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Stop. Reflect how OCF has impacted you. This was what I was asked to do. So many joys have come to the forefront of my mind while contemplating this. Here are some notes regarding my experiences with OCF:
It’s safe to invite my friends.
One of my favorite moments from a retreat was when a girl I had just met, who wasn’t Orthodox, told me how loved and accepted she felt by everyone. “No one makes me feel weird for not being Orthodox. Everyone is so loving and accepting here.” Where else can you go where you can experience such a saturation of Christ’s love? Church, definitely, but OCF is always an incredible encouragement and consistent reminder that Christ is among His people. He is so living, relevant, and more than able to heal our deepest wounds.
All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. –1 Cor 16:20
It has reminded me of how I can serve.
Having grown up attending small OCA churches, sometimes I felt like I had no voice as a youth. This often frustrated me because it made me feel underestimated. I knew I had abilities, and I wanted to serve God and have my ideas heard. Maybe that was just the inward teenager saying, “I MATTER TOO! Don’t I?” Yet, to this day I have never attended a church meeting. (I’m working on it.) I’m sure I’m not alone.
OCF really does provide youth with an opportunity to turn ideas into action, by providing leadership opportunities and putting together some incredible service projects at College Conference East and on the more local level, like the Southeast Regional Retreat WorkDaze. Through these opportunities, I have been re-enlightened with the vision of what the Church should be and, in return, can bring it back to my parish. (The youth from my parish are now making prayer ropes and cookies to help with an upcoming outreach in my hometown! Even some OCFers offered to help!)
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. –1 Tim 4:12
It has sustained my confidence in the spiritual health of the Church.
Being exposed to so few Orthodox youth my age, I was convinced that the Church was going to die out, and I was pretty depressed about it, rightfully so. Seeing so many youth my age for the first time at the Southeast WorkDaze Retreat made my heart swell up with so much joy! I can’t even put it into words. I remember some of the first encounters I had and, looking back, I realize they are now some of my absolute closest friends. God will never let His Church be shaken!
Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. –Psalm 62:2
It has made me bolder about sharing my faith.
I know I was one of two Orthodox on my college campus. Dang. Talk about rough. However, OCF gave me a huge platform to talk about my faith, invite friends, and share what I had been learning with those I knew at school. So, even though my campus never had an official OCF, the ministry was still impacting my campus! I am so thankful for all of the encouragement my OCF friends have given me. It helps not feeling like an island when you are surrounded by thousands of people. I could always point to OCF and say, “Look! I’m not crazy! Other people believe this too! They even know how to Greek and Arabic dance!”
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. –2 Cor 3:12
It makes the Church accessible and assists in the great commission.
OCF enables us as college students to make an incredible impact for the Gospel of Christ on our campuses and in the world! (Yes, the world. Think about it. Most campuses have international students. Don’t they?) Think… College students are often solidifying their beliefs during this time of their life. We may be the only Bible they ever read! Thus, I urge you, live a life worthy of the calling of Christ and invite others to partake in the beauty of the Kingdom! It doesn’t matter if your classmate looks at you funny for inviting them to a small get-together, a meeting, or a retreat. Many are walking around waiting for someone to invite them in and accept them. Be of good courage! Christ is faithful.
God is faithful, by whom you were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. –1 Cor. 1:9
It has shown me how to live in one accord.
I LOVE praying with everyone. Besides praying in community, we live life together. We celebrate weddings and namesdays, weep with those who weep, and overall lift one another up with prayer and encouragement. I love getting to do phone call Bible studies or hearing a simple, “Hey, can you help me stay awake while driving?” phone call. We sometimes even do mini road trips to volunteer at festivals or attend in-state or out-of-state retreats and families open their homes graciously.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. –Phil 2:1-2
Final question: Is it worth taking time to cram in the projects to go on the next OCF retreat?
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. –Jude 1:20-21
Glory to God!
Nicole Homyk (Jackie), 22, is a recent Winthrop University graduate as of May 2016 with degrees in Special Education and Elementary Education. She is currently living in a retirement community by the South Carolina coast and will gladly host visitors! In her spare time, you may find her paddle boarding, speaking with international strangers, applying to graduate schools/missions opportunities, or babysitting for families that might have too many children.