Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity
January 9, 2015
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — Freezing temperatures, heavy snow and chilling winds sweeping across Syria are putting thousands of young lives in jeopardy as displaced mothers struggle helplessly to keep their small children warm and sheltered from the harsh winter conditions. Many live in shelled out buildings with no doors or windows to keep frigid weather out, or in temporary shelters with no heat. The need for warm clothing is great.
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is responding with the distribution of handmade sweater sets for 600 children crafted last summer by 34 displaced Syrian women taught to knit through a cash-for-work program. IOCC and its church partner in Syria, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA), offered the one-month training as a way to help Syria's most vulnerable families achieve some financial independence. The new skills help provide vital income for the women and their families while displaced Syrian children benefit by receiving warm clothes to protect them against bitter cold.
Dr. George J. Farha didn't like big events. He was a man of few words, but when he spoke, people listened. So, when the idea of forming the first Orthodox day school in Kansas was presented to Dr. George and a group of his peers in 2009, he listened quietly, looked around the room and then proclaimed, "This school must happen. I'm going to support it, and I want each of you to support it too."
It is fitting, then, that five years later, the Dr. George J. Farha Endowment for Christ the Savior Academy is being established on the one-year anniversary of his passing on January 7 a year ago. The goal of the endowment is to raise $1 million, and the Trustees of the endowment board are asking Dr. George's friends and colleagues to join the family in raising the funds.
"It is my desire to secure his dream long-term for the Academy," said Brenda Farha, Dr. George's wife. "I believe with all of my heart that my husband would be so pleased, you see, this school was his dream."
By Archpriest John Hamatie, St. George Orthodox Church, Orlando
Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am a man of traditions. All of us have fond memories and traditions of the Nativity of Our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus—also known as Christmas. I remember that as a child, I would not allow myself to be at home when the Christmas tree was taken down. In fact, I keep two trees up throughout the year-one Orthodox (decorated with small paper icons), and one secular. We also invite those who are alone to join us at Christmas dinner.
One tradition is the annual Christmas party for the homeless held at our Church of St. George in Orlando every December. On Friday, December 19, 2014, we had the joy and privilege to gather with over 400 homeless men, women and children and 111 volunteers to rejoice in the Lord. We hosted a band and set up tables with linens in our parking lot. The whole event was Christ-centered, as are all the feedings of the homeless at St. George's.
Ministering to those behind bars, Orthodox Christian Prison Ministries (OCPM) was founded in 1991 by Metropolitan Philip of Blessed Memory, who asked highly experienced prison minister Fr. Duane Pederson to coordinate the effort. Now headed by Fr. Stephen Powley, OCPM is an agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, and it continues to build on Father Duane's vision of ministering to prisoners and their families by mobilizing the Church.
Recently, OCPM launched a revamped website, theocpm.org. A recent post in the new "Latest News" column, for instance, shares a letter received by OCPM by a prisoner serving a life sentence.
Other features include:
The month of December every year is designated as Order of St. Ignatius month, in conjunction with the feast day of St. Ignatius on December 20. The Order is the philanthropic arm of the Antiochian Archdiocese and one of its most vital lay ministries, under the guidance of Metropolitan Joseph and the Archdiocese Board of Trustees. Currently, there are nearly 3,000 active members supporting approximately 38% of the Archdiocese's budget, as well as a host of other worthy causes including: camping and college conference scholarships, married seminarian assistance, Antiochian Village, Teen SOYO Special Olympics, theological and religious education, clergy retirement, Project Mexico, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), The Treehouse Family Ministry, and Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF).
Dr. Elias K. Hebeka, the North America Vice-Chair for the Order, wrote in December 2012's The Word magazine that the Order's Governing Council "is a group of volunteers, elected or appointed members of our Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, that has the responsibility to make many of the important decisions for the Order.
This reflection was written by Fr. John Chagnon of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in St. Paul, MN, about a missions trip in which he and Fr. George Dahdouh of St. George Orthodox Church in Houston, TX travelled to Africa to minister to the Ugandan Orthodox Church. The article was originally published on November 25, 2014, in the Orthodox Christian Mission Center News.
Uganda is an Oregon-sized country in East Africa, 20 hours away by air and nine time zones ahead of us, and yet, by Faith we are family. Since just after World War II, canonical Orthodoxy has been part of the life of Uganda, spread not by missionaries but rather by Ugandans themselves who sought out and found the apostolic Christian Faith they were seeking, a Faith they chose rather than accept the faiths of the colonial powers that ruled them until the early 1960's.
The Ugandan Orthodox Church is led by His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah, himself the son of the leader of those who discovered Orthodoxy and brought it to Uganda. It is a young church, vital, and working in a culture where old and new are intertwined and some traditional brick houses have solar panels to make sure the cell phones are charged every night.
Every year, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America designates the Sunday before the celebration of Thanksgiving Day as a "Day of Sharing" to benefit the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). The official humanitarian aid agency of the Assembly, the IOCC is supported by generous donations from Orthodox Christians. Information about IOCC Sunday, including the Assembly of Bishops encyclical, Sunday bulletin inserts, a donation portal, and links for volunteering with the IOCC, are available on the IOCC Sunday landing page.
The IOCC has provided emergency aid, development tools, and resources to the needy around the world since 1992, and currently serves over 50 nations. The relief organization has been particularly active in recent years in the Middle East, alleviating the suffering caused by the ongoing strife in Gaza and in Syria, where people have lived for several years under civil war.
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is working to promote literacy and learning for underserved youth in America. More than $773,000 in new books and reading materials were distributed by IOCC recently to children participating in tutoring, after school and early childhood education programs in four of the six states with the highest poverty rates in the United States – states that also rank near the bottom in educational outcomes for their children.
IOCC's U.S. Program provided brand new books and educational materials to Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and New Mexico – states where nearly one in five families fall below the poverty level of $23,834 for a family of four. Books have also been provided for Detroit area children through the Council of Orthodox Churches of Detroit and for Alaska's underserved children through the Orthodox Church in America's Diocese of Sitka and Alaska. In Detroit, more than one in four families and a staggering 39% of children live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey.
A ministry of FOCUS North America, the Youth Equipped to Serve program, or YES, provides opportunities for junior high and high school students to participate in formative weekends of service in urban environments across the U.S. and Canada.
Weekend service trips scheduled for the fall are as follows:
YES OTTAWA, ON- October 4th
YES DETROIT, MI- November 7-9
YES PHOENIX, AZ- November 21-23
YES AKRON, OH- December 5-7
YES PROVIDENCE, RI- December 12-14
A list of upcoming YES trips and information is provided on their website. For more information about the program, read an interview with North America Program Director, Katrina Bitar, or contact her via email.
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) remind us that with the new school year, Syrian refugee students are in need of supplies and hygeine items. The notebooks and pencils in the IOCC School Kits provide tools needed to continue learning, while the items in the Hygiene Kits help children maintain their health and dignity. The following IOCC-sponsored kits are offered:
SCHOOL KITS — Imagine going to school without pencil and paper. Children in many of the countries where IOCC works don't have even the most basic of these school supplies. By putting together a School Kit, you can give a less fortunate child the tools needed to succeed in school.
HYGIENE KITS —Basic items like a bar of soap, wash cloth, comb, and bandaids may seem small, but putting them all together in a Hygiene Kit can make an instant difference in an ongoing development program or when disaster strikes.