Glory be to God, we are blessed. Even when there are ups and downs in life, God is always there guiding us. How awesome is He? Our Almighty and Loving God never leaves our side no matter how sinful we are.
We have so many blessings to offer up to God and thank Him: being able to get up in the morning, go to class, go to College Conference or Real Break. The list goes on and on.
For me, OCF is one of the greatest blessings I am grateful for. I recently transferred schools and realized what a blessing my home chapter was for me. I definitely took many things for granted, and I did not realize the impact OCF, locally and in our North American programs, had and continues to have, on me.
I challenge each of you to take a moment and be still. Ponder all the blessings in your life and give glory to God! God willing, OCF is one of them. If you have an OCF chapter, don’t take it for granted. Give each person a hug and tell them why you are grateful for them. Thank your priest(s). Our spiritual advisors take precious time to spend with us and are vital to the OCF ministry. So really, take the time to thank your priest and your chapter. Life changes in a blink of an eye, and the present is the perfect time to have an attitude of gratitude.
In honor of giving thanks, as OCF we have launched a #GivingTuesday campaign, starting on November 28th and ending on December 15th.
This campaign issuperrrrr important because it’s not us asking our parishes or women’s groups to help the ministry of OCF. This time, it’s us students who have the opportunity to make the biggest difference.
This campaign is built for us students to show our love for our ministry of OCF and support all the wonderful programs that are put on for us (retreats & such)! I’m sure you’re grumbling to yourself, “ugh, they want money.”
Hear me out. We know the reality of being a college student. Little drops fill a bucket, right? You can make a donation of $10, which for me is eating in instead of going out in NYC. Instead of buying a large pizza for $20 invite your friends over and make your own pizza, and donate to OCF.
You want to know something pretty amazing? A generous donor has offered to match every dollar raised before the concluding date! AND if you share this campaign and have people donate in your honor the two students with the most “nominations” will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship each. Yes folks, a scholarship!
With 7 days left (campaign ends December 15th), we are currently at $15,781: only $4,219 short of our $20,000 goal!
I know money is a touchy subject. Truthfully, I usually cringe when the Parish Council President asks for money at church. But, as Orthodox Christians true stewardship is giving our time, talents, and treasure.
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. –2 Corinthians 9:6-7
So let’s begin now and give a little of our treasure to a ministry that works so hard for each of us. OCF is a ministry that has changed all of our lives in some way and will continue to do so as we graduate college and stay a part of Christ’s Living Body.
Share the word and let’s fill this OCF bucket each with our little drop!
What do Adam and Eve in Paradise, Global Climate Change, and Great Lent have in common? … Trees. And that’s how our weekend began.
Recently, the OCF at the County College of Morris, a newly chartered OCF chapter, hosted their first Pan-Orthodox OCF/Young Adult Weekend Retreat around the topic of Living in God’s Creation. The weekend was filled with fellowship, worship, learning, and stream wading.
OCFers from different areas of NJ and out of state gathered together to learn about how to live in the world as God’s Creation. Like ourselves, all of creation is sanctified by its relationship to God. Dr. Elizabeth Theokritoff, the keynote speaker and author of Living in God’s Creation: Orthodox Perspectives on Ecology, had everyone explore the depth of Creation in relationship to its Creator and challenged every student to serve other creatures, animate and inanimate, the way that Christ serves us. Dr. Elizabeth said that from every tree we are supposed to pick the same fruit: God.
In a world that is riddled by the problems of global climate change and has an increasing awareness of how we as humans are treating the earth, we were reminded that Christ calls us to “love our neighbors as ourselves,” while with the same love of neighbor we must keep in mind that what and how much we are using is impacting someone else. “Turning the lights on isn’t a sin, but our actions reflect Creation as whole,” we were reminded by Dr. Theokritoff. We are called to be stewards of Creation, to view and use the resources of the world around us in awe; as the Creation of God. Elder Aimilianos challenges us “to do every task as if preparing for Holy Communion.” The Eucharist means thanksgiving and thankfulness in everything, which is the opposite of extravagance and waste.
Next time you turn on the lights or the faucet or pick a red, ripe strawberry, offer the purposeful creation up to God and thank Him for everything we have been given to use, with a sustainable heart of offering and doxology.
Spyridoula Fotinis is a freshmen at the County College of Morris, studying International Studies. She was instrumental in starting the OCF on campus, which is flourishing and attended by people of all Faiths, even those who do not adhere to a Faith. She loves seeing the love of Christ at work on her campus and in every person around her.
