Southern-Fried Greek Fest

Southern-Fried Greek Fest

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“Hello. Yes. Good afternoon, Father. And how are you? We’re about two hours out. Very good. Very good. We’ll see you then. Yes. You, too. Thank you. Goodbye.”

This was the half of the conversation I heard from the passenger seat of our family’s van.

After taking a few weeks off from our support-raising travel for Holy Week, Pascha, and Mother’s Day, we were headed to Florence, South Carolina. In our home town we had participated before in our parish Greek Festival, but we had never been exhibitors. This was to be a first. Not our first presentation– no, we’ve been doing this for more than a year. This time we would be responding to inquiries from the general public, locals who were from predominantly Evangelical backgrounds, or so we had been warned. And after this phone call, we now would also look forward, with a little apprehension, to a television news interview. We had to be ready at five that afternoon. It was one-thirty when Blake took Fr. Athanasios’ phone call. So, we crossed ourselves and offered up prayers of supplication. What else could we do to better prepare?

We arrived at Transfiguration of Our Savior Greek Orthodox Church a little after four and, after introductions were made, we went to work frantically setting up our presentation boards, prayer cards, and missions video. Kelly Brucker, the digital journalist, walked the festival grounds shooting footage before meeting up with us under our tent. We were all a little nervous. Even our usually outgoing girls went silent, but Kelly did her best to alleviate that. In the end we did just fine.

Please, take a moment and read the news piece here: http://www.wbtw.com/story/22277396/travelling-missionary-family-spreads-greek-culture

After surviving the initial stage fright associated with the news interview–which aired at 11 o’clock that evening on the local CBS station– the rest of the weekend went fairly easily! The girls escaped the DiLullo/OCMC tent and headed for the kitchen and bookstore where they made themselves useful for the duration of the festival. Occasionally one would pop in, grab the camera, and head off in some unknown direction. Some of the pictures were, ahem, unique (for instance, we now have a few shots of Spartans standing in front of the McDonald’s across the street).

During our time, we met several interesting people. Many were very curious about Orthodox missions. In this area, the Greeks are known for their festival while the other Evangelical denominations are known for their missionary endeavors. Many who stopped by were affiliated somehow with one missionary program or another, but they had never heard of Orthodox missions. Even some of the visiting Orthodox didn’t know about the OCMC’s long-term, career missionary program– though they knew about the short-term mission teams. Others had been on the church tour and had questions regarding the Orthodox faith. This was definitely an educational opportunity– not just for the community at large, but also for us. We got hands-on experience with answering questions about our faith and missions, sharing our family’s mission to Alaska, and being open to listening to others as they shared their experiences. We even had a pair of high school girls ask to have their pictures taken with us, and an older woman, Southern Baptist in faith, asked us to remember her daughter Sarah in our prayers.

The Florence Greek Fest in itself looked like, smelled like, and tasted like the festivals back home, but the people made the difference. In St. Augustine, Florida, we get more of the tourist/retired crowd. In Florence you have true Southerners. It wasn’t just their southern accents or the way they could make gallons of sweet tea suddenly disappear, but the tone of their voices, their demeanor, their genuine interest in what we had to offer, and the honest offering of themselves. It was a great joy, privilege, and honor for our family to be part of this Southern-Fried Greek Fest. This was truly an experience our family won’t soon forget– and hopefully, neither will the kind people of Florence, South Carolina.

The DiLullo Family is presently in the support team-raising phase of their pre-field preparations for long-term service among the people of Alaska. Their ministries rely on your faithful, monetary support. Please go to www.ocmc.org/TheDiLulloFamily to learn about their family’s missionary assignment and to partner with them by becoming a financially-pledging team member.

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Blake and Pamela DiLullo

Blake DiLullo is a Purepecha Indian from Michoacán, Mexico who, at an early age, immigrated to the United States with his mother and six brothers and sisters. He has lived in Michigan, Colorado, New Mexico, and at the age of fourteen followed his older brothers to St. Augustine, Florida where he began working in the field of masonry construction. Throughout the years, Blake worked hard and became a masonry journeyman. In May of 2003 he opened his own masonry company.

Pamela was born on Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas and soon afterward moved to Florida with her family as her father was stationed first in Fort Walton Beach and later at Homestead. After her father’s last deployment to Shemya Island on the Aleutian Chain of Alaska, her family moved to Jacksonville and then to St. Augustine when she was seven where she attended public schools through her high school graduation.

Blake and Pamela met at St. Augustine in November 1990, and were married January 1993, while Pamela was attending St. Johns River Community College. Together, Blake and Pamela have three children: an adult son, Blake Dillon, and two younger daughters, Serena and Cecelia Grace.

Prior to making the decision to home educate their daughters, Pamela received certificates in Early Childhood Education through Florida Community College at Jacksonville and worked as a Pre-K teacher and then as both a scholarship administrator and multi-grade instructor at a faith-based private school in St. Augustine.

Throughout their marriage, Blake and Pamela wanted to raise their children in faith, but it was not until their son encouraged them that they began searching for a church that they could call home. In 2003, the DiLullo Family began their journey to Orthodoxy, and on September 13, 2008 they were all baptized and chrismated into the Greek Orthodox Church at Holy Trinity in St. Augustine by Fr. Nikitas Theodosian.

Immediately after their conversion, Blake, Pamela and their children became active in parish life- Pamela began to work with the youth ministry, teaching in the Sunday school and working as a JOY advisor. Blake assisted with the up-keep of the parish, and Blake Dillon began serving as an acolyte.

Summer 2009 brought a new chapter for the DiLullo family, as Blake was accepted on a short-term mission team to Tyonek, Alaska to teach and help with church reconstruction. A connection was made between Blake and the Athabascan natives, and in January of 2010 Blake was personally invited back under the condition that he would return with his family. The summer of 2010 did see Blake return to Tyonek, with his family, as the leader of the second OCMC team to Tyonek. During the 2010 team trip, reconstruction was completed on the local parish, and a Vacation Church School was held for the local children and as time of instruction for those wishing to set up a parish church school. July 2011, after the conclusion of New Candidate Orientation at OCMC, Blake and his son traveled to the village of Bethel, with Blake leading another construction team, to complete ongoing work at St. Sophia Orthodox Church. The opportunities afforded by these shot-term teams lent themselves to helping the DiLullo’s discern God’s will for their lives- to serve as career missionaries among the people of Alaska.

In Alaska, the DiLullo family will serve as a living witness to the faithful, where Blake will utilize his more than twenty years of experience in construction to help many of the remote communities renovate and rebuild their churches while gaining further knowledge of arctic construction techniques. God willing, he will also acquire skills in addictions counseling through the St. Dimitrie Program, developed by OCMC missionary to Romania, Floyd Frantz, and offered at St. Herman’s Seminary on Kodiak Island. Pamela will continue to home school their children while assisting the staff of St. Herman’s Seminary in developing and implementing Orthodox educational curricula for the youth of Alaska. Both will assist with other projects, as determined by the Hierarch in the Diocese of Alaska.