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St. Augustine, FL – Several hundred Orthodox Christian faithful from throughout the country and as far away as Albania and Romania will be in St. Augustine this week for the dedication of the new Archbishop Anastasios and Archbishop Demetrios Missionary Training and Administrative Building of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). This new facility will serve as the international missions headquarters for North America’s estimated 1.5 million Orthodox Christians. Events begin with an evening banquet Wednesday, May 20, and continue on Thursday with a Divine Liturgy service at 7:30 a.m. The actual Dedication ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 21, to be followed by a luncheon.

Both His Beatitude Anastasios, Archbishop of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania, and His Eminence Demetrios, Archbishop and Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Chairman of SCOBA, together with other hierarchs of SCOBA, will be at the dedication to celebrate this historical moment in Orthodox missions and cooperation, and to lead the gathered Faithful in praying for the continuation of this vital work of the Church. Also participating are current and former OCMC missionaries who are serving or have served in various worldwide locations; mission team volunteers; members of the OCMC board of directors; benefactors; staff; and other Orthodox clergy and laity.

Coverage of this historic event, including photos, interviews, and a live blog, will be provided by Fr. Chris Metropulos of Orthodox Christian Network (OCN). Logon to www.MyOCN.net on May 21st to share in this monumental expression of Orthodox Christian unity in North America and the continued growth of the Orthodox missions movement.

In response to Christ's final command to "make disciples of all nations," the OCMC is dedicated to helping the Church realize its missionary vision. In addition to sending Missionaries and Mission Team volunteers, the OCMC subsidizes the salaries of over 350 indigenous clergy in 18 mission countries. It helps train new church leaders by supporting seven seminaries around the world, and it funds numerous ministry and philanthropic projects of the Church abroad. In the new Missionary Training and Administration Building, these programs will be able to work toward sharing the Gospel of Christ in more areas around the world in the years to come.
 
 
OCMC Associate Director Fr. David Rucker and his family celebrated Holy Week and Pascha with the children and nuns of the Hogar Raphael Ayau. Although this orphanage has been open to children since 1857, it is only since 1996 that the Orthodox nuns of the Monasterio Ortodoxo Lavra Mambré have run this vital ministry of the Church in Guatemala. Every year since 1998 OCMC Mission Teams have come to minister to these precious youngsters, who range in age from infancy to their early teens. Currently, approximately 100 children live at the Hogar.

The Hogar has had visits from several priests and from two OCF Real Break teams during the Lenten season, but they do not have a permanent priest. Fr. Rucker has made two previous trips to the orphanage, but this was his first time to celebrate Pascha there. He was impressed by the children, who knew many of the Holy Week and Pascha hymns by heart.

When asked about his trip, Fr. David Rucker said:

When I learned that the blessed mothers of the monastery, over 70 children in the orphanage, and all the staff and Faithful would be without a priest in Guatemala, I thought, "How can I say no to them?" I was going to be serving in a parish in the USA with several priests and two Deacons ministering to perhaps 500 people, and here was an entire country without a single Orthodox priest during the highest feast days of the year. Many years ago my wife and I prayed a very simple prayer: "God, our family belongs to you. We will go wherever You send us. We will do whatever you ask us to do. We belong to You." Serving in Guatemala this past Holy Week and Pascha was a great privilege for our family. As is the case with almost all missionary work, we received far more than we could ever give. It is our joy on behalf of OCMC to contribute in a small way to all that God is doing in Latin America through the prayers of these blessed mothers and the children they love and serve. "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" (Mt. 9:37-38).
 
 
St. Augustine, FL - Last week five future Missionaries and an observer joined the staff of OCMC for six days of intensive training. This New Candidate Orientation (NCO) featured classes that covered a broad range of subjects from enculturation and contextualization of the Gospel, to evangelism, team skills, budgeting and communications workshops. The NCO is just one phase of OCMC's new intensive missionary training program aimed at preparing missionary candidates for raising support and ministering to a culture different from their own. The candidates will return to the OCMC Home Office once more to complete their preparation by attending Pre-Field Training immediately before departure.

Each of the missionary candidates is planning to serve in Tanzania where, under the direction of His Eminence Jeronymos, the Church and its outreach ministries are growing at an astounding rate. Once deployed, these Missionaries will be providing assistance in nursing, public health education, text translation, communication, sewing programs, and diocesan administration. Each of these ministries is vital to the Church's efforts to share Christ with the Tanzanian people.

