. I have been blessed with opportunities to meet and serve with other Orthodox Christian college students from all over North America. Many of which share my love and passion for the important ministry that is OCF. These people and opportunities are what continue to keep me working through the not-so-easy parts of college life, and ultimately has brought abundant amounts of laughs, smiles, and joy into my life.”

“Being a member of the SLB has, without a doubt, affected my day-to-day life. Growing up and even into my first year of college, I was very shy and introverted. I did not like being around people and talking to people was the worst! But I can honestly say, that being on the SLB has changed that. I feel more comfortable being around others and talking to people. I feel like being a member of the SLB has helped me to see what kind of person I am. It has showed me that I can be a leader and that I am able to just be myself without being shy and introverted. ”

Question 2: If you could assign one adjective to qualify what the SLB means to you, which would you choose and why?

“Well, I just had to Google what an adjective was…yikes! But my answer: There are definitely other adjectives to try to describe what the SLB means to me, but the word powerful hits it home for me. I joined the SLB not exactly sure what I was getting myself into. However, the moment I met my fellow SLBers, I felt like that was the place that I belonged. Being on the SLB has led to me coming out of my comfort zone and doing things I never imagined doing. I made friendships that I never thought would happen. I ran my own regional retreat which was very impactful. Being on the SLB has had a powerful influence on my life and has also changed my life for the better. ”

Family. It’s not an adjective but it’s the truth. Although I’m not the best at keeping in touch, I still feel connected to each person on the board. I honestly can’t explain why, but having Christ at the root of not only a relationship, but an entire community (like the SLB and OCF as a whole).. idk, it’s awesome. It’s an unexplicable personal and communal connection and devotion to Christ. I feel this way while I’m in the altar or in my congregation at home, but this is different because it’s not restricted to the walls of the church. It’s clear across campuses, state lines, and jurisdictions… so, it’s really cool and feels like a family.”

Thankful. I’m incredibly thankful to have served on the SLB for two years. It has given me more than I ever could have possibly dreamed of giving it. I am thankful for the best friends I have made, who have done awe-inspiring things for OCF; Christina and Donna who work so hard and offer sage life advice; every speaker I’ve ever heard at an OCF who taught me something new and strengthened my faith; every OCFer I’ve met who has filled me with the light of Christ that shines from within them. OCF has been the heart of my college experience and the SLB has been the heart of hearts.”

Family – The SLB has become my Orthodox family in college. More meaningful than any friend group or club, the SLB is a family which has formed my faith life and personal culture during years where they may have suffered otherwise.”

“Being on the SLB is fulfilling. You are serving the students in your region out of love. If you serve out of love, then there will be no greater joy that OCF can offer. Working to plan retreats and events where students can find God is some of the most fulfilling work I have ever done. It has also led to a deeper relationship with Christ.”

Real. Being on the Board is real for me. I produce real things, like videos and podcasts, interact with real people online, and participate in real projects with my other Board members. It’s not just theoretically talking about how to minister to my fellow college denizens, but it’s really ministry.”

Adventurous…not only has being on the SLB allowed me to form new ideas and experiences, but I have also literally traveled thousands of miles to be with the SLB at retreats, conferences, and Real Break, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Question 3: Why would you recommend someone apply to the SLB?

“There’s absolutely no reason not to apply to the SLB. I hate the words “I can’t” (ask Oana, she’ll attest to this). Apply because you love OCF, want to help it grow, have awesome new ideas, see room for change, want to grow stronger in your faith, want to develop your leadership and life skills, want to use your time and talent to serve God, and want to meet and work with some of the most faithful, funny, uplifting, and humble people who you will be privileged to call you friends.”

“Chances are that you have unique gifts that God intended for you to share with others. What is a better way to do that, than to step outside of your comfort zone, apply to the SLB, and use these gifts to make OCF an unforgettable experience for college students. (Is this supposed to be a question mark and not a period? Help me Ben English isn’t my first language)”

“Each of us possess specific skills and traits that give us the ability to serve others. By applying to be on the SLB, you would have the chance to become a leader for the Orthodox Church in a position that would ignite your inner potential. The effort that you offer is an act of love that would help the lives of college students in the Faith and especially those seeking Christ.”

“The running joke is that the SLB gives you friends. Yes, but you get so much more out of it, too. I don’t know about you, but I am constantly hearing the message–use your talents and gifts for the glory of God. If you love the OCF ministry and want to learn more about what it means to serve others with your whole heart, apply to the SLB. It is a humbling experience to be able to serve Christ and the church through this ministry. I encourage you to think about your God-given talents, your priorities, and how you want to spend your college career. Could you see yourself serving on the SLB? If so, apply. :)”

“I would recommend someone to apply to the SLB because it’s a great opportunity not only to learn the faith, but to actively do faith. Just by being on the SLB, you think about God and your faith on a regular basis, which at college can be difficult. And! you get to do something so cool with an organization that is worthwhile. So, selfishly, it keeps me on track through gaining knowledge and serving others which is a really cool thing.”

Real Break Romania | Where You Meet Your Family

Real Break Romania | Where You Meet Your Family

I remember when I was going on college visits with my dad, we would be sitting in info sessions, and no matter where we were, he would look on his phone to see where the nearest Greek Orthodox Church was. I always rolled my eyes at him.

The Orthodox Church played a big role in my life growing up, but I never realized how much of an impact it could have on my life going into the future. While I was at the University of Tulsa, there weren’t many Orthodox kids my age, and I didn’t really connect to the Orthodox Church there. My dad would get on to me for not getting more involved, and I would roll my eyes at him again.

