Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity
By Fr. Michael Gillis, Holy Nativity Orthodox Church, Langley BC
One of the spiritual gifts within the Church is the gift of giving. Certainly every Christian is called to give. A strong case can be made that 10% is the starting point: it is the biblically designated sign that all we have belongs to God. However, some, like Ss. Joacim and Anna, have the spiritual gift of giving. For Ss. Joacim and Anna, one third of their income was enough for them: One third they gave to the Temple, one third they gave to the poor and one third they lived on.
In the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, the philanthropic arm of the church is the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch.
The amount of good work done by the Order is hard to summarize briefly. More than a third of the Archdiocese budget comes from the Order. However, certain programs are funded completely by the Order. The Order completely funds the Archdiocese church camp scholarship program, the clergy travel support program (I, myself received a $780. grant to help cover required travel this summer), and the clergy retirement fund. The Order is also a big supporter of St. Innocent Orphange and a long list of other worthy charitable works.
The International Orthodox Christian Charities reports, "Ten years ago, four dedicated IOCC supporters made history riding their bikes cross country to raise awareness and funds for IOCC's worldwide humanitarian work. The lead rider, Jim Angelus, is repeating this feat in honor of IOCC's 20th anniversary. Jim, along with two other cyclists, Konstantin Kanelis and Brett Mckey, will cycle 3,000 miles in 37 days from Washington State to New Jersey. Dan Mckey and Ora Shelter will serve as Support and Gear (SAG) crew.
The ultimate goal of the 2012 Race to Respond is to inspire and attract local, regional and national support to IOCC's humanitarian work. As such, lead rider Jim Angelus is posting daily updates from the road as he rides across America to raise support for Orthodox philanthropy. An entry on Day Five notes that the Antiochian parish of Holy Myrrhbearers in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, hosted the riders and crew. Jim blogs, "Father Gregory concluded the liturgy with a prayer service for our journey east. The parishioners greeted us warmly afterwards with a homemade brunch where we ate and shared experiences."
Houston, TX (IOCC) — The sound of power saws and nail guns mingle with easy laughter and conversation as IOCC Orthodox Action Team volunteers work side by side, building homes and friendships at volunteer home-builds in Houston and Minneapolis. They have traveled from Maryland, Virginia, Georgia and New York to help construct homes for families left homeless by hurricanes in Houston and tornadoes in Minneapolis. Four home building teams have already completed their one-week commitment, with four more summer builds and critical home repairs slated for Minneapolis, Houston, and in Minot, North Dakota, which lost an estimated 1,600 homes to flooding last summer.
The 2012 team builds began in March with a pairing of Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) college students and veterans of previous IOCC builds. The next three builds, including the first ever home built by IOCC volunteers in Minneapolis, also brought together a mix of Orthodox youth with older volunteers.
Samer Laham, Director of the Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development for the Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, has released an extensive report on aid and relief provided by the Church during the crisis in Syria. The report states:
Fifteen months have passed under the Syrian crisis, while the international community still attempts to finalize a peaceful solution to safeguard the stability and sovereignty of the country and of the people of Syria. In the meantime, directly affected people and internally displaced Syrians are still living in uncertain conditions, and are still depending on aid provided by the government through the Syrian Red Crescent, and aid from many local charities and local NGOs. ...
In witnessing the above challenges, The Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development (DERD) at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East has responded immediately to the emerging needs of the Syrian unrests. DERD has mobilized its human and financial resources to assess the needs and classify the urgent needs in order to proceed with its humanitarian aid programs. An appeal was launched to all Orthodox Antiochian Archdioceses and to all partners under the blessing of the Primate of the Antiochian See, HB Patriarch Ignatius IV, to request immediate support in order to enact national and church responsibilities towards the affected people.
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — As the conflict in Syria continues to escalate, disrupting the lives of more than one million Syrians, displacing 56,000 people from their homes according to UN estimates, and leaving thousands of families without access to food and urgently needed medical care, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is intensifying its current response efforts to meet the surging humanitarian needs for emergency medical aid, food and basic necessities for Syrian families displaced in their own country.
Working in partnership with the Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development (DERD) at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA) in Syria, IOCC is coordinating with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and other local relief partners to reach and distribute aid for the affected families in hard hit regions such as Homs, as well as to provide humanitarian relief to displaced families who have made it to relatively safer areas like Damascus. IOCC and GOPA recently delivered much needed medical supplies such as bandages, surgical gloves, sterilizers, stethoscopes, and surgical kits for distribution to Al-Hosn Hospital in the Homs area, a non-profit hospital affiliated with the Orthodox Church that provides charity care, and to other underequipped hospitals and clinics in the Homs region.
