Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity


Al-Kafaat: Giving People with Special Needs the Ability to Live

SaraSaraby Andrew Dalack

“Meen hayda?” Sara asked her educator, her finger pointed at me. Sara was sitting in the shade, shielding herself from the morning sun’s rays that were beating down on the courtyard of Al-Kafaat’s Lily Shwayri Center. “Ask him (Iss’alee),” the educator told Sara with a smile.”

Sara turned her head towards me and smiled. She was just playing games. Her sense of humor, however, was far more sophisticated than that of any other 11-year-old I had ever met. “Shou ismak (what’s your name)?” Sara asked me, her eyes slightly peaking over her glasses. “Andrew,” I replied, failing to hold back the smile that had now taken over my face. “Wa shou ismeek intee, mad moiselle?” I had hardly been in Lebanon for a month and the Lebanese were already rubbing off on me. “Sara,” she answered coyly.

I was delighted to meet Sara – but after I learned more about her story, my naïve delight was turned into genuine humility.

Sara came to Al-Kafaat in 2004 at the age of three. She has developmental issues that are sometimes exacerbated by severe epilepsy. She also has a weak visual field, as she also suffers from cataracts. As a result, her communication abilities were limited; before coming to Al-Kafaat, Sara could only answer questions with a simple “yes” or “no”.

But at Al-Kafaat foundation, a team of specialists – speech therapists and physiotherapists – assumed responsibility for Sara’s development. Over a short period of time, her situation improved dramatically, and her communication skills transcended the barriers created by her vision and developmental impairments.

IOCC Responds To Joplin And Heartland Tornadoes With Emergency Cleanup And Early Recovery

(photo: George Armstrong/FEMA)(photo: George Armstrong/FEMA)May 27, 2011

Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — From Joplin, Missouri to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, International Orthodox Christian Charities, IOCC, is working to deliver relief items such as clean up buckets and blankets to victims of one of the deadliest tornado seasons to strike the U.S. heartland in half a century.

Joplin, Missouri was the hardest hit, with at least 125 people killed and hundreds more still unaccounted for after the deadliest single twister ever recorded leveled a six mile swath of the town last Sunday night. IOCC and partner agency, Church World Service, are working closely with local churches from the affected area to identify and meet immediate needs such as food and shelter, and services like laundry and property clean up.

Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday, May 29

In order to observe May 29 as Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday, Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry is encouraging parishes to visit the OCPM website for useful resources including a downloadable poster as well as inserts for parish bulletins, websites and newsletters.

The faithful are also requested to share their resources with OCPM by donating to prison ministry through a designated special offering within the parish after liturgy. A secure link to donate via PayPal is also available here.

Assistance from Orthodox Christians Helping Tornado-Stricken Areas of Alabama

Residents of Pleasant Grove, Alabama assess damage and search for possessions scattered about after a series of tornadoes destroyed homes. (photo: George Armstrong/FEMA)Residents of Pleasant Grove, Alabama assess damage and search for possessions scattered about after a series of tornadoes destroyed homes. (photo: George Armstrong/FEMA)May 13, 2011

Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — A shipment of personal health kits, many of which were donated by Orthodox Christians from across the United States, have been shipped by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) to Birmingham, Alabama for distribution to survivors of recent severe storms and tornadoes that devastated the area in late April. The kits, valued at more than $120,000, represent the first of several planned shipments of relief supplies that have been requested following an assessment by one of IOCC's Frontline responders working in Alabama.

The Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society also announced its support today for the IOCC response to Alabama and flood areas along the Mississippi River and committed $20,000 from the Society's National Emergency Fund.

"Accommodations are being found for the many affected residents of the stricken areas," reported Deacon Dan Gray, a retired Naval Officer from Eagle River, Alaska and member of the IOCC Frontline who has been in Alabama since May 5. "There are now only about 150 people living in shelters – a good sign considering the scope and severity of this disaster."

Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry 2011 Convocation: Speakers Announced

June 28-July 2, 2011
At the Sheraton Centre
Downtown Toronto, Canada

For more information, please visit the OCPM 2011 Convocation website

Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM), the official prison ministry of the Assembly of Bishops of North and Central Americas (formerly SCOBA) announces its 2011 Convocation. This year's Convocation will bring together the many Orthodox clergy and laity from across the world who are participating in prison ministry or who are interested in participating in prison ministry for a time of fellowship, education, encouragement, communal worship and the free exchange of ideas.

Update, May 12, 2011: Speakers Announced

  • His Grace Bishop Mark of Baltimore and the South
  • His Grace Bishop Irinarkh, Bishop of Krasnogorsk
  • Chaplain Patrick Tutella
  • Archimandrite Fr. Duane Pederson
  • Very Rev. Fr. John Kowalczyk
  • Archpriest Oleg Skomorokh
  • Fr. Stephen Powley
  • Fr. Demetrius Nicoloudakis
  • Fr. Monk Cosmas (Shartz)
  • The OCPM Minnesota Team

IOCC Reaches Out in Aftermath of Storms and Earthquakes

Photo by David Fine/FEMAPhoto by David Fine/FEMATwo recent IOCC press releases explain how the pan-Orthodox organization is reaching out to regions battered by storms and earthquakes, both in the United States and abroad.

April 29, 2011

Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — Following a historic series of storms in the southern United States that claimed the lives of more than 200 people, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) has been in contact with Orthodox Christian communities and partner organizations in several U.S. States to assess the needs of survivors.

