The annual Fall Board of Directors Meeting of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) was recently held at the Archbishop Anastasios and Archbishop Demetrios Missionary Training and Administration Center in St. Augustine, Florida. Board members from across the country gathered to approve the following year’s budget, which sees the OCMC doing even more to share the Gospel in the coming year. Board members also discussed ways to enhance development opportunities, conducted other routine business, and welcomed a new member, Dr. George Stevens of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
The highlight of the meeting, however, was being able to share with board members about the amazing work being done by the OCMC throughout the world. Fr. Martin Ritsi, OCMC’s Executive Director, shared numerous developments, one of which was an opportunity among the Turkana people to evangelize an entirely new region where Christianity is not present. During the evening of Tuesday, November 17th, board members were joined by former OCMC Executive Director, His Grace Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, and members of the staff to hear three additional presentations.
The first by OCMC Missionaries Dcn. Stephanos and Dkn. Alexandria Ritsi helped the board to understand the continued need for mission workers in Albania. Dcn. Stephanos shared his memories of Albania from when he was a child, when he would find bullets lying in the streets. He shared that Albania is a much different place now, and though the Church has experienced a miraculous resurrection, missionaries are needed now more than ever to foster the Church’s continued growth. All of the missionaries currently serving in Albania are involved in education in some way or another. This is vital because it not only raises up future church leaders and helps deepen the faith of the Albanian people, but it is imparting things that will be essential for the Church’s continued growth. Two of the things that Dcn. Stephanos touched upon was a growing sense of self-reliance that is being fostered within the Church, along with a broader sense of missions. He was happy to share that he has been asked to start a missions ministry for the Church in Albania by His Beatitude and that his proposal has been accepted. It is the vision of His Beatitude to send mission teams from Albania into the world and to, someday, even send long-term missionaries.
Following Dcn. Stephanos’ talk, OCMC Board Member Fr. Joseph Ciarciaglino shared his parish’s continued efforts in Gulu, Uganda. There, the members of Saint Philip the Apostle in Tampa, Florida, have built a clinic that is staffed by a nurse, a clinician, and others to provide regular access to healthcare for the people of the region, many of whom are still getting their lives back after being displaced by a recent civil war. They have also installed a well that is the only source of potable water for the nearby residents. They have installed solar panels to power refrigeration units that store much-needed medicines at the clinic. Fr. Joseph visits Gulu each year as the ministry efforts continue to grow.
Lastly, the board heard from fellow Board Member and OCMC Missionary Fr. John Chakos who has been serving the growing Mayan Orthodox communities in Guatemala. After having ministered in Guatemala for several years, Fr. John was able to share the incredible story of Fr. Andres Giron, who passed away last year, and how his love for the Mayan people led him to guide them toward the Orthodox Faith. These Orthodox communities are often located in very rural parts of the country. It is a struggle for the few Guatemalan priests to administer the sacraments and offer the pastoral care that the people so long for. Priests often conduct mass baptisms and marry multiple couples during a single visit. Still, they make it happen. According to Fr. John, the Mayan people are extremely fervent in their faith and the church is always packed, but the physical needs among the Mayan people are great. Access to healthcare in the village of Aguacate was non-existent, so recently the Church built a clinic there. The clinic was blessed by His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Mexico.
OCMC Mission Teams will be serving in Albania, Uganda, and Guatemala in 2016. If you would like to experience what was shared at the board meeting for yourself, we invite you to visit http://www.ocmc.org/about/open_teams.aspx, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 1-877-463-6784 ext. 141.