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.