When we think of stewardship and giving back to the Church, our mind naturally goes to money. It’s really no secret that as college students we have no money. That’s why we love going home so much: free food and free laundry (and to see dear old Mom and Dad, of course). When I put my sole crumpled dollar bill into the tray on Sunday mornings, I joke that we actually are following the Church’s suggestion donation to tithe 10% of your income. Just because I don’t have a lot of money to donate to the Church doesn’t mean I can’t be an Orthodox steward. I give back to the church in two other ways – with time and talents.
In college, time is almost as precious as money. But it is one thing we can give freely. Being on the SLB is a lot of work – and requires a lot of time. Time spent organizing retreats, writing blogs, recording podcasts, scheduling speakers for College Conference or planning Real Break trips, and calling parishes and youth directors to talk to about OCF. And conference calls, we spend a lot of time on conference calls. But working on my OCF stuff never feels like work. I usually do whatever I have to do for OCF before any other homework, because I can still tell myself I’m being productive.
My schedule is busy; every college student’s schedule is busy. Dedicate some time to give back to the church through working for this awesome ministry. In my time as Publications Student Leader, I’ve written blogs that have reached thousands of people, worked with and met leaders of the Church, and even been interviewed on Ancient Faith Radio. His Grace Bishop Gregory of Nyssa always tells us that we are not the future of the Church, we are the Church. Never have I felt more a part of the Church than I have while serving on the SLB.
As an English major, the Publications Student Leader position made the most sense for me. Publications gave me the chance to take my God-given abilities and strengths and use them to serve Him. Serving on the SLB isn’t just for people with concrete skills like writing, but for people who have a passion for OCF, a drive to improve, new ideas, leadership qualities, and most importantly a love for Christ. And being on the on the Board has helped me harness all of those skills.
As Orthodox Christians, we are called to serve God and our neighbor. Apply to the Student Leadership Board not only to give of your time and talents to God and His Church but to your fellow Orthodox Christian college students. Use what God has blessed you with to strengthen this ministry, to grow as a young leader of the Orthodox Church, and to make incredible lasting friendships. OCF gave me a place of comfort during my first year of college and some of my very best friends (both at my school’s chapter and on this year’s SLB). It’s taught me so much about the faith and myself as person, all while helping me become a better Christian. I can’t wait to spend another year on the SLB working for OCF, the Church, Christ, and young Orthodox Christians everywhere.
Last week we talked a little bit about marriage, monasticism, and what salvation is actually about. Hopefully, we’ve cleared up the fog a little bit about being single and can all recognize that God is present and calling us in every manner of life. But, if we are to hear and respond to God calling us, we have to recognize the particular struggles and blessings of being single.
Both married people and monastics have a particular calling to reflect the breaking through of the Kingdom of God in this world: the married through their ascetic reunification of male and female in love as a sign of the reunification of all things in Christ and the monastic through their ascetic dedication to purity and the angelic life as a sign of the life in the Kingdom to come. I think single people have a particular calling to reflect the Kingdom through an ascetic commitment to the present moment, reflecting that heaven and earth meet only in the present moment.
Of course, we all are called to love, purity, and meeting God in the now, but I think those who are single have a special opportunity to be an icon of the present to those around them because it is so tempting to sometimes treat being single and on your own like being in the waiting room for life to begin. If we give in to this temptation we can become anxious and worried on the one hand or so carefree on the other that either way, we become spiritually blind to the opportunities to meet God here and now. So here’s a little advice for those of you who are single and striving for holiness, trying to stay grounded and centered in Christ.
An amazing way to take advantage of the present moment as a single person is to dedicate yourself to prayer and study. Set aside time to pray, to read Scripture, to read a spiritual book. Don’t miss Liturgy. Make it to weekday services as often as you can. Whether marriage or monasticism lies ahead for you or not, using your time right now to encounter Jesus will not only prepare you for the future, but more importantly, will make sense of the now and bring peace to your everyday.
Start seeing the control you have over your life as a single person as a blessing and an opportunity to form your life around what really matters. Which leads to my next thought.
Serve Your Church and Your Community
OCFers give back at the Fall 2015 WorkDaze
It’s true that college students and new graduates are busy with classes and adjusting to the adult world, but it is also true that you have a lot of control over how you spend your free time. In addition to prayer and study, make an effort to find opportunities to serve the Church and your community. It shouldn’t be that we wait until we are over 40 to make time for service to the Church (this is a weird trend I’ve noticed in a lot of our parishes).
