Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity


OCMC Pioneers Four Family Mission Teams in 2010

Since 1987 over 1,000 people have offered a living witness to the Orthodox Christian faith through their participation in an Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) Mission Team. These Team members have taught catechism, built churches, schools, and hospitals, offered healthcare, worked with youth, and provided outreach in 27 countries around the world.

There have been exceptions, but for reasons that include liability, the risks and rigor inherent in serving abroad, and the specialized nature of mission work, Team members have traditionally been at least 18 years old. Over the years, OCMC has heard from many sources including past Team members, missionaries, board members, staff, and supporters about the importance of enabling youth participation on OCMC Mission Teams.

With board approval, OCMC has opened up four of its 2010 Mission Teams to youth participation with the condition that Team members would not be under 13 years of age and that they would be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

“The motivation behind this decision was to expose youth to the work of making disciples while giving eligible families the ability to experience service for the Church in a cross cultural setting,” offers OCMC Mission Teams Director Andrew Lekos.

The Teams in 2010 that are open to youth and families have been carefully chosen to allow youth to develop relationships with their Orthodox peers and learn about new cultures. “It is hoped that language barriers melt and horizons are broadened as families put their faith into action and share their Orthodox faith,” adds Mr. Lekos.

FOCUS Launches Youth Equipped to Serve Website

FOCUS North America has announced the launch of a new website and video for its youth-based domestic outreach program “Youth Equipped to Serve” (YES). The website can be found at http://www.yesnorthamerica.org/  The video can be found at www.yesnorthamerica.org/yesvideo.

"We are so excited for you to get to know the YES Program through our new website and YES video! Read testimonies from students, view videos that they made and hear firsthand how God is working in the lives of the youth that become His hands and feet in service to the poor," said Katrina Bitar, FOCUS North America YES Program Director.

Feedback from student participants has been enthusiastic.

“The website is fantastic and lively. The new YES video does an excellent job showing the many encounters that happen on a YES trip.” - Peyton Powers

“The website is awesome! The bright colors are great and show how fun these trips are. The video perfectly captured our trip!” - Grace Farha

FOCUS North America believes that engaging all of the faithful, especially our youth, in the Gospel work of serving the poor in our own communities is essential in keeping the youth faithful to Christ and active in the Church for a lifetime. The YES Program has dramatically influenced the spiritual lives of its hundreds of participants. For more information on the YES program or to schedule a trip, visit: www.FOCUSNorthAmerica.org/YES.

FOCUS North America and its programs are committed to serve those in need, support Orthodox Christian social action ministries and supply parishes and others with the education, resources and training to initiate social action ministries in their own communities. In all of this, FOCUS North America continues its work in Restoring Living Icons.

FOCUS North America Launches New Website and Video for Youth Equipped to Serve Program

November 3th, 2009– Kansas City, MO

FOCUS North America is excited to announce the launch of a new website and video for its youth-based domestic outreach program “Youth Equipped to Serve” (YES). The website can be found at www.YESNorthAmerica.org. The video can be found at www.yesnorthamerica.org/yesvideo.

"We are so excited for you to get to know the YES Program through our new website and YES video! Read testimonies from students, view videos that they made and hear firsthand how God is working in the lives of the youth that become His hands and feet in service to the poor," said Katrina Bitar, FOCUS North America YES Program Director.

Feedback from student participants has been enthusiastic:

OCMC Announces Registration for 2010 Mission Teams

“I am surrounded by love. It's not the kind of love you see on TV or in the movies, but love in its most true and simple form. It is the love that can only come from God ... I have already found that love in abundance everywhere I look.” - A 2009 Team member


Now is the time for you to have a Mission Teams experience! In 2010, Teams will be offered during more times of the year and for varying amounts of time (as few as 9 days and as long as 3 weeks) and there will be opportunities for families as well! Be a living witness of your Faith on a Teaching team; provide labor on a Construction team; engage the future of our Church on a Youth team; or take part in the holistic mission of the Church on a Health Care team. Develop deep relationships with others, have a cultural learning experience, and live in response to the Lord’s command to “make disciples of all nations”.