"While some areas of the United States have been unseasonably dry and experiencing widespread fires, there have been reports of more than 750 tornadoes already this year," says IOCC Executive Director Constantine Triantafilou. "We have been contacting Orthodox hierarchs and parishes, ecumenical partners, and local authorities in communities across the South and Midwest to assess the needs and offer our support."

May 4, 2011

Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) announced its support for efforts by Christian churches in Japan to provide housing for as many as 1,000 families in the Japanese prefectures hardest hit by the tsunami – Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate.

Working together with Church World Service and in support of the National Christian Council in Japan and the Japan Lutheran Emergency Relief, assistance is being provided to match families with offers of housing made by member churches. The housing service is being administered by the National Christian Council in Japan at its central office in Tokyo and local churches are assisting in matching families who are in need of housing in the affected prefectures.

Helping the Most Vulnerable with Support from the Order of St. Ignatius

Iraqi refugees and disadvantaged Syrian children receive health and school kits at a public school in Syria. Many of the kits were assembled by Orthodox Christians and delivered by IOCC through its kit program. (Photo credit: IOCC Syria)Iraqi refugees and disadvantaged Syrian children receive health and school kits at a public school in Syria. Many of the kits were assembled by Orthodox Christians and delivered by IOCC through its kit program. (Photo credit: IOCC Syria)A massacre at one of Iraq's largest churches in October, 2010 and continued attacks in predominantly Christian areas of central Baghdad highlight the continued danger for Iraq's Christian community. Many of Iraq's million and a half Christians wonder if they can continue to remain in their homeland.

In 2010, with support from the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch and others, IOCC provided more than 1,500 Iraqi families in Baghdad with food and personal hygiene items and is currently seeking new ways to assist vulnerable families in the country.

An estimated 7,500 people received critical assistance in areas that have been the target of some of the greatest violence since 2003. Some of the families receiving assistance have been displaced by violence within Iraq and are unable to return back to their homes – some of which have since been destroyed.

"With the Poor:" FOCUS Executive Director Fr. Justin Mathewes Reflects on First Two Years

Just over two years ago, twenty Orthodox leaders from various jurisdictions gathered at the invitation of Antiochian philanthropists Charles and Marilee Ajalat, and the Orthodox Vision Foundation. That meeting laid the foundation for the subsequent launch of FOCUS North America (Food, Occupation, Clothing, Understanding and Shelter), a coast to coast network of Orthodox Christian outreach ministries.  

Since its inception, FOCUS has steadily added partner ministries ranging from homeless shelters to medical and counseling centers. On April 3, FOCUS Orange County was awarded the Community of Faith Award, an honor endorsed by the California State Assembly. By the end of 2011, the organization hopes to increase its number of directors, partner ministries, and student volunteers in the Youth Equipped to Serve (YES) program.

Executive Director Fr. Justin Mathewes studied business as an undergraduate and subsequently earned a masters degree and was ordained at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. Chrismated in an Antiochian parish, Fr. Justin currently serves at a Serbian parish near FOCUS headquarters. With the Lenten season as a backdrop, we asked Fr. Justin to reflect on his first two years at the helm.

1. Since 2009 you've working to make FOCUS a reality and not just a list of organizational goals. What is the most important thing you've learned?

The most important thing I am learning through our ministry together is that the only person we can attempt to change is ourselves. In these last two years I have kept the basic Orthodox Christian spiritual principle before me of St. Seraphim of Sarov: “Acquire the Spirit of peace and thousand around you shall be saved.”

Orthodox Church in Japan to Meet on Aid and Recovery Efforts

April 7, 2011

Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — Nearly a month after the fourth largest earthquake ever recorded struck the eastern coast of Japan and touched off a devastating tsunami, earthquakes continue to rattle the nerves of survivors and complicate relief efforts. More than thirty earthquakes measuring 6.0 and above on the Richter scale have been experienced in eastern Japan as efforts to assist survivors and rebuild continue.

Over the past three weeks the staff of the Sendai Diocese of the Orthodox Church in Japan have been working to assess the needs of survivors, account for the Orthodox faithful and survey the condition of Church properties along the coastal areas impacted by the disasters.

Six Orthodox faithful were lost in the disasters, four are still missing and one church was totally destroyed by the tsunami and fire, reported Fr. Clement Kodama, Secretary to Bishop Seraphim of the Sendai Diocese.

The Orthodox Church of Japan will convene a meeting of its bishops on April 12 in Tokyo to hear reports on the current needs in the disaster area and plan for the continued response and reconstruction efforts.

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) has extended offers of assistance to the Orthodox Church in Japan to provide essential aid, as needed, and will support efforts to provide assistance as the disaster response moves into the recovery phase.

While immediate relief supplies have been provided to shelters serving survivors of the disasters, access to the disaster-affected areas is restricted and travel and communication remains difficult due to the road conditions, rationing of gasoline, rolling blackouts and intermittent telephone service.

Prison Ministry Convocation, June 28 - July 2, 2011

The annual Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry Convocation will be held at the Sheraton Centre Downtown Toronto June 28 - July 2, 2011.

This year's Convocation will gather Orthodox clergy and laity from around the world who are currently involved in prison ministry or are looking to begin outreach to prisoners. These convocations allow clergy and laypeople to exchange ministry ideas, gather for fellowship, and attend presentations on prison ministry. 

Scholarships are available on OCPM's website.

OCPM is the official prison ministry of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America. Antiochian priest Fr. Stephen Powley, experienced prison chaplain and Assistant Director of OCPM, regularly shares his thoughts regarding prison ministry and the spiritual life in his OCPM blog, An UpWord Glance.

Go here for more information about the Convocation, and to register