Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity
by Maral Joulouyan/IOCC Lebanon
Brummana, Lebanon — Located twelve miles east of Beirut, this sleepy mountain town swells in population from 15,000 to 60,000 when tourists from Gulf Arab nations visit during the summer months. Tourism has picked up again in Lebanon since the 2006 war, but families are still struggling to recover.
Wala, 13, used to attend a private school in Brummana, but her father’s restaurant wages were cut and she and her two sisters had to attend the town’s public school. “When we’re short for cash, I try not to be too demanding so that I can help my Dad get the basics for our family,” said Wala. Most poor and lower middle class families in Lebanon are forced to send their children to the nation’s public schools, which are woefully underfunded by the central government and lack basic supplies and proper facilities.
Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) is the official prison ministry the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America.
Prison is a very different world from the one those of us on the outside know: the lifestyle, the vocabulary and the rules of behavior are unique to prison culture. This distinct prison culture has developed because prisoners, by definition, are isolated from the outside world. Prisoners’ families, however, are similarly isolated from society by the economic difficulties, social stigma and overwhelming grief that attend the incarceration of a loved one. Every day of time a prisoner serves, his family serves with him.
Christ called us to proclaim the Gospel to all people (cf. Matthew 28:19). Many Christians in North America have accepted this charge with zeal, supporting missions and traveling to the far corners of the world to proclaim the truth of Christ in strange cultures. The prisons of North America are populated by millions of people desperately in need of the transforming power of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, this enormous mission field is largely ignored by those of us who proclaim Christ. Like all of us, prisoners and their families need the love of God. Unlike most of us who live in this wealthy and secular culture, many prisoners and their families, by virtue of the horrifying circumstances of their lives, experience their need for God's love in a profound and direct way and are searching for some means of knowing Him.
In 1991, Metropolitan PHILIP, primate of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, asked Father Duane Pederson, a highly experienced prison minister, to establish a prison ministry for the Archdiocese. In 2005, His Eminence graciously offered the Archdiocese’s prison ministry to SCOBA. Shortly thereafter, OCPM was chartered by SCOBA.
St. Athanasius Orthodox Church in Isla Vista, CA runs St. Brigid Fellowship, an outreach ministry to the homeless men and women who live in our town, about 80 at any one time. Some sleep on the streets or in bushes while others live in cars, vans, garages or other sub-standard housing situations.
St. Brigid Fellowship’s three part-time staff and many volunteers work together to solve homelessness one person at a time. We meet people on the streets as Jesus did, addressing immediate needs and starting relationships that can lead out of homelessness. The friendships we make help us to understand their goals, and help them attain them. Each visitor to St. Brigid's is known by name, has a place to belong, friends, acceptance, food, clothing and help getting out of any situations they wish to leave. This is not a one-way ministry, us to them. We all work together to solve our own problems and the problems of others and the community.
Our office is open five mornings a week. We provide breakfast, use of our mailing address, telephone and message service, Internet, hygiene supplies, first aid supplies, warm clothing, blankets, sleeping bags, rain gear and other survival supplies. We have a weekly outreach meal on Monday nights, which our parishioners help cook and serve.
For more information, please contact Jill Wallerstedt, Coordinator, at (805)968-8028 or at: email@example.com.
St. Brigid Fellowship is a partner agent of FOCUS North America.
The Treehouse is a charitable ministry designed to assist women who have chosen to carry their babies to term and give birth under difficult circumstances. Sponsored by Orthodox Christian Ministries, Inc., an organization founded by the Orthodox Christian community of Wichita, Kansas, The Treehouse has been developed in consultation with local agencies working with women in crisis pregnancies.
It is difficult for many mothers to experience the blessings of a new birth because of poverty, personal problems, and troubled relationships. Often, a pregnant woman in such difficult circumstances is told that the best way to cope with her problems is to terminate her pregnancy. The work of The Treehouse testifies to the belief that every new human life is a miracle to be celebrated. We seek to bless mothers and their new babies by assisting them with their most basic human needs. We offer assistance in the following areas:
Eligible mothers will receive a one-time free distribution of basic infant necessities and assistance up to five times a year with diapers or formula.
Our thrift store offers basic supplies for infants and todders, gently used (or new) clothing in sizes birth to 4T, and maternity clothes.
With the goal of better and more fulfilling lives for our moms and babies, we offer educational programs and resources including nutrition and parenting classes.
The South San Francisco Bay area of California, where our parish is located, is an affluent region. We began to be concerned about how easy it is to overlook the thousands of homeless and poor among us. Many of the impoverished in our area are working persons or families who live just one unexpected bill away from homelessness. Others are disabled persons whose limited Social Security benefits also leave them at risk. In the current economic climate, this is more true than it’s ever been.
