Archive for July, 2008

I want God!

It has been said that we will all eventually become disabled in our last days. Here’s the personal story of my wife’s Mom.

My wife Margaret’s 88 year old mother has been in declining health for years. Just last week she came down with pneumonia, and even with oxygen 24 hours a day, she continually struggles to breathe. She is not taking food or drink, and lapses in and out (mostly out) of consciousness. She’s receiving morphine to help with her breathing. She’s dying. She has been a farmers wife who raised six children (four daughters and two sons), and now she is totally disabled. Her name is Ruth Weaver.

We were visiting the other night and I took her hand and greeted her. Our faces were perhaps eighteen inches apart. She was aware, though the morphine may be having some effects on her consciousness. She looked at me and said,

You’re not God. I want God!

Her body is failing, but her spirit is alive and active; she yearns to see Christ, and is filled with Divine eros (desire). Is this not the heart of the matter?

Later, as we left, she asked Margaret, “Do we have to go through all this?” She also spoke of light and darkness. She is going through the great spiritual struggle godly people go through at the end.

Please join us in praying for her.

She is a Mennonite Christian.

“My soul thirsts for the living God; When shall I come and appear before the face of God?” (Psalms 41:3, Septuagint, 42:3, Hebrew text)

For Ruth, the answer to her plea came on August 2, 2008, 1:15 a.m.

Ruth Weaver, Oct. 10, 1919- Aug. 2, 2008, memory eternal!

ways to play

People in my local community (Lancaster County, PA) are in the midst of an effort to construct a playground for children with disabilites. They’re calling it Daniel’s Den:

And while we are on the subject, here is an online resource specializing in toys for children with disablilities: Lekotek

And here are some more resources related to leisure activities:

Here is my post introducing the website of Disability Arts Online . . .

and my post on Orthodox Christian camps:

Special Olympics Coaches
Special Olympics Coaches at Antiochian Village

(Below: The official Special Olympics website):

And finally, for sharing leisure time activities with a friend, Best Buddies:

IOCC partners: Peja, Vlade, etc.

All star basketball player Peja Stojakovic of the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets partnered with IOCC to provide mobility assistance to more than 160 disabled people in Thessaloniki, Greece. . . .

And here is Mr. Stojakovic’ Children’s Foundation:

The NBA, on their own website, has profiled other joint charitable efforts by both Mr. Stojakovic and Vlade Divac, a former NBA player:

Vlade Divac retired from basketball, but still competes with Peja. (as it says in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans 12:10 in the RSV version, “outdo one another in showing honor” [to one another, and to those in need])

Here is Mr. Divac’s Humanitarian Organization Divac: See also

IOCC also partners with UCP Wheels for Humanity, which provides wheelchairs for those who cannot afford them:

UCP Wheels for Humanity Media Gallery:

And there are other partners as well:

In some ways I am leery about adding to the publicity of athletes; they don’t need more adulation. Such effusive praise can be counterproductive for such as Peja and Vlade personally, spiritually. But, on the other hand, if there’s any possibility that a disposition to use overflowing blessings for the good of others is contagious, let’s by all means seek to spread it!

The glory of the Lord revealed through disability

At the website AllExperts, this question was posed:

Hi. I am a teacher at a school for students with Special Needs. Within this school we have students with Down’s Syndrome. In your opinion, why did God create such a disability and how and in what state do such people with this disability achieve ‘everlasting life’? I find this a stumbling block in my spiritual path. Regards, Steve.

Click on this website address for an answer by Subdeacon Herman:

About Subdeacon Herman:

Reprint from April 2007

His Grace Bishop Thomas’ blessing to proceed with this website (11/7/2006)

For the record, I want all readers to know that this website- from very near its beginning- has the blessing of my Bishop. Here’s the “email trail:”

First, I asked our Parish Priest about asking Bishop Thomas’ blessing. Here’s what I emailed Fr. Peter (Nov. 2, 2006):

Sorry for the length of this, Fr. Peter; I just want to show you some contacts I’ve made, a response, and to seek your advice about how to proceed. I sent out this email expressing my intent and desire that a disability website accessible toAmerican Orthodox Christians be developed to KhoreaMaggie Hock, head of Antiochian Family and Marriage Dept., Matushka Wendy Cwiklinski (San Diego) of theOCA, who wrote an article for OCA ministry resources on the subject, and has herself put together disability websites, and to Marina Katsoulis, contact person for the Greek Orthodox Challenge Ministry on Long Island. Khorea Maggie responded positively, and Matushka Wendy sent this email. She gave some good but challenging advice. Shawn Buscay directed me to begin with a blog and go from there. My problem is that the person in charge of FriendshipCommunity’s computers does not seem to be in favor of my going further [than a blog], with all the software involved [in website production]. I don’t think I can do all that Matushka Wendy suggests. But I have the blog set up now at least. I’m actually hoping someone with more facilites and expertise will take this ball and run further with it than I can. This does not come easily to me. My main questions is, shouldn’t I be approaching Bishop Thomas or someone like that if I’m going to be doing this kind of thing, especially since I mentioned pan-Orthodox co-operation in my email? (I took note that in that recent Chicago meeting the bishops suggested more pan-Orthodox humanitarian efforts would be a way forward.). . . May God grant you many years, Ephrem . . . P.S. I will send you by email my Blog, though it maybe in a somewhat distort form.

