Thursday, May 10, 2007
NEWS FROM THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN MISSION CENTER (OCMC)
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Pittsburgh, PA – Amidst tall Eastern White Pines, atop the rolling South Hills of Pittsburgh rests Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, site of this spring’s Semi-Annual Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) Board of Directors Meeting. The parish provided a picturesque setting and warm hospitality as Board Members deliberated on a wide array of Mission Center programs and received another clean audit of the organization’s financials.
The OCMC is the official international mission agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). Its purpose is to encourage, support and facilitate the establishment and development of vibrant, Eucharistic Orthodox Christian communities worldwide in response to Christ’s Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. Last Fall’s OCMC Board Meeting saw the acceptance of a new five-year strategic plan aimed at more effectively proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. This spring’s Board Meeting centered around the implementation of that plan.
In sessions that were held on the 17th, 18th and 19th of April, 2007, the Board discussed topics that included Mission Center staff operations, governance, communications, development and fund raising, it’s new Mission Training and
Administrative Support Facility currently under construction, and OCMC’s healthcare initiatives.
On the evening of the 17th, the vitality of an Orthodox healthcare witness was beautifully articulated in presentations given by former Orthodox Mission Team Members Dr. Daniel Hinshaw, Gail Mastroberte, R.N, and Dr. Peter Fotos. The case for medical service as a viable method for missions was made through the experiences that these healthcare professionals shared. In their eyes could be seen the impact that their service had on their own lives; and in their words could be heard testimony of how the Holy Spirit worked through their hands.
A renewed missionary expressiveness is beginning to emerge from Orthodox Christians in America. Fueled by greater mission awareness, a dedication to evangelism and converts who bring a missionary zeal to the Church, Orthodox Christians in America are finding a voice through which they can proclaim their faith. This reality is reflected in the composition of the OCMC Board as well. The Board has five new Members, Fr. Dr. John Christakis, Dr. Theodore Christou, Dr. George Pelican, Mr. Bill Birchfeld and Mr. Bruce Humphrey, each of whom bring a wealth of knowledge and passion for missions to the organization. Mr. Birchfeld and Mr. Humphrey are both converts to Orthodoxy.
Tempering these warm welcomes, however, were some difficult goodbyes. Pittsburgh was the last meeting for Mr. George Maragakes, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese who had served on the Board since 2000. This was the last meeting for Mrs. Elizabeth Slanta, Orthodox Church in America, and Fr. Peter Gillquist, Director of Missions and Evangelism of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese as well, both of whom served since the Board was commissioned in 1994. Fr. Peter goes on to assume his role as Board Chairman of sister SCOBA agency, the Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF). OCF ministers to Orthodox Christian young adults on 240 college campuses throughout the United States. The departure of these valued Board Members does not mark the end of their support for the work of the Mission Center. They will be missed. Fr. Peter’s continued commitment to the work of the Mission Center and his service to OCF will serve to compliment one another for the benefit of both agencies.
In Fr. Peter’s keynote speech at the Mission Flavors Banquet hosted by Holy Cross parish, he outlined the symbiotic relationship that OCF and OCMC share. “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field,” Fr. Peter said quoting Matthew 9:37-38, expressing his belief that the future of the Church’s mission efforts rest on college-aged Orthodox Christians. Fr. Peter believes that these students must heed the call to witness for their faith and that OCF and the Mission Center can serve to provide them with such opportunities.
The Mission Flavors Banquet was the highlight of the Spring Board Meeting, welcoming more than 200 clergy and laity from various Orthodox Churches in the greater Pittsburgh area, and across the United States, to support Orthodox missions. The event, organized by Board Member and past President Fr. John and Presbytera Alexandra Chakos, of Holy Cross Church featured dishes from countries where the Mission Center serves.
In addition to Fr. Peter, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Constantine, primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, His Eminence, Metropolitan Maximos, presiding hierarch of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh, host pastor Fr. John Chakos, OCMC Board President, Mr. Cliff Argue, and OCMC Executive Director, Fr. Martin Ritsi all addressed the gathered faithful. The words of Fr. Vasily Fisher, a Yup’ik priest from Kwethluk, Alaska, also brought home the importance of missions in a palpable way. A graduating senior at St. Herman Theological Seminary in Kodiak, Alaska, Fr. Vasily reflected on some of the spiritually challenging issues that many Alaskans face including the rising tide of crime and pervasive substance abuse. With humility and gentleness Fr. Vasily shared how these issues affect his ministry and expressed the need for increased Orthodox revival among his people. OCMC has supported the seminary and Church in Alaska for many years.
Prior to the banquet, an auction of hand made jewelry was hosted by Cynthia Raftis, a member of Holy Cross parish, the proceeds of which were later presented to Fr. Martin for the benefit of the Mission Center. Both events were aimed at broadening an awareness of missions and encouraging support for the many mission initiatives facilitated by the Mission Center.
The events that bookend OCMC Board meetings do not merely serve to broaden awareness and raise support, they also provide a vehicle through which the Orthodox faithful in America can take ownership of the Mission Center that was commissioned on their behalf. From this ownership will emerge a missions consciousness that revitalizes the faith within America while growing the Church beyond its boarders. The Mission Center continually echoes the prayer of Fr. Peter Gillquist for more workers; for in a world with more than one billion people waiting to receive the Gospel of Christ, the harvest is truly plentiful.
For more information on, or to get involved in, OCMC’s many mission efforts, contact the Mission Center at 1-877-463-6784 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find details regarding the Mission Center by visiting www.ocmc.org.
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