Why not offer to teach Sunday School, coach a basketball team, serve at the local shelter, join your parish’s service organizations, serve on parish council, offer to update the website, run social media for the parish, or one of the other millions of things your parish could probably use? Call your priest and ask. If you’re part of an OCF chapter, these can be something you offer to do together. If you are a new graduate, it can be a great way to get involved now that you don’t have the automatic community of your OCF chapter.
By getting involved not only will you avoid the demonic temptation of single life that says life is all about me, but you will begin to form a habit of centering your life around the life of the Church. Then, no matter what job opportunities or potential relationships come along, you will have the right foundation for your life.
Look for Opportunities to Sacrifice Your Own Comfort
The number one temptation of being single in my opinion is to become overly-set in one’s own ways and to lose sight of the ascetic, self-sacrificing requirements of love. It can be pretty easy as a single person to get used to a way of living that only takes into account your own needs and desires. It’s a little less tempting if you have roommates because at least then you have to work out the dynamics of living with someone else, but even then, it can be a real struggle.
Thanks be to God, it is in struggle that we see who we really are and how God is calling us to grow. So be aware, and ask yourself often, “Am I living life with blinders on? Am I insisting on my own way in all things or avoiding situations in which I might be asked to compromise and sacrifice? Does all of money go towards making my life comfortable and easy?” If you are praying, studying, and putting service to the Church at the center of your life, it will be pretty easy to find opportunities to live sacrificially–God will put those opportunities in your way.
Build Spiritual Relationships
Everybody needs accountability and support in their life. If you want to do well in class, you go to the professor or to a tutor for help and you study with your peers. If you want to do well in a new job, you rely on your boss and your coworkers to help you get acquainted with the culture and expectations of the workplace.
Students at CCEast 2015
Well, unsurprisingly, the same is true in the spiritual life. You need mentors to guide you and set an example and peers to keep you on track. Being single means these relationships don’t come built into the package like they do in a marriage or in a monastery, so you’ll need to make a concerted effort to find the right people for your life. Obviously, your local OCF chapter and your parish are the places to start. Find a spiritual father and other mentors to whom you can go for advice and guidance. Make friends with people you respect and trust with whom you can be honest about yourself.
Building an Orthodox community as a single person will help you in all other aspects of single life: you can support one another in prayer and study, you can serve the Church together, and you can learn to love one another with self-sacrificial love. Perhaps, then, the most important thing to keep in mind is that being single and Orthodox doesn’t and shouldn’t mean being alone.
With #GivingTuesday just around the corner, we thought we’d help you learn more about some of the great Orthodox ministries that need our support as a Church to keep doing the great things they’re doing! Consider making a donation to one or more of them this year! Click on the logos to go directly to their online giving sites.
Ancient Faith Ministries
Ancient Faith Ministries started as an online radio program streaming Orthodox music and has grown to include a plethora of audio and video podcasts, blogs, a publishing house, a store, and a film production division. Ancient Faith provides a constantly growing and updated library of Orthodox resources on topics ranging from dogmatic theology, spiritual growth, marriage and family life, philosophy, ecumenical dialogue, fasting, saints lives, daily readings, and more. OCF is proud to host our own campus ministry podcast through AFR, and we are so appreciative of the support and guidance they have provided us in our own media outreach.
Many of you, I’m sure, are very familiar with Antiochian Village and its camping ministries. OCF houses our College Conference East there every year! We’re also proud to say that many of our OCF leaders give back to AV as counselors every year. Donations to AV help maintain its facilities as well as provide scholarships to campers who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend.
This ten-day academic institute is designed to help high school juniors and seniors connect Orthodox theology and spirituality to the big decisions they are preparing to face–like going off to college! We’re so proud to say that over the years, many, many of our OCF chapter presidents and Student Leadership Board members have been alumni of CrossRoad. We know they’re doing it right when it comes to preparing young people for the challenges of college and beyond!
FOCUS North America
FOCUS North America is a US-based charity that provides food, occupation, clothing, understanding, and shelter through a number of community-based FOCUS centers as well as programs like Operation: Lace Up which provides shoes to school-age children in need in various cities across the country. They also run a youth program (YES) to help youth and young adults better understand poverty and get involved in serving their communities. OCF partners with FOCUS North America to run Real Break Cleveland where we volunteer at their center there, St. Herman’s House (a men’s homeless shelter).
Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society
Philoptochos is the largest Christian women’s philanthropic organization in the US, providing services to local communities as well as through national initiatives to those in need. Their focus is charity to the poor, preservation of the family, and perpetuating and promoting Orthodoxy, and they support programs as broad as aid to Greece and Cyprus, Hellenic College/Holy Cross, health related organizations, IOCC, and a variety of local social service organizations. OCF has been blessed to receive Philoptochos support, especially in regards to the First Forty Days Initiative and the Summer Leadership Institute.
Hogar Rafael Ayau
Hogar Rafael Ayau (San Miguel del Lago) is an Orthodox orphanage outside of Guatemala City, Guatemala run by the nuns of the Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Trinity. The children are educated and cared for all within the context of the Orthodox life. OCF partners with the Hogar to run Real Break Guatemala where our students play with the children and work on repairs and other projects needed by the monastery.
International Orthodox Christian Charities
IOCC is perhaps the most well-known and respected Orthodox charity, providing communities around the world with immediate disaster relief as well as long-term sustainable, community-oriented solutions to poverty, housing, education, and health. IOCC provides assistance without discrimination in places as diverse as Syria, Greece, USA, Haiti, Camaroon, and Bosnia. OCF partners with IOCC to run Real Break New Orleans where we work with them and with Habitat for Humanity to help build homes.
Ionian Village offers young people an opportunity to not only attend a great summer camp, but to go on a spiritual pilgrimage to encounter the saints, deepen their faith, and experience the life of the Church in a way that is unique among camping programs. We’re so proud to say that many of our OCF leaders are IV alumni and often go back as staff to minister to the next generation of Orthodox young people.
Orthodox Christian Fellowship
Yep, that’s right. Did you know our own ministry is entirely supported by donations and grants? We’re blessed to be able to able to provide you with things like free retreats, the Summer Leadership Institute, all sorts of chapter resources, and College Conference scholarships thanks to the generosity of our supporters. And we’re always trying to come up with new ways to help your chapters grow, connect more college students to the Church, and give back to the student leaders who make OCF the amazing ministry that it is.
Orthodox Christian Mission Center
OCMC is an agency of the Assembly of Bishops that helps send missionaries around the world to share the message of the Gospel to those who have not heard it. They currently have long-term missionaries in Albania, Guatemala, Kenya, Mongolia, Romania, and the United States.
Orthodox Christian Network
OCN provides news, radio, blogs, and other resources for Orthodox Christians of all ages. They even have a live-stream Bible study on Wednesday evenings!
Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry
A newer agency of the Assembly of Bishops, OCPM ministers to men and women, Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike who are in prison or have been recently released. They provide spiritual guidance and catechism to those who are interested as well as train clergy and lay people on prison ministry. OCPM currently ministers to over 1,000 people in prison including five who have become monks and over 300 catechumens.
Project Mexico & St. Innocent Orphanage
Located in Tijuana Mexico, Project Mexico helps build homes for families in need while St. Innocent Orphanage cares for and educates orphaned boys in a loving, spiritually-rich environment. OCF has partnered with Project Mexico in the past to run Real Break trips where students worked on home builds and served at the orphanage. In addition to giving, you can always sign up for a summer team with your family, friends, or parish to volunteer.
St. Basil’s Academy
Located in upstate New York, St. Basil’s Academy takes in orphaned and at-risk Orthodox children where they can live and be educated in a safe and nurturing environment that addresses all of their needs. In existence since 1944, they take in children from all Orthodox backgrounds and care for them with Christ’s healing love.
St. John the Compassionate Mission
St. John the Compassionate Mission offers a variety of social services to the needed of Toronto, Canada. Their work includes weekly community dinners, kids programs, a thrift store, a community house for those in need of subsidized housing, an organic bakery staffed by those who would otherwise find it difficult to find work, counselling services for individuals and families, an Orthodox mission parish, and a lived theology school. OCF has partnered with St. John the Compassionate in the past to run Real Break Toronto, and we encourage our students to check out the lived theology school.
ZOE for Life!
ZOE for Life! is a pan-Orthodox outreach ministry that provides services such as counseling, housing assistance, medical assistance, prenatal care, adoption assistance, and a variety of other services to women in crisis pregnancies.