Last Updated on Thursday, 20 October 2011 14:47 Written by Administrator Thursday, 15 April 2010 14:57
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 October 2011 14:56 Written by Administrator Friday, 07 May 2010 17:27
This Mother’s day we celebrate our mothers and remember that being a mother is a hard job. A mother often works tirelessly to take care of her children and will do anything to be assured of their well being.
But at FOCUS North America we also remember the many working poor mothers who struggle alone; The mothers and their children living in abusive environments; the homeless mothers and their children; the mothers who come to our ministries daily who want to be able to feed and nourish their children but can’t seem to make ends meet in this difficult economy.
I often encounter guests to our food pantry who tell me that the supplemental food they receive each monday or the hot nutritious meal that they and their children receive is how they survive. More than just the food, the time we spend serving them helps them have hope for a better tomorrow.
This Mother’s day we also stop to consider that according to the Census Bureau survey, most of the families that are at greatest risk of going hungry are headed by single mothers.
As unbelievable as it is in the midst of our abundance in North America there are countless hungry and hopeless families.
According to the Food Research and Action Center, almost 23% of all children and over 14% of all adults in America live in households with insecure food. This means that regularly some of our neighbors (even some of the people we may attend church with)find themselves going without meals or eating cheaper, less nutritious food to stretch every dollar. Seniors often are in the terrifying predicament of having to choose between the medicines they need or food.
But together we can provide help and hope to those who are most in need. Through our own sacrificial giving, our local church ministries and through coordinated pan-Orthodox national ministries like FOCUS North America we can, and are, providing hope for the hopeless and food for the hungry.
This weekend as you stop to remember your mother on Mothers Day please also pray for the lonely and desperate mothers who are in need and whose tireless hard work to survive often goes unnoticed. Your gifts to FOCUS North America give hope to mothers in need. Thank you!
For Those We Serve,
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 October 2011 14:57 Monday, 05 April 2010 16:38
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!
Al-Masi-H Qam! Hakan Qam!
Christos Voskrese! Voistinu Voskrese!
Le Christ Est Resucitee! Vraiment Est Resucitee!
Cristo E Risorto! Verito E Risorto!
Khris-tusax agla-gikux! Agangu-lakan agla-gikux!
Ua Ala Hou ‘o Kristo! Ua Ala ‘I ‘o No ‘oia!
Cristos vaskres! Vaistinu vaskres!
Xris-tusaq Ung-uixtug! Iluumun Ung-uixtug!
May the Light of our Lord’s Resurrection be in your hearts and with those you love, today and forever.
Wishing you a most blessed, bright, and glorious Pascha! Love and Prayers –
Always, In Christ,
Board of Directors and FOCUS NA Ministry Team
Last Updated on Thursday, 04 March 2010 17:13 Written by Faith Boldt Thursday, 04 March 2010 17:05
My name is Michael and this is my story. A year ago I was going to die. There was so much pain in my heart from countless situations I had experienced. Starting as a young child the world seemed cruel. I struggled to care for myself—my tape covered shoes showed it. While other children played, I dug in dumpsters and sold flowers I picked or poems I wrote. The money I used for food and laundry. Without a family that cared, I became a victim to molest. Before I turned eleven I had also already witnessed a murder and a suicide.
I grew into life only to find that at the age of twenty-five I was still digging in dumpsters. I had become an addict, and I was homeless. I started at different times to get a hang of life better but found I could not keep a hold of stability and gradually grew worse. I finally resigned myself to death and was entertaining ideas of how the end my life on this earth. This was a year ago.
When I first came to St Brigid's Fellowship last November, I truly had nothing. They offered me food and social services. That December I felt a change in myself and I knew it came from something there. By February I became aware that God had put me there to save my life. I sensed that the hands of the people were also the hands of St. Brigid herself. I could see that the fire in their hearts was the fire of God. I call the people there angels because they lifted me up again. I felt the same fire light my heart. I kept coming back and felt my pain going away. I would cry in church on Sunday because I realized for the first time it was going to be better. I cried in grief over memories and I cried in relief I was beginning to feel.
I have been a Catechumen now for three months. I sense the saints when I am in the church and in the people who go there. They are my family, and I will be with them forever. May God bless St. Brigid's Fellowship and St. Athanasius.
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 October 2011 15:14 Written by Faith Boldt Monday, 01 March 2010 12:03
I am a product of my American culture. I have the diabolical image of myself that is ingrained in most of us. I think of myself too highly, yet I loathe myself.
From the womb, we are taught to have a sense of entitlement and a sense of fierce individualism. We grow up to think that we must have our way all of the time. We elevate the self to the point of self worship. However, at the same time we are made to feel by the media that we are not pretty enough, smart enough, rich enough, etc. We are enticed into thinking that we must spend our life chasing after earthly “perfection”. We believe that we can find it in ourselves, and often we ruin our lives in the pursuit.
This warped perception of who we are spills out into our religious life. Often our prayers become selfish. We tell God exactly what we want and when we want it. We somehow see God as some genie in the sky.
Most of us have sincere hearts and are unaware that this is what we are doing. We seek God, but are often disappointed with the immediate results. This is often true of those who are in ministry. We have our plan of how things should progress and what exactly the results should be. And these plans are often godly plans, plans that we think will further His kingdom. But we must take a step back and realize that our thoughts are not God’s thoughts. We must pray what can sometimes be the most difficult prayer. “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done.”
A personal example of this was my desire to do overseas ministry. For most of my adult Christian life, I wanted to serve God overseas. I had spent a total of a year in Ukraine and several weeks in Romania. I really believed my calling was to serve God on a permanent basis in Eastern Europe. However, that is not how things turned out. Due to specific personal circumstances, I had to rule out overseas work. I, of course, was really disappointed and felt lost. However, I prayed that God’s will be done. God, in turn, showed me that I needed to serve Him here at home. Eventually, I found my way to FOCUS North America, and I know that this is where I belong.
On the other hand, we are often filled with such a low self-image that we think we are unworthy to come before the throne of God and ask for what we need. We don’t have because we don’t ask. We can’t accept the fact that we are beautiful creatures made in the image of God himself. Afraid that we might be consumed, we shrink away from the throne of God. Unable to receive His Grace, we suffer needlessly.
So the question is how do we heal this warped image of ourselves? How do we find the medium between self-worship and self-hate? I am starting to see, that the answer lies in humility. Only with humility will we have the correct image of ourselves.
Where do we find this humility? We have to look no further than Jesus Christ who was equal to God but lowered Himself to become man. “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of a cross” (Phil. 2:8). He is the one who taught us “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done.”
This is the faith that I want to live for. This is the faith that I am striving for. Lord, give us your servants humble hearts. Help us to heal the image we have of ourselves. Grant us the gift of obedience and help us approach Your throne with confidence and grace.
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 October 2011 15:15 Wednesday, 24 February 2010 17:14
A huge part of being in community with others is letting others be right. If someone always feels like you are going to disagree with them, they will have a wall up to you, and you may never connect with them. Relating successfully to the people around you requires active listening and patient sharing of thoughts. If you always aim to be right, when it matters, you won't be listened to.
It's a good idea to let the other person speak their mind without objection when the subject at hand is no big deal. For example, there are many ways to drive from place to place, so let the other person pick the route you will take. Or someone may think it's 40 degrees outside, while you are sure that it's 20. In these types of situations, the fight is really not worth fighting. It is good to opt for just saying "OK" and moving on.
There are also many opportunities to relate well to people when having discussions involving opinions. People have varied opinions about food, colors, decor, movies, music, etc. Instead of telling someone why you disagree, continue to explore that person and who they are. Listen to what they like and ask them to tell you more about it instead of bringing the attention to yourself and your opinion. If they ask about you, share yourself with them... keep the conversation open and find commonalities and appreciate why each of you is different and unique.
People are simply different. Life would be boring otherwise. Having beneficial relationships with people is fostered by truly being open to loving people as they are. If someone feels comfortable being who they are with you, it is likely that you will connect to the point of really being able to meet each other's needs.
So let others be right. If you always object, you will never be heard. But if you listen with care, your words will be received as an offering of love.
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 October 2011 14:57 Thursday, 18 February 2010 19:00
In past times, if we wanted to avoid the reality of what was going on us in America, many of us could. We could change the channel, turn off the radio, or avoid the poorer neighborhoods. However, the need in America is so great now that almost everyone knows someone who has been affected by job loss, home foreclosure, disconnected utilities or food shortage.
According to a recent article in USA Today, 1 out of 8 Americans had to get assistance from food banks last year. In just three years, that number has increased 46%. People are having to choose between necessities. Should they heat their homes, or should they eat? Should they buy medicine, or should they pay their rent? These are questions that people shouldn’t have to debate.
You also might be surprised by the demographics of the people seeking assistance from soup kitchens and food banks. They are not all homeless, as one would suspect. Many of the people acquiring assistance have jobs and are already on government assistance such as food stamps. However, according to USA Today, the average monthly income of those seeking help at food banks is an average of $940 a month. Often times, governmental assistance is not enough.
St. Paul tells us in 2nd Corinthians 3-5,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God
of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort
those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted
by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds
If we have been blessed with comfort, it is our spiritual responsibility to comfort others. Let us not show our love by word alone but by deed as well. Now is the time to reach out to those suffering around us. This love by deeds can be manifested in many ways: giving money, serving a meal, being a sturdy shoulder to cry on, or many other numerous actions. The point is to reach out to others and share the comfort God has given us. And the time to do that is now.
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 October 2011 14:48 Written by Administrator Thursday, 18 February 2010 10:39
I had the blessing of going with my son and some friends from the Rochester parish to the Metropolis of Chicago – Western Region Basketball Tournament in Kansas City two weeks ago. Since I was at the national headquarters of FOCUS North America, I wanted them to see what I did for a living. On Friday night, we went to our Reconciliation Services – Focus Kansas City Center (which also serves as our home office) to serve a meal to the homeless. Evan (my son) asked me, “What do I do?” I said, “Get a plate and give it to someone, and sit down and talk with them.” He said, “Sit down and talk?” I said “Yes, that is the Lord Jesus Christ sitting there. What are you going to do? Slop his food in front of Him and take off?” He did it. He ended up visiting with two different people. One he talked baseball with for a long time. Afterwards he told me how much it changed his impression about many things.
Meanwhile, I met a man whom I will call “C”. C had booze on his breath, and for some reason, even though I was wearing sweat pants and a sweat shirt, he knew I was some kind of clergy. I asked how he knew, and he said God told him. C and I joked with each other for a long time. We were having a blast when he finally he told me what had happened to him; it was drugs, then a lost job, and then a lost family. When C is ready he will go upstairs at our center and meet with Fr. Paisius or other counselors and start to get his life back. I think this will be soon. As C was leaving, he hugged me and said that I was one good m***** f*****. I said, “Thanks”; it was the greatest compliment anyone ever gave me.
Later that weekend, Ari, the friend from our parish told me about his experience. He said all my talking and presentations about FOCUS North America were not that effective. Even our DVD was nothing compared to this real experience of serving the homeless. That was my greatest insult, but I welcomed it.
As you can see, the most effective way to reach a person is through friendship. At the recommendation of many people, I saw three good movies this last month; “The Soloist”, “Precious” and “The Blindside”. What all three movies witness to is the importance of friendship and the effect it can have on those in need. All the programs and monetary funding in the world will never replace someone who cares, takes a chance and becomes a friend. Miracles can even happen as we saw in the true story behind the movie, “The Blindside.” My bet is that most of the people we saw that night in Kansas City probably had a family who also tried and tried to help but eventually gave up on them. Many probably had given up on themselves. But now what? What will happen to them? Whose “problem” will they be now? They have become “the least” that the Lord talks about in Matthew 25.
This is the essence of what FOCUS North America is all about. Yes, we would love more programs; yes, we would love more money, but what we really want is you and them to become friends. And here is the real mystery…you will benefit from it most! Below I have passed along what the others experienced that night serving the homeless…
I wanted to express my humble and a sincere thank you to everyone involved in FOCUS North America. I had the opportunity to help serve meals on a snowing cold night in Kansas City last Friday. Although I have thankfully and with God's grace been able to help serve people in need before, this was the first time I had experienced this type of event. I was overwhelmed with how happy and uplifting the atmosphere was. My two daughters and my wife along with a family from our church volunteered together. I hope and pray that God's message of helping those in need continues to be part of my family’s future. Upon finishing the evening, I took a moment to pray. I prayed for God to keep his spirit and strength in everyone there, and I prayed for God to hold a special place for his children in need in His kingdom. Finally, I wanted to apologize for eating so many cookies that were set aside for the homeless, I just couldn’t help it…
John – 40 years old
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to help out the people who are less fortunate than we are. When I got to the soup kitchen, I saw the people and I instantly realized that what we did for them helped them so much. Those people didn't have much, and when we helped them and gave them food, it made me realize how lucky I was to have what I have. This experience was wonderful, and it made me change my state of mind about many things.
Theoni – 12 years old
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to volunteer at the Kansas City soup kitchen. It was so much fun to help out and see a different side of our world that I hadn’t really experienced before. And I was so surprised to see that all of these starving people still had smiles on their faces. I definitely want to help out again.
Deanna – 14 years old
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 October 2011 15:14 Written by Faith Boldt Thursday, 11 February 2010 19:00
In just a few days, Orthodox Christians around the world will participate in Forgiveness Vespers. For those of you who are unaware of this tradition, participants bow before every other person individually and ask for his/her forgiveness. Then the other person says, “God forgives.”
For many, this can be a very uncomfortable practice. I, too, struggled with the whole concept of this service the first several times I participated in it, and to be honest, I am not entirely comfortable with it. In fact, I have to face this issue every Sunday. Several monastics attend the church where I am at now, and therefore, the church has adopted the monastic practice of asking for forgiveness from each other every Sunday before the Eucharist. The women sit on one side and the men on the other. The women always bow before each other individually before the Eucharist and ask for forgiveness and the men do the same.
Some of the most common thoughts that I have are, “I don’t want to bow before and hug that person. I don’t know them. It would be awkward.” and “Why ask for forgiveness if I have done no wrong? I have never ever seen that person before. How can I have sinned against them?”
I once had a priest who, when asked about this, would quote Elder Zosima from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s book The Brothers Karamazov.
"My young brother asked forgiveness of the birds; it seems senseless, yet it is right, for
all is like an ocean, all flows and connects; touch it in one place and it echoes at the
other end of the world….Tormented by universal love, you, too, would then start praying
to the bird, as if in a sort of ecstasy, and entreat them to forgive your sin….There is only one
salvation for you: take yourself up, and make yourself responsible for all the sins of men. For
indeed it is so, my friend, and the moment you make yourself responsible for everything and
everyone, you will see at once that it is really so, that it is you who are guilty on behalf of all
These words are hard to take in modern Western society where the focus is always on the individual. However, I am slowly learning that in the spiritual world the concept of individualism is not always the best way and often doesn’t make sense.
I can have no private sin. Because whether or not my sins have been concealed, they still affect all of those around me. And for that I have to ask for forgiveness. Also, how can I claim that I am not responsible for the depravity in the world when I, too, am part of the human race and have added to the multitude of sins in the world?
Those of us who are in ministry especially need to have a forgiving spirit and heart. Often in working with people in distress, it is easy to feel put out and offended. Sometimes we expect to be treated better for the work we do. However, instead we need to be forgiving and understanding. Not only that, we need to look deep inside ourselves and find out what we need to ask forgiveness for.
This Sunday, let us make a clean start to Lent. Let us ask forgiveness from each other for all sins “whether in knowledge or ignorance, in word or in deed.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 October 2011 15:12 Written by Administrator Friday, 05 February 2010 13:29
Troy & Theodora (FOCUS North America Board Member) are interviewed on Come Recieve the Light (nationally syndicated radio program of the Orthodox Church) about their involvement in FOCUS North America and the Tackle Poverty campaign.
Click the image to listen to the on demand radio program
FOCUS North America
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 October 2011 14:50 Written by Administrator Friday, 05 February 2010 13:20
Click the image to get the podcast
FOCUS North America
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