Short Term Mission - Long Term Effect
by: Presbytera Vangie E. Orfanakos
Some 23 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.
Today, 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.
For years 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.
I bring 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,” (Mt 28.19)
The letter is as follows:
Dear Orfanakos Family,
We greet you in the Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
We would 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.
Since 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.
Once 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.
Stephanos 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Saturday after Holy Cross
Saturday after Holy Cross; Eustathius the Great Martyr, his wife and two children; Our Righteous Father Eustathius, Archbishop of Thessolonica; Hilarion the New Martyr of Crete; Afterfeast of the Holy Cross
Schedule of Services
Sundays: Orthros (Matins): 8:45 AM | Divine Liturgy: 9:45 AM
Weekdays: Orthros (Matins): 9:00 AM | Divine Liturgy: 10:00 AM
For information on our Lenten and Holy Week services please contact the Church office at (203) 795-1347 between the hours of 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday.