Author Archives: Fanari Camp

Director’s Reflection | Fanari Camp 2019

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I am not necessarily a numbers guy….but I do have an interest in numbers…

$374,813 spent.

40,320 minutes (shout out for this stat goes to our Staff Director, Maria Pentaris).

672 hours.

652 campers.

78 counselors.

28 days.

27 clergy.

4 trips to visit an incorrupt saint.

1 clear takeaway: in a world that seems dark on the future of our youth in the church, there is a light clearly shining for four weeks each summer (and twice this coming winter) in Kansasville, Wisconsin. That light is Fanari Summer Camp at the St. Iakovos Retreat Center.

As one with an interest in Youth & Young Adult Ministry, and now in the role of Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries for our Metropolis, many people ask me many questions, but everyone asks me this one question: ‘Father, how do we keep our youth in the church?’

This question comes from a place of love and fear. It implies at least a loose understanding of the fact that 60% of our young people are leaving the church (this is true for all of American Christianity; click here for more info). But the honest answer is that there is no one answer. We don’t have a crystal ball that tells us why, but seeing what happened this summer at Fanari Summer Camp certainly helped provide clarity to this question.

You see, this summer, 652 campers (yes that’s a record for us….I guess I am a numbers guy) came to Fanari Summer Camp. They didn’t come simply because we ‘kept’ them from last year. They didn’t come because we have the most beautiful facilities possible or the absolute greatest programs possible (although both truly are fantastic). They didn’t come because they love mosquito bites. Campers can be themselves at Fanari. Campers build life-long friendships at Fanari. Campers find Christ at Fanari. That’s why they came. And why they continue to come.

As I look back on my first year leading our Fanari Summer Camp Leadership Team, my response to the question ‘Father, how do we keep our youth in the church?’ has changed. The answer: ‘We don’t. Christ does. Thankfully.’

As we get ready to gear up for another Ministry Year, I encourage us all (Youth Workers, grandparents, godparents, parents, volunteers, etc.) to focus less on keeping our kids in the Church and fearing those whom we no longer see. Let’s focus on loving the one in front of us. We have nothing to fear if we truly believe that the Holy Spirit has been illuminating the entire world since Pentecost and will continue to do so. If we bear the light which radiates so brightly at Fanari Camp in this seemingly dark world, that light – the Light of Christ – will illumine all of His children.

Let’s #FightThe60%. #LiveOrthodoxy. #FanariCamp. #BeTheLight. #FearlessMinistry.

Fr. Kosmas Kallis is the Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries for the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago.

 

Fanari 2019 – Singing Through the Rain

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Wednesday and Thursday of Week 4 have seen a few bumps in the road because of one teeny tiny issue: the rain. So…much…rain. It started as the eldest campers, the Delphians, were participating in the the sacrament of confession during the Orthodox Life (OL) session. As the session was ending and it was time for vespers, the darkest, most ominous clouds imaginable descended on the camp, moving fast and loud. The staff quickly sprung into action, gathering campers into the main lodge, moving furniture in the Main Lodge to create space, and passing out prayer books. Before we knew it, the rain was coming down in sheets…but we were all safe and dry in the Great Room, chanting “Lord, I Have Cried To You, Hear Me,” the first major hymn of the Vespers service.

The rain went on to delay the Olympics until Thursday night, move up the Christmas dance to Wednesday night, and completely alter picnic day’s schedule. But the thing is, as a Fanari family, we didn’t really mind. We still had jingle-bell-rocking good time at the Christmas dance, sang camp songs late into the night, enjoyed delicious souvlakia, and bonded as cabins through the sportsmanship of the Fanari Olympic Games. The rain was a minor hiccup in the face of a camp filled with love and excitement for fellowship in Christ’s name. We were here for the Best Summer Ever, and nothing could stop us from that.

When I think back to this summer of Fanari camp, I’ll remember that Vespers service we were all gathered in the Great Room. Despite the fright of the rain, clouds, and lightning in view through the side windows, we were safe indoors under the watch of the icon of Christ, who was both before us and within us.

 

–John Louis Anton, Assistant Staff Director

Fanari 2019 – Field Trip

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After a morning filled with chanting and team building at the “spider web”, Fanari Camp headed over to St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Libertyville. One word cannot encompass the varying emotions that were held by every staff member, counselor, and camper as we drove to venerate St. Mardarije. Some of us were excited for this spiritual experience, while others were anxious to venerate an incorrupt body. Upon entering the church, we were enveloped by walls filled with iconography and a sense of calm and peacefulness. We not only learned about the life of St. Mardarije, but we also discussed how one becomes a saint, and the miracles that happen that truly show us that God is with us.

As we approached the reliquary, we could see St. Mardarije in his vestments, his hands folded across his chest. While we could not see his face, his black beard still peeked out from underneath a cloth. It is mind boggling to see a body that has defied the laws of human nature and through the grace of God, is still intact.

Many words could be used to describe this evening. As a member of the leadership team, I found this to be a very impactful experience for our youth. God-willing, they will remember this evening as a night when they saw their faith come to life.

– Katerina Rallis, Program Coordinator

Fanari 2019 – Greek Night

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The first evening activity for this week is the amazing Greek Night!!! During the Greek dance last night, all of the kids had a great time dressing up in blue and white to show off their love for their Greek heritage. All of the kids danced to many Greek songs, ate loukoumades for a nice snack, and played a lot of fun games when they got tired from dancing. Each cabin learned a different dance during the day that they then preformed in front of the entire camp. All of the campers did amazing with their dances and it was so much fun. We even had a small amount of Pan-Orthodoxy when we played Arabic music for any of the Middle Eastern kids and staff, and learned how to do Middle Eastern dances like the dabbke.

