It seems weird that only a year ago, I was staring at my computer screen trying to write my SLB application. I was nervous, sure. I didn’t know if I could manage the work. I didn’t really know what I had to offer to the board, and I certainly couldn’t tell you three reasons why I was fit to be an RSL (hint: this will be important when you’re writing your app). I didn’t even have a solid professional reference. But what I did have was two years of amazing experiences in OCF. I had an incredibly supportive chapter that I had helped lead my sophomore year. I had been to two College Conferences and a retreat. I had friends I had made through OCF, random small group leaders who became my people (spoiler alert: OCF gives you friends). And lucky for me, I had two role models showing me exactly what serving the church on the SLB looked like.
I’m sure anyone on the board could tell you all the great things about being a servant leader, the amazing community and support of other young, Orthodox leaders, and all the great times we have when we’re together. You’ve heard it. I’ve probably said it. You can most definitely hear it again if you ask (and you might not even have to). So today I’m going to tell you all the crummy things about being on the SLB.
Coordinating meetings across four time zones is a NIGHTMARE. Working with people who are just waking up when you’re having lunch is the most frustrating thing ever. Your free time never lines up. EST is stuck in my head forever.
Goodbyes suck. And when you’ve spent a week praying, working, and laughing alongside your best friends you met a week ago, they really suck.
Thanks to Google Drive and Slack, I have ANOTHER thing to procrastinate with when I really should be doing homework. I know, OCF work is better than homework, but unfortunately, I can’t put midterms on pause just because it’s for church (maybe I can get an exception?)
Let’s just say time zones exist for a reason. When you haven’t seen your friends in months and the closest you’ll ever be is a five-hour plane ride away, it’s heartbreaking when you realize SLI is eight months away.
If you’ve held on to this terrible monologue this long, I have a feeling you’ve got what it takes. Stamina is a given. Determination helps a lot too, especially when the odds of pulling off an event are seriously stacked against you. You must love OCF a lot if you were even mildly entertained by this, so that’s another step in the right direction. And if you’re reading this in the first place, you want to serve. You want to get involved, and you want to be a steward of your talents. You know that God is calling you to serve His Church, and you know OCF has impacted you in so many ways and you know you want to step up.
So, apply. Don’t apply because I told you to (but you should apply). Don’t apply because your friends are applying (but you should encourage your friends to apply). Don’t apply because you want to get cool t-shirts (but you should design some cool merch for us). Don’t even apply because it sounds like fun (but I can guarantee, it will be fun).
Don’t apply because you think you can afford to give yourself over to Christ’s calling in your life. Apply because you can’t afford not to.
You get the drift.
Apply for the board.
Great Lakes Regional Student Leader
Andrew is the current student leader residing over the Great Lakes region, and is next year’s SLB Chairman. Andrew goes to THE Ohio State University and is a Chemical Engineering major. In his free time, Andrew enjoys cooking, swimming, and playing music. He is also ambidextrous! His favorite saint is Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnika. If you have any questions for Andrew feel free to reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
SLB APPLICATIONS ARE OUT! If you’re an Orthodox Christian looking to give back and serve your peers to help them grow closer to Christ, you are in the right spot. The SLB is a team of servant leaders that works to grow OCF for the benefit of our peers. We care deeply about all of our members and we choose to volunteer our time and talents in the best ways that we can.
Maybe you’re good at writing – publications might be for you. Maybe you’re good at public speaking – public relations might be for you. Maybe you’re a social media king or queen – media might be for you. Maybe you like to talk – podcasts might be for you. Maybe you love your OCF friends – regional leadership might be for you? Maybe you’re passionate about college conference – HM MAYBE THERE’S A COLLEGE CONFERENCE STUDENT LEADER?
Point of the matter is: there are places for you to invest your talents no matter what they are. So, apply. But don’t take JUST my advice, take the advice of some of the SLB leaders that work hard to make OCF shine.
This was their answer to the question, “Why apply to the SLB?”
Zoe Kanakis – Southwest Student Leader
You can serve Christ through leading others and providing resources to expand the faith.
You make long-lasting relationships with students from all across America; some of my greatest friendships are people from the SLB!
You can grow your own faith through serving others.
You get to meet a lot of priests that will rock your socks off with their wisdom.
As a regional leader, you are able to plan fun retreats and express your creativity in fellowship activities (ice breakers, bonfires, talent shows, etc).
You are able to travel to places that you would never have thought of and learn about other cultures.
6.75. I cannot stress enough how strong my friendships are with members of the SLB. Bonds that cannot be broken. SO APPLY YO!
