Orthodox Christian Mission Center....to the ends of the Earth

Friday, March 23, 2007


Orthodox Christian Mission Center....to the ends of the Earth

Irvine, CA – Under the pastoral care of the late Fr. George Stephanedes, St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine, California, has been dedicated to the work of missions since its foundation in 1977. This faithful community has been called home by some of America’s first long-term missionaries including, Fr. Martin and Presbytera Renee Ritsi, as well as Anthony and Lara Callas. In memory of Fr. George, St. Paul’s also supports the Stephanedes Mission Team Endowment Fund, which is dedicated to exposing clergy to the importance of missions by giving them the opportunity to serve abroad as Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) Mission Team members. Several of the faithful from St. Paul’s have served as Team members themselves in countries from Guatemala to Kenya.

Recently, however, St. Paul’s commitment to the spread of Orthodoxy has entered a new phase. During a talk given by Fr. Steven Tsichlis in 2003, during the celebration of St. Paul’s 25th anniversary, an ambitious commitment was made to build a church for an Orthodox community aboard.

With help from OCMC, and the blessing of His Grace Jeronymos, Bishop of Bukoba, a growing community in Kobunswu, Tanzania was identified that needed the assistance being offered by St. Paul’s. By Fall 2006, plans were finalized for the construction of a permanent church in Kobunswu. In just months, Fr. Steven Tsichlis, Fr. Stephan Karcher, and St. Paul's Missions Committee had raised the $40,000 needed to build Kobunswu’s new church and recruited 14 volunteers to help with its construction.

Earlier this month, Bishop Jeronymos visited St. Paul’s in Irvine to thank the community for its support of Orthodoxy in Tanzania, and to share with them the remarkable growth that his diocese has experienced in the past decade. The number of communities in the Bukoba Diocese has gone up from 55 to 166. Seventy of these communities now have permanent churches. The number of faithful has increased from 17,000 to 41,200, and the number of clergy serving them has more than tripled from 9 to 34.

OCMC Mission Teams have been serving in Tanzania since 1994. Those being sent by St. Paul’s are part of the ongoing witness being offered by the Orthodox faithful in America with the people of East Africa. Construction of the church in Kobunswu will take place in July of 2007. Another OCMC Mission Team will travel to Tanzania immediately thereafter. This teaching Team still needs volunteers. If you would like to witness for Christ in Tanzania please contact Andrew Lekos by phone at 1-877-463-6784, or by e-mail at teams@ocmc.org.

The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) is the official international mission agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). Its purpose is to encourage, support and facilitate the establishment and development of self-supporting, Eucharistic Orthodox Christian communities worldwide, thus incorporating the person into the fullness of a life in Christ. Visit www.ocmc.org for more information regarding OCMC’s ministries.

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