My Experience at AOYC (2017)

Aaron Verghese George – My AOYC Review

 

The recently concluded 46th Annual Orthodox Youth Camp (AOYC) was held from the 12th to the 16th of December at the Praisehaven Retreat Center in Singapore. Here are some of my personal highlights of the camp.

 

I was not very sure I’d be part of this camp as there were some obstacles before me, but by God’s grace, I was able to participate in my 11th AOYC.  You might wonder whether there was anything more a veteran camper like myself could lear.  The answer is a resounding YES.

It all began with us embarking on a 7-hour journey to the campsite after gathering at our church in Kuala Lumpur.

 

In the weeks preceding, a few friends informed me that the camp would be host to many first time campers.  Upon arrival, I saw many first-time campers (majority being younger than 14) and I decided that it was now my turn to step up and become an “Achacha” figure for all the younger campers just as I had experienced in my earlier camps. I realised these youngsters are the future of our parishes both in Malaysia and Singapore. Thus, making them feel welcome was the first step to their long journey of camps and eventually leadership in both parishes.

 

The Very Rev. Philip Thomas Cor Episcopa, Rev. Fr. Jejis and Rev. Fr. Isaac, were on hand as spiritual and resource leaders.

 

“Generations Thriving in Faith” was the theme that was introduced by The Very Rev. Philip Thomas Cor Episcopa, which set the tone for the rest of the program. The genesis of the theme is in part due to the celebration of the 90th year anniversary since Very Rev. Fr. Alexious arrived in the British colony of Malaya in the year 1928.

 

The sessions this year were insightful and beneficial as they addressed many challenges faced by the youth today. Among the key points from the sessions led by Philip Thomas Achen were:

 

  • The importance of having faith in a technological era
  • Striving for spiritual growth
  • Striving for spiritual success
  • Importance of tradition
  • Embracing our rich history

 

The importance of prayer, meditating on God’s word to keep us on the right track, and the usage of this strength to face challenges in life were topics covered by Jejis Achen’s session.  Achen also spoke of Jeremiah and of his struggles and how he is a role model to youth.

 

Isaac Achen taught us a few simple but meaningful acronyms of words that we tend to use quite often such as FAMILY (Father And Mother I Love You) and BIBLE (Basic Instruction Book for Living on Earth). He also taught of ways to go about our lives without ego.

 

Several Singapore parish members also led a few thought provoking sessions with us.

 

Mr. Thomas George took 2 sessions:

  • Session 1 looked at the Books of Genesis and Hebrews and the story of Abraham and of how he (Abraham) is a good example to young people as he was faithful to God despite all the challenges that he faced.
  • In Session 2, he addressed the Book of Genesis further and looked at the lives of the faithful in bible.

 

Mr. Nebu, spoke on a rather eye opening topic covering the challenges and the journey of the parish in the early years of Malaya and Singapore. He highlighted the struggles that many members faced at the time and of how their love and commitment towards the church has guided us to where we are today. One such example he shared was the demolition of the Topaz Road Church. He related the emotional struggles, love and commitment members of the parish experienced in rebuilding the church.

 

Another interesting session was by Mr. Nachikit and Captain Tity Thomas. Mr. Nachikit discussed the role that our mind plays in us achieving success and the significant power of visualisation.  Captain Thomas then spoke about his journey hiking up Mount. Everest and of how vital it is for all of us to pursue our passions.

 

Mr. Koruthu, the Hon. Secretary of the Singapore church conducted an interesting session on Science and Faith.  This was personally one of my favourite sessions as it addressed a hot topic these days.  Mr. Koruthu is passionate in science and technology and is a man of strong faith.  He stressed that it is not necessarily the advancement of science that makes people stray away from faith but the distractions from the advancement of technology.  He further stressed on the importance of faith and belief in God and that this should be our utmost priority.

 

This session tied in nicely with an earlier discussion where Philip Thomas Cor Episcopa clarified, it is not necessarily the generation gap but the technological gap that affects people of different eras and tests and challenges faith.

 

As in past years, the Campers’ Nite displayed many new talents using music, acting and dance.  I was given the responsibility of coming up with the Malaysian contingents’ item and I chose to a skit.  The presentation was a success thanks to the hard work of the actors many of whom were doing so for the first time.

 

To sum it up, AOYC 46 was a huge success.  The spiritual and moral values gained and a better understanding of the history of our two churches has made me appreciate the sacrifices of our ancestors in establishing firm roots our faith in this region.

 

All glory to God for everything and major shout out to all the organisers and facilitators, especially Tanya Rachel Thomas, Michelle Sara, Ashley Lisa and Mathew Abraham, and others who were instrumental in making camp a success.

 

This was a camp where I truly gained new lessons and experiences, which I can definitely apply in my daily life. I hope that others reading my experience will be moved and encourage their children to experience AOYC.

 

Thank you and may God bless each of you.