So it was about 4 o’clock when my good friend picked me up from Norman, Oklahoma to go to the OCF South Regional Retreat (which was well organized by Katherine Sackllah and George Katrib, who did a wonderful job!) I was pumped to see my old friends from camp and make new friends in the faith. The drive was long but well worth it when we arrived.
When we arrived at 9 o’clock at night after our last stop at CVS because someone who shouldn’t be named had a fever and potentially could have infected everyone at the retreat, but on the bright side no one got sick! So as I walked in with my obnoxious Bob Stoop visor and an OU PFG shirt, I interrupted what was probably the most fascinating talk of my Orthodox Christian life. The talk was with Fr. Simeon and he discussed various topics about the faith that were thought-provoking and led me to further understand Orthodoxy.
Throughout the retreat, we enjoyed each other’s company and we could really dive into the talks. The weather was perfect, the people there were amazing, and the experiences that we had were unforgettable (especially when some people flipped their canoe after a game of King of the Hill). Even though everyone there was looking for a good Orthodox Christian wife or husband (just kidding), we were able to make new friends in the faith and overall have a grand ol’ time.
To be more specific, my biggest take away was the fact that every college student was struggling with the same issues that I was. Being a college student, as we all know, is difficult, especially in the secular world which we live in. We have issues that we have to deal with, such as drinking on a Saturday night or being pressured into sex by a boyfriend or girlfriend. After going through a rough spot in my life, and then attending this retreat, I was able to become rejuvenated in the faith and live as a light on my campus.
Our calling is to get to Heaven and take everyone with us that we can through Christ. This was evident at the retreat. The people, like I said, were amazing and really felt the Holy Spirit work through them, because they felt comfortable and more at home. I felt that the people there trusted everyone and could share their experiences with the Orthodox church in a non-judgmental way. It was truly a “home away from home.”
After returning back to my university, I reflected on the retreat and was really inspired to contribute back to the Orthodox Church.
Shout out to all the regional leaders (Valerie Hanna and Anna Sobchak) that were there and the OCF leaders (Katherine Sackllah and George Katrib) who made this experience such a blessing. Lastly I would like to thank Fr. Simeon for providing us with his wisdom and taking time out of his busy schedule to visit and talk with us.
Peter Huseth attends the one and only University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma. He is an advertising major with a minor in English Writing. He’s currently a sophomore, and when he isn’t in deep theological thought, he’s playing guitar for the beautiful handmaidens of God.
Every month, the OCF social media platforms will be featuring one of the nine regions of chapters. March is the month for my birthday the South Region, which includes the great states of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Yee-haw!
On the blog, I’ll be asking the Regional Student Leader–for South, the striking Kathrine Sackllah–for a few names of people in their region who are absolutely rockin’ it. It’s an opportunity for every region to showcase and share that which makes them unique and awesome, and hopefully all the regions can learn from and grow with each other.
So, without further ado, your South All-Stars!
Anna Sobchak, Chapter President, SMU
Hi! My name is Anna Sobchak, a junior at Southern Methodist University (SMU), majoring in Mechanical Engineering and Math and currently chapter president.
How did you get involved in OCF?
Haha. It’s not a very exciting story, I’m afraid. I always knew SMU had a chapter at OCF; it was something I made sure of at all the schools I applied to. I had a friend who got me in contact with the coordinator and just went to the first meeting.
What are some of your greatest memories/experiences from OCF?
Growing up in Houston, I love every time we have a regional retreat and I get to see all the friends I grew up with. However, I would have to say my greatest experience so far was when I went to Jerusalem last spring for Real Break. It was beautiful and exciting and…honestly, I don’t even know how to describe it. Seeing all of the holy sites and just walking around the Sea of Galilee or through the Old City…it made the biblical stories seem so much more real and relatable. 10/10 would recommend.
Any advice you could give to someone else in your position?
