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
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.
I’d love to say that my decision to apply for the SLB was motivated by some divine intervention, that St. Katherine appeared to me in a dream or that the Holy Spirit forwarded the application directly to my inbox. In actuality, my journey to the SLB was more a fortuitous combination of unintentionally joining the OCF email list, a little spontaneous decision making, and a lot of passion for OCF. This past year on the SLB has provided me with some of the best friends and experiences of my young life. Most importantly, it has brought me closer to Christ in a way I never expected.
I applied for the SLB as a wide eyed freshman with one short year of chapter experience under my belt. I had attended College Conference East that winter, and it opened my eyes to the expansive world of OCF outside of my eight person chapter in Omaha, Nebraska. At College Conference, praying alongside hundreds of students more similar to myself than anyone at my university, I knew I was where I belonged. I wasn’t about to let any opportunity to feel that love again, to feel such oneness with Christ and with my fellow Orthodox Christians, slip through my fingers. I submitted my application with a hopeful heart.
Three months later I found myself boarding a plane to New York, heading to SLI to train for the newly-minted position of Midwest Regional Student Leader. For the duration of SLI, I found myself constantly marveling at my fellow members of the board. These were people I was not only blessed to have as friends, but incredible Orthodox Christians who inspired me to grow in my own relationship with Christ. I remember keeping a note open on my phone throughout the week, constantly jotting down book titles referenced during group discussions or small pieces of wisdom shared at the dinner table. This became a theme throughout my entire experience on the SLB. The love of Christ pervades every text, every conference call, and every email shared among the board. The members of the SLB have come to occupy a very special place in my heart, and I can confidently say that I would not be the Orthodox Christian I am today without these incredible people.
I returned from SLI with more than just a longer to-do list and thorough understanding of the OCF Google Drive. I developed a deep rooted sense of responsibility for OCF on a national level, and a drive to share this amazing community with others. Most importantly, my time on the SLB instilled in me a newfound faith in the Orthodox spirit. I’ve worked throughout the year planning retreats and working with chapters new and old across the Midwest. Every interaction strengthens my conviction that OCF is the single most important aspect of my college experience. I do not have a doubt in my mind that the SLB entered my life by the grace of God, and I consider myself blessed every day to work with this remarkable group of people.
As Father Pedro Arrupe, S.J. once said:
Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is than falling in love in a quite absolute final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how your spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.
I invite you to apply to the SLB, and to fall in love with the ministry that has my heart. And in this, let all you do be for the Glory of God.
Nicole Petrow is a sophomore studying Classical & Near Eastern Civilizations and Classical Languages at Creighton University. She currently serves as the Midwest Regional Student Leader on the Student Leadership Board. She loves dusty bookstores, cozy coffee shops and convincing her parents that someday she’ll be able to find a job with a Classics degree.
My OCF story begins in my first semester of college, Fall 2013, as I began classes and started joining OCF for our then twice-a-month meetings. It was what was expected of me as a PK, and I dutifully did it with complete and total apathy towards the organization.
Fast forward to December 30th, 2013, the last full day of College Conference East where I was having a fairly enjoyable experience. It was late afternoon, and our final keynote session in the auditorium with His Grace Bishop Gregory had been moved to St. Ignatius, the church a bit up the road. The sudden change in venue wasn’t explained, and I distinctly remember grumbling as I walked over. I assumed His Grace was simply going to give another part of his talk and I wondered why I was being made to walk in sub‐freezing temperatures and snow.
We crammed into the church and His Grace introduced a priest, Fr. Mark Leasure. Fr. Mark began to talk, and as he talked he opened the case of an icon at the front of the church. There had been an unexplained scent there before, but as the case opened, the smell began to roll through the church like a tidal wave. As Father continued to talk about the icon and the various miracles attributed to it, aside from feeling wholly awful about being grumpy over a walk in a half‐centimeter of snow, I felt something else begin to move in me. Then, as many of you have seen him do, to demonstrate the icon’s myrrh‐streaming, Father tilted the icon over the hands of students. And as I sat there seeing an icon inexplicably drip myrrh into the hands of my friends, I felt something within my heart break.
