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For four days, I was asked to attend College Conference East 2013 hosted by Orthodox Christian Fellowship. I was hesitant on what I would find there, but those four short days forever changed the way I viewed myself as an Orthodox Christian and the way I view Orthodoxy itself.
I was a little late and arrived just as 300 OCF members were lining up in a long hallway to get dinner. One of the staff members told my mom, Irene Grysiak (who I carpooled with), and I to follow them down the hall, through the crowd of people, and into the dining room to drop our luggage off. Needless to say, this was overwhelming. There were people of all ethnicities, and all different Orthodox backgrounds, hugging, yelling, and reuniting with old friends. Then we finally saw a few people we recognized. Out of 300 attendees, there were only 9 of us Carpatho - Rusyns! But I believe we represented our little minority well throughout those four days.
After being asked to do this write up, I was then asked, what was your favorite part about College Conference East 2013? I answered, without a doubt, the Weeping Icons from our Church in Taylor. The service to the Mother of God was indescribably moving. I had never seen a weeping icon before in person, let alone literally catch the myrrh that was pouring from the icon, as Father Mark Leasure held it above our hands. Then after hearing the countless miraculous stories that came from these Icons, and watching all the attendees come and venerate the icons, I realized that there will never be a moment that I will doubt that Orthodoxy is the one true way. Another favorite moment from this service was, as everyone came forward to venerate the icons, each group of Orthodox students took turns singing their own hymns, in their own languages or tones. This was very important to me, because it showed, that even though we are from different backgrounds, we are all Orthodox Christians with the same beliefs.
I also met so many new people that I would have never met if I had not gone to College Conference East. From Oregon to St. Louis and even in a nearby town, I made strong connections and friends that will last a lifetime while strengthening friendships I had already. I think this was so very important, because having friends with the same beliefs as you will make being an Orthodox Christian, just a little bit easier. They’ll be there to help you stay on the right track throughout your life.
Also, another huge part of the conference that I loved, was the ethnic dancing after the banquet! This went on for hours and hours without stopping. I was exposed to so many different ethnic dances I never knew existed, such as Greek dances and Arabic ones. I learned them, joined in with my new and old friends, and had the time of my life. There were college students that knew every dance and did them so passionately. This feeling was intoxicating. I think it was a very important part of the conference. It also made me so proud to know some of the Carpatho - Rusyn ethnic dances so well and it showed how important it is to teach young children in our Diocese, so they can be proud to know our ethnic dances when the time comes to show them off.
If you ever have a chance in your life to attend College Conference East or even something similar to this, I strongly suggest it. I was very nervous and had no clue what to expect, but I was relieved and surprised on how much I learned and the amount of fun I had! I am beyond grateful that I had a chance to go and will definitely be in attendance at College Conference East 2014.