The candidates are now in the process of raising support for their missionary service. If you would like more information about James Hargrave, Michael Pagedas, Charita Stavrou, Felice Stewart, or Katie Wilcoxson, please visit http://www.ocmc.org/missionaries/missionaries.aspx. We encourage the Orthodox faithful and parishes everywhere to be generous in both their prayer and financial support for these missionaries who will be serving as living witnesses to the Orthodox faith in Tanzania. More missionaries are needed in other parts of the world. Contact the Missionary Department for more information at missionaries@ocmc.org.
 
 
13 April 2009 @ 11:34 am
The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC), located in St. Augustine, Florida, is seeking 5 volunteers to join their Thank You Calling Team. Individuals on this team commit to calling a monthly list of OCMC donors and thanking them for their gifts on behalf of OCMC. Solicitation is not a part of this program. Training and orientation will be provided, and calls can be made from the OCMC offices or from home if the volunteer has unlimited calling. The time commitment is 3-4 hours per month. To find out more information, or to volunteer to become a part of this team, contact Kenneth Kidd, Annual Gifts Officer, at 877-GO-FORTH or at kenny@ocmc.org.
 
 
At the end of October, the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) hosted the first of many forums on missions to discuss the past, present, and future of the missionary efforts of the North American Orthodox churches. Participants discussed the vision for future Orthodox missions and evaluated Orthodox mission efforts over the past two decades.

Present for the forum were twelve Orthodox experts in missions from all over the United States, each of whom has dedicated more than ten years to the work of making disciples. This group included five participants with experience in long-term missions service, seven participants who had been formally educated in missions, past and present OCMC Missionaries and OCMC Board Presidents, and the founding Director of OCMC, His Grace DIMITRIOS Couchell. In addition, several participants have specialized training in Missiology, the study of the mandate, work, and message of Christian missions.

Of the forum, OCMC Executive Director Fr. Martin Ritsi said, “It was a historical event, because for the first time as a mission ministry of the Orthodox Church we have been able to call together persons of great expertise and experience in the mission field to begin dialogue on key factors of vision, direction, and evaluation of Orthodox missionary work in our contemporary world.”
 
 
 
29 September 2008 @ 10:37 am
Glenview, IL—On Friday, September 12, Ss. Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church hosted a Mission Team Chicago “Welcome Back Dinner” for Mission team members that participated on short-term mission projects this summer to Alaska, Ethiopia, Romania, South Africa, and Tanzania which are sponsored by Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). This event was an opportunity for team members to share stories and reflect on their trips. The “Welcome Back Dinner” is the second event held for Team Members, who are also sent out with a dinner recognizing their upcoming service. Over 250 Chicago area Orthodox Christians have participated in short-term projects since the program inception.

Selemir Vagic, 2008 South Africa Team Member and recipient of the Fr. George Scoulas Endowment Grant, presented Presvytera Mary Scoulas with an icon as part of these festivities. The icon came from a monastery in Kosovo, where Mr. Vagic traveled after his Mission Team trip. The Fr. George Scoulas Endowment Fund sends seminarians each and every year on short-term mission teams. This endowment is designed to not only allow OCMC to send trained and qualified catechists (seminarians) into the mission field, but to also raise the missionary awareness of our future clergy here in America.

Mission Team Chicago (MTC), which sponsored this event, was established in 1996. Comprised of former OCMC Mission Team members and others interested in forwarding Orthodox Christian mission work at home and abroad, MTC performs a variety of services to advance the work of the Church. On February 26, 2009, MTC will host its 11th annual Benefit. The keynote speaker will be His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America and Chairman of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). The proceeds will go to further the work of OCMC. If you are interested in finding out more about this upcoming event or about Mission Team Chicago, please visit www.missionteamchicago.org.
 
 
18 August 2008 @ 04:33 pm
Editor’s Note: Earlier this year a mission team from the Metropolis of Toronto, led by Fr. Christodoulos Papadeas of Denver, Colorado, visited Hogar Rapael Ayau. Paving the way for this group was an OCMC Mission Team, who served in Guatemala from July 5th through July 14th. Fr. Christodoulos reflects here on his time at the orphanage:

It is 7 a.m. Guatemala City, a city of 2 million people, is beginning its day just like most cities. Traffic noises (horns honking, police whistles blowing) can be heard all around—a big diesel truck and an un-muffled motorcycle…and look up high, there goes (or comes) another airplane from (as is posted therein) “the Best Airport in Central America.” Yes, we’re in Guatemala.

