Earlier today, our parish received this letter from His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah regarding Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Special Collections will be taken as indicated in the letter. May God bless and intercede for all those suffering as a result of the natural disaster in Texas and Lousiana!
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:17-18
Dearly Beloved in the Lord,
This past Sunday, while you were blessed to receive the services of Fr. Ambrose, I landed at the San Diego Airport. I was a late arrival with our home building team to Project Mexico, having celebrated two beautiful weddings over the weekend. The parishioners of St. Anna’s were just beginning the Orthros, while the children of St. Innocent’s Orphanage and the volunteers of Project Mexico were celebrating the Divine Liturgy. It was then, that I stepped onto the curb, reading a text that said, “Welcome Fr. Anthony, this is Erik, look for me in the dusty, black Toyota 4Runner. Looking forward to meeting you.”
He was later than expected; stopped at the border into the USA. When he did pull up, I saw him from about 40 yards off, as the curbside bent. The high plume of dust was dancing dramatically from the top of his vehicle as he came around the bend. I thought to myself, “Wow, he wasn’t kidding…that is a really, dusty 4Runner!
Of course, the funny thing was that the inside of the vehicle was much, much dirtier than the outside. There was literally a quarter inch of fine dirt on every surface. Erik Swanson is the Project Mexico Trip Coordinator with whom we’d worked to arrange all the details of our mission. What a tremendously faithful and dedicated young man.
We pulled into the orphanage just before Communion. The Liturgy was beautifully chanted and all in Spanish (of course). I met up with our group. Everyone looked tired, but still invigorated. For the past couple of days, I had pulled the difficult duty of uniting two, lovely couples in the Sacrament of Matrimony. Our mission team, and 60 others, had spent those days mixing and pouring the foundations of three houses. Once the cement was dry, they framed, stuccoed and roofed those homes. Their backs were sore, their knees and shoulders were stiff and a few were sunburned.
Sunday was their day of rest. Sunday was my day to catch up on all that had been accomplished and to jump into the relationships that had already been cemented, literally through cement. Our team was mostly pared with groups from Michigan. We all became strong and fast friends…united as Brothers and Sisters in Christ…there for a common cause. And for our building group, the “cause” was Juan Carlos, his wife Marisol and their infant daughter. The parents were practically children, themselves.
Imagine this: those three people had been living with 12 others in a small trailer. That’s 15 human beings living in a camping trailer! No water. Just enough electricity to be dangerous. The same dust that had amassed the interior of the 4Runner was swirling around in the air. The hot sun that beat down on us, the three-day workers, is the same, hot sun that stifles the interior of their humble (to say the least) trailer every day. The environment was harsh, hilly, and as I’ve said, hot.
Now the family has a chance to spread out a little bit; while some will remain in the trailer, there are now two other homes, including ours, for them to occupy more comfortably (the other was constructed by an Evangelical group). Of course, comfort is relative: these homes are smaller than most garden sheds.
Few people in our experience have witnessed poverty at this level or to this degree. The stark non-existence of worldly comforts is only the first observation to be made. Human resolve, the joy of life, dignity and strength, quickly removed feelings of pity. What was left: feelings of empathy, respect, unity…the reality of being one family. We are of different cultures, from different countries, speaking different languages. But we are one people. You could not escape feeling the human connection. Smiles are universal. Handshakes are universal. Love transcends.
The sustainer for all us, both recipients of homes and the recipients of humility, was our faith in Christ and our active participation in His longsuffering love.
On the third day of construction, we mixed and re-stuccoed the house, shingled the roof, painted the trim, applied the lime wash and blessed the home. The family, in the ultimate gesture of hospitality, humility, and love, prepared a meal for us. I can only imagine the cost to them. The pride in their offering and the joy in their faces will remain with me for as long as I’m gifted with memories.
These people are not poor in spirit, robbed of joy or even aloof to the sufferings of people what have it worse. They said as much. They demonstrated as much! Christ is alive in them. And believe me when I say, we as missionaries in their world, received the same measure of God’s blessings, as the recipients of the homes. They allowed us to know, serve, cherish, appreciate and submit to the Lord.
