Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — More than 80 representatives of the nation's Orthodox Christian service organizations joined together at the White House on December 14, 2012, to discuss strategic service alliances with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The White House Conference on Orthodox Christian Engagement was hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement in conjunction with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and facilitated by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC).
Present to discuss the role of Orthodox Christians in social outreach, disaster response, and community development in the United States were Archbishop Nicolae of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas and liaison to IOCC from the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America.
For twenty-five years, the Orthodox ministry Project Mexico has been harnassing the energy of young people by sponsoring home building projects for Mexico's poor. Hundreds of needy families have moved into homes constructed for them with the help of nearly 10,000 volunteers. Sponsored by parishes from around the country including many from the Antiochian Archdiocese, and by Orthodox organizations such as the Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF), group building weeks for 2013 are already filling up. (Sign up for a summer home building week.)
There are two types of homebuilding groups hosted by Project Mexico each summer: small groups, and Orthodox Basic Training (OBT) groups. During the weeks dedicated to small group participation, teams from one, two, or three parishes construct a single home for a needy family, spend the afternoons interacting with the boys of St. Innocent's, and learn about the local culture through a visit to Rosarito. During Basic Training weeks, Project Mexico hosts larger groups who construct between four to seven homes in one week. Each evening, volunteers listen to inspiration speakers, and on Sunday builders enjoy a day of fellowship and fun at St. Innocent’s.
The Treehouse in Wichita, Kansas was created to fill a unique niche, helping economically challenged moms and children with basic necessities and programs. As an Orthodox Christian-based, not-for-profit organization, the Treehouse offers compassionate physical and emotional support, and positive Christian relationships with other moms. Over the years, vital support for the ministry has been provided by the Antiochian Orthodox community in the greater Wichita area, from His Grace Bishop Basil, the Very Rev. Paul O’Callaghan, the people of St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral, and many other Orthodox Christians both clergy and lay. It is also one of the many outreach efforts supported by the Order of St. Ignatius.
The Treehouse provides diapers and formula, parenting education, spiritual support and an inexpensive thrift store with books, toys and clothes up to kindergarten size. Women are referred to the ministry by other partner organizations in the Wichita area, and from their first encounter with Treehouse staff, experience support and encouragement. Groups dedicated to the topic of parenting, and one-on-one mentoring relationships, help women with limited resources become capable, nurturing mothers, thus aiding both mother and child.
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — Sana was only three weeks away from graduation when a mortar hit her family's home in Homs, Syria. She fled quickly into the night towards Jordan with her mother and four siblings, carrying only a small bag filled with water bottles, bread and homemade jam. Now a refugee, the tears come easily when the girl thinks about the home they had to leave and the schooling she was forced to sacrifice.
"I wish I can continue my studies here in Jordan, but I have no certificates, no money, no documents or IDs," said Sana. "All we have is a paper given to us at the border that gives us permission to be in Jordan," added her mother.
Dust from blowing desert sand covers a growing sea of tents at the Za'atari camp that are now home to Sana and thousands of Syrian children and families are basic, with no electricity and no sanitation. There is little left of the comforts of home and the rhythms of the life they knew in Syria.
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), a member of the global ACT Alliance, recently provided new school uniforms to 6,000 school-aged refugee girls living in the camp and in Jordanian host communities. The uniforms provide a measure of comfort to the children like Sana who have had to endure exhausting journeys to arrive at the camp and many who have been witness to the horrors of war.
St. Athanasius Academy was founded in 1976, and serves the Antiochian Archdiocese through providing research, education, and outreach. The Academy offers a unique correspondence study program which not only serves students-at-large, but also reaches those behind bars in a prisoner education program.
Notes Paul Goetz, Director of the The Prisoner Education Project/Correspondence Studies Program for prisoner-students, "We maintain about 85 students with a waiting list, and we offer the program as a free scholarship program. Since 1996, we have studied with over 1,000 students. A prisoner-student in good standing needs to submit one lessons every other month, and our current pace is over 120 lessons per month. Our questions are not true/false, but we require essay answers to probing questions...and then we provide detailed responses to correct or complement their efforts."
