April Regional Feature: Southeast Region

April Regional Feature: Southeast Region

Every month, the OCF social media platforms will be featuring one of the nine regions of chapters. April is the month for the Southeast Region, which includes the wonderful states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and not one but two Carolinas.

On the blog, I’ll be asking the Regional Student Leader–for Southeast, the charming Niko Wilk–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 Southeast All-Stars!

Andrew Mamangakis, District Leader/Chapter President

How did you get involved in OCF?

I got involved with OCF because before I was president of the OCF chapter at UF, my brother Paul Mamangakis was the president. I saw the potential for those who wanted to follow Christ in college, but were deterred by the worldly society that surrounds us. Joining a community of fellow Orthodox Christians helps surround us with people that uphold similar values, encouraging students to stay within the Church.

What are some of your greatest memories/experiences from OCF?

My greatest memories from OCF have to be the road trips to and from South Carolina where the regional retreat is held at the Diakonia Center. Car rides listening to music, playing car games, and just talking about how excited we were to see our friends are some of the reasons I look forward to 7+ hours in a cramped car. The retreat itself is something I will never forget, which I why I’ve gone back every semester since I was a freshman. Building a fence for the animals, clearing out the woods, and painting the center are a few of the jobs that helped build relationships with people I’ll never forget.

What’s something cool going on in your chapter/district/region that you’d like to share?

Currently our OCF chapter is privileged to have Dr. Florin Curta, an amazing Romanian Orthodox history professor and author at UF, give a lecture series on the early centuries of Christianity up to the present day. It’s fascinating to learn about how Orthodoxy has been maintained throughout 2000 years while the world around us is ever-changing.

Any advice you could give to someone else in your position (Chapter Pres., District Leader, etc…) across the nation?

My advice to other chapter presidents or district leaders in OCF is to not be afraid of reaching out to fellow students, priests, parishioners, and any members in your community about OCF. More often than not, people are extremely helpful and interested in what our young adults are up to in college. Seeing students care about our Church encourages people of all ages to become closer to God.

John Shelton, District Leader

How did you get involved in OCF?

A former youth director had mentioned that the OCF chapter at my school had fallen apart…so I felt the need to resurrect it for my sake and to engage the community.

What are some of your greatest memories/experiences from OCF?

Some of my greatest memories from OCF have to be worshiping at our Southeast regional retreats. To celebrate divine liturgy at its purest form, singing hymns in full with 60 of your closest friends, is both humbling and awe inspiring.

What’s something cool going on in your chapter/district/region that you’d like to share?

In our district, we are planning an inter-chapter worship service at the historic Duke Chapel on the campus of Duke University!

Any advice you could give to someone else in your position (Chapter Pres., District Leader, etc…) across the nation?

Keep an open line and a constant line of communication with your chapter leaders and chapter members. The more we talk about OCF and our faith, the more active everyone will be! And most importantly, give people the opportunity to lead in their own way, because their level of comfort will increase and they will feel more willing to take ownership about their faith and role in our church.

My OCF Story: Jackie Homyk

My OCF Story: Jackie Homyk

Stop. Reflect how OCF has impacted you. This was what I was asked to do. So many joys have come to the forefront of my mind while contemplating this. Here are some notes regarding my experiences with OCF:

It’s safe to invite my friends.

One of my favorite moments from a retreat was when a girl I had just met, who wasn’t Orthodox, told me how loved and accepted she felt by everyone. “No one makes me feel weird for not being Orthodox. Everyone is so loving and accepting here.” Where else can you go where you can experience such a saturation of Christ’s love? Church, definitely, but OCF is always an incredible encouragement and consistent reminder that Christ is among His people. He is so living, relevant, and more than able to heal our deepest wounds.

All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. –1 Cor 16:20

It has reminded me of how I can serve.

14718593_1190670811011319_4955862016579920276_nHaving grown up attending small OCA churches, sometimes I felt like I had no voice as a youth. This often frustrated me because it made me feel underestimated. I knew I had abilities, and I wanted to serve God and have my ideas heard. Maybe that was just the inward teenager saying, “I MATTER TOO! Don’t I?” Yet, to this day I have never attended a church meeting. (I’m working on it.) I’m sure I’m not alone.

OCF really does provide youth with an opportunity to turn ideas into action, by providing leadership opportunities and putting together some incredible service projects at College Conference East and on the more local level, like the Southeast Regional Retreat WorkDaze. Through these opportunities, I have been re-enlightened with the vision of what the Church should be and, in return, can bring it back to my parish. (The youth from my parish are now making prayer ropes and cookies to help with an upcoming outreach in my hometown! Even some OCFers offered to help!)

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. –1 Tim 4:12

It has sustained my confidence in the spiritual health of the Church.

Being exposed to so few Orthodox youth my age, I was convinced that the Church was going to die out, and I was pretty depressed about it, rightfully so. Seeing so many youth my age for the first time at the Southeast WorkDaze Retreat made my heart swell up with so much joy! I can’t even put it into words. I remember some of the first encounters I had and, looking back, I realize they are now some of my absolute closest friends. God will never let His Church be shaken!

Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. –Psalm 62:2

It has made me bolder about sharing my faith.

I know I was one of two Orthodox on my college campus. Dang. Talk about rough. However, OCF gave me a huge platform to talk about my faith, invite friends, and share what I had been learning with those I knew at school. So, even though my campus never had an official OCF, the ministry was still impacting my campus! I am so thankful for all of the encouragement my OCF friends have given me. It helps not feeling like an island when you are surrounded by thousands of people. I could always point to OCF and say, “Look! I’m not crazy! Other people believe this too! They even know how to Greek and Arabic dance!”

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. –2 Cor 3:12

It makes the Church accessible and assists in the great commission.14859693_1190670451011355_9131035931749601605_o

OCF enables us as college students to make an incredible impact for the Gospel of Christ on our campuses and in the world! (Yes, the world. Think about it. Most campuses have international students. Don’t they?) Think… College students are often solidifying their beliefs during this time of their life. We may be the only Bible they ever read! Thus, I urge you, live a life worthy of the calling of Christ and invite others to partake in the beauty of the Kingdom! It doesn’t matter if your classmate looks at you funny for inviting them to a small get-together, a meeting, or a retreat. Many are walking around waiting for someone to invite them in and accept them. Be of good courage! Christ is faithful.

God is faithful, by whom you were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. –1 Cor. 1:9

It has shown me how to live in one accord.

I LOVE praying with everyone. Besides praying in community, we live life together. We celebrate weddings and namesdays, weep with those who weep, and overall lift one another up with prayer and encouragement. I love getting to do phone call Bible studies or hearing a simple, “Hey, can you help me stay awake while driving?” phone call. We sometimes even do mini road trips to volunteer at festivals or attend in-state or out-of-state retreats and families open their homes graciously.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. –Phil 2:1-2

Final question: Is it worth taking time to cram in the projects to go on the next OCF retreat?


But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. –Jude 1:20-21

Glory to God!

14753380_1190671901011210_1108023965140041909_oNicole Homyk (Jackie), 22, is a recent Winthrop University graduate as of May 2016 with degrees in Special Education and Elementary Education. She is currently living in a retirement community by the South Carolina coast and will gladly host visitors! In her spare time, you may find her paddle boarding, speaking with international strangers, applying to graduate schools/missions opportunities, or babysitting for families that might have too many children.