Friday, March 8, 2013

Psalter Reading Group: Lent 2013


As our Lenten journey is fast approaching (pun intended), we will have another Psalter Reading Group with the Orthodox community in Houston, especially our teens and young adults at St George Houston.

It's a simple concept: you will be assigned to read various small selections from the Book of Psalms DAILY ON YOUR OWN throughout Great Lent. So that during your Lenten journey, you will end up reading through the entire Book of Psalms TWICE. The really cool concept is that if everyone sticks with it and reads their different selection of psalms each day, the entire Book of Psalms will be read by the group EACH & EVERY DAY of Great Lent. Get it??

If you are interested in participating in this Lenten program, please respond and let me know. I will put together a list of participants and assigning the selection of psalms. I will email out the final list prior to the beginning of Great Lent (March 18), so please let me know!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Winter Camp 2013: Teen Reflections

During President's Day weekend (February 2013), a group of over 100 teens from across the Diocese of Wichita & Mid-America gathered for Winter Camp at a YMCA Camp called Takatoka outside of Tulsa, OK, or as we all know it, especially when we are present: Camp St Raphael (YaBoy!). Please enjoy reading a few teen reflections from their experience and pictures from all the festivities:

Winter Camp 2013
"'I’ve got my ticket for the long way ‘round, the one with the prettiest of views. It’s got mountains, it’s got rivers, it’s got sights to give you shivers, but it sure would be prettier with you.' Camp St Raphael (YaBoy!) is a beautiful place on its own, but even in the dead of winter, it blooms with the presence of campers from across our diocese.

Prior to President’s Day weekend in February, I was counting the days and hours until we boarded the plane for Wagoner, Oklahoma: the small town in the middle of America, where everyone at Camp St Raphael can call home. Winter Camp is the ideal getaway from this hectic life, to retreat into the woods and find friendship, faith, and love.

I’m so glad to have gone to Winter Camp because I got the chance to make and strengthen friendships with people from Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. These are the friendships that last, for these friendships are connected by a bond stronger than we can measure. Fr James Shadid made our lessons fun and an interactive way to learn the Gospel. Where else could you find the Prodigal Son being portrayed by a guy from Houston, Sawageds acting out Adam and Eve, and an analogy relating Christ’s love to Lady Gaga’s 'Bad Romance?' Now I’m restless to return this summer!"   -Written by Pilar Z.

Photo bomb by Fr James (look closely!)

Teens visiting the Outdoor Chapel

Epistle Reading during Divine Liturgy

"'Friendship is like standing on wet cement. The longer you stay, the harder it is to leave, and you can never go without leaving your footprints behind.' Winter Camp 2013 was filled with some of the best memories of my life. As a 4 year camper, I have been to many retreats, but of all the retreats, this one was by far the best.

Winter Camp St Raphael is a retreat that DOWAMA annually plans located at Camp Takatoka in Wagoner, Oklahoma. Many people from various cities in our diocese, such as Wichita, Oklahoma City, Houston, Dallas, and Denver joined together to be surrounded by fellow Orthodox Christians who share the same beliefs. It gives us Orthodox Christians a chance to escape the real world and be surrounded by our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Each participant is very welcoming, introducing themselves to people they don't know and making everyone feel at home. Everyone met new people and enjoyed the time spent with each other. Music would be playing in the dining hall as someone played the tubleh and everyone would clap, sing, or dance along. Hiking with your friends, laughing and learning during discussions, and showing people a good time at the hafleh made this weekend one of the best yet. Having a 'Riff-off' around the campfire just brought everyone closer than ever. Although I enjoyed every part of WAMP, my all-time favorite part was cabin time. Cabin time was filled with laughter, from jokes about being Arab to the struggles of hiking. That time was a strong bonding time for me, where strangers and old friends really became sisters. The memories in cabin time, sharing secrets and 'eating our feelings away,' were memories that I will never forget.

Neon Hafli (such bright colors!)

St George Houston group picture

We were lucky enough to have Fr James Shadid of St George Houston as our speaker for Winter Camp. Although he claims to 'not be prepared,' he did a fantastic job getting all the teenagers involved in the discussion. Fr James focused on 3 words: Sin, Exile, and Redemption. On the first day of WAMP, he asked one simple question to the campers, 'what are we NOT going to talk about at this retreat?' Answers varied from 'door handles' to 'Ke$ha' to '2 Chainz' to even 'Yo Mamma!'  He made a promise that if he didn't talk about each topic that we weren't supposed to talk about, he would pay each parish $100. Of course, he kept his promise and made sure to talk about every single topic!

Not only did Fr James made everyone feel welcomed, he made sure everyone had a chance to participate. He passed out 'Pick Me' signs to people who wanted to participate. There was only one rule: if you wanted to participate, you had to do exactly what Fr James told you to do! One girl received a piece of chocolate while another got water splashed on her face! Some had to do push-ups while others were forced to actually throw water on Fr James's face! He had many volunteers to reenact lessons from the Bible, which gave everyone a hilarious visualization of the stories. Fr James taught everyone that 'God is a stalker' and we will always receive His grace no matter what.

The last day of Winter Camp was bittersweet. Best friends were forced to go back to their home town and face reality on their own. Getting teary-eyed as each bus left Camp St Raphael (YaBoy!) was probably the worst part of the retreat, but I know that the memories from this retreat will be kept with me for the rest of my life. 'It's fine by me, if you never leave, we could live like this forever, it's fine by me!'"
   -Written by Julianna Z.

Advisors doing what we do - advise!

Neon Hafli group picture

The fellas of St George Houston!
At camp, you make friends, more strong bonds between older friends, and learn how to live your life in accordance to Christ. It is the perfect place to go when you need a retreat from life. The friends you make there are going to be with you for life. Your camp friends share something that most of your friends don’t. We share our beliefs, our cultures, and our lifestyles. You never really have to explain at camp why, no matter where you are, when you hear the tubleh, you form a dabke line.

In addition to the friendships that you form at camp, you also learn teachings that stay with you for the rest of your life. With great speakers giving the talks each day at wamp, you learn lessons that add meaning to the term 'Orthodox.' Whether Fr James has to throw water in your face, or jump on you to get you to learn these lessons, he will, and has shown that he will. That’s because the teachings are important, and it helps us grow as Christians. Camp has a magical feel to it. When you are there, you feel an incredible sensation throughout your whole being that makes you smile."    -Written by Alexander Z.

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director