God willing, I’ll have an opportunity to participate in a two week Orthodox mission to Moldova with OCMC this summer. Anticipating some questions I would ask if I heard that statement:
Was that first sentence Christianese?
It’s a small Eastern European country between Ukraine and Romania. Moldova is across the Black Sea from Georgia, but does not have any coast of it’s own; unfortunately, it’s listed as the poorest nation in Europe. Some three and a half million people live there, who speak Romanian. Moldovan (closely related to Romanian), and Russian. Traditionally, it’s an Orthodox country; in the 2004 census 93% of the population self-identified as Orthodox (which is higher even than Georgia).
Orthodox mission teams go to majority Orthodox countries?
Yes. It’s reciprocal. When I was younger I thought that Christian missions were only about evangelism — and they do involve that. Later that they were about evangelism and perhaps doing nice things for people, but most of those missions confused me, because the nice things were often highly inefficient (travel for three days to build something for three days, and visit places for another two?) — and they do involve that as well. When I’m being a touch cynical, I figure they’re all about creating opportunities for Life Changing Experiences, especially for the participants — and that’s not unfounded, either. A lot of missions, especially the short kind, are just as much about encouragement. I have no idea how well it works, but I can’t think of another very reasonable reason why college students from America might spend their time in Istanbul repairing a graveyard, or why OCMC would send people to Alaska to repair an old Russian church. Because, honestly (and this is part of what perplexed me a great deal), people, even fairly poor people, could probably do something like what the young missionaries do. They could teach about the Faith, hold a camp, restore a graveyard, or repair a church. In Alaska many people are not so much impoverished as depressed. It might well do about as much good for a village to have a group of young people honestly fascinated by and enthusiastic to understand something about their traditional culture, as it is to have them tinkering with their village church — and the two do seem to go together. The Syrians really enjoyed meeting Orthodox converts from America, because the Christian community there is ancient and welcoming, but doesn’t have anything like the religious movements of America (they can’t… Islam and all). The Georgians were absolutely delighted to meet the Alaskans, and especially to hear them sing Georgian songs and appreciate Georgian history and culture (they appreciated Alaskan culture as well; there wasn’t anything nice to be said for much of American culture, though). In any event, this stuff can be good and helpful.
What are you going to do there?
Have a youth camp! If you thought that I was conflicted about youth camps… well yeah… but not all of them; pretty much just the really pushy kind. I intend to be fairly non-pushy.
When is this encouraging youth camp to be held?
Formal letters are forthcoming.