Just over two years ago, twenty Orthodox leaders from various jurisdictions gathered at the invitation of Antiochian philanthropists Charles and Marilee Ajalat, and the Orthodox Vision Foundation. That meeting laid the foundation for the subsequent launch of FOCUS North America (Food, Occupation, Clothing, Understanding and Shelter), a coast to coast network of Orthodox Christian outreach ministries.
Since its inception, FOCUS has steadily added partner ministries ranging from homeless shelters to medical and counseling centers. On April 3, FOCUS Orange County was awarded the Community of Faith Award, an honor endorsed by the California State Assembly. By the end of 2011, the organization hopes to increase its number of directors, partner ministries, and student volunteers in the Youth Equipped to Serve (YES) program.
Executive Director Fr. Justin Mathewes studied business as an undergraduate and subsequently earned a masters degree and was ordained at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. Chrismated in an Antiochian parish, Fr. Justin currently serves at a Serbian parish near FOCUS headquarters. With the Lenten season as a backdrop, we asked Fr. Justin to reflect on his first two years at the helm.
1. Since 2009 you've working to make FOCUS a reality and not just a list of organizational goals. What is the most important thing you've learned?
The most important thing I am learning through our ministry together is that the only person we can attempt to change is ourselves. In these last two years I have kept the basic Orthodox Christian spiritual principle before me of St. Seraphim of Sarov: “Acquire the Spirit of peace and thousand around you shall be saved.”