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2009 My Life In Christ Youth Conference

To the Participants of the
Youth Conference "My Life in Christ"
of the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the USA, Canada, and Australia
13 - 19 July, 2009  Des Plaines, IL

Dear Rev. Fr. Philip Tolbert – spiritual director,
Dear John Tolbert – responsible supervisor,
Beloved in the Lord, young spiritual children, We are pleased on behalf of the holy Synod and on our behalf to greet you paternally with yet another diocesan youth conference "My Life in Christ", which is being held from July 13-19, 2009 in the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church "St. Sophia" in Des Plaines, IL.

We rejoice every time that our brother and your diocesan bishop, Metropolitan Joseph, shows us pictures of you and tells us with love about your good efforts, about your friendship with the Lord, about your desire to keep your hearts pure and as Orthodox young people to live in every
piety and good conscience.

It is our consolation to hear that under the heavenly protection of your three patron Johns – St. John the Theologian, St. John of Rila and St. John of Kronstadt – your conferences are so desired by you, that you not only wanted them to be longer at your own Mt. Tabor, but also wished that they would continue to be a place of making good friends, of getting to truly know each other, and with the blessing of Father Philip, of mutual promise for common union throughout your lives. His Eminence even gladdened us with the news that he was happy to have married 10 couples in three years, five of which this year, of young men and women who had been participants for many years at your annual diocesan youth conferences.

This means that the grace of the Holy Spirit gathers you every year to keep the unity of the Spirit by activating the ties of love and peace for every good purpose – ecclesiastical and personal. You all know that life is not a joke. Life is a serious matter. It passes quickly but continues. It is in front of you. We know for sure that you are all looking for it. We pray that you find it ... not in food and drink, not in clothing and material wealth. From our many years of experience we assure you that it is a gift of God, a treasure and joy in the Holy Spirit.

The question is: How can you find the kingdom of God and His righteousness here on earth at your age? In order to find it, you have to look for it. You must also know where to look for it, without, of course, losing time which is very precious for you. Therefore you need knowledge and effort. We are sure that you will hear during the conference that the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit; that is, not in our righteousness, but in God's, which is found in the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:17) and becomes our possession through the communion with the Holy Spirit.

Now, during this conference, for example, you will have profitable time. Let each one of you evaluate deeply his whole life until now. Let him know, however, that the measure of truth is in God. That is why, in order for your evaluation to have true life significance, you must transform yourselves and all your lives. The Spirit of God must take over your soul so that your righteousness may be God's righteousness – the righteousness of young people, who are ready to do holy works (Romans 6:19).

It is our hope that you not only carry the kingdom of God within you by having the righteousness, the peace, and the joy of the Holy Spirit in your hearts, but that you will also participate in the fulfillment of God's command to sow it in the souls of others, so that it may grow and fill all people. Then they will become like you – new people, carriers of God's kingdom in themselves (Luke 17:20-21), the salt and the light of the earth (Matthew 5:13-14).

May God grant you wisdom and strength through the prayers of St. Sophia, in whose house you are gathered, so that your conference is fruitful and unforgettable.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the
Holy Spirit be with you all!
+Maxim, Patriarch of Bulgaria

His Eminence, Metropolitan Joseph opened the conference and was with us throughout the week!

 The daily schedule included:

    * Morning Prayers
    * Morning presentations and small group discussions
    * Hands-on workshops, including wood-burned icons, drama, and more!
    * Sports: soccer, basketball, frisbee…
    * Time for fellowship!
    * Vespers
    * Lively evening activities, including folk dancing, discussions, music, and more...

Other great happenings:

    * Hierarchical Liturgy
    * Service projects
    * Downtown Chicago outing
    * Folk Dancing
    * Talent Show
    * Dinner Dance

At the culmination of the conference we joined the Bulgarian Diocese’s Annual Convention for a festive dinner dance Saturday night, and a joyous hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday.

Some of the activities during the Youth Conference

(18 images)

Our day in Chicago

(20 images)

Talent Show

(15 images)

Your Eminence, Reverend Fathers, and Honored Delegates, For the last week we’ve been having our 2009 MLIC Youth Conference. We have had a truly blessed and wonderful week, kicked off by our dearest Dedo Vladica who spoke to us encouraging us to live an orthodox life especially by sharing some of his personal experiences when he was first tonsured. We had two other wonderful speakers Fr Moses Berry from Ash Grove, Missouri, and our own Fr Patrick Tishel from Holy Resurrection in Boston. Fr Moses gave a presentation about his heritage and his personal path to orthodoxy with numerous anecdotes, spiritual principles and tangible and practical advice mixed in. Fr Patrick gave a wonderful presentation followed by answering lots of our questions about the basics of spirituality and following the commandments as orthodox youth in a modern society. Major highlights of the conference were the opportunity to have a fantastic trip to downtown Chicago followed by a boat tour of the lake and city shortly after sunset on Tuesday and a fantastic barb-Q hosted by father Gruiou out at park near Busse lake Thursday. We have also been incredibly blessed with amazing weather. God is truly taking care of us. This year we had a slightly smaller group due in part to the economic crises of late, and yet despite those difficulties and that of staying in a hotel, we had a beautiful group of young men and women for across the nation who have become closer as brothers and sisters in Christ; developing new friendships and refreshing and deepening older ones while living an orthodox lifestyle together. This is the greatest blessing of our Youth Conference. It was also our extreme pleasure and wonderful blessing to have our dearest Dedo Vladica here with us the entire week; we are deeply thankful. On behalf of all the 2009 MLIC YC attendees I would like to extend a very special thank you to our dear Fr Gruiou and his Popadia Paraskeva and everyone here at St. Sophia’s for all they’re kindness and hospitality and wonderful food. We would like to thank our own Fr Philip & p. Junia Tolbert for they’re guidance and direction and all the wonderful help in making this week possible. And finally thanks you all of you for your love, prayers and support in the past, present and future. Your humble servant in Christ, John Tolbert
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