Elizabeth Buck – South Student Leader
I applied to the SLB because I wanted to give back to the organization that has given me so much during my college career. The SLB has given me the opportunity to cultivate my authentic leadership style, take on new and exciting challenges, and learn from so many inspiring Orthodox Christian college students around the country. Finally, being a part of the SLB has increased my network of Orthodox Christian friends and has given me the dearest friendships of my young adult life.
Alex Lountzis – Southeast Student Leader
Applying to the SLB is one of the BEST decisions you could ever make! Being on the SLB is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where you will meet some of the most inspiring, amazing, and dedicated Orthodox Christians. At the Summer Leadership Institute (SLI), you will be equipped with so many amazing tools that will allow you to lead others and fulfill your role for OCF to the best of your God-given ability.
The friendships and relationships built through this amazing ministry are a blessing truly beyond words, and I highly recommend not passing up this opportunity to dedicate your own time and talent to such an amazing organization that impacts and changes so many lives!
Kristina Anastasiades – Northeast Student Leader
The Student Leadership Board is a group of Orthodox Christians who bring out Christ in each other and those around them. They can see Him inside of you even when you can’t see Him yourself. We hold each other accountable and pick up our crosses together, as we head towards a life in Christ, not in the future, but today. We are a part of the body of Christ, so let’s bring that to our peers through our service on the SLB!
Caroline Retzios – Great Lakes Student Leader
College for me has been a time for spiritual growth, and thanks to my friends in my local OCF chapter, I am constantly surrounded by others who strive to grown in the faith together. As I became more involved in OCF programs outside of weekly chapter meetings (College Conference, Real Break, District Retreats), I decided I wanted to serve my fellow college students by helping connect them with opportunities to explore their faith.
Now that I am on the SLB, I love every moment about it. I loved everything about SLI, helping at College Conference, leading and attending my first Regional Retreat, and all the people I have met who inspire me to live a more Christ-centered life every day! As a member of the SLB, I have grown SO MUCH in my faith.
I think the biggest thing I have gotten out of this opportunity has been learning to be a servant leader. Hearing leadership expressed in this way at SLI was definitely the most impactful part of that week and has guided my service to this ministry.
OCF gives us so many opportunities to grow in our faith. If you desire to grow closer to Christ through service to your peers, build life-long friendships, and learn more about your faith, apply!
We are now in the wake of Thanksgiving, #GivingTuesday, and coursing through the Advent season. Gratitude is a theme that presents itself during this season and its an important quality to have to grow in humility. We Christians are not only ‘thankful’ in an ethereal sense but we are thankful to God. We owe Him everything from the beat in our hearts to the earth we live on.
Where do I start with being thankful to God? The first thing that popped into my head, and now is completely stuck in my head, is Psalm 135 (136), otherwise known as the Polyeleos. It is a beautiful hymn that describes how we can be thankful to God and glorify creation.
You can listen to it here:
If you listen to the lyrics, you can hear King David writing about the thankfulness and gratitude seen in the beauty of God’s creation. But the repeating reason for gratitude? “His mercy endures forever.” What does this mean? It means we can be happy and excited that God gives us an opportunity each and every day to get up, repent, and resist sin. It means that every day we get to wake up with the choice to grow closer to God. It means that we live in a reality where our God loves us with His entire being and the extent of His mercy cannot be known. It means that God has sent His ACTUAL SON to die for us on the cross and in His mercy, redeem us and return us to our fully human state in His presence. His mercy endures forever and ever and unto the ages of ages, so let that sink in, and in turn show your gratitude to God and His creation by giving thanks in the blessings and tribulations you receive each and every day.
This week, I asked the other members of the Student Leadership board to tell me what they are thankful to God for in their lives, these are the replies they sent me:
I’m thankful for the regional and district events that have made my university’s OCF so incredibly close this year in comparison to last year. Without them, members in my OCF would never have been able to see what OCF is, means, and stands for. It inspired our chapter to embody the things we experienced and has given me some of my closest friends at school.
Kristina Anastasiadis, Northeast Student Leader
I’m thankful for my family and friends who challenge me everyday to grow in my faith.
Caroline Retzios, Great Lakes Student Leader
I am thankful for my OCF Real Break trip to Thessaloniki, Greece. My experiences on the trip helped deepen my faith and my relationship with the Lord. Additionally, it provided me the opportunity to meet many extraordinary Christ like individuals who truly changed my life!
Elizabeth Buck, South Student Leader
I’m thankful for Orthodoxy in college. It’s kept me grounded and made me realize what’s most important at all times, and I’m thankful for cows.
Amelia Barron, Midwest Student Leader
I’m thankful for the continual challenges God blesses me with every day, as they have helped me grow in so many ways.