In a city of 2 million people you are sure to find a wide variety of life-styles: wealthy people who grapple with their consciences, middle income families striving to make ends meet, elderly folks putting forth their final efforts to “win paradise.” There are young people with hopes and dreams (some students, some drop-outs) all doing what comes naturally (although in some cases to be sure, unnaturally). Certainly in a city of this fallen world where so many of God’s children live, there must be things like crime and poverty – not to mention drug trafficking and homelessness. Yes, Guatemala, like most places, has it all. Well…now it does. But before 1995 Orthodoxy did not exist in Guatemala. But She does now!

Guatemala now has a very special something that is, to be sure, most rare and beautiful; like the not often seen or smelled wild flowers that grow only in high places where few people ever go – or perhaps as rare as that shinning white pearl found only in the depths of the deep blue sea. Guatemala has an Orthodox monastery/orphanage (read: sacred mission center): Hogar Rafael Ayau Home for Children, under the watchful maternal eye of the Lavra Mambre women’s monastery – which is spear-headed by the Abbess, Mother Inés and her two companions, Mothers Ivonne and María.

Come see for yourself a paradigm of Orthodox living. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving lived out daily…and by whom? Just those three “brides of Christ” (nuns), a small staff – and, presently (for a precise history go to hogarrafaelayau.org), 94 of God’s precious “little ones” (from newborns to 18) of whom Jesus says, “Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives me” (Mt. 18:1-6).

The Hogar Raphael Ayau is an excellent model for Orthodox families, Orthodox Monasteries, Orthodox Schools and Institutes, and everyone Orthodox:

 They eat well – but light (and they fast)

 They go to sleep early – and rise at the break of dawn (“early to bed, early to rise…”)

 They learn all about the world (you should see their school!) – but, they do not neglect learning about the other world

 They swim and play – yet they gather every day for orthros (7:15 a.m.) and vespers (4:15 p.m.)

 They apply “gender appropriate” living – and they all love each other like brothers and sisters

It’s a paradigm. All in all, they live and love the life which the Fathers have taught us about in the Church. Come and see...and neglect not to “live it” right where you are!

Brothers and sisters, grace has come to Guatemala: “where sin abounded there did grace much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). Indeed, our true citizenship is in heaven. “Life is good sailing above the troubled sea of (worldly) cares…” as Saint Theodore the Studite says. Heaven is now come to Guatemala…and, at least from the Hogar Rafael Ayau Home for children, Guatemala is now aiming for, and visiting, Heaven quite regularly. We entered therein just this past Sunday (the Fifth Sunday of Matthew) at the beautiful church of the Children’s Home. God willing, we will enter again tomorrow at the monastery, in the Divine Liturgy, with 94 of the children of whom Christ spoke when He said, “...to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven” (cf. Lk. 18:16, Mt. 18:3-5).

Written on the premises of the Children’s Home (special thanks to Mr. Jorge for his help on the computer) by Fr. Christodoulos Papadeas (of Tharri Monastery and the Brotherhood of Saint George, Denver) as part of a group of young adults from Toronto who came again to serve…and to learn and to grow.

_________________________________________________________
Roman, Fr. E. (2005). The Cross-Cultural Task of Missions. OCMC, 21 (2), 12-13.
 
 
23 July 2008 @ 08:45 am
39th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress

“Gather My People to My Home” is the theme of the 39th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. In his opening remarks, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America stated, “The theme of the Congress calls us in no uncertain terms to reach out, to move out and start gathering the souls who look for a spiritual home, for a living community and ultimately for a communion with God.” According to attendee Kenneth Kidd, OCMC Annual Gifts Officer, those attending the Congress have opened their hearts to this message as it applies both to the Church here in America and to the Church’s participation in International Missions.

OCMC Executive Director Fr. Martin Ritsi facilitated a workshop on enlivening the local parish through participation in International Missions. Also on the panel: Fr. Paul Paris of Minneappolis, MN, Fr. Steve Tsichlis of Irvine, CA, Fr. Luke Veronis of Webster, MA, and Fr. Alexander Veronis of Lancaster, PA. These priests spoke from experience about the benefits of participation in International Missions.