In response, we came up with the Apostles’ Feet concept. We have designed a system to help needy people in our community by providing them with an ongoing income subsidy which can be tied to work. For every hour a subsidy recipient works, he or she will receive an additional dollar amount in the form of a check made out to his or her landlord. Then, as the recipient receives raises from his or her employer, the amount of the subsidy is decreased until unnecessary. A recipient who is disabled and unable to work will receive a fixed monthly subsidy ($250) in the form of a check made out to his or her landlord. Candidates are considered according to the nature of their needs and the funds available. The length of enrollment in the subsidy is determined by the recipient’s specific needs.
We have developed friendships with the people that we’ve been blessed to help, and some of them have chosen us as their parish home. Regardless of whether these recipients end up worshipping with us or not, we believe this answers the call of St. John, when he said: “But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”
For further information, contact Todd Madigan: firstname.lastname@example.org
When Peter and Sharon Georges were working as Orthodox missionaries in Uganda in 2003, they made a decision that seemed minor at the time, but would have far-reaching consequences. They agreed to pay school fees for two orphans who were living with an elderly grandmother.
Upon returning to Uganda in 2005, they learned that there were now nine children living with the old woman in a deteriorating mud hut wedged between a main road and a swamp. There were more grandchildren living nearby, some with a single ailing parent, some with another relative. Within weeks the two children became thirteen. Soon other situations presented themselves: a family of five kids living completely on their own; a little girl abandoned to a poor but caring neighbor; children living with HIV-positive single parents; and many more.
New Orleans, Louisiana - Kirk Stevens uses everything he has - even the homemade tattoos on his arms - to gain credibility with his kindergarten to 12th grade students. Stevens is the academic director of the afterschool program at Desire Street Ministries, a school and community outreach program founded in 1995 to help boys who typically fall through the cracks of the public school system in New Orleans' Upper Ninth Ward. "They're so streetwise, they have this attitude of 'if you haven't been there, then I don't want to hear about it,'" says Stevens.
Stevens has been there. The 59-year-old former oil company accounting assistant who left his career to answer the call of "black men helping black men," was raised by a single mother in the notorious Desire housing project during the 1950s and 60s. At its height, the project housed 14,000 individuals and was so infested with drugs, gangs, and crime that "you thought twice about venturing across the street to the supermarket," recalls Stevens.
IOCC Dateline: New Orleans, Louisiana
Covington, Louisiana - At 43, tan, and muscular, Michelle bounds up a ladder and uses her shoulder to hoist a "truss," a large wooden structure that will secure the roof of a new home. When she ducks as the team below her slides the truss into place, Michelle, a New Orleans native, reminds you of a pioneer woman. In fact, she is one. For the first time in her life, she will own a home, something that this landscape gardener and single mother never thought was possible.
Michelle is working on a Habitat for Humanity home, putting in the 300 hours of sweat equity required towards the acquisition of her own house. Her American dream is about to come true thanks in part to the hundreds of IOCC volunteers who have toiled in the Louisiana sun since 2006 to build new Habitat homes for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. "The idea of owning my own home for personal security, for personal investment, for my two growing sons - plus one that is affordable and that can withstand a Category 5 hurricane is something I never thought possible," says Michelle.
This verse has been chosen as the theme for the 2009 Convention hosted July 19 to 26, 2009, in Palm Desert, CA, by St. Michael Church of Van Nuys:
"Be mindful, O Lord, of those who bear fruit and do good works in thy Holy Churches, and who remember the poor." + The Anaphoras of Sts. Basil the Great and John Chrysostom
In support of this theme, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) will be exhibiting at the Convention, with multiple special presentations planned.
Also present will be FOCUS North America. Working primarily in the areas of Food, Occupation, Clothing, Understanding and Shelter, FOCUS North America (the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve) exists to share the love of Christ with our neighbors who are hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, strangers and in prison here in North America (Matt. 25:34-6). FOCUS North America is a domestic social action agency of the Orthodox Church "warmly endorsed" by the hierarchs of SCOBA. It was formed to serve the poor and needy on behalf of the Church in North America, to support existing Orthodox ministries doing so effectively, and to help welcoming parishes initiate new social action ministries in their own communities.
Here at www.Antiochian.org, we will be bringing together notable news about charitable work done across our Archdiocese and the ministries like IOCC which we help support. Visit our collection of articles on charitable work here.
The theme of the upcoming 2009 Archdiocese Convention is charity: "Be mindful, O Lord, of those who bear fruit and do good works in thy holy Churches, and who remember the poor." In that spirit, Antiochian.org will begin publishing additional content on the charitable work being done across the Antiochian Archdiocese and the ministries we support, including those of SCOBA (Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas), like OCN.
The Orthodox Christian Network is excited to announce another addition to its already dynamic and ever evolving list of Radio on Demand Programming (Podcast), The FOCUS North America Podcast.
The Focus North America Podcast will feature engaging commentary and timely updates on Orthodox Christian social action volunteers, agencies and ministries of the Orthodox Church reaching out to the poor and needy here at home.
Rev. Dr. Christopher Metropulos, the Executive Director of the OCN, an agency of SCOBA, said, “Serving the poor and needy in North America should be a priority for every Orthodox Christian. We are proud to partner with FOCUS North America and to support their dynamic and growing ministry on behalf of the whole Church.”