Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) – Celebrating Twenty Years of Sending Missionaries
August 10, 2006
The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC), St. Augustine, FL – An excerpt from OCMC’s Spring 2006 magazine issue: Celebrating Twenty Years of Sending Missionaries by Fr. Martin Ritsi, Executive Director of the Mission Center.
“Day after day we stood face to face with hundreds of Africans crowding to see us after having walked two to three hours from their remote homes. Their deep brown eyes and features worn by the harshness of their lives gazed upon us. As newly sent missionaries standing before them, we asked: “God why are we here?”, “What do we have to offer as strangers in this land”, and “Shouldn’t we be serving in our homeland where there are so many needs among our own families and churches?”
Many Orthodox Christians still ask these questions but there are many who know the answers: those who send, those who have been sent, and those who have received!
Twenty years ago, the Mission Center sent its first missionaries to East Africa. Today, over 75 missionaries and well over 1000 short-term mission team members have traveled to distant lands in their footsteps. Aid is given to those who suffer, schools are erected, clinics are built and supported, orphans are cared for and thousands are baptized by our missionaries, while tens of thousands are baptized by those who have been trained and supported by the Mission Center. In return, our Church at home is strengthened and invigorated by the enthusiasm of those returning from these experiences and those who have been blessed by supporting them.
The Mission Center also celebrates a new milestone for mission outreach in the years to come: the completion of a six million dollar campaign to build a permanent missionary training and administrative support center and establish endowments.
Is it worth it? Should we be sacrificing to carry our Orthodox Faith to distant lands? Let me answer that with what I came to understand that day in the hot African sun, standing on a barren, dry hillside with so many eyes gazing upon me as a new and young missionary that had come to visit them from America:
“These eyes, which reflected their suffering, looked to us - but with joy and with hope. And now, we stood naked before them, with nothing to give. It was during this journey that we were finally led to understand just why we had come to Africa and what the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ really is - not only for Africa but for the entire world! While giving is a part of being Christian, we have seen that all our giving in East Africa looks insignificant when compared to what the people have received in Jesus Christ.
To be assisted, freed from material needs, to be affluent, or even to live a life of luxury is of no value to a soul which is suffering. But to be filled with love and hope, to have an understanding of life and to live in harmony with God and one's community, gives a quality to life which even the harshest of conditions cannot destroy. While in the midst of hardship, many of the eyes before us were filled with that hope and knowledge of God. And not only did they have a new hope for the future, but their ’today’ had become fuller. Because God is love and His love is sanctifying their existence.”
My question at the end of that moving experience was no longer: “Why are we doing missionary work” but, “Why haven't we gone out sooner to the rest of the world which still hungers and thirsts for Jesus Christ?”
We ask for your continued prayers for all our missionaries, mission team members and mission priests. Funds to help support our ministries can be sent to the Orthodox Christian Mission Center to P.O. Box 4319, St. Augustine, FL 32085-4319. To find out more about the Mission Center’s missionaries, visit www.ocmc.org . or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org . To read more about our 20 years of missionary service, please email us at email@example.com to request an issue of OCMC’s Spring 2006 Magazine or call us at 877-GO-FORTH (463-6784)
The Orthodox Christian Mission Center: Helping Orthodox Christians respond to Christ's call to preach, teach, baptize, minister to the poor and make disciples of all nations as the official international mission agency of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA).