Save the date – the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) has designated February 14, 2010, as Mission Sunday! As we prepare to begin Great and Holy Lent, all Orthodox Christians have the opportunity to learn about and become involved in the work of missions through the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) Coin Box & Lesson Plan Program.
Each household receiving a Coin Box can prayerfully fill it with offerings during the Lenten season; the funds collected will contribute to the work of making disciples of all nations. The 2010 OCMC Lesson Plans can be used on Mission Sunday or throughout the Lenten and Paschal seasons, according to the needs of your parish. We pray that this program will educate and inspire the children and youth of your parish about the work of making disciples; and that it will plant a love for missions in the hearts of our Church’s future missionaries, priests, supporters, and leaders.
To order your 2010 OCMC Coin Boxes and Lesson Plans, use the attached form, visit http://www.ocmc.org/resources/order_coin_boxes.aspx , or contact OCMC at 1-877-GO-FORTH or firstname.lastname@example.org before January 29 to ensure a February 10 delivery!
Sunday of Cheesefare and Mission Sunday
Thursday, February 11, 2010
February 14, 2010
Sunday of Cheesefare and Mission Sunday
«The harvest is truly plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.» (Matthew 9:37-38)
To the Most Reverend Clergy, Venerable Monastics and
The Devout Faithful of the Holy Orthodox Churches in the Americas
Dearly Beloved in the Lord,
We greet you in the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Lenten fast that precedes the Great and Holy Feast of Pascha is upon us. Like the dawn of a new day, the beginning of this 40-day journey provides opportunities for us to recommit ourselves and our whole lives to Christ our God.
The Sunday before Great Lent, February 14th, 2010, is Mission Sunday as designated by the hierarchs of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). Over the past two millennia, the work of making disciples has been a focal ministry of saints, and billions of people have accepted life in Christ.
Today, sixty-six percent of the world’s population is still non-Christian; thus missionary service remains a core ministry of the Church and a collective movement of the faithful.
Over the past 15 years, the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC), as the official missions agency of SCOBA, has provided the faithful of North America with opportunities to answer their call to make disciples of all nations.
Over 70 people who serve as OCMC Ambassadors are taking this call to parishes across the country, and the mission ministries of our Orthodox Churches that are outside of America are growing as a result.
Today, through the prayers and support of the faithful, there are 20 men and women who are serving, or preparing to serve, as long-term missionaries in places like Albania, Romania, and Tanzania.
Likewise, young, growing seminaries around the world are receiving support to provide theological training to over 250 local priests, catechists, and ministry leaders in places where the Church is newly emerging.
With assistance from OCMC’s Support a Mission Priest (SAMP) Program, there are 400 priests in 19 countries who are bringing the Faith to those who may never have heard the Gospel’s message of salvation.
And, in 2010, OCMC plans to train and send over 100 Orthodox Christians from across North America to serve on 14 short-term Mission Teams, bringing a living witness to the Orthodox Faith in Africa, Asia, Europe, Central America, and Alaskan North America.
It is our responsibility to ensure that these efforts continue. There is no greater way to invest our abundant blessings than in the salvation and eternal life of others. Let us pray, give, and serve to welcome our brothers and sisters around the world into the open arms of Christ.
In urgent expectation of Christ’s awesome Resurrection, let us work boldly to make disciples of all nations. Truly, the harvest is plentiful, but we need the prayers and active support of all the faithful for OCMC, so that laborers will answer the call of the Lord and enter into His abundant and glorious harvest.
With paternal blessings and love in Christ,
+Archbishop DEMETRIOS, Chairman
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
+Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice Chairman
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
+Metropolitan CHRISTOPHER, Secretary
Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America
+Metropolitan NICHOLAS of Amissos, Treasurer
American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church
Orthodox Church in America
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
+Archpriest Alexander Abramov
Acting Representative of the Moscow Patriarchate in the USA
+Bishop ILIA of Philomelion
Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America
On the Frontier of Orthodox Missions: The Turkana of Northern Kenya
Fr. Martin Ritsi
There are places that remain hidden to most – where no roads lead, where survival is a daily struggle, and where people live on the fringe of hopelessness. There are places where the light of the Gospel has yet to shine.
