Southern-Fried Greek Fest
“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.