Rev. Alexander Veronis to receive Distinguished Ministry Award at Clergy-Laity Congress

On July 11th, Rev. Alexander Veronis received the Distinguished Ministry Award from the Hellenic College and Holy Cross Alumni Association at the 39th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress in Washington, D.C., this July. This award is given every two years to an alumnus with an outstanding ministry. Fr. Alexander is being honored for his 40 years as a pioneer in Orthodox Christian Missions. Fr. Alexander began the Missions Program of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North & South America in 1967. This eventually evolved into the present Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) under SCOBA. He served as the first OCMC Board President and continues to serve on the Executive Committee of the OCMC Board as President Emeritus.

New Agape/SAMP Coordinator at Orthodox Christian Mission Center

Ted Theodorou took over as OCMC’s Agape/SAMP Coordinator this month. Kenneth Kidd will continue to provide oversite for these programs in his role as Annual Gifts Officer. Ted grew up in Tucson, AZ, and received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Classical Studies from the University of Arizona. He then went on to attend Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, where he sat on the Missions committee for two years. Growing up, Ted was involved with his local Orthodox Christian Fellowship chapter, where he developed a greater appreciation for his Orthodox faith. In 2005, Ted joined a mission team to Guatemala. He has since participated on Real Break teams to New Orleans and Alaska and OCMC Mission Teams to Ghana and Uganda. Through this work, he felt called to serve the Church in the area of International Missions.

Ted can be reached by email at ted@ocmc.org or by phone at (904) 829- 5132.
 
 
20 June 2008 @ 03:06 pm
Note from the Editor:
Recently, OCMC sent out a call to our Missionaries, asking them to provide us with blog contributions. Floyd Frantz, Missionary to Romania, answered us with this series of entries, painting a vivid picture of his activities in Romania during April and May of this year. These entries have been edited and will be posted in groups of 2-3.


4/27/08

Today here in Romania we celebrate our most Holy Pascha, the Easter. I was at the Church earlier and came over to "Casa Alba" to participate in a small dinner that we are putting on for those who do not have families to celebrate with. We had an AA meeting, followed by "Sarmarle," a traditional dish of rolled cabbage stuffed with rice and meat. I just ate, and wanted to share about our dinner with you.

It was special for several reasons. For one, all of the food that we had was donated by Romanians, and the Sarmarle was donated and cooked by the members of Fr. Liviu's church in Sanpaul. I have not mentioned this earlier, but on every great feast day now this church is cooking dinner for our homeless folks. Fr. Liviu brings it into town and then we serve it up.

The folks here were special too. There were four or five street kids, and some of them are taking the AA group more seriously. The topic of the meeting was "Hope," and much of the sharing was about the impossibility of living life in Romania while drinking alcohol and expecting to have a decent life. Several of the people also shared about how their life has improved since getting sober and staying that way. When it is a group filled with homeless people that is talking, it’s inspiring.

Anyway, it is a beautiful day here in Romania, and I had a few minutes at my desk so wanted to share it with you. I'll try to get back on the thread about Moldova next week. In the meantime, I wish you a most blessed and Christ filled Pascha, filled with the "Holy Light" of His resurrection.


5/3/08

Christ is Risen!!

I write to you on this Bright Saturday to hopefully continue the thread that we started a few weeks ago. This past week has been taken up by the many things that I had to catch up on here in Cluj, so I have not been writing.

In Moldova, I did not get a chance to tell you very much about Fr. Ion (John) the priest that I am working with over there. He is really a wonderful person to know and to work with. He has two children of his own, but he has taken in several more. He actually had 12 at one time, but some of them have gone back to their families. Along with this he has started a "soup kitchen" to feed the poor in the town, and he is building a church. His wife, Preotasa Mihiala, is a social worker and is doing some work with young people. They are doing all of this on very little money, so it is a constant stress on Fr. Ion to keep things going.

They both remind me of how little faith I really have. I mean, they really do a "faith walk," as we like to say. For me it is much more simple and easy. They inspire me though, and are great examples of Christian life in action. As St. James has said, "faith without works is dead," and in their case they have plenty of faith and works.

Thank you again for your support, for your good words, for your good works, and most of all for your prayers.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Greetings and I hope that this finds you well, and in good spirits today.
It has been three weeks since I have written, and would like to take some time to update you on our activities.