Somehow I ended up as chapter president, but whether you just go to weekly meetings or are involved in the national level, my advice is to make sure you get involved. Different chapters do different things, but at the end of the day, it’s comforting to know that while you are at college in a new city, maybe even a new country, you have at least one brother or sister in Christ there with you. And the more you get involved, the more you’ll find out just how interconnected the Orthodox communities are all across the US.
Valerie Hanna, Central Texas District Student Leader, Texas A&M
Valerie Hanna is from Houston, Texas and a junior at Texas A&M University (Whoop!), studying Telecomm. Media Studies with a minor in Art. She is secretary of her OCF chapter and District Student Leader of Central Texas. She loves teaching Sunday School at St. Silouan Antiochian Orthodox Church, reading books instead of studying (uh-oh), practically living at her local coffee shop, sketching Disney characters, being at camp, and attending concerts.
And how did you get involved in OCF?
I knew I wanted to be in OCF before my freshman year even began. Having grown up involved in Teen SOYO, getting involved in OCF just felt like the natural “next step” in my church involvement when I left home. When applying to schools, I made sure there was a church with an OCF chapter in the general area because I knew I was going to need them. Fast forward three years, and I am both an officer in my chapter as well as District Student Leader for Central Texas and it’s been pretty great.
What are some of your greatest memories/experiences from OCF?
Last year we had a meeting right after the last Pre-Sanctified Liturgy during Lent where we got together and had some of the students teach others how to make crosses out of palms for Palm Sunday which led to us staying at the church for quite a while consisting of so much singing and so much fun. 10/10 would recommend as a fun & stress-free meeting before Holy Week! Despite the social events we have had in the past, this one felt like a really strong bonding experience for our entire group.
Any advice you could give to someone else in your position (Chapter Pres., District Leader, etc…) across the nation?
Embrace it and let it teach you things you didn’t even know you needed to learn. This goes beyond being a leadership position. You’re going to learn things that are beyond yourself. God works in each of us very differently, I feel this goes without saying, but you will be surprised as to how He is going to work through you. The feeling of being able to help nourish other OCF chapters beyond your own is incredible. I’ve put together events and done things I never in a thousand years pictured myself doing before this school year started. OCF isn’t just a temporary thing throughout my four years of college. OCF has given me my best friends, strengthened my relationships with others, and been the backbone of my entire college experience. It is what has helped keep me sane in the moments I felt so overwhelmed all I wanted to do was cry. OCF has been one of the constant reminders of the love that God has for me, for all of us. Being a leader in an organization He has allowed us to establish as a stepping stone in our journey toward salvation is more than I have ever been worthy of, but something to be so incredibly thankful for.
As a senior graduating in less than a month, my levels of nostalgia have been at an all- time high. Anything from a roommate movie night to starting the last season of The Office (I’ve been working at it for almost a year) will spark some mad feels. But what finally put me over the edge and brought on the waterworks was the final conference call of the 2016 OCF Student Leadership Board. As the outgoing chairman relayed his reflection of our fruitful year together, and the incoming chairwoman expressed both excitement and nervousness at the year to come, and Christina, our chapter relations manager, topped it off with a summary of the incredible things we’ve accomplished this past year, I was struck with the realization that when I look back on my senior year of college, it will be dominated by the memory of OCF – what we have accomplished as a board, everything our region has progressed towards, and the way in which my faith grew more than I had realized. So here is my little reflection on OCF as we get ready to pass on the torch.
To my region: I was blessed enough to be preceded as south regional leader by someone I know, admire, and love very much, so from the start it was a smooth transition and exciting position to fill. What I did not anticipate was the love, pride, and perspective I got out of this experience. The elation and pure joy that was relayed from my district leaders when a meticulously planned and advertised event resulted in 3 or 5 attendees was truly not of this world. Only someone so filled with the love of Christ would be that overjoyed at the gathering of Orthodox Christian college students and the fellowship it had to offer – whether that involved 2 or 20 people.