We will work to take annual trips to Project Mexico. We will continue to make a dent in the massive reality that is poverty, and the inequitable distribution of recourses in the world. In closing, I leave you with the words I wrote to you last Spring, as I introduced our trip, asking for your donations and participation:
“As we continue to move ever closer to the Passion, Crucifixion and glory that is Christ Jesus, I pray that the discomforts our Lord experienced in this word will not be experienced by families living in poverty and cannot provide adequate housing for their children. He had no place to lay His head, so He commands us to provide the place where a child may do just that.”
With Much Love in Christ,
“I think we may have found our home.”
-Parish Council President, Dr. Charles Beck
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
For the past several weeks, we have been speaking about our efforts to strengthen our Building Fund through the efforts of our Capital Campaign. We have been meeting with small groups – the groups that you have been signing up to join, to discuss our goals and aspiration – beginning with the fund raising goal of $3 million for the purchase of land to eventually build a church. As has always been the case with our blessed community, a divinely-gifted opportunity may have presented itself to us. We have before us, as illustrated in the attached flyer, an opportunity to purchase an existing building, with land in the heart of east Sandy – for the same cost as budgeted for land.
Our fund raising efforts, to this date, have been crafted around individual meetings and small groups, and intimate settings. This seemed to be the best option to build a natural swell of interest and participation for a long-term goal. With a property coming onto the market, that our parish council, capital campaign committee, real estate committee, and architect deem as a viable prospect, the entire scope of our plan is in the process of changing. There is more urgency required as we shift from long range planning to short term efforts to accomplish…long range planning.
We will be scheduling at-property walk through opportunities and open houses in the coming days and weeks.
In this building, there is room to grow, witness Christ, serve His faithful, celebrate the Sacraments, teach, engage in fellowship, become leaders in a local community and establish ourselves in a place to call home. This seems to be the next, logical, and fiscally responsible step in our natural maturity and development as a parish.
People much smarter than I, when it comes to real estate, planning, transactions and financing will be communicating with our parish very soon. We have turned a corner from our former, slow and methodical fund raising efforts to quicker ways of getting information into your hands in order to make prayerful decisions. Not for the near or far future, but today.
This, my Beloved in the Lord, is an exciting time.
His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver has been informed of this opportunity and has given the parish council his blessing to explore. Please be reminded that NO binding transactions can be executed on behalf of the parish WITHOUT the permission of the Parish Assembly (that’s all of us) and the Metropolitan.
Please, pray for discernment, patience, clarity, wisdom, generosity, vision, and love. St. Anna intercede and guide us! Panaghia bless us!
With Much Love in Christ,
Fr. Anthony Savas
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Not that I need any reminders, but this past week has been the perfect opportunity to reflect upon how blessed I am to serve as the priest of St. Anna’s. To be sure, this week was full of emails, lists, meetings, running around and the normal happenings of “a day in the life…”
This week was also Vacation Bible School; those three days were the littlest of God’s creation descend upon the church in loud, pounding, squiggly droves. There are no greater sounds, which ring through the hallways of our rented space than the voices, laughter, and roar of the children. I mean, really, how often do you hear people making “train sounds” as they move from room to room? Adorable!
Spending time with the kids in the church is a reminder of the precious responsibility that we all have, when it comes to correctly raising our young people. They need instruction. They thirst for knowledge. They want to laugh, but yes, they want to learn.
Seeing the curriculum come alive in their eyes is the most rewarding experience. To know that a future generation is being given the opportunity to know God and to understand that He loves them unconditionally is our hope that the seeds planted today, will yield spiritual fruits tomorrow. The reason that St. Anna was founded, was for these children. They will enjoy a stable, positive, nurturing environment that is grounded in Christ, and protected by His angels. (Angels are the theme for this week’s VBS).
