Monday, July 26, 2010

Fr. Matthew MacKay - May His Memory Be Eternal

(L-R) Dn. Meletios Marx, Fr. Matthew MacKay, Bp. BASIL Essey, and myself


This morning, I learned of the tragic and premature falling asleep in the Lord of my beloved pastor, spiritual father and friend, the Very Reverend Fr. Matthew MacKay.  Needless to say, Fr. Matthew's sudden and unexpected passing was (and is still) a total shock to me and to all the thousands of people who knew and loved him.  I will post a tribute to him later, but now this is all I can do.  My heart is broken.  Please pray for Fr. Matthew's wife Kh. Lynn, his sons Patrick and Sean, and all the people of St. Joseph's and the other Orthodox parishes in Houston.  He will be dearly, dearly missed.

As of now, funeral arrangments are pending.  I will post them when I know the definite dates and times.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Most Overrated American (Part Two)

General George Armstrong Custer, one of the few people who are most famous for a defeat


Here is the second part of my post, "The Most Overrated American," which comes from a pamphlet I found in some things that belonged to my mother.  The pamphlet lists seven Americans that a panel of historians, journalists, and politicians nominated as the most overrated American.  Note that this list is not necessarily my own opinion.


1.  General George Armstrong Custer.  A flamboyant, exhibitionistic, loose cannon poseur, who enjoyed few successes and many failures, including a great disaster in which his loyal troops paid the supreme penalty for his braggadocio.  It is amazing that he should have been able to get away with what he did.  The one-track diligence of his widow converted him into a national hero of the most dubious credentials.  (James Michener)

2.  Woodrow Wilson.  Never has the peril of having a truly good man in the White House been more clearly demonstrated.  His dictation of peace terms at Versailles was one of the seminal blunders of this century and his overweening vanity sabotaged the League of Nations (Peter Andrews)

3. John F. Kennedy.  In his shocking death he became a legend, a myth of enduring youth, and inextinguishable flame.  Yet what did he really accomplish?  His legacy includes the Bay of Pigs, the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missle Crisis, and the War in Vietnam.  (Francis Russell)

And here's the real shocker....

4.  Benjamin Franklin.  He overrated himself, to begin with, and historians ever since have believed him.  Without a printing press and a larcenous view of other people's ideas, he would have ended up as a second-rate shopkeeper and a third-rate politician.  (G. B. Warden)

(!)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Katie Wilcoxson Update


Here is the latest email update from Katie Wilcoxson.  I actually chatted with her on Facebook this morning, and she is doing well.  She did say that she was sick for a while (not an uncommon occurrence for new missionaries), but that she is well now.  Please keep Katie in your prayers, and if you wouldn't mind, send her a quick email letting her know you are praying and thinking about her.


Katie's email is katiechkared2 [at] gmail [dot] com.



Greetings from Dar es Salaam!!!


I am sorry for my late update. We are now online, but I am not...

God willing I will be able fix my Internet problem when we head into town tomorrow. Right now we are staying at the Hostel in the Salvation Army headquarters. Think summer camp with: touch and go electricity, light dripping cold showers, sleeping under a mosquito net, and everyone speaking Kswahili and British English around you.You now have an idea of where I am right now.


Wednesday-Friday

The trip to Tanzania was full of events. Like "kidding around", for those of you who know me well, and getting blank stares from the employees at Heathrow airport. Most of the time Felice had to rescue me from these "situations." Staying in the Yo-tel at Heathrow airport for 4 hours. The Yo-tel was so worth it!! I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone with a layover at Heathrow or Gatwick. I can't and neither can Felice, my travelling partner, describe or tell you how wonderful and a true blessing, from our wonderful and gracious Lord, this place was for us. When I find where I put my camera, pictures will be posted. I would also like to give kudos to British Airways for telling me my English was horrible and serving us the best meals with free wine. The flight personal were very nice, except when they told me my English was horrible.


