Archive for February, 2008

Gentleman, Scholar, Best Buddy

from an 8 year old story from some University of Florida alumni notes: a young Orthodox Christian named Newman Nahas who was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and also had been, according to the notes, a “Best Buddy:

A Rhodes Scholarship, by the way, is a grant to study at the prestigous Oxford University in England; Best Buddies is an organization which seeks to, in their words “enhance the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for on-on-one friendships and integrated employment.” Here’s their website:

I searched the internet for news of Newman; he earned a Masters degree in Philosophy, sought the approach to knowledge (epistemology) in St. Ephrem the Syrian’s writings, and has written an essay on “The Origins and Motivations of Monasticism:”

And just yesterday, I was reading the acknowledgements in my new Orthodox Study Bible and there was his name: Newman Nahas.

I wonder if he keeps up with his best buddy.

invisible disabilities

The name “invisible child” is both a descriptor of and a dedication to our children, who are invisible in the sense that their disabilities, though often severe, are hidden from view. Brain disorders, though biologically based, often are not obvious physically, so the invisible child looks like any other child. In addition, children with these disorders usually have normal intelligence. In fact, many are gifted, sometimes to a high degree, and because of this they are able to develop coping skills that further hide their differences, the result being that they may either not be identified or their struggles will be misunderstood. Because it typically takes such a long time for children to be diagnosed and receive appropriate treatment, they are particularly susceptible to falling through the cracks, dropping out of school, becoming suicidal, or entering the juvenile justice system. . . .

This is the beginning of an article by Matushka Wendy Cwiklinski, which can be found in its entirity in the Orthodox websites section. (from the Orthodox Church in America’s Resource Handbook for Lay Ministries) She speaks as a mother of a number of children with invisible disabilities. When persons with blindness, or in wheelchairs, or with Downs Syndrome features come to our Church, its easy to identify them as people to help. But its a little harder to see them as people who can help. And its much harder to see, as Matushka Wendy writes, children with invisible disabilities, who look like everybody else, as image-bearers of Christ who just need extra patience. The article and the website are a good place to start educating one’s self toward this goal.

IOCC: Life Skills Training in Serbia

“Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, . . . (Ecclesiastes 11:1-2a)  International Orthodox Christian Charities is doing this in Serbia again. One of the “portions” of life skills training IOCC is undertaking in Serbia is

A home for children and youth with disabilities in Veternik, in Novi Sad, will benefit from the program through the construction of two greenhouses for vegetable production. The greenhouses will enhance the nutritional offerings of the facility and will provide occupational therapy for at least 100 residents of this institution.

Here’s the full story:

ALSO  here is the web address for “The Situation of Children in Institutions of Social Care in Serbia” in this traditionally Orthodox Christian country, written by the Yugosalav Child Rights Centre, Belgrade, May 2001. It is not a Church document: This would be less than two years after NATO bombed Serbia. Each institution receives an architectural assessment. The document would seem to aim at objectively, perhaps even “scientifically,” presenting the facts, as much as that is possible. I have, admittedly, only partially skimmed the document,  but I found no mention of the Church.

Certainly the situation at these homes was dire, given the devastation of Serbia, but the authors simply wished to catalog the situation and the needs. And though there has been some secularization, Serbia is a traditionally Orthodox country, and therefore I bring forward this data. 

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and on this world.

stories & bulletin boards

from the disabilities discussion forumfrom which one can search for stories containing specific words. There were no stories containing the word “Orthodox.” But nevertheless there are stories of interest for us. There were lots of stories with the words “church, worship, prayer, Jesus, and God.” There was also a story which is very enlightening in regard to Church accessibility entitled Finding a new church. I wouldn’t vouch for the Orthodoxy of these stories or that all or even most of them are necessarily edifying, but even still, one can get a sense of the various “places of the heart” where people with disabilities can be writing from.

