Alex Goodwin serves as the Communications Director at the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) in St. Augustine, Florida, where he lives with his wife and two children. Alex has participated on multiple mission teams to Africa. His duties at the Mission Center include broadening awareness of, and participation in, Orthodox missions among the faithful of North America.
There is so much need in the world. How do we engage more people so we can meet this need? This was the central question that was at the heart of the many topics addressed by the Orthodox Christian Mission Center Board during its annual spring meeting held at the Mission Center in St. Augustine, Florida.
The meeting began on the afternoon of Monday, April 24th, with the Development Committee. Of upmost importance to the committee was how to appropriately recognize the many people who make Orthodox missions possible through their sacrificial giving. For decades, the faithful have been offering what they can in support of OCMC’s ministries. In that time, they have been a part of transforming the world and helping countless people, all for God’s glory and to share the light of the Faith. The staff and board members serving on the Development Committee came away from their time together with a deep desire to more fully recognize these contributions.
The entire board gathered at the Mission Center following an early morning Divine Liturgy at nearby Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. Following some brief opening remarks and a call to order by Board President Mr. John Colis, the Board received a live update on the work being done in Guatemala by OCMC long-term Missionaries Jesse Brandow, Jennifer Rice, and Fr. Juvenal Repass, from their base in Aguacate. The missionaries shared how they are helping the handful of Guatemalan clergy to serve the numerous Orthodox communities in the region. Of particular interest to the board were the growth of the clinic in Aguacate, which has facilities to offer both medical and dental care, and the continued training of church leaders and priests.
Following the missionaries’ presentation, OCMC Executive Director Fr. Martin Ritsi offered his report where he was glad to share about his recent trips to Scandinavia and East Africa. In Scandinavia, where religious participation is extremely low, the Church has a wonderful opportunity to share the Faith with people who are poised to re-discover hope in Christ after more than a generation of secular influence. In East Africa, the desire for the Church to be more self-reliant continues to grow. OCMC has a unique opportunity to be a leading presence in this area. In both Scandinavia and East Africa, the Mission Center can work closely with its counterpart organization in Finland. Increasingly, the mission efforts of the Church in Finland and the Church in the United States are finding common ground, and the growing relationship between the two has been exciting to watch.
Fr. Martin was also able to report on the financial health of the organization. In addition, Board Treasurer Fr. Ceraphim Mitchell advised that OCMC once again received a completely clean status from its independent outside auditing firm. Fr. Martin was happy to introduce the board to OCMC’s two new Development Officers, Fr. Chris Rowe and Pres. Michelle Jannakos. It is anticipated that these newest additions to the OCMC family will help grow the Mission Center’s capacity even more and meet the growing need for Orthodox missions around the world.
More missionaries will be needed in the coming years as well. OCMC Missionary Director Dcn. James Nicholas ended the day with a presentation on the long-term missionary program. Dcn. James described OCMC’s robust process for recruiting, training, and preparing long-term missionaries for the field and how the Mission Center cares for missionary families who have dedicated years of their life to service abroad. After learning of the high demand for missionary personnel that now exists, the board agreed that as many new missionaries as possible should be trained and deployed.
Following the general meeting, board and staff gathered for dinner at a local restaurant in St. Augustine. During the dinner, which was attended by former OCMC Executive Director, His Grace Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, staff and board enjoyed a time of fellowship before hearing presentations from two OCMC Missionary families who also attended the dinner. Dcn. Stephanos and Dka. Alexandria Ritsi shared about their work in Albania. Dr. Michael Colburn talked about the work he and his wife are doing in translating liturgical texts using the AGES software he helped to develop.
The board meeting concluded with a half-day session on Wednesday, April 26th. One of the highlights of the session was a discussion on an upcoming event that will be held in Boca Raton, Florida, on February 10, 2018, to recognize the contributions of Helen and Lou Nicozisis toward the furtherance of Orthodox Missions. Helen, who has been a long-time board member, expressed her desire that the event help make more people aware of missions.
With greater awareness comes greater involvement in the Great Commission. Please continue to pray for the OCMC board and staff as they invite the faithful to continue offering an Orthodox witness to the world.
Photo: At their most recent meeting held at the Mission Center in St. Augustine, FL, this April, OCMC Board Members received an update from the missionaries serving in Albania. Even though the team there continues to grow, there is still tremendous need for missionary support in the world. How to grow this support was a major focus at the board meeting.
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