It wasn’t until my senior year that I really connected to the Tulsa church.  I went on my first Real Break trip to Alaska, and after that incredible experience, I knew I had to do another trip. So this year I packed my bags and headed off to Romania.

If I could sum up three things that I’ve learned from Real Break Romania, these would be them:

1. If you allow it, God can use you do to some incredible things

We had the privilege to speak to Father Tenase, the priest who started Pro Vita Orphanage. It all started when they received one baby and went knocking on doors to see if anyone would take him, and now they provide a home for more than 400 people.

During our daily debriefs with our group at the end of each night, we repeatedly referred to Father Tenase as a “firecracker” because his heart is so on fire to serve God and the community there. Whatever he feels called to do, he finds a way to get done and doesn’t ask questions. To sum it up, we all need to be like Father Tenase and go wholeheartedly towards what we are called to do. Be a firecracker.

2. The friendships you make are unlike any other.

There’s something about the relationships you build with someone who shares your faith that creates a special bond. At the end of the trip we weren’t just friends, but family. And I do mean that quite literally, because one of the girls I met for the first time before getting on the plane to Romania and I share the same extended relatives. So quite literally, you meet your family.

Last year I went on Real Break Alaska, and since that trip, we have been fortunate enough to have multiple reunions with most of the participants from all over the states. This year in Romania, I immediately became close to the participants I didn’t already know, and it was truly a blessing to both be reunited with old friends and make new friends so quickly, creating a new family. I fully expect our group to get together for reunions as well. I knew when we were going our separate ways in the airport it wasn’t “goodbye”; it was “see you later.”

3. God answers prayers and shows his love in unexpected ways.

Before going on this trip, I had asked God to teach me how to show love towards the kids and make a positive impact on their lives. Turns out, the exact opposite ended up happening. These kids poured out their love to me, and I learned so much just from being around them a short amount of time.

One child in particular stood out to me: Rares. He is so energetic and such a joy to be around. He’s an avid chanter at church and you could tell he was a leader in the community. Pro Vita puts an emphasis on family, so Rares would often say to me, “I love you, my sister,” out of the blue while walking around or just hanging out. I was truly touched that the kids considered us family when we had only been there a few days.

On our last night in Romania, Rares changed my phone background to a picture of us together and then told me to wait where I was because he had to get something from his room for me. When he returned, he gave me a heart shaped pillow so I would always remember him. You better believe I didn’t just cry, I ugly cried when I had to say goodbye to him.

I learned so much – not only from Rares, but from all of the kids we met – about how to love other people and be a positive light even in the darkness.

Kerri is originally from Little Rock, AR and is a recent graduate from the University of Tulsa. She attends Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Tulsa, OK, and when she’s not teaching Sunday school you can find her traveling, running, dancing, or eating ice cream.

Finding Home

Finding Home

Maya Angelou said,

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

One of the most daunting factors of going away to college is leaving home. It’s hard trading in your warm, cozy bed and Mom’s cooking for a hard, small dorm bed and lukewarm bowl of Easy Mac for dinner every night. Even harder is leaving behind the comforting arms of your family. I think every college student, young and old, near or far, gets homesick at some point.

Growing up in a parish where my dad was the priest, my church was a place where I felt very much at home. I had my little old lady buddies, taught church school, and sang in the choir, plus the extra perks that come with the title PK. Starting school and having to go to a new church was very different for me, and I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive. I worried about attending a church where not only the priest, but everyone, was a stranger to me. My biggest concern was attending a church and experiencing something contrary to what I was used to.

My home parish

My home parish Holy Trinity

But, one Sunday morning, full of anticipation, I braved to step foot into my new church. As I inhaled deeply and my lungs filled with the familiar scents of beeswax and incense, I instantly felt at peace. Here I was, living on my own for the first time in a completely foreign place without a single familiar face, trying to figure out this whole college thing: nervous, lonely, and confused. All my anxiety and unease vanished. That unique church smell wrapped itself around me like a security blanket. The priest chanted the prayers I’ve heard my whole life and I timidly joined in with the hymns I knew by heart. In a sea of unfamiliarity, church was the raft I clung to. I started looking forward to my weekends, not for the same reason as my peers, but for that hour and a half I spent on Sunday mornings in church. It was my own personal island, where I could escape from the rest of the world. When I was at church, I felt at home.

Even now, in my second year of school, in which I am much more comfortable, I still look forward to Sunday mornings. Like my family, the church has always been there for me. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by school, clubs, and work, all I want is to go home and get a hug from my mom. But when I go to church, all that stress melts away. Stepping outside the college environment into one that is homey, comforting, and brimming with love is just as good as a hug from Mom. Even during the week, when there’s no actual service to go to, putting in my headphones and listening to the familiar Orthodox hymns while I study (you can find a surprising amount on Spotify), or going to OCF meetings and serving small Compline or Vespers surround by my friends, even just sitting silently in the church, has the same comforting effect.

To go back to what Maya Angelou said, there is a longing for home in everyone. Home is where nothing can hurt us, where we are loved. There’s a special feeling you get at home that can’t be replicated. The church gives us the same unconditional love and acceptance that we so crave when away from home. Whether we are lonely, drowning in schoolwork, or feeling a little lost, the Church is always there to hear our prayers and welcome us home.

About the Author

This is a guest post from Emma Solak. Emma is a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh studying nonfiction writing. She’s originally from Stroudsburge, PA where her dad is the priest tat the OCA church, Holy Trinity.