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2010 JOY Summer Sleep-over - 08/06/10

Prophet Elijah's Children's Retreat – August 6-7, 2010
On Friday August 6th and 7th , 2010 St. John The Theologian Orthodox Church had its third annual Prophet Elijah's Children's Retreat. This is an overnight retreat where the children ,young adults, parents, and the retreat leaders spend the night and part of the next day at the church. The retreat started at 3:00 PM on the 6th and ended at 3:00 PM on the 7th after vespers. This year we had 17 children, 3 parents and our priest in attendance, and were blessed by the presence of His Grace, Bishop +Michael. Next year we intend to open this up to our sister parishes in the area.

The program received it's name because it is meant to be on, or near, the Feast day of the prophet Elijah. Each year a theme is picked from any other Feast days occurring at that time of year. This year’s theme was “Come receive the Light”, taking our cue from the Feast of the Transfiguration. This program used various learning activities including, classroom discussions and crafts for the younger children, children's prayer service, campfire singing, and discussions on matters of Faith with our teen. These learning sessions were interspersed with fun activities.

Our purpose is to further instill our Faith in our children, and create lasting friendships between them, and to inculcate in our youth the idea of service to our church. These goals are all equally important, but remember that friendships will keep the church together and growing. The activities were constructed around the theme of the retreat, with the younger children the lesson was centered around the exciting Biblical account of Prophet Elijah at Mount Carmel and his triumph over the priests of Baal. The older students studied the Feast of the Transfiguration with the emphasis on the light, it's meaning, and bringing that light out into the world.

We then moved outside for the Campfire to sing some children's songs written by a priest’s wife in the Antiochian Church by the name of Gigi Shadid. This was also an excuse for the kids, all of them, to make S'mores for themselves and the Bishop.

The next day started with morning prayers and a waffle breakfast. There was a lesson by our Bishop, and the students then helped in putting together care packages for our soldiers. Then lunch, followed by Father Jonathan blessing the children's pets, some open play time, and ending with vespers.

Like all programs, ideas like this need people with the same vision of what it should be and the drive to make it happen. This program is the idea of our Church school Director Elaine Del Gigante (B.A., Education). She saw a need for a program that landed between a Vacation Bible School and a retreat, a program of faith and friendship that would help bind our children to the church. The retreat could also not have happened without the help and input of three exceptional woman: Jennifer Abaunza (B.A., Management) for her time control abilities, Sylvia Grygoruk (soon to be a RN) for her tireless attitude and ability to maintain order of a large group, and lastly, but not least, Kamelia Waskiewicz (M.A., Education). Jerzy Grygoruk was also instrumental in getting things done, built, or setup in a timely fashion, and Salvatore Del Gigante provided support, guidance and his expert cooking skills in contributing to the success of the retreat.

Our entire parish is also deeply thankful to His Grace, Bishop +Michael for attending the event, most of all for his love and guidance through those grueling two days. The Parish Council also provided support and needed funds. To all parish parents who are active in out PTO, and all the parents who helped and participated in this event: thank you for bringing your children, and for your support and love for our parish and our church school program!

Most of all, we give thanks to our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ for giving us the wisdom and the strength to accomplish this task. To Him belongs the Glory!

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