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Water Brought to Remote Village through Mission Efforts

LOUPWALA, NORTHERN KENYA [ocmc.org] – Without a reliable source of water, the Turkana people here once fought to survive. Thanks to its generous donors, the Orthodox Christian Mission Center announced last month the completion of a borehole water well that will provide the people of Loupwala with water for years to come. In nearby Lodwar, ocmc funds also supported the completion of a church and will support the operations of a primary school located on that church property.

You can view video of the Mission Center’s work in Northern Kenya here.

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Summit to Offer Practical Insight on Inner-City Ministry

COLUMBUS, OH – St. Gregory of Nyssa Orthodox Church will hold a two-day interactive conference here on July 26-27 for anyone interested in learning how to minister to those struggling in urban and suburban settings. Through speakers, workshops, and open discussions, the summit will explore the challenges faced by social outreaches today. Attendees will have an opportunity to participate in the host parish’s community meal program and interact with individuals who have “hands-on experience” bringing the Light of Christ to those in need beyond the walls of their churches. The $75 cost covers all materials, lunches and an evening meal.

An Ascension Greeting from OCMC

The staff, board, missionaries, and volunteers of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) pray that you have a blessed Ascension Feast this Thursday, June 2. View Calendar of Services

On this day we have a great opportunity to consider our response to Christ’s last words prior to His Ascension, which were to “go and make disciples of all nations.” OCMC stands ready to help you answer your call to share the Orthodox Faith so that the whole world may know hope and salvation in Jesus Christ.

For more information on exploring a call to serve in the mission field, please contact Fr. John. You can also explore all that OCMC has to offer by visiting the Orthodox Christian Mission Center homepage.

Congratulations, Graduates

Join us in celebrating the achievements of our graduates this month. Nicholas Reeves will receive a Doctorate in Music Ed. from the Manhattan School of Music and Willis (Mark) Mwangola will receive a Masters degree from Penn State. Also graduating from Penn State with a Bachelor’s degree are Lara Haluszczak, Marina Johnson, Samuel Leathers, Stasia Roberts, and Shane Stevens. Many years!

 

My First Update

by OCMC Missionary Candidate Maria Roeber

Kristo amefufuka!  Christ is risen!

Photo credit: ocmc.orgI am writing to you from Denver, where I am currently doing a week of language training (learning Kiswahili!) before my departure to Tanzania at the end of this month!

It has been a long process; but thanks be to God, with your help, I have built a fantastic support team and am fully funded/pledged for two years of missionary service as a nurse in Bukoba, Tanzania!

My last day of work was April 1, and since then I have been to Florida for my pre-field training at OCMC headquarters, packed up and moved out of my apartment in DC, and enjoyed Holy Week and Pascha at home in State College, PA with my parents. For Bright Week I travelled out to Calistoga, CA to visit my sister at Holy Assumption Monastery, and then to the LA area to visit with my brother. I also had the opportunity to visit Saint Barbara’s monastery while staying in Santa Paula. Following this week in Denver, I will return to State College for a few days. Then, I will be in Kansas City to attend a medical missions conference for short and long term missionaries. This leads me to my next big announcement…

On Sunday, May 22 at 5 p.m., I will be officially commissioned as a long-term missionary with OCMC! If you are in the DC area (or are willing to travel) I invite you to attend Great Vespers at St. Sophia’s Orthodox Cathedral in Washington, DC. The commissioning will follow the Vespers service, and will be held in conjunction with the annual DC area OCMC benefit banquet.

If you would like to attend the banquet, information is available on the OCMC website. You don’t have to attend the benefit to come and pray with and for me, though! I would love to see all of you before I leave!

I’m so grateful to all of you who have been praying for me, and to those of you who are pledging to support me or have donated to help send me to Africa! I am so eager to finally be on my way and to begin sharing Christ’s love and salvation with people in Africa! It’s also very exciting to know that soon I will be using my skills as a nurse to minister to the physical needs of people in Bukoba and in the surrounding areas. I can’t wait to start sharing the details with all of you!

May you enjoy a blessed Paschal (Easter) season, and please be in touch! I hope to see as many of you as possible in DC on May 22!

The Miracle of the Holy Fire

by Niels Christian Hvidt

The view from inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem as light spreads the Tomb of Christ on April 23, 2011. (Photo Credit: Abir Sultan / EPA via photoblog.msnbc.msn.com.)

“The Miracle of the Holy Fire” (in Orthodox Churches) is known as “the greatest of all Christian miracles.” It takes place every single year, on the same time, in the same manner, and on the same spot. No other miracle is known to occur so regularly and for such an extensive period of time. The miracle happens in Jerusalem, the holiest place on earth for millions of believers. Theologians, historians and archaeologists consider this church to contain both Golgotha, the little hill on which Jesus was crucified, as well as the “new tomb” close to Golgotha that received his dead body, and the same spot from which he rose from the dead…

The ceremony surrounding the “Holy Fire” is one of the oldest unbroken Christian ceremonies in the world. From the Fourth Century to our own time, sources recall this awe-inspiring event. From these sources it becomes clear that the miracle has been celebrated on the same spot, on the same feast day, and in the same liturgical way.

