Greetings from Austin, TX
The past few months have been busy while I continue to fundraise, work in the emergency room full time, and finish up the OCMC check list before my departure. Since my Nativity newsletter, I have spoken in Dallas at St. Seraphim’s OCA Cathedral and in New York City at Holy Protection OCA Cathedral. Both trips were special for different reasons. Let me tell you about them.
In December, I spoke at St. Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas, TX. This parish is special to me because my grandparents, aunt, and cousins attend this parish. They all were received into the Church in the last 4 years. So I can now say I am a second generation Orthodox Christian. His Grace Dmitri, Fr. Joseph Fester, and the parish were all very welcoming. I was honored to give the homily that Sunday.
In April, I returned to New York City after an 11 year absence. In 1999, I was blessed to attend St. Vladimir’s Seminary Orthodox Institute; that was the first year the Institute was opened to high school seniors. I had just become Orthodox one and a half years earlier, and it was then that I first met Orthodox Christians who were my age. Meeting other teens that were Orthodox changed my life. Prior to New York, I was just following my parents into the Orthodox Church; after New York, I made the decision to truly live as an Orthodox Christian. During the Institute, we visited different churches; one of them was Holy Protection OCA Cathedral. So, this spring, I was returning to the same parish to speak about the new ministry in Tanzania. It was a huge blessing to return to New York.
The following weekend, I had my commissioning at my home parish. Fr. David Rucker came for the event. Then a week after that, OCMC held a week long Pre-Field Training for our team. This was the first time I had seen the new OCMC building. The accommodations were just amazing. During this training we talked about what we needed to do before deployment and about language training that would begin immediately when we arrived in country and which would continue for the rest of our stay.
I had a rash when I left for Florida, and it became worse as the days passed. I ended up going to the emergency room in Florida because I realized my rash wasn’t just a rash–it was shingles. Shingles are really painful, but, thankfully, I was treated quickly and was able to stay for the rest of the training.
I am still not sure when my departure date will be–God willing, by the end of summer, but I ask for your continued prayers and support since I am still about $10,000 short of my goal. But lots of little things keep me going–like a woman in my home parish named LaVerne. LaVerne is 80 and was diagnosed with shingles this past December. She is still recovering and also has other health issues. But LaVerne is flying to California this month to attend a reunion and several family gatherings. She has been a great resource for all of my ‘shingles questions’, and, I have decided that if she can continue to function and live with shingles at her age, I certainly can.
“We cannot ask God and His holy saints that they remove all the difficulties from our missionary road and everything that causes us moral suffering. We can only pray that He help us carry the cross, and enable us to survive the difficulties and sufferings that await us on our missionary road. Our service is giving birth to spiritual children for God; and what birth is not accompanied by pain? And for this we must be prepared in advance. But we have a source of great consolation. To serve with energy and success we must have confidence beforehand that our labor is not in vain and that our work will be crowned with success.”
I have that quote at the end of all my emails; but in one of the notes, I exchanged with LaVerne, she wrote: “And I agree with St Nicholas of Japan — however, I do wonder if he ever had shingles?” I don’t know if he ever did either, but I know that the same grace that kept him going and that keeps LaVerne going will keep me going as well.