Alex Lountzis, Southeast Student Leader
I’m thankful for the peace felt after receiving confession and the reconciliation I always feel with Christ afterwards. 🙂
+ Alex(^) and the entire SLB
Eva Tempenis, Media Student Leader
I am thankful for everyone around me encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone and leading me to new experiences and adventures in life.
Quinn Marquardt, Mountain Student Leader
I am thankful to God for showing my the path to Orthodoxy in college!
Zoe Kanakis, Southwest Student Leader
The SLB has numerous things to be grateful to God. Reflect on what you are grateful for, and say THANK YOU. God and His people need to be thanked for all that they do.
Sunday, October 7th is College Student Sunday. This Sunday is designated by the Assembly of Bishops for parishes to support the work of Orthodox Christian Fellowship. Our Student Leadership Board members will be present at parishes across the US to share their OCF stories and answer your questions. If you are in the area, we’d love to see you at one of these parishes.
St. George (GOA), Eugene, OR: Sophia Fraser, Northwest Student Leader
St. Andrew (GOA), San Luis Obispo, CA: Zoe Kanakis, Southwest Student Leader
Why I Applied: After continually hearing about this team of Orthodox Christians who 1) genuinely invested their unique selves into all that OCF offers 2) bore witness to living Orthodoxy in college, and 3) stood steadfast in a mission that aspired to served me— some student who they didn’t even know— I finally ran out of reasons why not to be like them and apply.
These servant leaders contribute their God-given talents and training into something greater than us all, for us all. Applying was an opportunity to use the gifts, strengths, and even weaknesses I have towards OCFs enhancement. How could I miss an opportunity to serve at the forefront of a ministry that transformed my reality?
Favorite Moment: On one of the nights of the Summer Leadership Institute everyone took a walk in St. Iakovos Retreat Center’s woods. We visited the various shrines scattered throughout the paths while chanting, praying, and hearing stories about each saint commemorated. Although powerful in its own experience, what particularly made this my favorite was how we got from saint to saint. We walked in what was seemingly total darkness and mud— something that as much as I love the outdoors, would have definitely not wanted to do alone—in fact, there’s no way I would even know where to walk. In walking with everyone, however, my steps never felt surer. We walked towards the saints collectively as one body, despite that many of us were strangers just days before and some of us even having yet to individually meet each other. We came from all across North America with different majors, jurisdictions, cultures; with different positions of OCF leadership and different stories; yet unconditionally united in our Orthodoxy. This above any other moment of SLI showed me who leaders of OCF are at their core, those walking together through the darkness and uncertainly—when things are challenging and sometimes scary—but nonetheless, yearning towards Christ as “the true Light Who enlightens and sanctifies” us and all our steps.
Biggest Takeaway: Each and every member of the team’s solidarity: we come to Christ first and put any jurisdiction second. The SLB is the most progressive way an emerging young adult can witness, collaborate, and develop opportunities for and with the maximum audience to carry pan-Orthodoxy in North America. In just a few months of teamwork, I experienced the unmatched potential of pan-Orthodox leadership over the limits of solely functioning through an inter-community network. The SLB proved that the reality of our Orthodox Christian strength rests in unity now more than ever.
Why Apply: Only the SLB utilizes the most effective means to combine who we are today as college students with the vocational foundation of our tomorrow as that future parishioner, spouse, and parent God wills for us. If you feel affected by this mission and called to carry it through offering your own gifts, then this is what’s next for you.
Mark Sultani, College Conference East Student Leader
Why I Applied: I wanted to serve my fellow college students to help bring their faith into their lives at school.
Favorite Moment: College Conference East banquet
Biggest Takeaway: Sometimes you’ve got to make it up as you go. It’s honestly more fun that way.
Why Apply: To serve Christ and His flock during an important time in their lives alongside other Orthodox Christian peers and leaders. Gain experiences leading events and meetings, coordinating with priests and bishops, speakers, participants, and hosts.
Amelia Barron, Midwest Student Leader
Why I Applied: I applied because I felt like there was a strong OCF community in my region, and I knew that there were a lot of people that could come together. Also, I am acquainted with a lot of priests and I thought that they all would want to get involved.
Favorite Moment: This passed Midwest spring retreat. Definitely. I met all new people, and it was incredible fellowship. I loved sitting around and hanging out with everyone. We played mafia until really late at night, and I genuinely felt that everyone was getting to know each other.
Biggest Takeaway: Orthodoxy is out there in the college community. Students care, it’s not just a select few. You just have to reach out to them.
