Five young individuals from our country at a summer camp in Bulgaria

From August 25th to 29th, in the village of Arbanasi near Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, the “Diaconia and Mission” foundation held its second International Youth Camp. Here, ambitious and wonderful young individuals aged 18-20 from our country joined participants from Moldova and Bulgaria. The aim of the summer camp was to foster acquaintances and develop friendships among young people, as well as to share experiences and knowledge in the fields of Orthodoxy, philanthropy, and social service within the Church.

Over the course of five days, participants familiarized themselves with the monasteries, history, and Christian heritage in Arbanasi and its surroundings. They also engaged in interactive discussions and activities as part of the benevolent initiative “From Heart to Helping Hands,” organized by the “Diaconia and Mission” foundation. The program included meetings with professors from the Orthodox Theological Faculty of the “Saints Cyril and Methodius” University of Veliko Tarnovo, dedicated to topics related to the Church and the youth. During the camp, participants had the opportunity to visit the Sokolski Monastery “Assumption of the Virgin Mary” and the Archaeological Complex “Etara” near Gabrovo.

Our young representatives arrived at the camp with the blessing and support of our Elder, Archimandrite Partenij, a collaboration made possible through the initiative of the camp’s director Dr. Stefka Kancheva, a professor at the Theological Faculty and director of the aforementioned Foundation.

At the end of this five-day fellowship, our participants, through a heartfelt presentation, introduced their homeland and sincerely touched the hearts of all present, especially the camp leaders who expressed their gratitude to our Elder for wholeheartedly embracing this collaboration, which we hope will continue in the future. Here is their presentation:

“Firstly, we must admit that we didn’t ponder much over the given task; we knew exactly how to represent the country from which we come, the Republic of North Macedonia. Among other things, we decided to speak about our spiritual father, Archimandrite Partenij.

We hail from a land where the holy Equals-to-the-Apostles Brothers Cyril and Methodius sowed the seed of the Christian faith among the pagan Slavic peoples. A land where, shortly afterward, their disciples, Saints Clement and Naum, sent by the pious Bulgarian Prince Boris-Mihail, strengthened that faith and, by opening the first Slavic University in Ohrid, enlightened our people. Our forefathers were truly raised in the faith, unwavering and courageous in defending the Truth. Hence, we, their descendants, carry the great responsibility of preserving the faith of our holy ancestors, who stood firm against every adversarial onslaught through the ages.

Today, we joyously live the Resurrection. Yet, we’d like to look back to before the summer of the Lord’s year 1995. For decades before this significant year for us, communist propaganda had taken deep root in our country, according to which faith in God was defined as “the opium of the people,” and the approach and relation to ancient temples were, at best, permitted, but only as relics of a historical past that was to be forgotten. The year 1995… We wish to speak of something that began to come to life in our lands from that moment: the resurrection of faith, of divine services, of the liturgical way of life through the monastic endeavors of our spiritual guide, Father Partenij, who then opened the doors of the Bigorski Monastery, opened his paternal heart to embrace our entire nation. Since then, he, like his ancestors, tirelessly and with the utmost love and dedication, fights for strengthening the faith among the people living in our country. He fights for the welfare of all citizens of our homeland, both spiritually and socially, through the social and educational mission carried out by his monastic brotherhood, and not less effort is put into fostering brotherly love among the Orthodox fraternal peoples of the Balkans. We ourselves have been witnesses to the mission for rehabilitation and spiritual aid to those young people who have fallen into the slavery of vices, to the selfless help to the poor, to the striving for the introduction of religious education in our school system as a regular subject, and many other deeds which you yourself will notice upon your first visit to the Bigorski Monastery. And once you sit down to talk with Father Partenij, you will notice the joy and love with which he greets every visitor.

And since the monastery is located in the glorious Mijak region, where now a majority of non-Orthodox population lives, Father Partenij, who also nurtures a true and not feigned example of coexistence, strives to revive this ancient area from which the most famous names of the Renaissance period originate: Partenij Zografski, Arsenij Bigorski, Anatolij Zografski, Georgija Pulevski, and many others.

Because of all this, he was chosen as the first honorary “Citizen of Europe” from the Republic of North Macedonia, proposed by Bulgarian Members of the European Parliament. See, Europe, grown and strengthened on Christian foundations, recognized his immense work and selfless effort.

We could speak much more about him and his deeds, but time is short. Therefore, we would like to conclude our modest presentation with the message sent by the country from which we come, where today, according to the Julian calendar, the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is celebrated. We wish to convey what we have been taught by our spiritual father, Archimandrite Partenij, since we were little: to pray fervently to the Mother of God, the protector of the human race, to love her deeply and to celebrate her majestically, so that, looking into her holy maternal face, we may shape our own. To be people, dedicated not only to building careers and growing on a professional and intellectual level but above all, good Christians who will develop themselves into dignified individuals who will raise good children. Our spiritual father constantly watches over our spiritual growth, but no less does he pray to God for every human soul from our country, from the entire world.”

We owe special thanks to the “Transkop” and “Matpu” agencies, which contributed by sponsoring the transportation of our participants to this summer camp.