Archive for September, 2007

a Russian social code

In February 2004, the Russian Orthodox Church sponsored the eighth meeting of the “World Russian People’s Council”-a civil society forum- in which a code of ten moral principles to guide Russian business was put forward.

Owning private property was endorsed, but “within the context of stewardship, echoing St. John Chrysostom‘s observation that “Wealth is not forbidden if it be used for that which is necessary.” The first commandment enjoins Russian entrepreneurs: Take care of the welfare of other people, the nation and the country when seeking personal welfare” and the second observes, “Wealth is not an end in itself. It must serve for the creation of the good life for individuals and the nation.”

The document also draws upon the traditional Russian concept of sobornost’, or conciliarity, to put forward a vision of public-private partnerships, of joint efforts between “government, society, and business” for creating a healthy standard of living for all citizens, especially the disabled and the vulnerable.”

The document includes an “unequivocal condemnation of tax evasion as “stealing from orphans, the aged, disabled and other unprotected categories of people.”

To access the ten moral principles, click on this article, a commentary by Nikolas K. Gvosdev on the website of the Acton Institute, Feb. 18, 2004: http://www.acton.org/commentary/commentary_180.php

Another reference to the code (scroll down for article in English): http://orthodoxeurope.org/page/14/69.aspx

Russia has a history of Church-state cooperation. The U.S. Constitution separates Church and state. These Christian principles could apply everywhere, including the U.S., but how would such recommendations be received? That businessmen should “especially” bear in mind the disabled and vulnerable- now there’s a truth to be proclaimed loud and clear in the public square. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.- Editor.

brothers and sisters

The folks in our group home have brothers and sisters whose lives, from childhood, are obviously different from those who have no siblings with disabilities. The day-to-day needs of a child with disabilities can require a lot more attention than those without disabilities, and that extra attention can mean all the less attention for their brothers and sisters. But they also have an opportunity to develop an awareness of life’s varied gifts and challenges that is greater than “normal,” as well.

We find that these brothers and sisters maintain involvement with their sibling with disabilities to varying degrees. Friendship Community has a “home weekend” each month, in which our individuals, if at all possible, go home with their families for the weekend. But as parents grow older and become unable to do this, some of the brothers and sisters (and even nieces and nephews) will take turns sharing this opportunity to keep up the ties.

There is an organization which focuses on supporting the brothers and sisters of disabled siblings: the SiblingSupportProject:

Here is the website: http://www.siblingsupport.org/

You might want to explore their Sibshops (in their own words, “Sibshops are pedal-to-the-metal celebrations of the many contributions made by brothers and sisters of kids with special needs.”), workshops, and publications, listed prominently on their homepage. Also, both young and adult siblings have internet sites and special gatherings where they can connect, which is listed under Connect with other Sibs.

In Sibs’ Own Words: http://www.siblingsupport.org/connect/in-sibs-own-words

Siblings who have made a difference: http://www.siblingsupport.org/connect/siblings-who-have-made-a-difference

depth

In breadth & depth I wrote, “With adversity comes depth.” Well I realize and feel compelled to add that this is not automatic. I have a friend who, because of the pain his mother experienced in her last year, has expressed bitterness toward God and doubts about the Christian Faith he once embraced. As some have put it, trials can either make you bitter or better.

As St. Peter writes, our faith is tested with fire (1 Peter 1:3-8):

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be,
you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,  9 receiving the end of your faith-the salvation of your souls.

But I stand by my contention that real depth is matter of character gained through adversity rather than a matter of intellect. I suppose one could speak of “depth of intellect,” but that’s not the depth that ultimately matters, as St. Paul attests in 1 Corinthians 1:25-29:

. . . the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

St. Matthew House

A parish sponsors a home for low-income persons with disabilities

An icon of the Apostle Matthew welcomes visitors to an unusual apartment building in Columbia, a suburb of Baltimore, Maryland. Beneath the figure are the words of Jesus from St. Matthew’s Gospel: “I was a stranger and you took me in.”