The miracle occurs every year on the Orthodox “Holy and Great Sabbath-Saturday”… Pilgrims camp around the tomb, waiting from Holy Friday afternoon in anticipation of the wonder on Holy Saturday… It is not possible to follow the events inside the tomb, so I asked the [late] patriarch [Diodorus of Jerusalem (†2000)], about [it]:

I believe it to be no coincidence that the Holy Fire comes on exactly this spot. In Matthew 28:3, it says that when Christ rose from the dead, an angel came, dressed all in a fearful light. I believe that the striking light that enveloped the angel at the Lord’s Resurrection is the same light that appears miraculously. Christ wants to remind us that His Resurrection is a reality and not just a myth; He really came to the world in order to give the necessary sacrifice through His Death and Resurrection so that man could be re-united with his Creator.

I find my way through the darkness towards the inner chamber in which I fall on my knees. Here I say certain prayers that have been handed down to us through the centuries and, having said them, I wait. Sometimes I may wait a few minutes, but normally the miracle happens immediately after I have said the prayers. From the core of the very stone on which Jesus lay an indefinable light pours forth. It usually has a blue tint, but the color may change and take many different hues. It cannot be described in human terms.

The light rises out of the stone as mist may rise out of a lake—it almost looks as if the stone is covered by a moist cloud, but it is light… The light does not burn—I have never had my beard burnt in all the sixteen years I have been Patriarch in Jerusalem and have received the Holy Fire. The light is of a different consistency than normal fire that burns in an oil lamp.

“At a certain point the light rises and forms a column in which the fire is of a different nature, so that I am able to light my candles from it. When I thus have received the flame on my candles, I…give the flame to all people present in the Church…

“The miracle touches me just as deeply every single year. Every time it is another step towards conversion for me. For me personally it is of great comfort to consider Christ’s faithfulness towards us, which he displays by giving us the holy flame every year in spite of our human frailties and failures… It makes the resurrection of Christ present to us as if he had died only a few years ago.”

While the patriarch is inside the chapel kneeling in front of the stone, there is darkness but far from silence outside.  One hears a rather loud mumbling, and the atmosphere is very tense.  When the Patriarch comes out with the two candles lit and shinning brightly in the darkness, a roar of jubilee resounds in the Church, comparable only to a goal at a soccer-match.

The miracle is not confined to what actually happens inside the little tomb, where the Patriarch prays. What may be even more significant, is that the blue light is reported to appear and be active outside the tomb. Every year many believers claim that this miraculous light ignites candles, which they hold in their hands, of its own initiative. All in the church wait with candles in the hope that they may ignite spontaneously. Often closed oil lamps take fire by themselves before the eyes of the pilgrims. The blue flame is seen to move in different places in the Church. A number of signed testimonies by pilgrims, whose candles lit spontaneously, attest to the validity of these ignitions. The person who experiences the miracle from a close distance by having the fire on the candle or seeing the blue light usually leaves Jerusalem changed, and for everyone having attended the ceremony, there is always a “before and after” the miracle of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem.

Editor’s Note: Niels Christian Hvidt, born 1969, is Associate Professor at the Research Unit of Health, Man and Society at the Institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark.

Christina Semon Begins Second Term of Missionary Service

MOLDOVA – Following the successful completion of her first term in Romania, OCMC missionary Christina Semon began the next phase of her missionary service in the Republic of Moldova last month. Building on the experiences and skills she acquired during two years of working with children and teens (organizing summer camps and working with abandoned children at the Protection of the Theotokos Family Center in Cluj-Napoca), Christina will partner with Fr. Ioan Cristea to establish an Moldovan youth program.

Christina expressed heartfelt thanks to Holy Trinity and all the parishes she had an opportunity to visit while preparing for her prior assignment.

Orthodox Camp Seeks Staff and Counselors for Summer Season

JEWELL, NEW YORKSaint Andrew’s Camp here is seeking talented Orthodox Christians of all ages (18+) for paid staff roles for the 2011 season. Male and female counselors with varying skill sets, including lifeguarding, sports, art or music instruction, and religious education. Positions are for the entire duration of the camping program (July 10-August 6), plus one preparation week before the opening of camp, for a total of 5 weeks.  Applications are available for download at standrewscamp.org.

 

Annual Summer Conference to Explore Women’s Vocations

YONKERS, NEW YORK – “Women Disciples of the Lord” is the theme for St. Vladimir’s Seminary’s annual summer conference to be held June 17-19. The gathering—which seeks to foster a creative, and inspiring encounter through lectures, panel discussions, and workshops—is especially for women, laity, and clergy interested in broadening lay vocations and ministries in the Church. Email tpenkrat@svots.edu for more information.

In Japan, Clergy Safe; Most Churches Miraculously Still Standing

TOHOKU, JAPAN – The magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resulting 30-foot tsunami that struck northeast Japan on March 11 ravaged an active Orthodox community here. One bishop, five priests, and two deacons serve an Orthodox population numbering more than 1,500 in this region. As of March 25, all but four parishioners have been accounted for including all of the clergy. According to the Eastern Japan Diocese, five Orthodox reposed in the Lord from the tragedy. May their memories be eternal!

Of the five churches in the region that were located along the coast, miraculously all but one were spared: Two churches escaped damage from the tsunami, the waters stopping within meters of the temple; two other churches were flooded but experienced no structural damage. Only Annunci-ation Chapel in Yamada was completely destroyed.

International Orthodox Christian Charities (iocc) and the Orthodox Church in Japan continue to serve an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people who have been displaced by the earthquake and tsunami in coastal areas that remain largely inaccessible because of the damage and lack of fuel.