Session 1: Serving God Through our Neighbor
The objective of this session is to present the importance of service to our neighbor in need as a way to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.
Welcome the campers and begin with a prayer. Introduce the theme of this session and invite a camper to read the Parable of the Last Judgment aloud.
The Parable of the Last Judgment: Matthew 25:31-46
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Discussion: Eternal life is only reached when we bring the Kingdom of God to our brothers and sisters.
Why do you think Christ made service to our brothers and sisters a prerequisite for entering His Kingdom? Allow the campers to discuss their views on this question. Bring up the fact that God is love and we are created in His image and likeness; in order to live with Him eternally we need to become like Him. We choose our friends by associating ourselves with people who have similar qualities. Likewise we choose the place in which we will spend eternity; we choose one of two Kingdoms. In other words we will end up spending eternity in the place we are most familiar with and in the place we feel most comfortable: heaven or hell.
What is the greatest commandment(s)? Allow campers to discuss their views on this question. If they do not, bring in the commandments: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.'"
Discussion Questions: No Love, No Kingdom
What is the Kingdom?
Why would we want it?
What is eternal life?
What is hell?
What is love?
Bring in the reality that we play sports by certain rules; we pass tests according to certain rules and standards, we make it onto a sports team according to certain standards. For the Kingdom of God, Heaven, love in action is the rule/standard by which we enter the Kingdom of God.
Invite a camper to read the Parable of the Good Samaritan aloud.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. Teacher, he asked, what must I do to inherit eternal life? What is written in the Law? he replied. How do you read it? He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself. You have answered correctly, Jesus replied. Do this and you will live. But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, And who is my neighbor? In reply Jesus said: A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. Look after him, he said, and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have. Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The expert in the law replied, The one who had mercy on him. Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
Discussion: Love your neighbor as yourself!
Who is your neighbor? How can we help our neighbor? Are you willing to improve and help your neighbor even more? We don't serve our neighbor because we fear going to Hell, but because we love Christ and we want to serve Him by serving His children. Christ suffers with those who suffer and identifies Himself with those, see the Parable of the Last Judgment: "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" By attending to our brothers and sisters needs, we become Christ's hands and feet, we literally serve Christ.
Discuss the Pantokrator (the Almighty) icon in the Church. What is He missing? His lower body because we, the people standing in the pews are His body at work in the world.
What is the Orthodox Church doing? Briefly introduce each ministry below to the campers. For more details see the resource guide for this session which includes local charities. Ask the campers about ministries of the Church they know and/or are involved.
- Project Mexico: Saint Innocent Orphanage
- Orphanage in Guatemala
- Saint Nektarios Fund
The Christian is someone who can transform any life circumstance into an opportunity to serve. Is it enough for our salvation though? Christ is sending us specifically to these people we read about in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats.
In session II on service, we will try to discover together some practical ideas to serve our brothers and sisters in need.
Close the session with a prayer.
Session 2: Love in Action: Reaching Out, Our Call to Minister
The objective of this session is to give the campers concrete ideas on how to serve their neighbor in their own community, nationwide or overseas, and to plan an actual service project for them to carry out upon their return home. The facilitator will assist the campers in designing their service projects.
Begin the session with a prayer. Read aloud the Life of St. Juliana below. Afterward, hand out the worksheets and have the campers begin designing their service projects. Invite the campers to present their projects to the rest of the group. The campers should address an envelope to their homes and place their service project proposals inside. Their proposals will be mailed to them at the end of camp.
The Life of St. Juliana
Many years ago, when Ivan the Terrible was tsar, deep in Russia there lived a little girl called Juliana. It was hard to live in Russia at that time; there were many wars and many people were killed while others suffered from hunger and disease; schools were scarce and even the churches were so few and far away that Juliana and her family could not go to them often.
When she was still a child, her mother and father died, and Juliana went to live with her aunt and cousins. Even as a little girl she amazed everyone with her devoutness and her kindness to the ill and the poor. Juliana had a special way of helping the poor. She was good at sewing, and often she would sew beautiful things at night when everyone thought she was asleep. She would sell these things secretly, and with the money she received, she would buy food and clothing for those in need. No one knew how much she helped others, but those she helped loved her. She not only gave them the food and clothes and money they needed, but they felt that she loved them and sympathized with them.
