Orthodox Christian Mission Center’s Blog

November 11, 2011

OCMC Mission Teams- Welcome to Tanzania

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November 2, 2011

Real Africa: By Team Member Logan Johnson

“That’s the smell of real Africa!” These were the words of a fellow passenger as we stepped off of the small plane. What struck me initially was not the smell, somewhat reminiscent of my grandparent’s farm in rural Minnesota, but the completely exotic landscape. Lodwar is located in northeastern Kenya in what is basically a large desert with several small mountains, black and grave, in the distance.

But I was not here to survey the geography or admire the scenery. The purpose of our team was to teach. Surely God had been working among the hearts and minds of the Turkana since the beginning, but in 2007 Orthodoxy began to be part of their religious makeup and take root and grow. Today there are three native Turkana priests serving thirteen communities. In Lodwar the Liturgy is celebrated in a roofed building built with the help of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center, and in other places it is celebrated in the open air on whatever is available for the priest to set down an antiminsion.

On the evening that we arrived in Lodwar, we were immediately greeted with what felt like hundreds of children grasping for our hands and giving us hugs. Three members of our team, who had been to Lodwar previously, were greeted by old friends with joyous shouts and the rhythmic jumping that is characteristic of Turkana people. I had been on a Mission Team before, and had experienced the warmth and hospitality towards strangers that is somehow lacking in much of our modern Western society, but I was unprepared for just how authentically joyful the congregation was to see us.

The joy and excitement continued throughout the week. We began our day with Orthros, and the rest of the day was filled with lectures about the Orthodox faith and spiritual life and crafts. It was during this time that we realized that their joy and excitement to see us and share their lives with us was only matched by their enthusiasm to learn. At times when we would share stories from the Bible about God’s immense love for us, they would clap and—literally–shout out for joy.

I felt that we were not only a teaching team but a learning team as well. During one of my lectures entitled “How God Works in the Church Today,” I asked the congregation to share how they have seen God work in their lives. As a Westerner, I was expecting that their experience would be much the same as my own—in times of doubt or trouble I turn to Scripture or the writings of the Saints and take comfort and advice from their words. What I heard was completely different—many stood up and shared how they had seen visions that told them to reform their lives or even come to the Orthodox Church. None had read their way into the faith, but instead had found solutions to their real problems through visions. Afterwards, when I spoke to one of the Turkana priests he told me that, due to illiteracy, there was not the same emphasis on the texts as in the West. This is just one small example of the complexity of the task of mission work among non-Western people.

After nearly two weeks of teaching, learning, worshipping, and sharing, it was time to leave. We departed—with singing, dancing, jumping, and shouting. Amidst smiles and tears, we were brought to the airport where I was able to catch the last smell of real Africa before the airplane would take me back to the routine life of my last year at seminary. The examples of love and service that I witnessed will follow me for the rest of my life and what I learned will guide and inspire my future ministry in the Church.

Missions Conference to be held at Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA

Missions Conference to be held at Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA
11/17/2011 – 11/18/2011

Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
50 Goddard Ave
Brookline, Massachusetts
United States
02445

A Missions Conference will be held at Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts from 11/17/2011 to 11/18/2011. Speakers will include Rev. Dr. Michael Oleksa, Rev. Dr. Themi Adamopoulo, Metropolitan JOHN of Korca, and Fr. Martin Ritsi. Please contact Fr. Luke Veronis by phone at 617-731-3500 or by e-mail at veronis@verizon.net for more information.

November 1, 2011

2011 Guatemala Youth Work Team Photos

OCMC Missionary Floyd Frantz to Speak at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in San Francisco, CA.

OCMC Missionary Floyd Frantz to Speak at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in San Francisco, CA
11/13/2011

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church
999 Brotherhood Way
San Francisco, California
United States
94132

OCMC Missionary Mr. Floyd Frantz will be at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in San Francisco, California on 11/13/2011. Please contact Fr. Aris Metrakos by phone at 415-584-4747 or by e-mail at fr.aris@holytrinitysf.org for more information.

