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"I CRIED MY HEART OUT FROM GRATITUDE ..."
Reflections of a member of a youth trip to Russia
June, 7 2010
Albany, NY - When I first decided to go to a youth trip to Russia, I didn’t have high expectations because I was very new to Orthodoxy. I didn’t know why I was going, but knew I would know by the end of the trip.
 
I was baptized into Orthodoxy when I was little, yet I wasn’t a practicing Christian until about 5 years ago. I am 25 y.o., but I just didn’t feel that connection with the youth… that is, until I went on this trip.

  I not only met and made friends with Russian Orthodox youth with whom I was traveling, but also with the Russians living in Russia. Being in a group atmosphere made me realize that I was part of this group, that we are venturing into this together, as one, Orthodox family. I haven’t felt like that ever.

This was my home: Father Andrei, Andrei, Adrian, Ana, Sasha, Sasha, Lena, Lana, Stephanie and Katherine. They are all my brothers and sisters. The first thing that surprised me about them was how much knowledge they possessed of Orthodoxy. They have been going to church all their lives. They were very exceptional and understanding people. One girl, Ana, was from my parish, yet we didn’t really communicate with each other until we went on this trip.

As a group and one family we ventured into Moscow, visiting the most prominent cathedrals, churches and monasteries. At Holy Trinity Sergius Lavra, we had the pleasure of kissing and venerating the actual, holy relics of St. Sergius. They opened the glass for us. We were all in disbelief and in awe, simply speechless…
 
As time went on, I realized that it’s not just our group that is one family, but the whole Orthodox community, in Russia and abroad, and in fact, everywhere where Orthodoxy dwells is family, too. The Greek Patriarch came to serve the feat of Holy Trinity and everyone recognized him to be OUR Patriarch too.

By the end of the trip, I glimpsed at what other saints have written about: that Orthodoxy has always expressed truth. And truth is unchanging.

By the end of the trip, I cried my heart out, out of the gratitude to our Lord who has brought all this about. After I got back, I went to my humble church in Albany, NY, and my heart wanted to take in everything. I looked at all the young people, and I was no longer an outsider, but part of them, part of the young and the old, part of one Orthodox family! After church, I went outside, and saw that the youth were playing football out on the fields. Before the trip, I would have ignored them. Now I played with them and felt I was part of them.

I don’t know what happened to me or even how this change was brought about. All I know is that I am eternally grateful to God for Orthodoxy, for the Russian Orthodox Church, the Fund for Assistance that sponsored this trip, for Father Andrei without whom this trip would not have been half of what it was, for my group - my second family whom I have grown to love over these six days. It might not seem like a long time, yet it felt like we were together for years. I am sure others have felt the same. Thank you for this opportunity to express in a small way what I have felt and experienced in a big way.

In Christ,
Maksim Krykhtin
 
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