Juliana never used to show off to her friends and family or brag about her piety. Although everyone liked her, she would find some excuse not to join in wild games and empty pleasures. Instead she would go off by herself and think and pray. Although she never went to school and never learned to read and write, she amazed people with her wisdom and her thoughtful answers to their questions. 'Juliana does not need any teacher,' they used to say, 'because the saints themselves are her teachers.'
When Juliana was sixteen, her family decided it was time for her to marry. She was not particularly glad, because she knew that she would no longer be able to have as much time for her spiritual life and her good works. She wanted to become a nun and to devote her life to God entirely. She did not oppose her family, however, because she knew that it was not the outward form, but her inner life, which showed whether she was good or bad.
Juliana married a very good and very rich husband and had to manage a big household, with many servants and peasants. She never scolded the servants but taught them by love and if they did not do their work properly, she would quietly finish what they had not done. She would never let the servants wait on her, saying, 'Who am I that people such as myself should wait on me? Did not God create them too?' She knew that all people were equal in the sight of God, even though some were rich masters and others were poor servants. 'She treated her servants like children,' her son wrote, 'she was a mother to them and not a boss.'
Not only the poor loved Juliana. Her husband and his family loved her very much, and they begged her to take care of herself, but she went on eating very little, fasting and praying often, while secretly helping the poor at night. The more she helped others, the brighter and more joyful she became, and more everyone loved her. She had many children, and she loved them all and taught them what she knew. However busy she was with her big household and her work for the poor, she surrounded her children with love and wisdom. They admired and loved her, speaking and writing about her goodness and love as if she were someone extraordinary.
There were many new diseases in those days and several of her little children died. Although she was sure they were with God in heaven, she missed them terribly and when her eldest two sons were killed accidentally, she was so overcome with sadness, she wished to go to a convent so that she could spend the rest of her life in prayer and devotion to God. Feeling that she could no longer go on living as she had, she begged her husband to let her go. 'But who will take care of the other children?' he asked her. 'I would be very lonely without you too. Please stay with us for we need you and love you.' She agreed to stay and continued her care for her family and household and the poor who came to her door.
Eventually a famine developed, and the people were very hungry. Juliana gave away all the food she had and taught the servants to make bread out of ground-up weeds or bark instead of flour. This bread became famous; people came from far away to taste it. 'Why is Juliana's bread so sweet and good?' her neighbors wondered. But the peasants used to say it was so good because of the love she put into making it and distributing it to the poor. 'She loves in God's way,' they would say of Juliana.
After many years her husband died. Juliana became still more tireless in her service to others and her prayers to God. She hardly slept at all, and gave away all she had to help others. She never forgot that there was something more to be done for someone else, or that she could devote still more of herself to God and His works. She never thought of her own comfort. Her children loved her very much and they used to beg her to take better care of herself, but she would answer, 'What good would it be to save my body and lose my soul?' She went on living in God's way, with no thought for her own comfort.
While she lay dying, surrounded by those who loved her, her children were overcome with grief. All the poor beggars and servants as well as those who had known her were sad to hear she was dying. Her love for others and her sympathetic help had won her many friends. For her, the love for others meant as much as life itself, and it made her more and more happy as her life progressed. Because so many people loved her, stories were spread about her, making her famous, although she lived quietly as a simple homemaker, a dutiful wife and mother. Those who were with her as she lay dying marveled at the joy and peace with which she greeted death.
After she had died they saw a bright halo around her head, the same halo as we see around the heads of saints in the icons. Many years later, the Church recognized her great goodness and deep faith, and proclaimed her a saint. The simple people who had known her considered her a saint even in her lifetime, and they thought of her whenever they heard, 'Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.' Taken from "They Walked With God: the Lives of Saints for Children" by Lydia Kesich [out of print].
Service Project Proposals
At this time hand out the Service Project Proposals. Discuss the format with the group and allow 30 minutes or so for them to complete the form. Offer guidance as needed. When the campers have completed their forms, come together as a group for each to share their service project.
The Service Project Resource Guide may be helpful to stimulate ideas or volunteer opportunities may be found within.
Have the campers address an envelope to themselves and tell them that they will receive them in the mail. Give a date by which the service project must be completed, and they may discuss the outcome with their priest and/or their group.
Conclude with a prayer.
Click on the title below to obtain each lesson currently available within the series.