Fr. Peter replied, yes, definitely, that I whould write a letter- by mail- to Bishop Thomas. I proceeded to write and then send His Grace Bishop Thomas this letter by mail, expressing the matter in a way similar to what I wrote Fr. Peter. And this was His Grace’s response (Nov. 7, 2006):


To: [Ephrem Gall]

Dear Ephrem,

May God bless you always!

Thank you for the information about your thesis. I’ll make this very simple: Fr Peter is the dean of eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Baltimore, and if he blesses this activity, you may proceed.

Please remember that when sending mail to the Diocese, that “Charleston” precedes “Oakland” in the title.

Thank you.

Yours in Christ,

Yours in Christ,

Bp Thomas

I forwarded this email from His Grace to Fr. Peter, and this was his response:


To: “‘Ephrem Gall'”

Glory be to Jesus Christ!
Greetings Ephrem. Wow, I had no idea I have such authority! Anyway, you
certainly have my permission. May our good God bless your endeavor.
Fr. Peter

His Grace, not knowing me very well, left the decision to Fr. Peter. It may be a somewhat vicarious blessing, but His Grace Bishop Thomas’ letter is clear on the matter.

I felt it necessary to establish these matters before all of you readers of this blog because I recently reread the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch, who, after having the led the flock of God in Antioch, Syria for 40 years from 69-109 A.D., having been said to have been a disciple of St. John the Apostle, he was crowned with martyrdom in Rome. He wrote 7 letters to churches as well as the Bishop of Smyrna, St. Polycarp, who himself would receive the crown of martyrdom decades later.

My point is, St. Ignatius urged the churches- the hearers of his letters- to do nothing apart from the Bishop.” He emphasized this many times in these letters. The unity and harmony of the Church was being threatened, As St. Paul asserted in Acts 20, by wolves and heretics- Judaizers, Gnostics, etc. And the generation following the Holy Apostles, with St. Ignatius of Antioch in the lead, was interpreting the directives of the apostles concerning the roles of the bishops, presybters, and deacons- such as the letters of St. Paul to Timothy and Titus– in light of this situation.

I would invite all non-Orthodox readers to read the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch and consider whether perhaps their pessimistic assessments of the generations following the apostles should be reconsidered. For the Holy Spirit continued to work in the life of the Church, and not only through its written documents. (2 Thessalonians 2:15) There is a website where you may access these letters;

click on: Letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch (you may have to scroll down to get to these specific letters)

St. Macarius the Great on purity of eye toward all

Christians therefore ought to strive continually, and never to pass judgment on anyone – no, not upon the harlot on the street, or upon open sinners and disorderly persons – but to regard all men with singleness of intention and purity of eye, so that it may become like a fixed law of nature to despise no one, to judge no one, to abhor no one, to make no distinctions between them. If you see a man with ST.Makariosone eye, be not divided in your heart, but look upon him as if he were whole. If a man is maimed of one hand, see him as not maimed, the lame as straight, the palsied as whole. This is purity of heart, when you see sinners or sick people, to have compassion on them and be tender-hearted towards them. It happens sometimes that the saints of the Lord sit in theatres and behold the deceit of the world. According to the inner man they are conversing with God, while according to the outer man they appear to men as contemplating what goes on in the world.”

from Google Books: Fifty Spiritual Homilies of St. Macarius the Egyptian

More on St. Macarius, from the website of The Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great: The Great Saint Macarius

Icon from

Two Syrian Orthodox Christian ministries

1. St. Mary’s Syrian Orthodox Church in Bangladore, India (non-Chalcedonian) “serves the needs of mentally handicapped children:”

St. Mary’s Opportunity School
The church and its members, without resting on the past achievements felt the need to do something even more substantial in the field of education, in serving the needs of mentally handicapped children. With this vision, an opportunity school was started on st June 1998. The scarcity of funds did not deter the members of the church, who had immense faith in the belief that ‘God will provide’ and that they could count on the support of generous members of the society. The donations, in cash and kind, have come spontaneously, and have gone a long way in sustaining the project.
The school has progressed well. Presently there are 13 mentally handicapped students. The next academic year holds the promise of more children being enrolled and requires financial resources.
The first steps in the long journey of service to the less fortunate have been taken. We now appeal to everyone of you to pray and contribute towards this task, to be a part of this humble service to our Lord Jesus Christ. Anyone who wishes to support this endeavor may send payments by cheque/DD drawn in favour of St. Mary’s Opportunity school, No.13, Queen’s road, Bangalore – 560052.

2. Mar Gregorios Rehabilitation centre (MGRC)

is a charitable organization under the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and is engaged in the rehabilitation of poor Persons With Disabilities (PWD’s). . . .

AnoopAnoop is 9 years old. He lives with his family. His father is a laborer. As part of its regular survey the centre found him bedridden. After a medical assessment he has been undergoing physiotherapy. If supported, he can sit in a chair. The exercises have strengthened his neck muscles. He needs a continued service.

And if you were wondering, here is a short explanation of the differences between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox Church (Coptic, Syrian, Armenian): CLICK ON:


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