Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity
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 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.
IOCC Educates Children to Prevent Domestic Violence
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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: email@example.com
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.