Orthodox Christian Mission Center Trip To Romania Youth Camps 2008
July 16 to August 7, the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) sent a team
of five to Romania to work with the Association of Christian Orthodox Students of Romania (ASCOR)
to hold two week long youth camps. The team, Father Andrew Harrison and Allison Murphy from St.
Luke’s OCA in Chicago, Faith Boldt from ST Elizabeth the New Martyr (Antionchian) Murfreesboro, TN.,
Christopher Speckhard from Holy Cross Antiochian near Baltimore, and Debra Hile from Protection
of the Holy Mother of God, OCA under the Romanian Episcopate in Falls Church, Virginia, met in
Florida and was given orientation and cultural awareness training in preparation for the trip
by the OCMC staff Andrew Lekos and Presbytera Renee Ritsi.
ASCOR host Radu Copil explained that Orthodox summer camps for youth had been
started in a country that is about 85% Orthodox to give kids a chance to live out their Orthodox
faith in a camp setting rather than having them go to the many Protestant camps being started
there. The OCMC team provided the kids a chance to practice English and to see that there are
Orthodox Christians in America. Each morning began with Morning Prayer, and Vespers was held each
evening before supper. All of the campers took turns helping with the readings and responses. OCMC
team members shared the lives of North American saints at Vespers. Each camp celebrated Liturgy
together. A Romanian priest attended each camp session and spent an hour in the morning speaking
with the campers. After this the ASCOR team would meet with campers in discussion groups to discuss
the morning talk. There was also time for sports (volleyball, ping pong, and soccer), workshops
(chess, macramé, and making icons, prayer bracelets, cross necklaces, an Alaskan cathedral, and
God’s eyes), group games, hiking, evenings of singing, and good Romanian eating (lots of potatoes
and bread as well as fresh fruit). Bishop Vasile visited each of the camps for Vespers and a talk
with the campers. The OCMC team was asked to judge the Bible skits-quite a challenge with the great
enthusiasm that went into the skits as well as the fact that they were done in Romanian.
It was a joy to visit a predominantly Orthodox country and visit several
monasteries and churches that were painted walls to ceiling with icons. Some of the newer Orthodox
monasteries have been rebuilt on grounds of those shut down by Communism and have many young monks
and nuns. At the packed ASCOR church, we joined in celebrating Liturgy and Unction with a deeply
committed group of university students who are at church many times during the week for services
and teaching while maintaining heavy academic loads as they study to be doctors, engineers, and
technology specialists. The piety and deep joy in their faith was apparent in the bishops, priests,
and students we encountered. As a team, we made new friends, had opportunities to worship, and
were able to share our faith and encourage others to hold fast to the Orthodox faith.