For over 20 years, Team members have proudly served through OCMC to participate in the Holy Orthodox Church’s unending mission effort to bring the saving message of salvation to the ends of the earth. Join the thousands of Orthodox Christians from North America who have been witnessing to the hope and good news of the risen Christ with the world. There will be at least 14 opportunities to participate on a Team in 2010: Alaska – Teaching and Outreach; Albania – Youth camp; Guatemala – Youth camp; India – Teaching; Kenya – Teaching; Korea – Youth camp (ESL); Madagascar – Teaching; Romania – Youth camp; South Africa – Teaching; Tanzania – Construction and Teaching; Uganda – Health Care and Zimbabwe – Teaching.


 Team applications and more detailed information are available online at http://teams.ocmc.org or you can call the OCMC at 1.877.463.6787 (ext 142) for more information.

IOCC Responds to String of Disasters in Asia Pacific Region

Baltimore, Md. (IOCC) – International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is responding to a string of disasters that are affecting millions of people in the Asia Pacific region and have already taken hundreds of lives.


Damaging floods and mudslides caused by Typhoon Ketsana struck the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia, causing hundreds of deaths and displacing thousands of families on September 26. Meanwhile, whole villages in Samoa have been devastated by a tsunami that was triggered by a massive 8.0 earthquake on September 29. A second earthquake measuring a magnitude 7.6 on the Indonesian island of Sumatra has killed hundreds and injured thousands, and caused significant damage.


Two other typhoons appear to be moving towards the Philippines later this week and significant aftershocks are being experienced in Indonesia.


IOCC has mobilized its disaster response team and is coordinating with our Orthodox and Ecumenical partners to monitor and respond to the emerging needs.


“We pray for those who have perished, their families and those who have been affected by these disasters,” says IOCC Executive Director Constantine Triantafilou. “We are working with our partners to provide emergency relief and the long-term care that will be necessary to restore the many countries and communities that have been affected.”


You can help the victims of disasters around the world, like the Asia Pacific Disasters, by making a financial gift to the IOCC International Emergency Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief as well as long-term support through the provision of emergency aid, recovery assistance and other support to help those in need. To make a gift please visit www.iocc.org, call toll free at 1-877-803-IOCC (4622), or mail a check or money order payable to IOCC, P.O. Box 630225, Baltimore, Md. 21263-0225.

FOCUS sponsors Youth Equipped to Serve (YES) Weekend in Kansas City

September 29th, 2009 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


This past weekend, a team of 20 youth participated in FOCUS North America’s YES Program (formerly known as OYO), serving our most needy neighbors in Kansas City.


They arrived from parishes in Wichita, KS, Oklahoma City, OK, and Kansas City, eager to be used by God to meet the fundamental needs of His people. They did not expect, however, that they would receive much more from the experience than they would give. After three intense days, the youth gained a new perspective on the poor and homeless: they came expecting to serve them, but, instead, found their own lives forever changed by the encounter.


“They are just like us,” one participant said. Another said, “I don’t know how anyone can come on a FOCUS North America YES trip and not be changed.”


Living out Matthew 25, the youth engaged in several social action projects throughout the weekend. They served and ate dinner with many homeless and working poor in the city, listening to their stories and enjoying fellowship with them. They distributed clothing to mothers who had no means to clothe their children. They walked around the famous outdoor Country Club Plaza in Kansas City with newly opened eyes, looking beyond the glamour to perceive and meet the needs of the homeless on the streets. But, as the youth realized, they themselves were fed and clothed by the face-to-face encounter with real living icons of Christ, with the poor of the city. As one participant said, “They really open themselves to you; they’ll sit and talk to you forever, when most people in school will never give their time to you like that.”

Uganda's Civil War Orphans Receive Help from IOCC

Recovering from Civil War, Uganda’s Orphans Receive Help from IOCC
September 8, 2009

By Zachary O’Dell/IOCC Ethiopia

PatriciaPatricia lost both parents to northern Uganda's long running civil war. Her uncle took her and eight brothers and sisters in but there is not enough money for school fees. IOCC is building a school in the northern Gulu area that will allow teenagers like Patricia to get an education. The project is a partnership between IOCC and the Ugandan Orthodox Church. (photo credit: Zachary O'Dell/IOCC Ethiopia)Lapainat, Uganda – In the small village in northern Uganda, children play among hundreds of scattered huts with thatched roofs, many of which are now abandoned and deteriorating. Lapainat is the site of a large camp for displaced persons who fled fighting in the region of Gulu between the Ugandan military and a guerilla group. Until recently the area surrounding Gulu was inaccessible and extremely dangerous due to the violence, with most roads, hospitals and schools either damaged or completely destroyed and millions of people displaced from their villages.