In the presence of more than 350 prominent Orthodox Christian faithful and friends, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) celebrated two decades of delivering humanitarian assistance, during their spring Anniversary Gala in Washington D.C.
The May Gala brought together IOCC supporters and volunteers who have helped shaped the organization into a global humanitarian arm of the Orthodox Christian Church. To kick off the day's events, an afternoon Congressional reception at the US Capitol included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, Rep. Shelley Berkley of Nevada, Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Florida, Rep. Andrew Harris of Maryland, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland, and Rep. Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts.
The Orthodox Christian Fellowship's (OCF) Real Break program provides an alternative spring break for Orthodox college students across North America. This year, more than 50 students from 36 universities participated in the six service projects around the world in locations such as Constantinople, Mexico, Guatemala, Romania and Texas. This following OCF report summarizes the impact of Real Break, 2012.
As the week was coming to an end and all sat in the dining hall eating the typical meal of beans and tortillas, University of Illinois freshman, Anthony Jonas, notices Brayan with a sad face and not touching his food. Jesus Brayan is one of the 31 young boys living at the St. Innocent Orphanage in Rosarito, Mexico. Anthony says to him,
“¿Qué paso Brayan?” (What’s wrong Brayan?)
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and South America has designated May 20 as Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday. Antiochian Archdiocese member Kory Warr is Chairman of the Board for the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM). He explains: "The sixth Sunday of Pascha was selected as Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday because the prescribed epistle reading (Acts 16:16-34) describes the experience of Sts. Paul and Silas in a Philippian jail. This story is a clear reminder of the truth that the light of Christ shines in even the darkest of places, pouring forth healing and salvation. All of us who participate in the work of OCPM have, like Paul and Silas, encountered the transforming grace and power of God in places where despair and hopelessness seemed to have erected impregnable strongholds.
(Baltimore, MD) — International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), the global humanitarian relief organization of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, has named five prominent Orthodox community leaders as the recipients of its Compassion at Work Award: Antiochians Charles R. Ajalat and Dr. George J. Farha, as well as Andrew A. Athens, George M. Marcus, and John G. Rangos, Sr.
The five visionary men were selected to receive the inaugural award for their extraordinary philanthropic contributions to the organization's mission and its continued success over the past 20 years.
In announcing the recipients, IOCC Board Chairman, Michael S. "Mickey" Homsey said, "As International Orthodox Christian Charities celebrates 20 years of delivering humanitarian service to those in need around the world, it owes a debt of gratitude to these men whose faith and philanthropic spirit served as the catalyst in developing IOCC as the humanitarian arm of the Orthodox Church in North America and as a unified ministry for the Orthodox community to express its faith in compassionate and tangible ways."
Three of the five award recipients, John G. Rangos, Sr., Andrew A. Athens and Charles R. Ajalat, founded the organization in 1992 and all five men, including George M. Marcus and Dr. George J. Farha, have served on the IOCC Board of Directors and are honorary IOCC board members.
The honorees will be recognized at the IOCC 20th Anniversary Gala on May 8, 2012, in Washington, DC. Mike Emanuel, Chief Congressional Correspondent for FOX News Channel, will serve as emcee for the gala, and Chris Hillman, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and founding member of the Byrds, will perform during the gala dinner.
Across the United States and Canada, mission team participants with the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) are gearing up for a summer of activity and ministry. Fourteen teams, each with a different purpose, will serve in ten different countries during the second half of 2012.
Roberta Sardell, a member of St. Stephen Antiochian Orthodox Church in Campbell, California, has participated in three mission trips. "In 2008 I was in Alaska, chiefly in an isolated village called Tatitlak on Prince William Sound, snowed in, in October," she explains. "In September of 2009 I helped lead retreats in Romania, touring monasteries and the painted churches of Bucovina. July of 2011 found me in the heat of Lodwar, northeastern Kenya. In each case I was blessed with talented Christian team mates; I was blessed meeting Orthodox brothers and sisters in other countries. I went as a teacher, a catechist, but I was educated in different cultures, different lifestyles, and how the Holy Spirit convicts people around the world."