Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity
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.”
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.
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.
As we near the mid-point of this year's Great Lent, the faithful may wish to remember that the giving of alms to those in need is an important part of our Lenten practice. To that end, please remember the Food for Hungry People program. Through your generosity and prayers, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been distributed to the hungry and poor in the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe. All of the funds collected have been used to meet the needs of hungry people.
Updated brochures, bulletin inserts, fundraising ideas and the 2011 Food for Hungry People Lenten Calendar are available at the Food for Hungry People web page. Please take a look and remember the poor!
“When you see a poor person, remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ by which He declared that it is He, Himself who is fed. For though that which appears be not Christ, yet in that person’s form, it is Christ Himself who receives and begs.”
-St. John Chrysostom, “Homilies on Mathew” #78.
His Grace Bishop Basil passes along an update from Japan:
Dear Orthodox family, thanks God, through the prayer of Orthodox family, situation of the suffered places is getting better. We appreciate your e-mails with prayer and thoughtfulness. They were translated and uploaded to Japanese page to encourage brothers and sisters struggling in Tohoku. And we were much grateful to know donation for this disaster had started in many places. Yesterday, we received photos of two church located in the Sanriku Coast, uploaded to the website: http://www.orthodox-jp.com/westjapan/earthquake/201103earthquake_en.html. There were five churches along Sanriku Coast, with deeply indented coastline, suffered by tsunami. We found out that one is destroyed, one is still unknown, but the other three were safe, even though minor repairs seemed necessary. Especially, Holy Ascension Church in Sakari (Ofunato) is quite safe, even though City of Ofunato is one of the worst destructed places. Bishop Seraphim of Sendai said the Diocese made contact with 80% of parishioners living in the coastal area and continue investigation on damage of parishioners, too. Please continue keeping us in your prayer. Fr. George and Maria
What is IOCC doing to help in Japan right now? Emergency Response Coordinator Jamie Helfer gives us the latest on the situation on the ground, what help is being offered and what to expect in the upcoming weeks and months. Click here to listen to the interview on OCN.
The latest update from the IOCC:
March 18, 2011
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — With financial support from an emergency grant of $25,000 from the National Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society and contributions by private donors, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) will provide humanitarian assistance such as medicines, food and other essential items to communities in the earthquake and tsunami-damaged Pacific coastal districts of Japan in the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaragi. The assistance is being distributed by the Orthodox Church in Japan in cooperation with regional authorities. All of the aid to be distributed is expected to be obtained locally in Japan.
His Eminence Metropolitan Philip writes:
March 16, 2011
“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” (Acts 2:44-45)
Once again we are confronted with the images of destruction, death and human tragedy in the wake of the severe earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on Friday, March 11th, 2011. More than 3,000 are confirmed to have died, with the toll expected to be higher. Countless people are homeless or without shelter, and the damage to the nuclear power plant is threatening to cause additional harm to the people and environment for many years to come. We have many Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ in Japan. Many of the churches have suffered damage from the earthquake, and the status of many of the faithful is still to be determined. As the quote above from the Book of Acts reminds us, it has always been the tradition of the Church to help all of those who are in need. As such, we are asking all of our parishes and missions to appeal for prayers and donations in order to assist the victims of this tragedy in Japan.
We encourage all of our faithful and parishes to channel their donations through the IOCC which has already mobilized resources to assist the people of Japan. You may go to www.iocc.org in order to obtain information about the IOCC’s relief effort in Japan and information on how to make a donation.
May our Lord bless the remainder of your Lenten journey.
Your father in Christ,
Metropolitan Philip, Primate
The Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
March 14, 2011
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) has been in contact with the Holy Autonomous Orthodox Church in Japan and our ACT Alliance partners to assess the emerging needs following the massive earthquake and tsunami which devastated north eastern Japan on March 11. IOCC is also reaching out to the Metropolis of Korea which is also the Exarchate for Japan under the Ecumenical Patriarchate. As the Orthodox Church in Japan works to assess the needs of survivors, it reports that one priest in Tohoku, Japan is missing.
"Most of the church buildings in Tohoku parish along the Pacific coast are severely damaged and one priest is missing," reports Fr. Demitrios Tanaka of the Holy Autonomous Orthodox Church in Japan. "However, we confirmed that the clergy of Sendai Orthodox Church, including Bishop Seraphim, are safe."
Given that most of the communications infrastructure was damaged, the Orthodox Church of Japan is still assessing the safety and exact needs of parishioners in the affected areas.
The faithful of the Antiochian Archdiocese wish to offer their fervent prayers on behalf of those suffering from Friday's earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Via his grace Bishop Basil, some information regarding the Orthodox community in Japan from Maria Matsushima Junko:
We appreciate your love and prayer. I received many emails from friends.
Nagoya, where I live is all fine. But northern Japan are suffered much. Vladika Seraphim of Sendai called Tokyo office by his cell phone and said that the cathedral in Sendai is safe, but he cannot contact with parishioners or recognize situation and damage of his territory, as telephone and electricity stopped. There are many small churches and chapels there and many brothers and sisters. Fr. Vasili is old and sick, living near coast.
March 1, 2011
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — As survivors begin to piece back their lives in the New Zealand city of Christchurch following a 6.3 magnitude quake that struck on February 22, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of New Zealand has initiated efforts to provide assistance to those who have lost homes and places of work. The death toll in Christchurch stands at 148, but authorities expect it to rise to near 200.
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is working to support relief efforts personally led by His Eminence Archbishop Amfilochios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of New Zealand and Exarch of Oceania who visited Christchurch just days after the initial quake to assess the damage and the needs of the people. Emergency supplies such as water, blankets, food and other essential items are being provided for families affected by the earthquake.
The IOCC response is being coordinated through the Chancellor of the Archdiocese in New Zealand, Fr. Christodoulos Papadeas, who previously served at Brotherhood of St. George in Denver, Colo. Also providing support is Fr. Amphilochios Basiltiotellis of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary parish in Christchurch.
Fr. Paul Patitsas, who previously served parishes in Rocky River, Ohio and Albuquerque, New Mexico, is part of IOCC's Emergency Response Network and is working with IOCC directly to manage the response. The "Frontline" as the network is known, is made up of Orthodox clergy and laity volunteers who are trained and experienced in emergency response.
By Carolyn Kouracos
“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12
Hunger Strike is a new youth ministry of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). Launched this year on a national level, Hunger Strike is already becoming a growing youth movement. Started at St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine, CA three years ago, this vibrant ministry has already raised more than $10,000 and has Orthodox Christian teens striving to make a difference in the world by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and giving to those in need.
Hunger Strike is coordinated by local parishes, where teens fast for 30 hours while they participate in activities which raise both awareness and money for the needs of those throughout the world who suffer the effects of poverty and who hunger for the hope found in Christ.