OCMC Missionary Floyd Frantz to Speak at St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church in San Jose, CA.

OCMC Missionary Floyd Frantz to Speak at St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church in San Jose, CA.

11/12/2011

St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church
6430 Bose Lane
San Jose, California
United States
95120

OCMC Missionary Mr. Floyd Frantz will be at St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church in San Jose, California on 11/12/2011. Please contact Fr. Gregory Koo by phone at 408-268-3214 or by e-mail at stbasilschurch@sbcglobal.net for more information.

November SAMP Spotlight: Fr. James Omare

November SAMP Spotlight: Fr. James Omare

Fr. James Omare serves in Kenya, serving the Church of the Ascension in Mutanga and the community of Igono.

There are nearly 400 priests serving in 20 countries around the world who depend on support from OCMC’s Support A Mission Priest Program. Please help us to provide this much needed assistance by making a gift to the SAMP Program at http://www.ocmc.org, and continue to pray for these faithful servants who minister to our brothers and sisters around the world.

Sharing in Ministry by Using Skype: An Update from Christina Semon

Margo Kelley, OCMC Assistant Missionary Coordinator, offered me an opportunity to shake hands digitally over Skype with the parish family of St. Christopher Hellenic Orthodox Church and their parish priest, Rev. Fr. George Tsahakis. My first contact with this parish was from my previous ministry at the Protection of the Theotokos Family Center (PTFC). We received beautifully hand-knitted shawls for the struggling mothers from the St. Christopher’s Philoptochos Society through the visiting 2009 OCMC Mission Team. Now two years later, God has brought us together so that we can support each other in our ministries.

I have been organizing a knitting group held once a week with the teenage girls at the halfway house in Orhei in the Republic of Moldova. For each meeting, I prepared a topic to discuss so that we use our time in a constructive way. One of my goals is to build faith in these girls. The Prayer Shawl Ministry has reached out to support others in prayer through clothing the naked. Here in Orhei, adoption of this ministry can set a foundation for these girls to pray while knitting, and to knit with a more targeted purpose.

The parish of St. Christopher was equipped with all the tools necessary to perform the Skype call. We were in the narthex of the church for the meeting because they are using a temporary office space until they build their church. We had a good internet connection and webcam capabilities that brought a whole other dimension to the call. In the time span of fifteen minutes, I shared my current ministry and enjoyed a general period of questions and answers. This was such a meaningful time together to express the impact of the far-reaching Prayer Shawl Ministry and the gratitude of those who are touched by it.

This first parish Skype call also made a significant impact on me as a missionary. As I am the only OCMC Missionary in Moldova, one of my weaknesses is in battling the thoughts of loneliness. To fight these thoughts of loneliness, time and time again God shows mercy and provides people and activities to witness to me that I am not alone. God has blessed me to meet many parishes so that we could continue the work of Holy Spirit together. For me, the support team has been a tremendous part of my ministry and I will encourage other parishes to use their technology to connect with me in the ministry in a real way.

I am calling out to parish priests, OCMC Ambassadors, and faithful to make this type of internet meeting a future possibility. My Skype name is christinasemonocmc. Please email me to arrange the scheduling of our Skype call so that we, too, may greet one another face-to-face and beyond any distance.

October 28, 2011

OCMC Mission Teams- Welcome to Tanzania

October 27, 2011

Update from OCMC Missionary Maria Roeber

Farah na amani! Joy and Peace!

Hello from Tanzania! The two months since my last letter to you have been extremely busy, but very educational and beneficial to me.