The text aptly fits the purpose of St. Matthew House, home to 15 low-income adults with physical disabilities. It is a project that the Fr. Raymond Velencia, rector of Columbia’s Orthodox Church of St. Matthew, sees as a “work of the Lord.”

In 1994, the congregation formed a nonprofit organization that brought together governmental, corporate and social groups to finance, build and manage the $1.6 million facility. The project was inspired by parishioner Maria Turley, a nurse with multiple sclerosis who died last year.

For the full story, click on: http://yya.oca.org/TheHub/Activities/ParishSuccessStories/StMatthewHouse.htm

(from the Orthodox Peace Fellowship’s In Communion Magazine’s news reports: http://incommunion.org/articles/news-reports/news-29 )

Update

Sadly, the devil seems to have sabotaged this Orthodox Christian ministry. The St. Matthew House now functions as apartments for low-income people, and is no longer connected with the Church. I’m choosing not to disclose the details, the charges and countercharges against certain persons involved in the ministry.

Russian Orphanages

(from the ROOF website- the Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund)

An Overview of the Russian Orphanage System

It is difficult to imagine a complex system of different types of institutions operating in the West to take care of hundreds of thousands of unwanted children, where emphasis is on an the individual approach and on cushioning and solving personal tragedy. But we in the west are also very lucky that the general population of most or our home countries is wealthy enough to absorb the social shock that the system receives when children are left without anyone to care for them. In Russia, this is far from being true; at the moment there is simply no alternative to institutional care for the majority of orphaned children. In the long term, ROOF’s main goal is, of course, to work ourselves out of existence. Optimistically, this could take 30 or 40 years-even with an economic upturn. Some older orphanage personnel are now working with their third generation of institutionalised children — social problems run in the family and die hard. But many teachers and directors are completely dedicated to these children who are not their own. And many orphanage directors and staff think that adoption and foster care would be far preferable to institutionalisation. Negative and unhelpful attitudes among staff seem to arise more from feelings of desperation in front of an impossibly difficult situation than from a real belief that this enormous institutional child care system should continue to exist because ‘it’s better for the children.’ For more, click on this: http://www.roofnet.org/pages/page.php?ref=about|orphanage%20life

ROOF seeks to work at seven of the many Russian orphanages; two are funded through the end of the year, but five of the efforts had to be discontinued. The orphanage described below is one of these five:

The orphanage in Belskoye-Ustye is a psycho-neurological internat. 120 children live in the internat, which is in the village of Belskoye-Ustye about 20 km from Porkhov, in Pskovskaya Oblast’. ROOF has been working in Belskoye Ustye since 2001. (Click on date for info)

Pictured below: 40 children from Belskoye Ustye Psycho-Neurological Orphanage after the Liturgy, Dec 24, 2006, at St. Nicholas Church, Porkhov, Pskov Province, Russia.On the very left: Fr Sergei Timoshenko, spiritual father and responsible for the Sunday School at the orphanage.

Why is ROOF working in Belskoye-Ustye?

 

  • The orphanage in Belskoye-Ustye is very poor and the premises are in terrible need of brightening. There is barely enough money to purchase food for the children and they live in cold rooms with bare walls.
  • The children have very little contact with people from the outside world. The orphanage is in a small village that must not have more than about 200 people and is 20 km from Porkhov, which is the closest small town.
  • There are no materials for classes, therefore the children are not working on things that would come easily to them and be good for their development (crafts such as sewing, knitting, carpentry, etc.)
  • The planned fate of these children is fairly grim. Coming out of this type of institution young adults are basically sentenced to a life of nothing more than existence: at the age of 18 they are sent to a psycho-neurological home for adults, many of whom are much worse off mentally and/or physically than the children from Belskoye-Ustye. The internat for adults is also a home for the elderly.
  • Historically, the local population has not treated the children of the orphanage with care and respect. Many of the locals use the children as labour in their gardens and on their farm plots and pay the children for their work in alcohol and cigarettes.

