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International Orthodox Christian Charities Prayer Journal "Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord. May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth! - Psalm 134 (133)

What is IOCC?

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is the humanitarian and development agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America. Through IOCC, Orthodox Christians serve people around the world who need help. These people and families have survived natural or human-caused disasters, and some face extreme poverty or even war. IOCC helps them and helps the Orthodox Church to meet their needs.

Matthew 25:35-36, 40 is the inspiration behind IOCC. In this scripture, Christ asks His people to serve others and show our love for Him by caring for others--even if we don't know them and even if they aren't like us (e.g., sick, in prison).

As Christians, we are called to love Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our Lord and Savior. He explains in this parable that we can serve Him by serving others, by showing them kindness and compassion, and by making sure they have what they need to live in good health and dignity.

This booklet explores how you and IOCC, together, can help people who may not have the most basic items they need in life--our neighbors, whether they are down the street or around the world.

Inspired by Faith, Driven by Purpose

"For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me." ... And the King will answer and say to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."

- Matthew 25:35-36, 40

Chapter One

"I Was Hungry"

"Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food."

- Matthew 25:34-35

Food is one of the most basic things that human beings (and all creatures) need to survive. Sharing meals with loved ones is an important part of family relationships, and sharing the Eucharist is central to Orthodox Christian worship. When we don’t have nutritious food, we don’t feel well and may become sick. In this parable, Christ shows that we are to look out for one another and offer food to those who need it.

How can IOCC and I help people who need food?

  • Helping families, farmers, and communities in Greece, the Holy Land, Jordan, and elsewhere grow more of their own food plus enough to sell for income.
  • Ensuring families have regular hot meals and schoolchildren have nourishing food, through community kitchens and school-snack projects in Lebanon.
  • Building greenhouses in Georgia to grow produce the local Church can use in its soup kitchen and sell at market for income.
  • Supporting kitchen gardens for women-headed households in the Holy Land to help them increase harvests, feed their families, and grow their income.

Food for Thought

Have you ever tried to study on an empty stomach? Were you able to concentrate?

With the help of IOCC's school-snack program in Lebanon, a collaboration with the World Food Program, students in Lebanon public schools can focus on learning. The healthy snacks, like milk, peanuts, apples, and bananas, also mean families without much money don't have to buy food for their kids to carry to school with them--and this makes it easier for young students to stay in school and continue learning.

Bountiful Harvests, Brighter Tomorrows

A special type of giant bean is laid out to dry at the Agroka agricultural association outside Kastoria, Greece. Beans are an important crop in this area, as these farmers can tell you. Agroka has more than 210 members who grow and sell a special kind of bean that you can only find here. The soil in this region has a specific chemistry that makes these beans unique.

To help Agroka's farmers grow and sell more of their beans, IOCC gave Agroka equipment like a truck for pallets and an incubator for seeds. Larger harvests and the ability to sell more of their giant beans are helping these families earn a steadier income. Working with agricultural associations like Agroka, as well as with small businesses across the country, IOCC's Give for Greece program helps thousands of families earn a better living on their farms.

Church Greenhouses Feed & Inspire

Roman grew up in a rural part of the country of Georgia. He began working to support his family at age 11. After learning that even jobs in the city didn't pay well, Roman returned to his village, where he and a friend rented an old greenhouse to farm in. They were able to make a start, but the greenhouse often needed repairs, and they knew they could do better.

When IOCC started building new plastic greenhouses with the local Orthodox diocese, Roman got a job helping with construction. He believed that this kind of greenhouse could also help him, so he bought supplies. IOCC staff helped him shape the pipes for the frame, and soon Roman had built his own brand-new plastic greenhouse. He prepared the soil and planted tomatoes.

This easy, cost-effective, and strong construction ... will improve the farmers' lifestyle," Roman told staff

Roman believes that IOCC's model greenhouses will inspire others as they inspired him.

"Those ... who funded the project are most generous people," he continued. Low-cost greenhouses in this area can help local farmers earn a better living--this, said Roman, "is the real help to the rural community."

Prayer Before Meals

O Christ, our God, bless the food, drink, and fellowship of Your servants, for You are holy always, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Prayer After Meals

We give thanks to You, O Christ our God, that You have satisfied us with Your earthly blessings; deprive us not also of Your Heavenly Kingdom. As You did come to Your disciples and did grant them peace; so come to us and save us, O Savior.

