An Interview with an Orthodox Missionary

Trisagion Films recently interviewed Leslie Hansard about her experience serving as a missionary for the Orthodox Christian Mission Center.  We hope that her story will serve as inspiration to others who may be considering this calling.  Leslie has shared several articles about mission work with us already and we look forward to sharing more in the future.  We thank Leslie for offering her time and graciously answering our questions.

Briefly describe your background.

I was raised in a Methodist home and went to church on a regular basis. I was very involved in youth group and choir. In college I met my husband Christopher who was also Methodist but eventually became a catechumen in the Orthodox Church. At the time, I had no intention of becoming Orthodox and was happy to simply be friends with Christopher. We spoke a lot about the Church as he was new and extremely excited to tell me all about what Orthodoxy had to offer. Eventually, we began dating and I was aware that if we were married, my husband and children would be Orthodox. I thought I should at least look into Orthodoxy to see if converting was something I wanted to do. Through my research, church services, and a lot of prayer, I decided to become a catechumen and eventually converted to the Church. I have been Orthodox for six years.

Describe for us your sense of call into this ministry.

I went on my first mission trip when I was 18 to Jamaica to build houses for hurricane victims. My second mission trip was to Peru for evangelism and this was where I felt the call to become involved in missions on a permanent basis. Whether short-term teams or possible long-term service, or simply telling more people about missions, I plan to stay involved in the mission field. I love serving others and expanding my church family

How many missions have you been on and to where?

This past summer was my 8th- Since 2004, I have been to Jamaica, Peru, Mexico, Guatemala (2x) and Moldova (3x)

What was the mission in Moldova?

The mission was to assist Moldovan and Romanian young adults to put on the 3rd annual Orthodox youth camp

How did the youth respond to the missionaries?

As Americans, we still a sense of novelty to us, and some of the campers came simply to hang out with us. Overall, everyone was positive towards us and happy to have us there.

Favorite moment(s) on the Moldova mission trips?

Sharing in the Liturgy together and making a Romanian/Moldovan/American choir.  Co-leading the music workshop with my dear friend, Claudiu.  Co-leading a small group with my dear friends Claudiu and Veaceslav and learning about the Brancoveni family of saints.  Visiting many monasteries.  Sharing s’mores with the campers at the big camp bonfire our last night at camp.

From reading about your trips to Moldova, it appears that the mission trips have made an impact on the lives of many children.  Can you comment further?

Seeing tears in children’s when they are leaving camp tells me that they are enjoying the time together and feel like they are in a safe environment. Many of them do not receive the love at home that they deserve, and this camp is a positive place to come and feel love. Some of them are not hugged at home, and I was able to show affection to teenagers who needed it to feel that they are important and special.

Their interest in discussions about liturgical and spiritual aspects of the church tells me that they are interested in learning about how to live their life as an Orthodox Christian and need that foundation to carry them through. It is simply a matter of building a safe place to come and express themselves while also absorbing new information.

Moldova is at least 90% Orthodox.  How different was it compared to the experience of being an Orthodox in America?

It’s amazing to be in the atmosphere of an Orthodox country. It’s hard to explain, but there is such a sense of peace to be in a place where you don’t have to explain or defend your faith to people. There is a sense of comfort to be around people who are like you.

Can you compare the difference between your experience as a Protestant missionary and as an Orthodox missionary?  Interest and response from the community?  What can we as Orthodox do to improve upon this ministry?

ocmcBeing an Orthodox missionary is more satisfying simply because I feel more full in my faith and it is wonderful to be around others who share the same beliefs and traditions. As a Protestant missionary, it is easier to many times to get funding and other support simply because the missionary movement is stronger than in the Orthodox Church. That is an area we can definitely improve on. In the GOA, many think that Philoptochos ladies are the only ones that need to be doing philanthropic work when it is everyone’s responsibility to share the blessings that we have received and spread the word of Christ. I have found though that once they become aware, most Orthodox people are extremely generous and excited to support missions. It is simply that initial awareness and push towards the cause that needs to happen.

Any advice for someone considering joining a short-term mission trip?

Mission work is one of the most rewarding and challenging things you can do. My best advice would be to keep an open mind in everything you do and be prepared to be flexible and do whatever is necessary to get the job done well.

Future mission plans?

I will continue to participate in short-term missions as often as possible. If someday Christopher were called to long-term service, that is definitely an avenue I would prayerfully consider following. I will never stop telling people about Moldova or the many other opportunities out there for people who want to serve the Church in an international capacity.

Source: http://trisagionfilms.com/2014/09/20/interview-orthodox-missionary/