Friday

We slept off the jet lag as much as we could and I went out to dinner with the boys, Michael and James (my teammates). I had goat and chips (fries). The goat had "extras" in it and I tried to eat as much as I could because I was HUNGRY. The drinks were purchased first and had to be paid for right then. Then before dinner a waiter came around and gave us a bottle of soapy water and hot water from a pitcher to wash our hands. No napkins at all or anything to wipe you hands off with for that matter. After dinner the man came back and let us wash our hands in the same fashion. Then finally, the amount for the bill was shown to us on a large calculator and we paid and thanked them for the meal. We went back and crashed until 1pm the next morning.


Saturday

We had a tour of the Dar es Salaam city. First we had to get there on the daladala (bus). The bus driver's lot in life is to fill up his bus with people so that they can feel each other's breath on their faces. "May I offer you a mint sir/ma’am." Mind you the fee for this"bus" is 250 shillings ($0.25) one way. Think of this "city" as a suburb with traffic, where there are no rules and people who walk are moving targets that have point on their backs for the drivers to hit.


Sunday

Sunday was nice and relaxing. Services are served in Kswahili, Greek, and British English. I have missed and still love the doxology in Kswahili. The parish is small even though it is a cathedral. Lunch was a Steers the local MacDonalds of Tanzania. At this fast food joint pizza (Tanzanian style), Indian type food, and hamburgers (Tanzanian style) are served.


Monday

Kswahili lessons start with Christopher as my teacher. Christopher is a guard at the Salvation Army hostel where we live. His English is very good, but limited. He is a great teacher and very supportive to my very bad Kswahili. Lunch was in town, where we tried to get cell phones and USB modems, but were unsucessful at this because most everything closes at 2 pm.


Tuesday

Kswahili lessons continued. Afterwards we went to the local market (20 min walk) named Al-Jazireh's. Then we returned to downtown and purchased cell phones and USB modems, which don't work with Mac computers very well. I will be going Lala Salaam and will continue to the best of my ability and depending on the internet to keep everyone up to date on this life's dream of mine to serve "mission Tanzania."


Thank you everyone for your prayers, texts, emails, and love for this past week!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Update from James Hargrave in Tanzania


Dear friends,

Wamefika! They have arrived!

On Friday, July 9th I was joined here in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania by Felice Stewart, Katie Wilcoxson, and Michael Pagedas. We will be together for the time being as we all work on learning Kiswahili. It has been a delight having them here, and I'm enjoying showing them the ropes of life in Tanzania's biggest city. Of course there are always hiccups, but so far they have been thankfully minor. It has been a delight to play "host" for a change, after months of being the "guest." Please continue to pray for us as we begin to learn how to work together as a team.

The week after the newcomers' arrival, we received a visit from Father David and Ethan Rucker. Ethan is a good friend from the Orthodox Christian Fellowship at the University of Florida. It was a special joy to welcome him to share in our lives here for a few days. I am grateful that he will be able to relate first-hand his experiences of life in Africa and the life of the Church here to my friends and supporters back home at St. Elizabeth's in Gainesville as well as OCF at UF.

Ethan's dad, Father David, is the Associate Director of OCMC and thus my boss. It's nice to have a job like mine where you look forward to visits from your boss. Fr David concelebrated Liturgy with Fr Petros at St Paraskevi Cathedral, and on Monday he sat in on our language studies. His greetings from the US, and his words of encouragement to us, were a great affirmation of God's work, by your prayers, here among us as we continue to learn the language and the culture of this land.

Many other things have happened since I last wrote. My dad was in Tanzania for much of June in his capacity as agricultural consultant for ECHO (http://www.echonet.org) as they are organizing an agricultural conference in Arusha next year. After concluding his business in Arusha, he came down to spend several days with me in Dar es Salaam. It was great to have Dad around and to show him what life in the city is like. He's been speaking Kiswahili since I was very young, and so now that I'm learning the language we were able to get around together in the local language-- pretty cool.

And I am beginning my fourth month of language learning. The more I understand of the world around me, the more I'm aware of how very little I understand. But lately, every now and then, I'll see someoen's face light up in appreciation of my effort to speak and behave *their* way, rather than expecting them to know *my* language and culture. It's a nice feeling.