For when 2 or 3 are gather in my name, there I am with them. Matthew 18:20
This position has equipped me with everything I need to graduate and venture into the real world. There were so many struggles and frustrations that came with this position (answer your emails people!!), but in retrospect, every single one ended up being its own little blessing (funny how that happens). Whether that was discouragement at low turnout numbers or lack of commitment, it’s crazy how looking back, I barely remember those moments. Instead what stands out is my excitement at SLI for the upcoming year. And the awkward yet warm interactions with district leaders you finally meet in person after months of texts, phone calls, and video chatting. Or a south regional retreat at which I was constantly overwhelmed by the subtle love and faith I was surrounded by. I am in a few leadership organizations at school and I can say without a doubt that this position has better prepared me than all of those.
Which leads me to the next thing: a tribute to OCF for the ways it has helped me grow in my faith. Shameless plug: read the blog. Listen to the podcasts. Go to the events. On an informative level, I think I’ve learned more about my faith and Orthodoxy this year than ever before. Anytime I had questions or was going through a spiritual struggle, I knew without a doubt that there would be some OCF resource to help me through it. For maybe the second time in my college career, I actually accepted and welcomed a debate when I had someone come up to me to ask me about my faith and if I had been saved, because I knew that I had enough knowledge to back myself up, but mostly the spiritual steadfastness to defend my faith. I graduate in less than a month and with that comes a lot of emotion. Nostalgia, excitement, nausea. But I haven’t yet been worried. If anything, I’ve gotten worried over the fact that I am not worried. We are always told not worry (Matthew 6:25-34) but of course that’s so much easier said than done. But the fact that I have been able to put my complete trust in God on my plans after graduation is a tribute to the impact on the strength of my faith OCF has given me. This has been done time and time again through the talks, discussions, event, and people. Definitely the people.
All the people. But then. Really specific people.
So. Last but not least. A tribute to the 2015-2016 SLB (I’m listening to the Narnia soundtrack as I type this so it’s making this sound super majestic). I knew from the beginning of SLI – where my first impression of most of you was how ravenously hunger you were and WE NEED FOOD NOW – y’all were grand human beings that I would have a lot to learn from. Everyone’s enthusiasm and faith was contagious from the beginning. A majority of you I only met in person once or twice, but I am confident I could pick up the phone right now at 12:43 AM and call any of you, and you would welcome me with open arms.
You all don’t realize how much I admire you; y’all are the people I will constantly be creeping on Facebook, and y’all are the people I will always look towards as an example of how to be a loving image of Christ. Thank you for the late night talks at SLI, College Conference, and otherwise. Thank you for empathizing with my SLB and life frustrations. Thank you for ignoring my attempted jokes on GroupMe. Thank you for the theological and spiritual insight you always have to offer over whatever subject any of us bring up. Thank you for avoiding getting charged by three moose with me. Thank you for the hilarious snapchats. Thank you for saying, “you’re in my prayers,” because that, more than anything, would give me a sense of peace through whatever was going on at the time. Thank you so so much for taking this spiritual journey with me. It’s odd, because some of those thank you’s were with certain people in mind (the moose one definitely), most were to everyone, despite the fact that some of you I barely have been able to talk to throughout the year. That’s the beauty of Orthodoxy and our faith isn’t it? It’s so easy to develop such a deep bond through this beautiful and everlasting belief that we share, and from then on, all things are possible. How else could a Student Leadership Board of this magnitude and distance work so cohesively?
Writing this has been so frustrating because there are no words to describe this experience and this love. It is an agape love – sacrificial and unconditional. It is such a divine gift. I just take comfort in the fact that if you have involved yourself with OCF this past year, you may know what I am trying to convey. So glory to God.
To the next board: good luck and God bless. You have some big shoes to fill.
Hibbah Kaileh is graduating from the University of North Texas with her BA in International Studies. She currently serves as the South Regional Student Leader on the 2015-2016 Student Leadership Board.