Chapter Two

"I Was Thirsty"

"I was thirsty and you gave me drink."

- Matthew 25:25b

Water is even more important than food. While most of us could probably survive three weeks without food, we couldn't go much more than three or four days without water. Have you ever been in a hot, dry place where you didn't have enough to drink? Have you ever become sick because you drank water that wasn't safe? Many people around the world don't have pipes or wells for clean water, let alone running water in their homes. Without a safe water source, people can't wash their hands, cook, or stay clean. This is another very basic way that Christ asks us to help other people.

How can IOCC and I help people who need clean water?

  • Building rainwater-catchments for irrigation, drinking water, safe washing in Jordan and Lebanon.
  • Digging and repairing wells for villages, schools, communities, in Tanzania, Guinea, Kosovo, and elsewhere.
  • Teaching schoolchildren the importance of handwashing (and how to do it) to prevent disease.
  • Providing water, sanitation, and hygiene support for refugees landing in Greece; emergency water and health supplies after hurricanes and other disasters in the United States.

Springs of Life

Through your support, IOCC's Katherine Valone Trust "St. Photini" Water Program has provided clean water to over 30,000 people of the Mwanza Archdiocese in rural Tanzania. Many mothers and children needed to walk miles to reach safe water before, but they now only have to take a few steps.

The students of St. Sosthenes Secondary School, some of those helped by the project, sent their thanks to you:

"Our great appreciation to you for the good water flowing system here at school! Before it existed, the situation was so much worse because students had no choice but to wake up early to get water from the natural well located far from the school compound ... You recognized our problem and helped the school. We say thanks and appreciate you for hearing our voices and cries."

Safe Water, Better Health

Siham lives in a tented settlement near the village of Terbol, Lebanon, with her husband and eight children. For a long time, it was difficult to get water safe enough for cooking and drinking. Siham used to walk a half-mile and carry home three gallons at a time. IOCC installed a solar-powered system to run a water pump, providing water to the entire village. We also repaired two reservoirs and built water lines to them.

"Now we have clean, drinkable water which is always available," said Siham. "My children can shower more often, and I no longer have to walk long distances every day." She added, "[We] thank God for this blessing, as water is the source of life."

Through IOCC, you help make sure families, schoolchildren, and entire communities have clean water for drinking, cooking, and washing--with new wells, water tanks, and more. With safe water, thousands of lives have changed for the better in Uganda, Tanzania, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere.

Big Plans for Bright Futures

To increase access to education in rural Uganda, IOCC partnered with the St. Nektarios Education Fund to build a new school in Lwemiyaga in 2014, including two rainwater-harvesting systems to collect water for laundry and washing. At this boarding school, run by the Uganda Orthodox Church, IOCC recently completed a new dormitory, a rainwater-harvesting system, a modern latrine, showers, and a science lab. Students here are dreaming big because of your support.

A few of the high-schoolers visited one of the new buildings as it was going up. Juliet (left) enjoys studying English and aims to become a reporter. Abdul (right) loves physics and wants to be a construction engineer one day. Judith (center) plans to study nursing. The school, with all its new buildings, gives its students a safe place to learn, helping them move one step closer to their goals.

Hymn to the Theotokos

It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos, ever-blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, without defilement you gave birth to God the Word. True Theotokos, we magnify you!

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chasity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.

Chapter Three

"I Was A Stranger"

"I was a stranger and you took Me in."

- Matthew 25:35c

Have you ever been new at school or church or on a sports team or at a job? Do you remember not knowing the people, being in a strange new place, maybe even hearing a language you didn't understand? Christ asks His people to welcome strangers, offering them hospitality and shelter. Everyone needs a safe place to live, play, work, learn, and rest--and we can help each other by making newcomers feel welcome, sharing our blessings with people who are new or are facing difficulties in life.

How can IOCC and I help people who don't have a safe home?

  • Working with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East's Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development to open Dream Centers in Syria where children who've had to leave their homes because of conflict learn to deal with strong emotions in positive ways.
  • Offering classes in the local language and culture to help refugees build a new life in Greece.
  • Helping refugees and locals in Jordan pay monthly rent so they and their families can stay in their homes.
  • Repairing schools in Lebanon so children can feel welcome and safe.
  • Rebuilding homes in the United States after floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters.