God willing, at the end of this month I will be able to join the OCMC/ Finland Teaching Team in Mwanza! My goal for the two weeks of youth camp will be to participate with the Team and learn what it's like to be on a short-term team, so that I can be in a better capacity to facilitate future Teams. It would also be my first opportunity to meet His Eminence Jeronymos as well as the faithful of the Church that I have been asked to serve. I would then return here to Dar es Salaam and continue with Kiswahili language study until the time comes for me to move permanently to Mwanza. The final approval for this visit just came today, so tomorrow I will be looking for a plane ticket to Mwanza on Saturday. Please pray that, if it is God's will for me to join the Team, he will provide the necessary transportation.

In the meantime, I thank God for continued good health and strength as I continue learning how to speak, live and act in Tanzania. I know that many of you are praying for me, because I am being well-cared for here. Thank you for your prayers, as well as for your friendship and encouragement. Please keep in touch.

By your prayers,

James Hargrave

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Most Overrated American (Part One)

Henry Ford, inventor of...well, perhaps not much!  (See below)


Jennifer and I are still in the process of trying to get settled into our new home.  We have finally reached the final stages, going through those last few boxes and determining whether or not to keep the stuff in them, and where to put the stuff we keep.  Today I was going through a box of keepsakes and found some of my mom (may her memory be eternal!)'s old stuff. 

One thing I found was a very interesting pamphlet called "The Most Overrated American."  It includes the results of a survey conducted at some time in the past, perhaps about 20 years ago.  Here's what the cover says about the survey:

"We asked journalists, politicians and historians to choose the single most overrated figure in American history.  The 'nominations' are rather surprising.  And some of them are enclosed."

The next couple of pages list a few of the unenviable "nominations."  Each nomination is followed by a blurb written by one of the persons who made the nomination.  As a life-long student of U. S. History, I found some of the nominations quite surprising.  Because of this, I thought I would reproduce the pamphlet in full.  I'll list the first three allegedly overrated Americans, and then next time, I'll list the other four.  Then, in the third part in this series, I'll reproduce the fourth page of the pamphlet, which is called "Some of the Most Underrated Americans."

But before I give the list, one disclaimer:  The opinions listed are not necessarily my own.  I'm just copying what it says in the pamphlet (and perhaps adding a few comments of my own). So, if you disagree with any of these, please feel free to say so, but don't get mad at me! 

Now, drum roll please... the first three people whom at least some scholars believe are overrated:


1.  Patrick Henry:  His "Liberty or Death" speech has him on a pedestal with the other Founding Fathers.  But how much did he really do?  He contributed practically nothing to the military side of the American Revolution.  And he contributed only mischief to the many American politicians to get a away with the gift of gab.  (Walter Lord)

2.  Thomas Jefferson:  Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence took on its much-admired spare elegance only after Congress had edited it heavily.  He was a disastrous Revolutionary Governor of Virginia.  And, a he had the grace to acknowledge, his Presidency was just as bad.  (Pauline Maier)  (This was a big surprise to me!  This is the first time I've ever heard Jefferson's presidency described as bad. - FJE)

3.  Henry Ford:  Despite popular misconceptions, he did not invent the automobile, the assembly line, vertical integration, or mass ownership of cars.  (Bernard Weisberger)


I'll list the "final four" overrated Americans (or at least the ones listed in this pamphlet) next time.

Theosis: Man, Creation, and Synergy - Part 4 (by Clint)



This is the final installment of my Theosis study. The previous posting on this blog has a link to the previous installments.

Bishop Kallistos Ware has provided an excellent summation of the Orthodox view of deification. First, it should never be believed that deification is reserved for a few “special” Christians. It is intended for all of humanity and can be received by all who return to God. Secondly, though Christians are being deified, it is a continuing process. They will continue to struggle with sin, hence the need for penitence. Thirdly, the process that a Christian undergoes to be deified is simple: communing with God and with fellow Christians, partaking of the Holy Mysteries, prayer, study, and steadfastness of the commandments. Fourthly, deification is a community process. All Christians are “in this together.” Fifthly, deification is worked out in our lives in a practical manner. Praying for others, serving others and caring for others is an important part of the process. Finally, in a similar way to the fourth point, deification takes place within the confines of the Church. That is where the sacraments are distributed and Christians can receive the proper direction and encouragement to proceed down the path to deification.