Why Apply? Apply if you really want to make a difference, and if you have some ideas about OCF and want to change some aspects of it. You’d be surprised how your ideas, speaker choices, and retreats that are implemented can really help other students. It just gives them a place of comfort.
Michael Hostetler, Great Lakes Student Leader
Why I Applied: I applied to the OCF Student Leadership Board to expand my understanding of Orthodoxy in North America. Through attending Summer Leadership Institute, participating in board meetings, and planning my own retreats, I have a more complete understanding of what the future of Orthodoxy is going to be on our continent. The future of the Church is in our hands and from what I have seen, OCF has been an integral role in preparing me and thousands of Orthodox students alike to answer that call.
Favorite Moment: Summer Leadership Institute 2017! It was my first experience with Orthodox students from around the country, and it opened my eyes to the beauty that comes with pan-Orthodoxy.
Biggest Takeaway: Being on the SLB gave me amazing experiences that changed how I approach my spiritual life.
Why Apply? It is an opportunity to help shape the college experience of thousands of students around the continent while simultaneously strengthening your own college experiences and relationships.
Nora Haddad, College Conference West Student Leader
Why I Applied: I fell in love with College Conference West from my first time attending, and I applied to the SLB because God kept knocking, and knocking, and knocking…I couldn’t help but open the door and see what He was calling me to.
Favorite Moment: During College Conference West 2015, my first year as chairman, we prayed a Paraklesis service one evening, and on my committee, I had two liturgics committee members – an Antiochian male and a Greek woman, both extremely talented and proficient in their musical gifts for God. The man lead the men in a men’s choir (anyone who wanted to chant) in Antiochian style responses while the woman did the same with the women’s choir.
The first notably impressionable aspect of this specific service was that there were more people chanting in the choirs than there were sitting in the pews. None of us could know how beautifully the service would be, and by God’s grace through the leadership and confidence of each liturgics leader, we did an entire Paraklesis in a full, perfectly-synced mesh of Antiochian and Greek chanting styles/translations—so seamlessly, that one would not know how difficult something like that actually is! We all bore witness to a true “hymn” of pan-Orthodoxy, such pureness and love for God that was manifested through unity in worship by brothers and sisters in Christ.
Biggest Takeaway: My life has been transformed forever, especially from the lasting friendships and leadership experience I have gained through OCF. These humans were put in my life for my salvation, and are the most inspiring people I have met in my life—I did not know that so many like-minded, God loving, motivated people existed that are my age. My biggest takeaway is the Hope that OCF has given me for the present and future of Orthodox Christians in the Western world. This hope has inspired me to carry on that Love into everything I do, and to give to others what Christ has given me through OCF.
Why Apply?: “Inspiration is from the Holy Spirit.” As an SLB member, you have an opportunity and calling to contribute to the planning and activities that effect college students/anyone involved with OCF across the U.S. and Canada. You will meet incredible people, benefit from the experience of others, and learn TRUE leadership skills centered around Christ (that also benefit you in your future professional careers). Most importantly, you will have a network of people praying for you and people you can pray for as well. You are never, ever alone, are provided with the support you need as an OCF Leader, and the spiritual benefits are soul-saving.
Peter Savas, College Conference Midwest Student Leader
Why I Applied: I applied to the SLB because I saw it as a great opportunity to further develop my ministry by learning from amazing people whom I look up to, and by having real first hand experience while also having support to help me grow.
Favorite Moment: My favorite moment is when I re-met Mark Sultani.
Biggest Takeaway: The people around you are the people who make you who you are.
Why Apply: Apply to the SLB because it is a unique opportunity to harvest your leadership, problem-solving, promoting, and delegating skills in and for an Orthodox environment. It is one of the most humbling experiences, and also the most enlightening. Through your interactions with the SLB, with OCF, and with your faith, you will no longer just be a passive observer, but rather an active servant. And there is nothing more powerful than that.
Why I Applied: I don’t have a strong OCF chapter on my campus, and my freshman year was spiritually lonely. After attending College Conference in 2014, my eyes were opened to the wide world of OCF, and the many other opportunities I had to get involved and make a community for myself.
Favorite Moment: Definitely the Midwest Regional Retreat last spring. After working as Midwest RSL for two years, I planned this retreat and was absolutely blown away by the students that attended. Our registration reached capacity, we had incredible speakers, and I was able to see so clearly how the Holy Spirit works through this ministry.
Biggest Takeaway: My experience on the SLB has given me incredible leadership experience and given me the opportunity to connect with other Orthodox college students. Most importantly, the SLB has been fundamental in forming my faith as an adult, and given me meaningful friendships that will last beyond the four years of undergrad.
Why Apply: To find some of your best friends, grow in your faith, and become a servant leader for this important ministry.