Short Term Mission - Long Term Effect
by: Presbytera Vangie E. Orfanakos
years ago, in the Summer of 1990, the call to Missions was felt strongly in my
heart as I joined a team of Orthodox Christians on a short term missions trip to
Magoma, Uganda to build the Presentation Of The Theotokos Orthodox Church.
Being guided under the spiritual leadership of Father Martin Ritsi and
Presbytera Renee Ritsi, I began to learn firsthand what it meant to live out
the Great Commission (Mt 28.16-20) and “Go Forth” not only physically,
emotionally, mentally…but in every way possible to give of one’s self fully to
Christ in service to help others in need.
That Summer changed my life. There are no words to adequately describe
the witness that took place as Christ’s love unconditionally unfolded in grace,
mercy and sacrifice every step of the way on this missionary journey.
Father Martin is currently the Executive Director of the Orthodox Christian
Mission Center and Presbytera Renee is the Teams Associate Director &
Healthcare Coordinator of OCMC in Saint Augustine, Florida. But back then, in
the early ‘90’s they were missionaries serving in the field and being the team
leaders as well as parenting their two children, Stephanos and Nichole. I
looked at their family at that time and said to myself, “Wow, these people are
brave, they raise their children here amongst the trying conditions, and they
have all they need in their faith.” People such as the Ritsi’s changed my life.
I kept a photo of little Nichole helping me place bricks in a circle, on the
earthen ground of dusty Uganda earth, to help create an oven to bake bread. I
had this photo in my own kitchen to help remind me of those years gone by, but
to not forget, that me in the dust baking bricks from the earth was a blessing
that would never be forgotten. I would see that picture and say “Gee, I wonder
if Nichole remembers that time in her life, she was so little.” And I have
another memorable moment captured on film when I see the image of Stephanos
helping get water from the one large dust-covered rectangular water bin we had
at our site. He was a young trooper of sorts and always had a smile and energy
for everyone. Now, I believe those children do remember, and they remember by
being who God is calling them to be. Each one of us has a calling. We all find
ways to serve.
up this news and share these stories with you now, because I recently received
a letter from Stephanos Ritsi and his wife, Alexandria. Stephanos is now a
young married man journeying off to Albania to be a long term missionary,
serving Christ in the field alongside his wife Alexandria. I share the letter I
received from them in the hopes you will be inspired to pray for him and his
wife and/or to offer a contribution to their efforts or the efforts of the
OCMC, or to any of the missionaries cited on the OCMC website (www.ocmc.org).
Who knows, maybe you will be inspired to follow the call and “Go therefore,”
letter is as follows:
We greet you in the Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus
like to thank you for your support through our years of preparations to become
long term missionaries by supporting us on our Short Term Missions teams. These teams provided a valuable way for
us to experience missionary work first hand. We would also like to share some exciting news with
you. Since our last OCMC team in 2011,
Alexandria and I have finished our schooling at Holy Cross/Hellenic College,
Stephanos graduated with a Masters of Divinity with a Certificate in Missions
and Ecumenism from the Boston Theological Institute. Alexandria graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary
Education and is one test away from receiving her teaching license.
graduation we have completed training at OCMC to become long term missionaries
and have been assigned to Albania, a country under the spiritual guidance of
His Beatitude Archbishop Athanasios.
In Albania, Alexandria will serve the Church at the Protagonist School
where she will teach English, as well as a spiritual journey program and a
character building program. She
will help the learning system implemented under Enver Hoxha, during the decades
of communist rule. Stephanos will
work with the youth of Albania and will focus on a University Ministry that
aims to bring the message of hope that our faith offers. One of the dreams of this ministry is
to open a Coffee Shop that will serve as a method of reaching these youth who
are beset by the forces of secularism and atheism.
again we would like to thank you for your support of our journey towards
becoming missionaries. To enter
the mission field, we must raise two years of support in advance so that we do
not become a financial burden for the Orthodox Church of Albania. We would like to ask if you would
prayerfully consider partnering with us in our ministry to the people of
Albania. Enclosed with this letter
is our prayer card as well as a support envelope. Please consider a monthly pledge to our missionary
efforts. If finances are tight in
this economy, consider becoming part of our prayer support group by checking
“other” and writing Prayers on the line.
We hope to hear from you and look forward to sharing with you the work
that we will do in Albania.
and Alexandria Ritsi, OCMC Missionaries to Albania
Stephanos and Alexandria Ritsi
220 Mason Manatee Way, St. Augustine, FL 32086
Saltlife1985@gmail.com / (904) 377-9139
If you are interested in our online updates we are creating a
blog on the Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) – The Sounding; we are creating a
Flikr account to share our pictures; we have a Facebook page titled: “Stephanos and Alexandria Missionaries
to Albania; also we will have a Google email list. If you are interested in remaining in contact online as well
as through newsletters, please email email@example.com so that we can
notify you when these services begin. Also, please consider sharing our good
news with others in your community and invite them to be partners with us in
bringing His Good News to our brothers and sisters in Albania.