It is also a motivational inspiration to see all of the “grownups” who come together for the sake of the children. This is undoubtedly, an extremely, busy time of year. Never the less, so many people have chosen to bank their time in the Kingdom, so that our little ones could enjoy a quality program – dedicated only to them and to their Savior. Please allow me the opportunity to thank the people that made this week a blessed possibility. True Angels, themselves:
Our Chairman, Barbara Hillas. Heidi Gounaris, Heidi, Hanna, and Luke Varechok; Kim, Mitch and Matthew Mallas; Zachary Petrogeorge; Argie Priskos; Anne Cline; Tanya Holbeck; Kris Parenti; Christina Georgelas Packer; Rose Pylidis; Eleni Johnson; Laina Mau; Kennedy Chachas; Joanna Dokos; Liberty Mudrock; Mary Feotis; Dr. Irene Petrogeorge; Yelana Brockbank; Eleni Yannias; Pres. Andrea and Markella Savas. Food donations were generously given by Sophie Wondolowski, Dn. Anatoli and Margaret Kireiev, Marriane Jesse with the Landmark Grill and Dr. Charles and Elizabeth Beck.
You see? That’s quite a list. With about thirty kids participating this year – that’s about a one-to- one ration of kid being served/person serving kid. Praise God for the generosity that is shown to our precious youth!
I also with to thank the parents, grandparents and godparents who took the time out of their set schedules to bring their kids to Vacation Bible School. Your commitment to them will be rewarded as these young people grow to raise their own kids in the Church, and place Jesus Christ at the center of their lives.
Simply stated: these fun, innocent, and creative efforts are meant solely for the purpose of salvation. Salvation for the participants and for those who serve them. Programs like Vacation Bible School are quite literally, Liturgy in action. Yes, its cute. But its purpose is serious.
Please continue to pray for our little ones. They will need all possible assistance, as they grow to navigate the world themselves. And when their stakes are higher, when their decisions are more critical, and when their judgement is put to the test, they will have experiences such as Vacation Bible School to keep them safe and grounded.
So, thank you, to the teachers, volunteers, lunch ladies and providers.
You’ve heeded the command of the Lord to bring the children to Him. You are now doers of the Word. You are now apostles.
With Much Love in Christ,
Please forgive me if I misspelled or forgot your name in our list of volunteers. You are all appreciated; listed or not!
HAVE YOU SIGNED UP FOR A COMPLIMENTARY, INFORMATIONAL Q&A DINNER EVENT TO LEARN ABOUT OUR CAPITAL CAMPAIGN?
MANY HAVE ATTENDED THESE FUN EVENTS; BREAKING BREAD TOGETHER AND BUILDING THE ANTICIPATION OF OUR FUTURE! NO PRESSURE. NO HYPE. NO HARD SELL.
THE NEXT EVENTS:
SATURDAY, AUGUST 12 AT THE HOME OF JOE AND ANN SASICH. SPACE IS LIMITED BUT AVAILABLE. CALL ANN AT 801-518-2528. LET HER KNOW YOU’RE COMING!
THURSDAY, AUGUST 17 AT THE HOME OF STEVE AND ELAINA SIMOS. SPACE IS LIMITED BUT AVAILABLE. CALL GEORGETTE LOWE AT 801-573-8856. LET HER KNOW YOU’RE COMING!
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 23 AT THE GUN VAULT. SPACE IS AVAILABLE. CALL CHARLES BECK AT 801-573-6800. LET HIM KNOW YOU’RE COMING!
SATURDAY, AUGUST 26 AT THE SIX PACK RANCH. SPACE IS AVAILABLE. CALL ELAINE ZAMBOS AT 801-599-6954. LET HER KNOW YOU’RE COMING!
See the Bulletin for full details. Then sign up and attend an event. God bless! Those kids I just wrote about, they’re going to need a church some day. Just saying.
“Most holy Theotokos save us.
With many temptations surrounding me, searching for salvation, I have sought refuge in you; O Mother of the Word, and ever virgin, from all distresses and dangers deliver me.”