Here are the web addresses by which these stories can be accessed:

church, churches, worship




Finding a new church

And for more go to the website and explore for yourself:

ALSO- here is a website which offers 4 bulletin boards on the topics babies with disability, physical disability, parents with disability, and learning disability:

Enjoy, with prayer and discernment.

our common service

from a report of the Joint Commission of the Orthodox and Oriental Churches on “our common service to the world of suffering, need, injustice and conflicts,” includingthe mentally and physically handicapped(and the implications of their findings for us):

The Joint Commission of the Theological Dialogue betweenthe Joint Commission the Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, at its meeting at the Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in Chambesy, Geneva from September 23rd to 28th 1990, received a report from its Joint Pastoral Sub-committee which had met at the Anba Bishoy Monastery in Egypt from 31st January to 4th February 1990. The report was the starting point for an extended discussion of four types of pastoral issues :

I. Relations among our two families of Churches, and our preparation for unity.
II. Relations of our Churches with other Christian Churches and our common participation in the Ecumenical Movement.
III. Our common service to the world of suffering, need, injustice and conflicts.
IV. Our co-operation in the propagation of our common faith and tradition.

And here is the statement on III. Our common service to the world of suffering, injustice and conflicts:

15. We need to think together how best we could co-ordinate our existing schemes for promoting our humanitarian and philanthropic projects in the socio-ethnic context of our peoples and of the world at large. This would entail our common approach to such problems as :

(a) hunger and poverty,
(b) sickness and suffering,
(c) political, religious and social discrimination,
(d) refugees and victims of war,
(e) youth, drugs and unemployment,
(f) the mentally and physically handicapped,
(g) the old and the aged)

“We need to think together how best we could co-ordinate our existing schemes for promoting our humanitarian and philanthropic projects in the socio-ethnic context of our peoples and of the world at large.”

This is a call to coordination of our efforts toward people in need, including persons with disability. Perhaps here in America we could begin this effort at coordination among ourselves, that is, the various Orthodox jurisdictions, and then begin to work together with the Oriental Churches. But who will initiate this; who can make this happen?

Lord, raise up servants for these tasks, that your good news may continue to go forth to the poor, the captives, the blind, and the downtrodden [St. Luke 4:18], that we may do the greater works of Thine that Thou has called us to, according to Your promise. [St. John 14:12]    

quotations from  specifically ; picture from

an Orthodox Christian Sunday school for children with disabilities

This from St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine, CA, whose Pastor is Father Stephen Tsichlis, who wrote “Children with Special Needs and the Orthodox Christian Family” (accessible at ) which is in the Church School section and was also posted on April 12, 2007:

Saint Paul’s is beginning a new class for children who are unable to participate in the regular Sunday School classes, due to autism or some other disability. Children who learn differently, and children with unique sensory abilities deserve religious education too! This class will present concepts to them on their terms so that they can get the most out of it – their way.  . . .

(for the rest, click on the website above, then  Church School, then scroll to the bottom to Church School Class at St. Paul’s for children with Autism)

St. Paul

St. Paul wrote:

“[. . .] but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, [. . .] God has so composed the body [. . .] that there be no discord in the body, but that the members have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:21-22, 24-26. RSV)

Here is the Parish website (a most excellent one!): And here is the Church School page where the announcement appeared:

an inclusive Orthodox Christian school

St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian School in Florida offers a program for children with learning disabilities. From the Academics page of their website scroll down to the Theotokos SLD/LD Program and read their overview of the program. Their stated goal for this program,  

is to help each of our students with learning disabilities realize their full potential and eventually matriculate into a full time mainstreamed educational environment.

Read the school’s official mission statement:  

Tuition at the school is listed at $4850 per school year, though the actual costs run about $9900 a year. Donations and funds raised by the Parent Volunteer Group make up the difference.

Read an article on the school by William Planes in the magazine Diakonia:  Diakonia Article – Fall 2007.PDF 

Its inspiring to see Orthodox Christian communities work together toward the socialization of their children, including those with learning disabilities.


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