Ultimately, deification is the process by with God brings all things back to the state in which they were intended to be. Mankind had a close, personal relationship with God, but allowed the passions to destroy that intimate relationship. By sending Christ to partake and to perfect flesh, God provided for a way that man could return to that original closeness with Him. By freely accepting this gift and devoting his life to God, a man can be deified. He walks down this path by focusing upon God through prayer, mediation, study, fasting and other spiritual exercises. Likewise, he will love his neighbors, just as Christ loved mankind. This love is manifested in various ways, including praying, serving and helping others. As a man progresses in his deification, he will come to reflect the glory of God in a real and tangible way. Sometimes, this reality is visible. Even when it is not, a Christian should continue to follow the commandments of God, knowing that God will never leave nor forsake His people (Hebrews 13:5). Instead, He will draw them to Himself and by grace make them gods.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Theosis: Man, Creation, and Synergy - Part 3 (by Clint)




This is part 3. The previous entries can be read here.

Yet, man must not neglect his relationship with other men. In Ephesians 2, St. Paul prayed that Christians would be filled with Christ, becoming grounded in love, comprehending “with all the saints” the love of Christ, thereby being filled with the fullness of God. Not only is the theological concept of deification present in these words, but also the relational nature of Christianity. Each Christian works together “with all the saints.” In the next chapter of the Ephesian letter, St. Paul directs his readers to work out this reality in a practical way.

Therefore, putting away lying, “ Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.


By these words, we see that the life focused upon God is lived out amongst other people. The deified life loves others, just as Christ loved the world. When controlled by God, man receives the Godly virtues. When man’s desire is to have those things according to his true nature (as originally created before the fall), then the “passion of deification” is given by grace the man is brought into a state of rest. By showing love to one another, Christians demonstrate that they have internalized the divine life (1 John 2:10). They have overcome the passions and have taken on a higher calling (1 John 2:14). While it is true that Christians continue to struggle with sin and temptation, they are given the means by which to overcome their passions. It is hoped that as they continue to struggle against evil, they will be moving closer to a true deified state.

Some people attempt to divide the theologies of works and grace. However, the Orthodox Church teaches that these two things work together, concurrently. They cannot be separated one from another. So it should not be thought that deification (by grace) is some reward for a man’s good works. In the same way, the virtuous life should not be considered as the result of a previous manifestation of grace. Rather, these two things work in harmony (synergy). The Christian Life is accomplished by the help of divine grace which must be freely received. The reality of the grace is made manifest by the virtuous life, but is neither the cause nor the result of it. These two elements are not fully understandable separately.

Communion with God causes a transformation within a man. This can be clearly seen both in the scriptures and in subsequent Christian writings. Moses was very close to God. God said that Moses was like a friend to Him. Because of this continual communion, Moses’ face glowed with the reflection of the divine (Exodus 34:29). St. Seraphim, St. Aresenius the Great and others have also shown physical manifestations of this closeness with God. These uncommon physical attributes demonstrate the reality that man is physically altered, as well as spiritually, when united to God.

For this reason, the Orthodox Church holds the physical world to be very important. Because of the sanctification of the physical world, the relics of saints are honored. Just as the Body and Blood of Christ in an avenue of receiving Divine Power, so also these relics, as they have been redeemed. In fact, Orthodox teaching tells us that not only are humans redeemed, but eventually all of the physical world will ultimately be saved and glorified, which is a logical extrapolation of the theology of deification.

to be continued...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

UN urges global move to meat and dairy-free diet




A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change, a UN report said today.

As the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable, says the report from United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) international panel of sustainable resource management.

It says: "Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products."

Professor Edgar Hertwich, the lead author of the report, said: "Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels."

The recommendation follows advice last year that a vegetarian diet was better for the planet from Lord Nicholas Stern, former adviser to the Labour government on the economics of climate change. Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has also urged people to observe one meat-free day a week to curb carbon emissions.

The panel of experts ranked products, resources, economic activities and transport according to their environmental impacts. Agriculture was on a par with fossil fuel consumption because both rise rapidly with increased economic growth, they said.