Dearly Beloved in the Lord,
I welcome you to the Month of August. September is no longer the month for back-to-school, so we should all be settling in for a nice fall and making our preparations for everything a new school year brings.
How sad is that?!?
I’m very much old school in that I believe that August is the time to start shopping for new school clothes, not finish shopping for them. We used to start school with leaves beginning to fall, not soaring, 100 degree temperatures. To me, August is meant for one purpose – at least the first half of it – it contains the season of the Theotokos and the commemoration of her Dormition.
The Fast has begun and we are now a few days into it, so I pray that you have used the time productively and are receiving the spiritual benefits greatly afforded by this season. Of course, the other way of truly appreciating this season, and finding solace in the embrace of the Theotokos, is participating in the Paraklesis Services which are chanted each Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the first two weeks of August.
This past Wednesday evening, we held our first service of the year. And I must say, that it was the most inspirational and moving Paraklesis that I have ever attended. Yes, I wrote that…ever.
Our St. Anna’s chanting group has been practicing for weeks in preparation for these services. They have dedicated hours to rehearsals and prayer. With angelic vibrancy, they melodically, and with dignity, lifted up their voices in supplication to the Mother of God. It was lovely in every way.
Well, here is a way that, in fact, it wasn’t so lovely – there were almost as many chanters as there were participants. I realize that these final days of summer are filled with more and more activities, especially realizing that an entire month of summer has pretty much been wiped away. But, I need to take this opportunity to remind you of the importance of the Theotokos in our lives.
She is our greatest intercessor. She understands pain, sorrow and loss as much as any human being that has ever existed. She gave birth to a Son, Who was destined for glory and appreciation, but only received buffetings, spite, jealousy, anger, violence and death. And she, as a mother, was there to witness every horrific detail. Did she grow angry? Was she jaded? Did the challenges of life cause her to become callous and aloof? No. NO!
This is how she hears our prayers, understands our sorrows, embraces our challenges, sympathizes with our sadness and agonizes over the weight of our sin. And when we come together and pray the supplicatory cannon, that is the Paraklesis Service, we offer to her our prayers, knowing that she will deliver them to Him, Who answers prayers and offers His great mercy. She hears the suffering of her children, and delivers those messages of need to her Son.
Please keep in mind, some special and unique opportunities to avail yourselves this unique opportunity of prayer, comfort, joy and wellness:
When coming to the Paraklesis (literally, meaning “Comfort”), please bring a written list of people of whom you wish to be lifted up in prayer. If you don’t bring a list of people with you, please prepare it when you arrive at the church. I have appropriate sheets available for you as you enter the sanctuary.
Also, please be reminded that the Paraklesis Service on Monday, August 7th will take place at 10:00 am, not in the evening. And again, I remind you, that following the Paraklesis Service on the 7th, will be a special and informative Luncheon on the progress of our Capital Campaign and an opportunity to share ideas that you may have concerning our eventual purchase of land for our church. Please RSVP to Barbara Hillas at 801-604-4884. Personalized packets will be prepared for all participants, so we would very much like to plan for your attendance.
Even if every detail of every aspect of your life is washed over with complete bliss, and you don’t seem to have a care or concern in your life, I would still invite you to come to the Paraklesis Service and engage in a more significant relationship with the Theotokos and her Son and our God. I would also invite you to come to them repeatedly. Once is nice. All of them is nicer!
I hope to see you at services, beginning this Friday evening. Let us allow the Mother of God to guide us into the Kingdom through her prayers, intercessions and love. Participating in the Service of Paraklesis is our opportunity to return her favors and show her our love. Yes, that was guilt. Come to church!
Love in Christ,
REMEMBER TO REGISTER YOUR CHILDREN FOR VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL. IT STARTS THIS WEDNESDAY!
REMEMBER TO SIGN UP FOR A DINNER OR LUNCHEON EVENT TO DISCUSS THE CAPITAL CAMPAIGN.
WE NEED YOU! YOU (EVENTUALLY) NEED A CHURCH BUILDING!