“Both my parents were killed during the violence,” explains 16-year-old Patricia, who is the fourth of nine children. “My brothers and sisters and I were taken in by our uncle, but without much salary he cannot afford school fees.” Without the money to purchase basic supplies such as books, uniforms, and food, Patricia’s dream of studying to become an accountant seemed like it would never come true. Of the estimated 1.6 million left displaced or homeless by the fighting, nearly 80% are women and children, and 80% of the population aged 7-18 has never attended school – a majority of them girls like Patricia.

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is creating opportunities for children throughout Uganda just like Patricia. In partnership with the Ugandan Orthodox Church and with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan JONAH and financial support from the St. Nektarios Fund, IOCC is building a secondary school in Lapainat for about 300 students. The Orthodox Church, which will run the school, has been active in northern Uganda since the late 1990s, and has established a Deanery overseeing multiple parishes in areas that were hit hard by the conflict.

Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry Convocation Meets in Denver

On July 28, 2009, Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry, the official prison ministry of SCOBA, the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, convened its first convocation for Orthodox prison workers in Denver, Colorado.

In attendance were 52 Orthodox prison chaplains and volunteers representing 22 states and many Orthodox jurisdictions.

FOCUS North America Extends Domestic Aid with Hundreds of Orthodox Youth Outreach Volunteers

August 6, 2009– Kansas City, MO

FOCUS North America is excited to announce the extension of its domestic outreach to the poor by receiving the highly acclaimed “Orthodox Youth Outreach” (OYO) program from the Antiochian Archdiocese Department of Youth Ministry and Teen SOYO. Added to FOCUS North America’s diverse ongoing operations and partner ministries, the addition of the OYO program strengthens its domestic ministry to the homeless and hopeless by involving youth in urban service learning opportunities and social action leadership training.

“FOCUS North America, its Board of Directors and Staff are honored to receive OYO as part of its ongoing operations, extending and maximizing our programs to minister to the poor and raise up the next generation of Orthodox Christian servant-leaders in North America,” said Fr. Justin Mathews, Executive Director and CEO of FOCUS North America.

Penelope House: Fortress for Battered Women & Their Children

IOCC Educates Children to Prevent Domestic Violence

Penelope HousePenelope House, one of the oldest domestic abuse shelters in the southern U.S. for women and their children, recently received a grant from IOCC for $19,000 to spread awareness and education on domestic abuse among schoolchildren. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 1 in 3 adult women are assaulted by a husband or partner. (photo credit: IOCC Baltimore)Mobile, Alabama —Tonie Ann Torrans takes pleasure in describing Penelope House, the shelter she runs for battered women, as “Fort Knox.” She leads a visitor through an electronic fence lined with barbed wire. A second fence will not open until they are cleared through a call box. The compound has lights, a security camera, a good relationship with local police, and--if that were not enough--“a third line of defense with the moat,” said Torrans, referring to the reservoir ditch in front of the shelter that she hopes will make perpetrators think twice about trying to get to their wives or girlfriends.

Some are quite determined. “We’ve had gentlemen climb the fence, or park their cars nearby, or even make calls threatening the children if their partner didn’t come out,” said Torrans.

She excuses herself for a few minutes to check on a television crew from a local news station. Yesterday, a Mobile woman was shot and killed by her ex-husband in front of her parents. Torrans explains that the woman had moved her belongings out of the house, but when she went back to pick up some items, her ex-husband was waiting. “It’s best to just leave your belongings and start a new life,” said Torrans.  “Women tend to minimize the danger or they justify it—‘well, he hit me because I burned the chicken’—but there is no justifiable hitting.”

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 1 in 3 adult women are assaulted by a husband or partner. Of the 6 million women who are beaten each year by an intimate partner, 4,000 are killed, and only one-fourth of domestic violence cases are reported.