Ernst von Weizsaecker, an environmental scientist who co-chaired the panel, said: "Rising affluence is triggering a shift in diets towards meat and dairy products - livestock now consumes much of the world's crops and by inference a great deal of freshwater, fertilisers and pesticides."

Both energy and agriculture need to be "decoupled" from economic growth because environmental impacts rise roughly 80% with a doubling of income, the report found.

Achim Steiner, the UN under-secretary general and executive director of the UNEP, said: "Decoupling growth from environmental degradation is the number one challenge facing governments in a world of rising numbers of people, rising incomes, rising consumption demands and the persistent challenge of poverty alleviation."

The panel, which drew on numerous studies including the Millennium ecosystem assessment, cites the following pressures on the environment as priorities for governments around the world: climate change, habitat change, wasteful use of nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilisers, over-exploitation of fisheries, forests and other resources, invasive species, unsafe drinking water and sanitation, lead exposure, urban air pollution and occupational exposure to particulate matter.

Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, says the report, which has been launched to coincide with UN World Environment day on Saturday.

Last year the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation said that food production would have to increase globally by 70% by 2050 to feed the world's surging population. The panel says that efficiency gains in agriculture will be overwhelmed by the expected population growth.

Prof Hertwich, who is also the director of the industrial ecology programme at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said that developing countries – where much of this population growth will take place – must not follow the western world's pattern of increasing consumption: "Developing countries should not follow our model. But it's up to us to develop the technologies in, say, renewable energy or irrigation methods."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The St. Dimitrie Post - Update on OCMC missionaries, Floyd and Ancuta Franz




Greetings, and I hope that this finds you well today, and in good spirits on this the feast day of St.s Peter and Paul. Here in Romania we are enjoying sunny but mild weather, and I now back in Cluj after a 2 week trip to the northern regions of Romania, called "Moldova". I would like to share with you briefly about the trip, as it was most uplifting to me, and I believe that you will find it interesting.

It started with Fr. Iulian and I doing a two day training seminar on addictions for the local Orthodox clergy in a small city in Moldova called "Saveni". We do these trainings under the "Office of Education" of Patriarch Daniel. It all went quite well, and even the local doctors group and the mayors office were attending and asking very good questions.

What was so uplifting to me about this particular training is that two years ago a priest from Saveni had attended a training that Fr. Iulian and I did in the nearby city of Botosani. He has now started counseling alcoholics at a social center which he has started. I saw the fruit of our work in other places as well.

Over that next weekend I attended a three day conference which was put on by the local AA groups in Suceava, a city in Moldova. I always get invitations to these things, and am happy to attend. We had helped this group get started several years ago, and it is going in a very good way, with about 40 people
attending the conference. This was very nice for me, to see old friends, and new ones, knowing that I had some small part in the programs development.

Well, I am saving the best part for last. As most of you already know, Fr. Iulian and I have been working together ever since he came to Cluj to study our project in 2005, and we now both coordinate the national antidrug program of the Romanian Orthdox Church. In Iasi, he has his own program based on the 12 Step model that we use here in Cluj, and it has worked quite will in Iasi also. What happened that was so nice was that the local recovery group in Iasi, all of who have been through his program, invited us to attend a meeting with them at a monastery near Iasi. The Abbot of the monastery also attended, it was a very spiritual group meeting. Fr. Iulian, the Abbot and myself were all very taken by the atmosphere and depth of the meetings.

I am going to close for now, I myself do not like to read long emails and this is quite long enough. Thank you for reading about our work.

I did post an email through earlier this month before going to Moldova, and simply forgot to post it over here. If interested you may read it here.


I do thank all of you for your support, for your good words, and most of all for your prayers.

Please know that you can pass our postings on to others who you believe might be interested in our work.

If you would like to contact us please use: stdimitrie@yahoo.com

To make a donation please go to the Orthodox Christian Mission Center web site at www.ocmc.org

You will need to log into a donation web page, but it is a simple proess, and it is very important to us.
I do thank you for your interest in our work, for your support, and most of all for your prayers.

In His Love,
One day at a time,
Floyd & Ancuta Frantz, OCMC Missionaries