In October 2009, the small plane I flew on from Nairobi, Kenya, touched down in the small frontier town of Lodwar. Amidst this thirsty landscape, an OCMC Mission Team had worked to build a church for a community of Orthodox Christians from the Turkana tribe – a people indigenous to the region.
This was not the first time I had been among the Turkana. When my family and I served in Kenya as missionaries in the late 80s we had met several Turkana – distinctive from other Kenyan tribes in both appearance and custom. The expansion of the Church into Turkana lands, however, is a more recent development. Evangelistic efforts of charismatic preachers had planted the seeds of Orthodoxy among a handful of Turkana in Lodwar. Two of these men (Fr. Vladimir and Fr. Zachariah) attended seminary in Nairobi and are now serving as Orthodox priests in this arid northern region.
It was for the community, under the pastoral care of Fr. Vladimir, that the first OCMC Mission Team came to build a church. Inspecting the stone edifice of the structure that this Team worked so hard to build, I was stricken by how close we as the faithful of North America have come to the frontier of missions. This one physical manifestation of the Church was like a gateway beckoning us to take the Gospel to the thousands of people just over the horizon living without hope in Christ.
The following day I traveled out of Lodwar with Fr. Vladimir and Fr. Zachariah to meet with some of these people now within reach of the Church. The three hour jeep ride to the village of Loupala across the deserts of northern Kenya hinted at h ow far removed the Turkana are from the rest of the world and what struggles they face. The soft contours of the pale red earth were sun-baked with merciless intensity; the color green was conspicuously absent from the scenery I watched fly by through a film of dust that covered the windows.
In Loupala, we met a burgeoning community of Orthodox Christians evangelized by Fr. Zachariah. Before his arrival, 75% of the village was not Christian. Fr. Vladimir asked that we preach and teach, so under a shade tree about 200 people gathered as we spoke about the God’s plan for salvation and the importance of Baptism. Men, women, and children listened attentively, and some asked very good questions, even though many of them looked tired and weak.
Fr. Zachariah shared that some of the people who attended our catechetical seminar began the day with a fifteen-mile walk just to fetch water. Rain, as it turns out, is a very rare and precious resource for the Turkana people. They are plagued with cyclical drought. The fatigue of dehydration and starvation could be seen on the faces of malnourished children and parents feeling powerless to change the situation.
Many Turkana lose loved ones to these harsh conditions. Some have taken to violence and banditry among their own people as a means to escape the extreme poverty that surrounds them. Could Christ and His Church be an answer to these problems and a source of hope for the Turkana people?
In February 2010, I will lead another OCMC Mission Team to minister to the Turkana. This Team will continue the evangelism and catechism initiated by Fr. Vladimir and Fr. Zachariah and that I was able to participate in last October. This Team will also continue building the bonds of love that have begun to take hold, offering encouragement and fellowship as we are able.
I would like to invite you to track the progress and hear the stories of the Mission Team that is going to northern Keny a in February. Please visit OCMC.org and MyOCN.net daily from February 17th to March 1st to view pictures and read the Team’s blog from the field.
OCMC is committed to partnering with the Church in Kenya to share Christ with the Turkana people. We will continue exploring new ways of serving the people of northern Kenya in order to make the Gospel known and to address the significant spiritual and physical needs that exist there.
In our efforts to develop ministries aimed at welcoming people who, until now, have been beyond reach into the Body of Christ, the OCMC will be coordinating mission walks across the country this summer.
A portion of the $100K we hope to raise will be used to bring water to the Turkana and broaden the evangelistic efforts taking place in the region.
Please contact Kenneth Kidd at the OCMC by e-mail at Kenny@ocmc.org, or by phone at 1-877-GO-FORTH, if you and/or your community are interested in participatin g in bringing the light of Christ to the Turkana.
Please pray for the Turkana people, for the OCMC Mission Team that is preparing to serve them, and for the Church and Her ministries in Kenya. May the mercies of God the Father, the salvation of His only begotten Son, and the blessings of the Holy Spirit be with the Turkana.