Healing and Prayer for OCF and Students at Virginia Tech

Friday, May 11, 2007


The Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas
8 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10021

May 8, 2007
Orthodox Christian Fellowship
P.O. Box 300249
Boston, MA 02130

Healing and Prayer for OCF and Students at Virginia Tech

Boston, MA – Orthodox Christian Fellowship’s (OCF) team of responders reported on their return that the Virginia Tech community is healing through prayer, support and counseling after the April 16th tragedy that claimed 32 lives. Fr. Kevin Scherer, OCF Executive Director, led a team to the campus and spent a week ministering to Orthodox students and others who lived through the horrific shooting at Virginia Tech.

Fr. Scherer was assisted in Blacksburg, VA by three "frontline" Orthodox clergy who are part of International Orthodox Christian Charities' (IOCC) Emergency Response Program. They were Father Deacon Raphael Barberg of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Niagara Falls, NY, Father Peter Preble, of St. Michael’s Romanian Orthodox Church in Southbridge, MA, and Father Angelo Pappas, of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Portsmouth, NH. Together they provided trauma and grief counseling and conducted services on the Blacksburg campus during the first week that students returned to classes.

“I am deeply grateful to all who offered their help in this time of need for our college students, especially IOCC,” said Fr. Kevin. “It’s gratifying to see different arms of the Church reach out to support our brothers and sisters on the Virginia Tech campus.”

As part of OCF’s response, a special webpage on OCF’s website, www.ocf.net, was created with resources including prayers, selections from Scripture, and a messaging tool for the Orthodox community to share their condolences with the Virginia Tech OCF. The outpouring of support through emails and online postings from fellow college students, OCFs and the faithful serve as a witness to the impact this event had on the world.

Theodore, a student from the Virginia Tech OCF, shared a memorable email, saying, “…a member from the University of Tennessee OCF came here last night; he brought us a card and wishes from 4 or 5 other OCFs in Tennessee and Kentucky. The student drove four hours to be with us last night and show his support, and he drove four hours back. How great is that? I will not soon forget all these things; I couldn’t help but be happy and moved by the support...”

One of the overarching questions the team of responders encountered while they counseled and ministered was, Where is God in the midst of all this suffering? Fr. Scherer shared that the most powerful answer to this question was found right on campus - “A letter posted on the Virginia Tech drill field from a student named Erika to the shooter Cho, gives a glimpse of the healing occurring here.”

The letter read, “To Cho, I am a Hokie. You cannot strip me of that, or my love or my passion or my truth. My innocence is mine on the Cross, and you cannot have it. You will not now nor ever have power over me. The truth is I miss you. I wish I could have shown you His love, His passion, His truth – it has set me free. And I wish I could have shared that with you. I missed you. I am sorry. So I must tell you now, even though you took innocent lives, even though you tried to put fear in our hearts, even though I hurt to the core, even though my eyes are tired of crying, even though my campus, my home will never be the same. I forgive you and I love you.”

Fr. Kevin said, “Where is God in the mist of this suffering and grief? He is here and present, and it’s evidenced by letters like Erika’s to someone like Cho who was a broken individual. Somehow, a good majority of students recognize his brokenness, that he was a victim, that he was lost. Christ is present here at Virginia Tech in amazing ways.”

OCF will follow-up with the students over the summer and into the fall, ensuring they are receiving everything they need to deal with this tragedy. OCF humbly asks each Orthodox Christian to continue offering their fervent prayers for all involved in this tragic event and for all Orthodox college students throughout the world. The support of the entire church is needed to grow the ministry of OCF.

Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) is the official campus ministry program of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). OCF works to nurture and strengthen love for Jesus Christ and His Church in its fullness at this most critical juncture of human life. OCF supports 240 local chapters throughout North America and involves hundreds of college students through its programming, including the College Conference and Real Break. Additional information on all the OCF programs can be found on the OCF website, www.ocf.net, or by calling toll-free, 800-919-1623.

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) was founded in 1992 as the official humanitarian aid agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). Since then, it has implemented over $250 million in relief and development programs in 33 countries around the world.