After a fun night of dancing and singing along to all of the songs during the Greek Night dance, all of the kids went to their first Closing Day ceremony of the week. There they learned some cool songs about the church, found out which cabins had the most spirit for the day, and listened to a very nice “spiritual vitamin” from our Staff Director, Maria Pentaris, to finish the night off.

Today, all of us at Fanari are going to see an incorrupt saint at the Saint Sava Monastery. We are going to see Saint Mardarije of Libertyville. Some have seen relics before, but for most it will be their first time seeing relics of a saint, let alone an incorrupt saint’s relics. Many of my campers asked me about what it is like to see the body of a saint. I told them that it is an amazing spiritual experience and that seeing relics for the first time is something that you will never forget. I am so excited to share this experience with my campers and I cannot wait for this to be the best week ever.

– Charles Cassis

 

Fanari 2019 – Day 1 Has Begun

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Hello! My name is Alexandra N. and it is my first time as a Fanari counselor! I loved being a camper and now, I am so glad that I can help my campers create great experiences of their own. It is the first day of camp and everyone is super pumped up for Greek night tonight.

The day has been going fantastic so far and all the kids are having an amazing time. I am in charge of the Athenian cabin, and our first activity today was Orthodox life, where we discussed how we show that we love God and how God shows that he loves us. The next rotation was flex, where each cabin learned a different Greek dance that they are going to perform tonight in front of the whole camp. I can confidently say that the Athenians excelled at the Kalamatanio during practice. Our third activity was bible study. By looking at verses’ in Isaiah, John, and Genesis, we discovered examples and again explored the theme of “God is love.” The last and fourth activity, omada (or “team”), has yet to be done but we are planning on making a cabin flag and creating some original chants. This session is led by us, the counselors, and it is a great addition to the schedule as the counselors get an opportunity to introduce and guide the campers toward being a true family in Christ. Hopefully throughout the week, the kids start getting more comfortable with each other and the awesome staff members who lead each session.

Last night was our first devotional with the campers, and they really got a chance to bond with their fellow peers and counselors. Starting off with icebreakers, we are planning on diving deeper as we explore our faith and our lives. The theme of Christian Agape truly sums up what this camp is all about.

2019 Fanari | Session 3 Day 5 | American Dance

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Happy Friday! Today is our last full day and we can not believe how fast this session has flown by.

Yesterday we had an unconventional schedule because it was our picnic day. We started our day off a little different than usual. Instead of Orthros, we had each cabin wake up and pray all together as a cabin to show that we do not need a chapel to pray. We then moved into sessions. The first session, cabins were split up and they participated in a group activity called “Tap Someone”. This activity is where a small group of the cabin stands in a circle where the rest are sitting with their eyes closed. Counselors read statements and the group in the center of the circle goes around and taps someone who they think fit the discretion of that statement. The second session was team building activities out in our athletic field. Campers brought their spirit during these activities and cheered together when they completed them.

After sessions, we moved into our picnic time. After filling up on souvlaki and karpouzi (watermelon), campers were ready for free time. Free time was filled with lots of sports, slide rides and enjoying being outside. We finished free time with the annual camper vs counselor/clergy softball game. In a very exciting game the counselor/clergy team pulled ahead and scored the winning run in the last inning.

Christmas came early after free time when campers got dressed for our American Dance.   Santa’s, elves and reindeer (oh my!) not only danced their way through the night but also got to enjoy hot chocolate and cookie decorating. Mr. D also told stories at our new bonfire during the dance.

Closing time was filled with lots of singing as always and a great spiritual vitamin given by Louie Pappas. The Spartan and the Athenian cabins won our spirit sticks last night, the truly showed what spirit is all about.

Tonight is skit night and we are so excited to see our campers come together one last time for a night filled with lots of laughter and of course love. Although we are sad this is our last full day, we are making it the Best Day Ever!

-MariaElena Kouriabalis

 

Fanari Session 3 – Confession and Olympics

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We are more then halfway through our week, and what a week it has been. Day 4 of camp offered campers lots of love, spirit and togetherness.

Our day started off as usual with Orthros in the morning, and then moving into our sessions. Sessions included campers helping finish the new fire pit, creating bamboo towers, talking about how we can show love to ourselves and others during Bible study and of course participating in the sacrament of confession. This gave them the opportunity to strengthen their bond with not only Christ but themselves.

God blessed us with a gorgeous day and free time was filled with sand volleyball, boat rides, tie-dying, soccer and lots of turns down the water slides. After cooling off during dinner and chapel, cabins readied themselves for the long awaited Fanari Olympic Games.

Cabins dressed to the nine for the games bringing along many different accessories and so much spirit. After opening ceremonies each cabin preformed cabin chants to show off who had the most spirit. Tensions ran high as the games got going. However, all night every camper, counselor and staff member showed that they had the Holy Spirit within them by continually chanting, being good sports and having fun. Our Games came to an end the way they always do with the Ballon Game. After our final game campers and staff headed to the chapel for closing day.

At closing time we found out that the Spartan Cabin won the Fanari Games and are now champions carrying the ever important Fanari Games trophy. But the wins didn’t stop there. Two cabins were awarded with spirit sticks last night, those cabins were the Delphians and the Olympians!  We then had a special guest come and visit us at camp. Father George Lamberis showed up with guitar in hand to lead the camp in some of our favorite closing day songs. After songs, Katerina Rallis (one of our Program Coordinators) gave our spiritual vitamin. She talked about the importance of being apart of a living breathing faith.

Day 4 provided our campers with love, spirit and the feeling of togetherness. It felt like it was something out of a movie once we hit the chapel for closing day you could feel it in the air. This week is truly teaching our campers what Christian Agape is all about.

We are so excited for the days to come!

Here’s to making it the Best Day Ever!!

-MariaElena Kouriabalis and Vasilia Athens