During this past summer, I had the opportunity to witness my own Greek Orthodox faith by serving as a missionary to Haiti, providing humanitarian aid for the St. Jean de Freres Greek Orthodox Elementary School in Petionville, Port-au-Prince. During my visit to these schools, I was amazed to see first hand my Greek Orthodox faith survive in a poverty-stricken and oppressed country such as Haiti. This made me realize that by offering community, charity, compassion, and commitment we are able to spread the teachings of the Gospels all across the globe.
My experience in Haiti reminded me in particular of Jesus’ teaching about service in the Holy Gospel according to Mark. Service to the marginalized in society is something that I believe I can convey to the fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as a result of my experience in Haiti. Knowing the power we have as a Greek Orthodox community to do good in the world, I am confident that I can further expand upon my experience, and delve deeper into the meaning of service by volunteering as a missionary again in the future. This would help me perpetuate my faith and allow me to further explore my life values and goals.
My home parish is St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Ocean Township, where I serve as a senior–level acolyte and as the vice president of my GOYA. All of the service and community project opportunities that are provided through GOYA, along with the compassion and commitment to faith that I have learned in GOYA, have given me the courage to venture off to a place like Haiti where my time, treasures, and talents are much needed. My experience in Haiti has molded me into the person I am today and will continue to guide me as I continue in my life’s journey. I would urge all Goyans to find an opportunity to serve others; it will change your life.
John Paragioudakis is a member of the GOYA chapter at St. George parish in Ocean Township, N.J. He spent part of last summer doing volunteer work in Haiti.