Matthew with his OCF chapter
Within modern parlance, we tend to throw the idea of “heartbreak” around with fairly reckless abandon, claiming to be heartbroken over just about everything from breaking up with a significant other to our favorite show being taken off Netflix. But in that moment I realized that most people abuse that term and don’t understand what it means to have your heart truly break. Abba Poemen the Great says that the word of God is, “soft, and our heart is very hard.” What happened in that moment was the feeling that my heart had been shattered and the soft word of God was entering in. This wasn’t a feeling unique to me, and the proof was evident in the tears streaking down the faces of everyone around me. Christ, the Physician of Bodies and Souls, through His mother, was taking a room of shattered Humpty Dumpties and putting them back together again.
As I looked through those tears, past Fr. Mark, to the icons of Christ and the Theotokos on the iconostasis, I felt the Theotokos and Christ calling me. Calling me to what? I wasn’t quite sure, but I suddenly realized that for the first time in my life if someone asked me that question that had dogged my life for nearly two decades, “Do you want to be a priest like your dad?” I wouldn’t give a quick and irritable response of, “Never!” As I sat there among hundreds of fellow young Orthodox Christians weeping, I also began to realize that I had run away, for no good reason, from not only a distant possibility of the priesthood but of meaningful, dedicated, wholehearted service to the Church. I understood that my once proudly apathetic approach to life and OCF needed to end, and addressing this became the topic at dinner that night as we pondered, “What do we do next?”
What was I supposed to do next? I have come to think that experience with the Kardiotissa was not a clear clarion call to a particular route in life, be it monasticism, missionary work, or the priesthood. It was a gentle beckoning from the Theotokos, ever pointing to her Son, “Come back to Him and do His will.” Regardless of the future, I wanted to give back to the organization the gave so much to me and help to give other students as special of an experience as I had.
Ironically, in the continuing tale of confusion in my life’s path, I applied to be College Conference East Student Leader, thinking that would be the best way to give back. I got the call later that summer offering me the Media Student Leader position instead. I remember an initial feeling of slight disappointment because here I was finally trying to figure out a place in Christ’s service, and I was being offered a role I hadn’t even been interested in. But as we know, God is wiser than us, and I quickly came to love my role on the SLB.
Looking back at two years of service, it’s hard to nail down a favorite, singular moment on the SLB. Every day was filled such joy, interacting with college students around the country and with newfound friends on the SLB. Two particular memories do come to mind though, one from each term. My favorite moment from the first year was having the opportunity to unveil the OCF Connect App at College Conference. It was amazing to see all of our hard work finally unveiled and shared with all of our friends and peers and to see it responded to so positively. That was the high point of the year, knowing that we had made something of real value, something that we could leave behind to college students that came after us. The other moment that comes to mind happened recently at College Conference back in December. It was late one night, after 2AM and the SLB members were just sitting in our office talking. In the midsts of the chaos of running a conference, there was such peace and joy in simply being together with SLB friends.
Matthew encouraging people to donate blood at CCEast14
None of this by the way is intended to impart some notion that you must have had some spiritual revelation at an OCF event to apply. Maybe you haven’t had that kind of experience quite yet, and that’s ok. Because being on the SLB isn’t about you. You will undoubtedly have a transformative experience and make lifelong friends, but that’s not the point. Rather, it’s about realizing that you can make a difference for others now. That Christ’s call to serve is not something that begins within parish life at age 30 once you’re married and have a kid. That there is an active call even within collegiate life. That you can make a difference by following the words of the Apostle Peter when he says, “As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).
Looking back over those past two years, there are a lot of lessons to mull over. His Grace Bishop Gregory will often tell college students that we aren’t the future of the Church, we are the Church. Here and now. His Grace is right, and that is something we experience on the SLB every day. We don’t need to wait to make a difference, we can start now. Most gratifyingly, we can start making that difference in a way that positively affects the lives of other college students around the country. Being on the SLB means being given the opportunity to bring light to people’s lives in their chapter life, at Real Break, College Conference West and East, district and regional retreats, and in so many more places.