A Chance to Finish School

When families have to leave home because of war, children miss out on schooling--teens may even need to work to help support parents and brothers and sisters. This is true for many Iraqis who fled to Syria some 13 years ago, as well as for Syrians displaced in their own country. To help young people complete their basic education, IOCC and Church partner the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development (GOPA-DERD), have organized courses prepping them for certification exams. This helps them make up for lost time and move closer to university studies.

One of these teens is 14-year-old Salem (not his real name), who was in ninth grade when he and his family fled their home city and moved to rural Damascus.

"In the coming school year," he recently said, "I am determined to pass my ninth-grade exam. My father wants me to be an engineer or a doctor, and I want it too ... My father is not able to pay for private lessons or institutes, so I'm happy because I had the opportunity to join this program."

United States

Respond & Rebuild after Storms

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma (2017) aren't in the news anymore, but IOCC is still helping families whose homes were damaged in those storms. A hurricane's winds can be very destructive, but when it causes flooding things are even worse. "Mucking out" homes--clearing away soaked floors, walls, insulation, and furniture--is the first step. That's because the moisture can cause mold.

Mold can grow in just a day or two if a home has flooded, and it can cause serious health risks, besides destroying property. Fungi can grow on any surface and may cause trouble breathing, skin rashes, headaches, and even memory loss. IOCC helps people avoid these dangers after a flood by mucking out the houses. This way families can begin to rebuild their homes and lives--and protect their health--after a disaster.

Greece

The Play's the Thing

In order to help refugees and migrants in Greece, IOCC partner Apostoli opened a nonformal education center in Athens in 2016. Now part of Give for Greece, this project has helped children, teens, and adults, as whole families come to the center together. Courses focus on Greek and English language, plus life skills to help participants get used to life in Greece or elsewhere in Europe.

One fun activity was a drama class for children ages 6 to 12. They did workshops on narration, improvisation, and mask-making. At the end of the course, 25 students performed the fairytale, Don't Scare the Nightingale. The play helped the students work together and think about friendship, respect, and other positive life lessons in a fun and memorable way.

Lebanon

Overcoming Barriers

Working with ACT Alliance partner Norwegian Church Aid, IOCC has provided educational assistance for 50 minority children at a community center in Mount Lebanon. Together, children ages 4 to 10 took part in educational and emotional-support activities, helping them get used to being in school with other kids their age. At the same time, IOCC also offered homework tutoring to 75 older minority students (grades 7 to 9) with learning difficulties to help them with their English, Arabic, and math. The project supports all these students, no matter their age, as they overcome challenges to academic success and improve their language skills. It also helps restore hope as they build a better future for themselves.

Greece

Creating Opportunity

Because of Greece's economic crisis, young people have faced difficulty finding jobs, more stress, and less connection with other people.

With partner Finn Church Aid, the CO{DE} + CREATE project brought together local and refugee youth to learn valuable digital skills that help them look forward to future opportunities. The program has also helped build bridges across languages and cultures.

"It's nice to have a place in the city where I feel welcome," said one refugee participant.

CO{DE} + CREATE taught students beginner and advanced level coding, computer programming, and digital content creation. Students also used their new skills to design and program a 3D robot.

The project offered weekly assignments, quizzes, and access to the learning lab, where students could practice and experiment while spending time with peers in a safe place.

"I like everything [about the] class. I'm very thankful to my teachers and all other staff," said one student, after completing the program.

Prayer of the Hours

You Who at every season and every hour, in Heaven and on earth are worshipped and glorified, O Christ, God; long-suffering, merciful, and compassionate; Who loves the just and shows mercy upon the sinner; Who calls all to salvation through the promise of blessings to come--O Lord, in this hour receive our supplications, and direct our lives according to Your commandments.

Sanctify our souls. Purify our bodies. Correct our minds; cleanse our thoughts; and deliver us from all tribulations, evil, and distress. Surround us with Thy holy angels that, guided and guarded by them, we may attain to the unity of the faith, and unto the knowledge of Thine unapproachable glory. For Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

Chapter Four

I Was Sick

"I was sick and you visited Me."

