By Bruce And Gloria Appling
We have both together and individually often considered and prayed about serving on a Missionary Team. We felt it was important to serve as a family, so it was necessary to wait for our children to reach an age of understanding. Nearly a year ago, our hearts and minds were deeply filled with the desire to serve our Lord on our first missionary trip. After much prayer and discussion, we were blessed to have been selected to be a part of the OCMC 2013 team to the village of Ouzinkie, Alaska.
We were filled with many emotions; before, during, and after our trip. During our preparation for the trip we often felt a mixture of nervousness and uncertainty. We could not fathom how we would be able to raise the necessary funds for the trip, and we felt wholly inadequate and unworthy to attempt to “teach” others that which we so often failed at ourselves. Yet we felt strongly that this was what we were being called to do and thus were full of excitement and faith that our Lord would guide us through this endeavor in His name.
Through God’s great mercy and love, our beloved fellow Orthodox brethren generously funded all of our estimated expenses in less time than we ever could have imagined. It was in this that we more clearly experienced our Lord’s hand in preparing our path. What our great Lord brings us to, He brings us through. Our thoughts and prayers were now focused fully on our team’s safety and efforts; that God would work through us to bear witness of Him to those whom we were going to serve.
Upon arrival to Kodiak Island, just a few short miles away from Ouzinkie on Spruce Island, we could already feel the holiness of this territory where our Venerable Father Herman lived and served. We were received with love and great hospitality by all, and were blessed to pray before the reliquary of America’s First Holy Saint. As first time missionaries, we were greatly comforted upon meeting our fellow team members most of whom were well experienced missionaries, but still felt in our hearts uncertainty of what we had to offer this team and those whom it would be serving.
After a few short days of orientation, it was time to load up the thousands of pounds of food, supplies, and luggage for the long, slow boat ride to Spruce Island. As we departed Kodiak, it was with fond farewells and Presbytera Renee’s final and simple instruction “Just LOVE them!” resounding in our hearts. By God’s grace and St. Herman’s prayers, we had the opportunity to briefly visit and pray at holy sites in Monk’s Lagoon, that holy place where St. Herman lived, died, and was buried. Gladly would we have stayed in that place of peaceful solitude, but ours was to follow in the steps of St. Herman in what little way we were able in serving the children and village of Ouzinkie on the opposite end of Spruce Island.
During our time in Ouzinkie, we were blessed to have between 30-40 children coming and going through out the 5 days of our camp. We witnessed the work of the Holy Spirit as the children by mid week were desiring to memorize the Lord’s Prayer, and running up to Fr. Andrew asking if they could be a reader for Evening Compline. Three of our campers were also baptized, which Bruce is the Godfather to one. These were the highlights of the camp and this was our purpose for being there. We felt honored to be able to spend time with the children and to witness to them Christ’s bountiful love. We were sad when our mission drew to a close and it was time to leave Ouzinkie and our fellow team members whom we connected with so well.
Being a part of a missionary team filled our hearts with so much love. We realized that missionary work is what we want to continue to be involved in. Our relationship with Christ has grown and we have grown spiritually as a family. Faith and Grace learned that we are the body of Christ. It is our responsibility to serve and love our neighbors as St. Silouan of Mt Athos said, “My brother is my life.”
We pray that God will bless us with many more opportunities to serve Him on missionary teams. We enjoyed being on the Ouzinkie team with Fr. Andrew, Michaelyn, Lynn, Cheryl, Joan, Madeline, and Andi. We hope to serve alongside them again someday.
With Love in Christ,
Bruce, Gloria, Faith, and Grace