"An Adventure of faith (Or Sometimes Called An Extended Honeymoon)"
An Adventure of faith
(Or Sometimes Called An Extended Honeymoon)
Fr. Luke A. Veronis
It was 1986, and I was a junior at Penn State, preparing to be a high school math teacher and basketball coach. As I thought about my future, I dreamed about doing something more than teaching in a suburban American high school. I inquired into the Peace Corps, but to be honest, I couldn’t imagine living outside of the United States for two years!
At this time, I heard that the OCMC (or Archdiocesan Mission Center, as it was called at that time) was sending its first short-term mission team to Kenya. One month sounded great! I could do anything for one month, especially since I would do it with 25 other Americans.
The 1987 OCMC Mission Team to Kenya changed my life! I tasted third world living, met inspiring missionaries, was touched by faithful Kenyans, and heard the call of the Lord. I graduated Penn State one semester later, and returned to Kenya for six months. Once again, I struggled thinking about being away for so long! During those months, doubts starting to creep into my mind. Maybe I wouldn’t be a teacher in America anymore. Maybe I would be a missionary. Maybe my family would grow up in another culture and country. Maybe my children wouldn’t play basketball like other American children. Maybe… My future seemed too uncertain and unsettling!
Well, six months in Kenya turned into a year of service. My life changed even more as I decided to go to seminary. Over the next three years, I led a mission team back to Africa each summer. More and more, I adapted to other cultures and countries easier.
Meanwhile, Faith was on her on journey. This is how she tells it:
“In my life, I can see how God prepared me for the mission field. First, my mother helped to instill in me God’s love as a little child, and the Church helped me constantly feel his presence. My childhood education in the inner city schools of Lancaster also helped me appreciate people of different cultures. Some of my fondest memories come from our Annunciation Church in Lancaster, where Fr. Alexander and Presbytera Pearl Veronis (now my in-laws) taught us not only about how much God loves me, but how much He loves ALL people throughout the world. The many mission students and African priests, as well as the few missionaries, like Fr. Martin and Renee Ritsi, who spoke in our Church deeply impacted me. I also heard the many stories of Luke from his experiences in Africa, Russia, and Albania, and again was inspired by them. Following my undergraduate studies in psychology and communications, I began working in a hospital and a professional art school. However, I missed the multi-cultural setting of my public school education. I decided, therefore, to get a Masters in Elementary and Special Education, and began teaching in an inner city school. During one of my summer breaks, I participated in an OCMC teaching team to Kenya. What a life-changing experience! Up to today, the joy of the Kenyans for Christ and His Church move me! In Africa, I also witnessed the commitment and inner gifts of our team leader, Luke, as he interacted and preached among the Kenyans. In my heart, I knew that marrying Luke meant a life devoted to loving God and sharing His love to all people!”
When we finally got engaged, I promised Faith one thing. “You will never be rich if you marry me, but I do promise you that life will be an adventure! An exciting adventure in following Christ and serving others!” One month after our marriage, we began our co-ministry in the mission field. We often joke with one another about our “extended honeymoon in Albania!”
We could have never predicted it years before, but the last decade has truly been an exciting adventure! If God would have revealed the length of the journey to us at the beginning, maybe we would have been too afraid to go forward. But He took both of us by the hand, and showed us the path. “Trust me and begin,” He said to us. We didn’t know when it would end, but we knew a loving Father was guiding us. And we have truly felt his presence during all the years of this incredible adventure of faith!