To read the whole story: http://www.roofnet.org/pages/page.php?ref=projects|orphanages|belskoye%20ustye From any of these pages one can explore the entire ROOF website. I believe it is a fact that the majority of Orthodox Christians in our world are Russian Orthodox. This is the situation for most children with disabilities in their country. The kind of resources listed on the left are not available to them. But there is ROOF, and some others listed in the RESOURCES. But not nearly enough for the need.Perhaps it was not responsible of me to post Grisha’s story first, in light of the great majority who can’t get to where he is because of lack of funds.

But in Christ there is hope, and Grisha’s story demonstrates that lives can be changed and become part of the solution. ( see the previous post: https://armsopenwide.wordpress.com/2007/09/12/grisha-friends/)

Grisha & friends

(2004) Grisha Rogozhki was raised in a ROOF orphanage in Russia (Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund); he graduated in 2004 and learned an occupational skill – he’s a “qualified joiner.” . . .

He “serves at an Orthodox Church, … studies the Bible, and goes for long cycle rides. . . .

Grigoriy Rogozhkin has studied at ROOF for three years, and is now working on the tenth grade curriculum. He wants to complete high school and continue his studies. He is very serious and responsible in regard to his studies. . . .

Grisha recently received an apartment. And he invited three of his friends, Andrey, Sveta, and Irina, each of whom has physical disabilities, to live with him for the summer.” He understands that to live in the tiny rooms of the orphanage where there are fifty people per floor is intolerable. . . .

The writer of this story, on a visit with the four of them, remarks, “we sat and talked, drinking tea (Grigoriy helped Andrey with his tea, and Sveta helped Irina). We looked at photos. Grisha joked. Overall he seemed a very happy, caring, and funny guy.And everyone laughed, especially Sveta. Irina and Grigoriy told me that at the orphanage Svetlana never laughed.” . . .

Here is the whole story: http://www.roofnet.org/pages/page.php?ref=about%7Cpersonal%20stories%7Cgrisha%20rogozhkin

And here is the website of ROOF: http://www.roofnet.org/index.php

breadth & depth

Right now I’m reading “Same Lake, Different Boat: Identifying With and Ministering Alongside People Touched by Disability,” by Stephanie O. Hubach, which a friend gave me. Mrs. Hubach is a Protestant Christian whose younger son Tim is, in her words, “bright in his own unique way, quite the encourager, occasionally very impulsive, and has a hilarious sense of humor.” He also has Downs Syndrome. This book has depth.

As a paid staff of Friendship Community, I get plenty of breaks from houseparenting. I count my housemates with developmental disability as friends, but on my breaks, I’m elsewhere, in body and spirit. We have our Church, other friends, family, and interests. Parents of children with disabilities are parents 24 hours a day. This is, obviously, a deeper dimension of commitment.

In my thesis and in this blog, I attempt to give a well-rounded picture of the situation of people and families with disabilities. Perhaps there are blind spots. Honestly, I aim at breadth; depth is to be found in the words of persons with disabilities themselves, as well as their family members. Persons with developmental disability may not have strong literary skills, but depth is a matter of the heart, and persons with disability, and their family members, have no lack in that regards; in fact, their adversities give them depth.

prom.jpg

So here, again, is a blog (Abide and Endeavor, listed on the right) by an Orthodox mother with a gifted daughter who also has Downs Syndrome, demonstrating here in her square dancing her gift of kinetic (movement) intelligence:

Here is the  address of the weblog: http://stjuliana.wordpress.com/ 

And also Steve and Tony: http://www.steveandtony.net/index.html

Along with these ongoing weblogs must be placed the article written by Matushka Wendy Cwiklinski, who has four children with disabilities: http://www.oca.org/RHArticle.asp?SID=15&ArticleID=251

I have also found another current, ongoing  weblog of a person with a disability who seeks to explore through it the meaning of suffering. He describes himself as an arch-conservative Roman Catholic Christian. Since it would be a sad day if we suddenly decided that only Orthodox Christians deserve a hearing, let us also hear what he has to say. On August 20 he included a jewel of a quote by St. Gregory of Nazanzius. His name is Mark Pickup: http://markpickup.blogspot.com/


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