St. John of Kronstadt wrote that our faith obliges us to help one another and that “for all this you are promised a great reward from the Head of the Church – our Lord Jesus Christ.” Apply to help others grow in their faith. Apply to help others find Christ, the Prince of Peace. Apply to help Orthodoxy spread on college campuses around the continent.
Apply because it will be to the spiritual benefit of your friends, your peers, and yourself and most importantly, to the Glory of God.
“To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory to the ages of ages. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:17
Matthew Monos is a senior at the University of Missouri studying psychology. He currently serves as the 2015-16 Media Student Leader on the Student Leadership Board. Matthew loves baseball, traveling, spicy food, and Byzantine chant. He has no idea what’s next in life and remains assured that he’ll figure it all out in a burst of last minute panic someday.
Strangers from distant lands, friends of old, you have been summoned to answer to the threat of Mordor. Middle-Earth stands on the brink of destruction. None can escape it. You will unite or you will fall.
The chairman of the OCF Student Advisory Board began our first meeting with those words… or something like that. The year was 2011. I was a junior at WVU studying electrical engineering. During the College Conference of 2010, a bug was placed in my ear to apply to the Student Advisory Board (SAB) as the Regional Representative of the Mid-Atlantic Region. The bug succeeded in making me think it was my idea, and so I applied and was offered the position.
Obviously, I saw the opportunity to add another impressive line to my resume, but beyond that (and also more importantly), I was blessed to meet and work with other young leaders in the OCF community. My job was fairly simple. There existed a database with all the known OCF chapters in North America. This list includes student leaders, clerical and layperson advisers contact information. ‘Twas a truly legendary list. It was up to me to keep all the information for the Mid-Atlantic Region up-to-date throughout the year and to spend time organizing regional retreats in between the bigger College Conferences.
Now, excuse me while I reflect on what you, the reader, are probably thinking. “That sounds like a lot of work for a student to undertake while trying to be a boss electrical engineer, whilst simultaneously channeling the spirits of Michael Faraday, Nikola Tesla, and Emperor Palpatine, all of which had an affinity for the manipulation of electrons. Oh, and also playing the violin” Yes, I’m sure you were thinking all of that. But here’s the thing, it might sound crazy, but it was a great break from the purely technical aspect of my engineering degree. Also, working on the SAB offered me a chance to visit places I had never been before. I traveled to Denver, Boston, and Baltimore, all for the first time on official OCF business. Official!
And, I got to work with the other members of the board. Imagine a group of young, passionate Orthodox college students who love people and serving others. Now, take that group and diversify it over jurisdiction, ethnicity, and gender and there’s a beautiful SAB. I know a few of the current SLB members personally (they changed the name from SAB to SLB. Long story.), and I can say that the gang is still the cream of the crop. In addition to friends, I gained valuable organizational, leadership, delegation, coloring, and karate skills. Because that’s what the ladies want. Skills.
Here I am, five years later…I lost my train of thought because I realized it’s been five years. I originally typed three years ago and had to walk away from typing this for a week, because I was in shock. Anyway, shock is over. Five years later, I’m working as an engineer for a great company, I’ve got some of the spunkiest roommates, and my friends are finer than all the treasures under the mountain in Erebor. I thank God for all that He has blessed me with, and especially my days as an ‘OCFer’.
Basil Dixon is a freelance writer for the OCF from Huntington, WV, currently residing in Pittsburgh’s own Little Italy, Bloomfield. After graduating from West Virginia University in 2013 with a bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering, he began his career working for Rolls-Royce where he consults electrical utilities regarding the various aspects of maintaining nuclear power plants. Basil’s other interests include post-liturgical Sunday brunch, singing in the two choirs at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral, all the stereotypical nerd movies and books (especially Star Wars), and plotting the domination of Western Pennsylvania with his truly exceptional friends and allies.