Dear Family in Christ,
May God direct us on His path always!
The general consensus at this summer’s 14th All American Council in Toronto was that now is both the time and the season for action in all spiritual aspects, especially in outreach to others – work which makes others aware of the One, Holy, Apostolic Church of Christ our Lord!
My family of five attended the council this year. We drove approximately 5,000 miles round trip just to be there. It was worth every mile! We returned home with a renewed sense that now is the moment we have been waiting for – to expand the ministry we’ve already been doing, to the Glory of God and with His help.
Father Antonio, my dad, is from the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean. Spanish is his first language. For many years, he has done work with Spanish-speaking people in many settings and in various parts of this country that he’s lived in, including Puerto Rico and Mexico. Although for years he has ministered informally, it has long been his (and our family’s) dream to start more formalized Orthodox Hispanic (Spanish-language) outreach programs.
While driving home from Toronto this summer, Analucia, my older sister, my mom and I – for we had a very long van ride to talk about such things – started enthusiastically planning, taking notes, making logo sketches and plans for a new outreach organization which touches many aspects of service and ministry. We decided to call it ORB: Orthodox Rio Bridges. In Spanish, that would be PRO: Puente del Rio Ortodoxo. So, we’re now “PRO-ORB”! PRO-ORB is a bridge for various outreach programs and activities between South Texas and Mexico, between the Church in the USA and Canada with the Church in Mexico, between Orthodox youth and young adults who live on both sides of the border. Bridges go both ways!
At present, my family lives in the South Texas Tropics. This area is called, “The Rio Grande Valley” and it’s right on the river border with Mexico. St. George the Great Martyr is the local Orthodox Church. It is the only Orthodox Church for at least a three hour drive. St. George’s in Pharr is near McAllen, Texas, about an hour’s drive inland from the Gulf of Mexico and about six miles from the USA/Mexico border. For a number of years, our parish has done ministries across the border in neighboring Reynosa. We take alms, food, toiletries, school supplies and clothing to a girl’s orphanage called Casa Amparo several times a year. At Christmas time, we make vats of tamales for and also help at a Nativity Fiesta held for a Reynosa squatter’s village (colonia). The Fiesta is hosted by a Free Health Clinic which is administered by some of our Episcopalian friends. Our Parish and family has also been trying to build brotherly bonds between the OCA Church in Mexico, and most especially, with Clergy families who live there. We also created St. George’s Food Pantry to serve low-income families (often new immigrants) who live in our Church’s neighborhood. The Food Pantry now serves about sixty families every time it is open!
My mother, Matushka Elizabeth, is a youth coordinator for our challengingly vast and spread out Deanery. Our Deanery contains all of New Mexico, Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas and part of Tennessee. That is an incredibly diverse geographical region! Even so, we are trying to help our Deanery accomplish the Synod of Bishop’s challenge to provide youth service projects, retreats, etc. for our area.
For starters, we are planning a Winter Youth/Young Adults Retreat here in cooperation with PRO-ORB. The winter retreat will be for up to 14 teens (age 14 and older) and young adults, plus some adult chaperones. Younger youth are welcomed, too – but must attend with parents and be under their supervision. We encourage participants to collect and bring items to share with families and children who participate in St. George’s Food Pantry, as well as for the girls at the Casa Amparo Orphanage in Reynosa, Mexico. See our website for details. We hope to take participants to the South Padre Island beaches, which are lovely even in the wintertime. Christmastime is often about 85 F. or more here. We plan to provide an opportunity for Orthodox youth to get together, pray together, learn more about our faith together, and to also have fellowship and fun!
We have also begun collecting icons and liturgical supplies to share with various mission Churches in Mexico – including a new Mission which the new Bishop, ALEJO of Mexico, asked my dad to start in Monterrey. If anyone wants to collect and send – or better yet, to bring - icons or liturgical supplies to us, we will personally give them to the clergy and missions in Mexico!
In addition, we have applied to be an “official” OCF “Real Break” site in the spring. But, whether the “official” part happens or not, we’ll be here – doing various service projects – and hope that other Orthodox College Students and Young Adults will join us for a real borderland service adventure in the spring!
We welcome long or short term missionary or seminary interns who would like the experience of serving in a bi-lingual border Parish and helping with its various outreach ministries. Of course, you’d have to put up with us! J We like company and will surely do our best to provide some memorable adventures.
We look forward to seeing you at any of our upcoming events. Our new website is at: www.stgeorgepantry.org See most especially the “Rio Bridges” section!
If you have questions, comments or need further information, call us at: 956-781-2388 or email us at: email@example.com
Your sister in Christ,