First of all, please do forgive me for not writing. When I got back to Cluj, Ancuţa had not seen me for about 5 weeks and had a list of things for me to do around the apartment. Also, I have not been to the project in Cluj for the same time, and there was some catching up to do over there also. The staff are doing a great job without my being there, but they still like having me keep things on track.

I was in Cluj for about 10 days, and the week after Pascha I left again for eastern Romania, where Fr. Iulian and I did training programs on alcoholism for groups of parish priests from Onesti and Bacau. I did not arrive back in Moldova until Saturday morning, and am just now getting caught up on my emails.

It is really difficult to explain about our training programs, and now they have become an important part of our work. I will be writing about them in future newsletters, but to give you an idea of what we are doing you can go over to www.stdimitrie.org and under "programs" and then "education" you will have more information and pictures about this part of our work.
Speaking of web pages, one of the recent things that has happened since I have been working here in Moldova is that Bishop Vasilie approved the St. Dimitrie Program in Cluj to have its own web page, the one mentioned above. Fr. Cristi and the staff did a great job on it. The page is in Romanian and in English, but you must select the text just below the American flag on the home page to go to the English side. This is our first web page, and it is critical to our training programs because it allows the priests and others to download books and files about addictions from the Romanian side of the page. I'll post my book on addictions and some other articles on the English side in a few days.

Please note that this is not my personal web page (I don’t have one) and that for information about Ancuţa and me you can go to www.OCMC.org and look under "missionaries." This page is about the St. Dimitrie program (which most of you support) and my work in Romania which is through OCMC and under the umbrella of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

Editor’s Note: To read more about the Frantzs’ work in Romania, check out the St. Dimitrie website, or join Floyd’s Yahoo group: stdimitrieproject@yahoogroups.com. To learn more about the ministries of OCMC, including opportunities for long-term Misisonary service, visit www.ocmc.org.
 
 
20 June 2008 @ 08:57 am
Note from the Editor:
Recently, OCMC sent out a call to our Missionaries, asking them to provide us with blog contributions. Floyd Frantz, Missionary to Romania, answered us with this series of entries, painting a vivid picture of his activities in Romania during April and May of this year. These entries have been edited and will be posted in groups of 2-3.


4/20/08
To continue about the violent street protests in Chisinau last year at Christmas, this does of course not represent all of Moldova's young people, but it is the representation of a certain group. It also speaks to the fact that there were so few churches in Moldova under Communism and to how radical the Communists actually were. We should note that in 2001 a Communist president was elected, and that he has held power ever since. It shows how desperate people can become.

However, it is not as simple as it would seem. Under Communism, Moldova had a fairly good standard of living for the system. After 1989 and the breakup of the Soviet system, Moldova fell on hard times. As in Romania and much of Eastern Europe and Russia, the Communist system was not very modern or efficient in manufacturing. When the Eastern Bloc trade agreements stopped and everyone had to compete in the modern world, they simply could not compete with more modern countries with better manufacturing techniques and better transport. As a result of this, today Moldova is the poorest country in Europe; it is probably decades away from joining modern Europe. Its economy is based in agriculture, and the methods of farming are not well developed compared to the rest of the Europe.

One thing we see here is that everyone has a vineyard. I cannot tell you in words how important wine is to the culture here. It is everywhere. They serve it instead of water at dinners, and everyone drinks it. They say that it is of good quality. I do not drink myself, but those who do swear by it. Some of them swear after drinking it too.


4/21/08
To start today, I need to say that I have decided to simply write about what happened today, Monday, and then to continue the other thread about Moldova tomorrow.

The day was pretty normal: we worked on fixing up the flat that we are staying in, and we met with a doctor from the hospital. He is the local "Narcalog," which is the common Russian term for addictions specialist. They are doing mostly detox, but are also doing some counseling while the patient is in the hospital. He was really open to us, and we expect to have a good collaboration with the hospital. Part of what we do is visit alcoholics while they are in the hospital and invite them to attend our groups when they get out. The AA groups help a lot with giving them peer support, and we also have out-patient treatment programs based in the "Minnesota Model."