In another outstanding project, the Academy provided the impetus and scholarship for The Orthodox Study Bible: New Testament and Psalms. Additionally, St. Athanasius also publishes booklets in the "Timely Topics" series, as well as the "Booklets for Children" series.
Read an interview with Paul Goetz, Director of the St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology.
The Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) has announced that registration is now open for their Real Break program. Explains the OCF website, "The Real Break program provides an alternative to the 'traditional' Spring Break. It exists to provide the most authentic experience possible, modeled as a full Christian lifestyle, which includes fellowship, prayer within community, witness and service. OCF organizes both domestic and international trips to give college students the opportunity to serve those less fortunate and to do something 'real' for themselves and for God. OCF’s Real Break has been running since 2000 with over a thousand students participating in these life-changing trips. Past trips have included: Mexico, Guatemala, Jerusalem, Constantinople, Raphael House, St. Basil Academy, Greece, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Romania, Buenos Aires, Alaska, and more."
Seven Real Break trips are planned for March, 2013, serving communities in Guatemala, New Orleans, Toronto, LA Skid Row, Honduras, Constantinople (Istanbul), and Mexico. Students can register online, and view both an introductory video and a short fundraising tutorial.
The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) in St. Augustine, FL, has announced that applications are now being accepted for the Center's 2013 short term mission service teams. The announcement explained, "In 2012, 135 Orthodox Christians shared their faith through loving service as part of an OCMC Mission Team. They witnessed baptisms, healed the sick, strengthened the foundations of the Church, and brought the love of Christ to people around the world. They answered the call to make disciples of all nations. Is 2013 your time to share in this journey of faith?....Next year, team members will have the opportunity to share the Orthodox Christian faith by offering evangelism, catechism, healthcare, construction, and youth ministry in seven countries around the world."
Mission Team dates and opportunities kick off with a teaching team to Kenya at the beginning of March, and continue nearly every month thereafter until the last team, focused on healthcare in Tanzania, completes its mission in October. For more information and to submit an application, visit the OCMC Mission Team webpage.
On the first Sunday in December, Youth Equipped to Serve (YES) is inviting all parishes to participate in YES Awareness Day. A ministry of The Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS), YES provides opportunities for junior high and high school students to participate in formative weekends of service in cities around the United States. An upcoming YES weekend, sponsored by St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church of Pawtucket, RI, is scheduled for Friday, December 14, through Sunday, December 16, in Providence.
Notes Director Katrina Bitar, "We would be so grateful if you took the time to share our ministry with your community and helped to raise funds that will enable us to meet the needs of the people we serve." A letter which can be read in parishes during the YES Sunday observance, reads in part:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we approach the Nativity of our Lord, I am blessed today to have the opportunity to share with you, the YES Program—Youth Equipped to Serve—of FOCUS North America.
The Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) is the official prison ministry of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America. It was started in 1991 by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, who asked Antiochian priest Fr. Duane Pederson to establish a prison ministry for the Antiochian Archdiocese. The ministry continued unabated until 2005, when His Eminence offered the Archdiocese’s prison ministry to the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA). OCPM became an agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops after that body was established in 2009.
On July 26, 2012, at the Fourth Annual National Convocation in Minneapolis/St. Paul, the board and the staff of OCPM awarded Fr. Duane Pederson the Matthew 25:36 award, recognizing his lifetime of dedicated service to those in prison, and to those among the homeless population. Award presenters noted Fr. Duane's forty-plus years of prison ministry outreach, as well as his role in the founding of OCPM.
On Sunday, November 18, as families head into the Thanksgiving holiday, parishes will be remembering the needy on the International Orthodox Christian Charity's (IOCC) "A Day of Sharing." The Assembly of Canonical Bishops of North and Central America has issued an Encyclical calling on Orthodox Christians to support the work of IOCC, especially on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, thus remembering the less fortunate.
"Through IOCC’s close work with the Church," noted the statement, "Greek families are receiving hot meals and medical care; Bosnian entrepreneurs are using micro loans to create jobs and community prosperity, and Zimbabwe’s babies have a fighting chance to reach their fifth birthday because of new medical equipment and adequate medicine to treat infections.