- Matthew 25:36b

Those of us who are healthy often take our good health for granted--until we become sick. And sometimes we need help to get well again; for example, we need medicine, new glasses, crutches, or physical therapy. Many people around the world don't have access to a doctor, or maybe it's difficult to get the medicine they need because they live far from a city. Some hospitals don't have the equipment they need to help people, and sometimes people don't know how to protect themselves from disease.

How can IOCC and I help people who are sick?

  • Supplying wheelchairs, eyeglasses, hearing aids, and other devices for those who need them around the world, particularly people with disabilities in refugee communities.
  • Opening podoconiosis clinics in Ethiopia to help those suffering from a painful disease, giving children shoes and teaching them how to prevent it.
  • Offering medical supplies, medicine for chronic illnesses, and medical procedures in Syria for those in need.
  • Sending shipping containers of medical supplies to help those in Greece affected by the economic crisis.

Ethiopia

Preventing Disease for the Long Term

IOCC met Samirawit in 2013, when she was 10 and living with her grandmother in Debre Markos, Ethiopia. She received her first pair of shoes through an IOCC project to help prevent podoconiosis (podo for short), a tropical disease that causes debilitating, painful swelling of the feet.

Samirawit was excited to have the brand new shoes and could hardly believe it. She quickly got in the habit of wearing shoes, which is the surest way to prevent podo. Her teacher even said that having shoes seemed to motivate Samirawit more at school.

Now 15, Samirawit still wears shoes every day. She remembered that first pair and how her feet grew softer the longer she wore them. When she outgrew them, her grandmother brought her another pair, as they'd both seen the advantages to wearing shoes and keeping their feet clean. Samirawit is healthy and at school participates in extracurricular activities focused on peace and humanitarian work.

Jordan

New Confidence, New Voice

Ibrahim, 8, has a severe hearing problem. In their home in Syria, his parents bought hearing aids, but because of the conflict they couldn't get them repaired when they wore out. When the family fled to Jordan, they lived first in a refugee camp but eventually moved to the city so that they could more easily find the care Ibrahim needed. There his mother, Ghoson, learned about IOCC's work to help people who have trouble seeing and hearing.

Through IOCC's project funded by the US State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), Ibrahim received hearing aids and speech therapy.

"His hearing has improved a lot after using the hearing aids that you provided to him," Ghoson told IOCC. "His speech has improved a lot too ... He loved the specialist very much and was always excited to attend the [speech therapy]."

Ibrahim is now enrolled in kindergarten.

"He has confidence in himself and has made a lot of friends," Ghoson said happily. "He loves writing and drawing."

Ibrahim is well on his way to a healthy, productive future!

Ethiopia

A Fresh Start for Kinde

A day laborer in Ethiopia, Kinde first noticed symptoms of podoconiosis (podo) when he was 18 years old. While he had shoes from his time in the army, Kinde couldn't wear them once he developed podo because his feet began swelling. But Kinde started treatment with help from IOCC: he began washing his feet three times a day and using bandages to help the swelling go down. It worked.

Because of your support, Kinde now tells his family, friends, and neighbors about podo and how to prevent it so "they don't have the same fate" as him. Kinde has worked hard to improve his condition and is now able to take part in community events without being shy about the condition of his feet.

Prayer for The Sick

O Christ, Who alone art our Defender: Visit and heal Thy suffering servant [Name], delivering him/her from sickness and grievous pains. Raise him/her up that he/she may sing to Thee and praise Thee without ceasing, through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Thou Who alone lovest mankind.

Prayer for Those in Need

O Christ, Who alone art our Defender: Be mindful, O Lord, of the young and the old; orphans and widows; the sick and the suffering, the sorrowing and the afflicted, all captives, and the needy poor; upon them all send forth thy mercies, for Thou art the Giver of all good things.

To Order Copies of the Prayer Journal:

To order copies for your group, please email Stephanie Wazlavek at our print warehouse (swazlavek@webbmason.com), or call 443.589.1565. IOCC is pleased to cover the cost of the journals, while a fulfillment cost of $9.61 per order and related shipping will be billed to your parish.

Prayers courtesy of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

Credits:

International Orthodox Christian Charities