An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
This is, of course, the answer Cain offers to God when he is asked: "Where is your brother Abel?" It came to mind after I was blessed to be able to spend some time on Saturday at the offices of St. Nicholas Uganda Children's Fund in Kampala Uganda. Cain's answering in the form of a rhetorical question which we can assume he thought should be answered with an obvious "No" is ominous because not only had he just killed his brother, but the REAL answer to the question is of course a resounding: "YES!" I only spent a few hours with Peter and Sharon Georges at their offices, but in that time I saw a constant flow of people coming into and out of their facility with a variety of issues, problems, or concerns. It very quickly became apparent to me that their ministry is FAR more than simply handing over cash in order to pay for the education of children. No, Peter and Sharon are mentoring, challenging, encouraging, and advocating for these kids, providing food and services of all kinds to their families, and also holding them accountable. At least two conversations I overheard involved them talking to parents or guardians of students who had truancy issues of one sort or another from school, others involved medical needs for a young girl who was running into road blocks from the convoluted system in Uganda. I can only imagine the long, long list of needs that Peter and Sharon address over the course of any given year. Put quite simply, they are being their brothers' and sisters' keepers. I did not realize how much of themselves they pour into this work and I could not be more honored to be playing a very small part in supporting their efforts. They have somewhere between 260-280 children in their program (I can't recall the exact number) and this coming week they will be hiring buses to take 82 of them up to the Orthodox Boarding School in Monde. It must be a monumental effort, which they undertake with joy. If you spend some time on their website and follow the links, particularly in the "What we do" section, you will see some of the evidence of the work they undertake, but I'm quite certain it cannot fully bring across to readers in the States the full scope of the GOOD they are doing here. I was somewhat sad to learn that only a small proportion of their kids are sponsored, luckily they have generous donors who give significantly without connecting through their sponsorship program and this, combined with a few grants from some charitable foundations, allows them to care for so many. But it gave me pause to think of how many people there are out there who cannot offer large lumps of cash but could perhaps commit to $20 or $50 (or more) a month - it would make a tremendous difference. I really encourage anyone who has a desire to see their money used in an incredibly responsible and effectively beneficial way for the helping of the desperately poor: seriously consider them. In addition to getting to witness first hand the work they do, they had arranged for me to be able to meet the young man that we sponsor and to share some gifts of clothing we brought for his family.
Henry, his sister Sharon, and I chatting
Henry's got a couple of inches on me. He's 18, but missed several years of school and is now one of the highest achieving students in the program.
And then, I was able to meet a couple of gentlemen from the program who had just begun studying at Makerere University and are study Biomedical Laboratory Technology. They were clearly eager to talk and I invited them to come to our facilities to see the work that we do at the Hutchinson Centre Research Institute - Uganda. We also agreed to stay in touch and I offered to help them and offer advice anytime they might need it. These young men are living lives they could not have dreamed possible until the St. Nicholas Uganda Children's Fund stepped into their lives.
I guess I get somewhat animated and excited talking about Real-Time Quantitative PCR.
Finally, seeing all these people coming in and out of the offices there also made me think of something that I know will embarrass the Georges, but I'm going to say it anyway: I have no doubt that when the end of the ages comes, they will be standing on the right and will hear our Lord say: "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; 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."
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:50 AM [+] +++
Fr. Deacon James. It occurs to me that Great Lent is coming up. And this is a perfect opportunity to give alms.