Tonight was group night at the Deaconia social center in Leova, which is run by Fr.John. The meeting started out with, "The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it." (This was taken from page 83, of the book "Alcoholics Anonymous"), and the group topic soon turned to a discussion of God, and "Higher Power." Well, it turns out that all three of the people from Leova were agnostics. They did not know what to believe about God. One of them shared about being brought up by Communist parents to believe that there is no God. He has figured out on his own that there is some kind of "Order," or "Higher Power." Well, "Higher Power" is how AA members often refer to God. It was really a good discussion about spirituality, and I was surprised by their openness and sharing about this. Under the Communist system, usually there was not much sharing of things personal in nature, especially about things like "God." We joked a little about what AA tells newcomers about God: "There are only two things you need to know about God, one, that there is one, and two, that you're not it."

Well, I really cannot describe the feelings in that room. It was like being somewhere that was "bound" by something; it was "tight," or "frozen." Tense might be a good word to describe the feeling. I did not notice it so much until after we really started talking about God. Then there was like a "freeing up" of feelings, or a "loosening" of some kind. What kept amazing me was how open they were to talking about spiritual things, and they were not at all anti-God, quite the contrary; they were very open to talking about God and spirituality.

We are starting our treatment program here in Leova in June, and it will be a good chance to invite them to explore their spirituality in a more full way. Fr. John will be our spiritual counselor.

I really do hope that all of you will pray for this community of people who are trying to recover from their alcoholism, and for my staff who are with me from Romania (Rici and Ucu), and for me.


4/22/08
Today I will continue our newsletter with more about Moldova, and the problems that are facing this very small Eastern European country. Not long after I got here, I asked Fr. John why social programs are important here in Moldova. He gave me several points that I would like to share with you. Some of them I may have already mentioned, so I will be brief. I paraphrase Fr. John's comments:

Under Communism, there was a well-structured society and low unemployment. The society was accustomed to having the State take care of them, from birth to death, but they were expected to work. Today, there are few resources here, high unemployment, high poverty, and few social programs. Related to this, it is important to note that as much as 25 % of the working age people have left the country to find work abroad. Many of these young people already have had families, and as a result of this the family is falling apart; it is loosing its structure. Alcoholism, child and family abandonment, distrust of authority, and general social breakdown are everywhere. However, people do trust the Church and seem to accept the social programs that we are offering. Yesterday’s entry is a good example of this.

Well, I don't like ending on such a downer subject. The weather here today is really perfect, and many of the trees still have their blooms on. Also, (remember that meeting with the narcolog?) Rici (Romanian staff) went to the hospital today and two new people are coming to the group tonight. That is a joy to me. You know, when I think of it, there is always something good to share about. I should "stay on the sunny side" more often.

One last thing, I drive back to Cluj tomorrow, so will not be able to send any thing out. I do thank you for your interest in our work, for your good words, and most of all for your prayers.


4/25/08
To continue my newsletter from two days ago, Fr. John believes that the biggest problem facing Moldova today is that so many people are leaving the country to find work, and many of those leaving are young mothers. Alcoholism is a big part of the problem—in families where there is high alcohol use, there is often physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. Of course, in countries like Moldova, where the standard of living is much lower than in the West, the woman is much more dependent upon the man for financial support. As a way to escape this, many mothers simply leave the country and find work elsewhere. In my discussion with Fr. John about the young people, I asked him directly what the young people need most. He said without hesitation, "Mothers—they need mothers."

It is hard for us to imagine a society with so many mothers missing, gone off to work somewhere. Of course, I am sure that he is referring to the kids who are in the most difficult situations, but there are a lot of them. In Leova, there is one school with 400 abandoned kids, and in Cupcui, a village near Leova, there is another school with about 60 abandoned kids and orphans. We are working with Fr. Petru (Peter) the priest in Cupcui also, and I'll be writing about his village also in a later newsletter.

Moldova also has a very serious problem with human trafficking, including the sexual exploitation of young women and girls. There is also quite a lot of heroin transported through Moldova on its way to Western Europe, and there is also an increasing amount of marijuana being grown in Moldova. Of course, young people are drinking a lot of alcohol anyway, and the drugs are just complicating an already difficult situation. Fr. John says it's a problem that is not getting any better. Combined with all the alcoholism, poverty and the lack of opportunity, it is a very bleak picture for the young people over here. (Ed. Note: For an article on the fight against human trafficking in Moldova, visit http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/05/05/080505fa_fact_finnegan)

For those celebrating Holy Pascha on Sunday, I wish you a most blessed and Christ filled "Day of Resurrection”!