First, I was blessed to find a wonderful language and culture teacher, a lady named Methodia who grew up here in Bukoba, and also lived in England and Germany for close to twenty years. I’d prayed to God for weeks prior to my arrival here that He would send me the “right” nurturer from the start, and so He has: Mama Methodia has adopted me as her fifth child, and proudly declares that I will be speaking Kiswahili by Christmas. We are using a method of language acquisition where the first 100 hours of study do not involve me speaking, but rather listening to her speak to me, just the way infants first listen to their parents speak to them before they attempt to imitate sounds. I’ve been surprised both at how much fun I am having, and also at how quickly I seem to recognize many words. While I am not required to speak Kiswahili in class, I am allowed to use it as I feel able in normal activities, so I am becoming more comfortable greeting people and holding very simple conversations. My greatest delight is walking around town and having children attempt to greet me in English and being able to respond to them in Kiswahili. Yesterday as I walked along the beach to get to class, three children playing nearby watched me very solemnly until I asked them, “Habari ya mchana?” (How is your afternoon?) Their eyes got big and round, and the littlest boy who was about two or three squeaked out, “Shikamoo! Nzuri!” (Shikamoo is a greeting of respect to an elder. Nzuri means fine, or good.) It’s fun when I start running into the same group of kids each day on my way to school. There’s one family with three small children whose home I pass each day, and without fail the kids start waving excitedly when they see me. I feel less anxious about being in a foreign place and more welcome with each passing day, for which I am extremely grateful.

Most people ask me what a typical day is like, so I will attempt to answer that question very briefly. Every day starts at about 7 am, when the bells for Matins ring next door at the church. We attend Matins every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday it’s Matins and Liturgy. After service we enjoy a hot breakfast made by Mama Christina, our cook and housekeeper. After that it’s usually time for some chores—either going to the market or to pay a water or electricity bill, stop by the bank, or stay home and do laundry or clean my room. Then I spend an hour or so listening to the language lessons from the previous day, which I record and can store on my iPod. I also spend a little time each day preparing for the next language session—we have a curriculum provided for us, but it requires some thoughtful planning to execute well. Then I spend some time answering emails or updating my Facebook account, which I know many of you follow. It’s such a blessing to be able to communicate with folks from home so easily! Usually Mama Christina has lunch ready for us by 12:30, and by 12:45 I am out the door to walk down to the lake for my class. In the afternoon when I return I make myself a cup of tea and a snack and start the process of transferring the language recordings from that day’s session onto my computer, and then listening to them for another couple of hours, as well as reviewing previous sessions. I also usually do some more emailing at that point. By six we are back at church for Vespers, and then I make my own dinner—usually something simple. The evening might include more study, doing some relaxing reading, writing to my support team by email or “snail mail,” or chatting with my roommates about the day. Sometimes I get to call my family or friends, too! I try to get ready for bed by about 10, and am generally asleep by 11. On any particular day we might have visitors drop by, which changes the schedule a bit, and I am learning to be flexible with how to organize activities here.

Many people have asked for updates about how the work at the Orthodox clinic is going. My primary responsibility during the first six months to a year of service here is to focus entirely on language and cultural acquisition. People here generally do not speak much English, and without studying Kiswahili, I will not be able to care for patients without a translator. As the clinic will be functioning with the help of us as volunteers to staff it, there’s not provision for the hiring of translators. It has been challenging for me to “stop” being a nurse and to feel like I am “not working,” but the truth is that by working hard at language study I am building the foundation upon which my later nursing practice will depend. The Orthodox clinic is currently awaiting registration through the Tanzanian government in order to reopen. It was closed because it had originally been registered as a “hospital,” but since we cannot meet the staffing requirements to function as such, a new application had to be submitted. Please keep the registration and government approval of the clinic in your prayers. My hope is that the clinic will be ready to open at the same time that I am ready to focus more on direct patient care and less on language study, but I am also open to God’s will and am trying to accept whatever He asks me to do.

As many of you are aware, I did have the opportunity to use my medical background to conduct a health care needs assessment for the Turkana in northern Kenya last month, which is one reason you haven’t heard from me in a while. My fellow missionaries and I are also busy preparing to welcome an OCMC medical mission team that will provide medical care to rural areas in Tanzania for two weeks in October. My next update will include more detailed information about the trip to Kenya and about our preparations for the October team, and I’ll be sending it out shortly after this letter.

Thank you to each and every one of you for your faithful prayerful and financial support that sustains me here! I pray for all of you every morning when I thank God for allowing me to be here, and I thank you, too! Glory to God for all things!

Yours in Christ,

Maria

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