Pastoral Letter February 3, 2019

“The whole earth is a living icon of the face of God.”

St. John of Damascus

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

There is a certain country that seems to be in the news quite a bit, these days. Our neighbor to the south has gained much attention since we share a border. What exactly we intend to do with that border is the subject of much debate, conflict and seems to be bringing out the worst in our humanity, rather than entertaining our level-best selves.

Honestly, however we secure our border with Mexico, and how ever we regulate who comes into our country, by what means, and for what purposes, there will also be a remaining truth that the Christian heart cannot (and should not) escape. And that is to say that the people who live in that, and any other country, are also “icons of the face of God.” White faces, black faces, red faces, brown faces, yellow faces, olive-complexion faces (such as my own) are all colors chosen by God to complement the pallet of His creative endeavor. Who is any one person, of any one color, to designate himself above any other?

The whole earth is a living icon of the face of God.

Please be keenly aware, as I venture into these waters, that this message is not a political statement in any way. It serves more like a humanitarian announcement; an introduction to a blessed opportunity. This coming summer, we at St. Anna’s have a unique opportunity to engage in our own Border Crossing. I intend, through God’s grace and loving mercy, to lead another mission team to build a home for Project Mexico. Yes, we are going to the southern border, we are going to cross over. We will be sojourners in another land. We will be visitors among friends. We will be deliverers of mercy and we will be witnesses for Christ.

Project Mexico, together with St. Innocent’s Orphanage is a ministry of the Orthodox Church which works to provide a safe home and environment for orphan boys, as well as the building of homes for poor families who have acquired small (and I mean very small) parcels of land, but have no means to construct a home. This is where we come in.

The Key Information is this:

  • WHAT: Home Building Mission to Project Mexico
  • WHEN: June 27th through July 3rd, 2019
  • COST: Approximately $1,000 (Personal and collective fund raising will offset the cost.)
  • INFO: There will be an Information Meeting on Tuesday, March 12th at 7:00 pm in the church.

We have 12 spots open for our trip. We will be participating together with the kind folks from the Greek Orthodox Church of the Nativity in Castro Valley, California, together with my friend, Fr. Niko Bekris. He is taking his parish youth to engage in this act of Christian love. I encourage our young adults and older teenagers to pray about and consider joining us. The work is indescribably rewarding as you look upon a completed home, participate in it’s blessing, and engage with the family who will move in after we leave.

Of course, to use the word “home,” it is a relative measure to say the least. It is actually the size of a large tool shed, per what many of us are accustomed. Families are moving out of trailers, boxes, and literal sheds as they take possession of a newly-constructed Project Mexico Home, thus receiving a portion of protection and security that they’ve never before experienced.

The whole earth is a living icon of the face of God.

Let’s remind ourselves that those who live in other places, who’s lives are different than our own, who’s circumstances are unrecognizable to us, share an equal favor before the Lord. Participating in a trip such as this is a life-changing experience. The lessons of humanity, humility and gratitude are brought to life in ways that can only be experienced while swinging a hammer in a foreign land.

Please consider joining us or allowing your child to participate. I intend to take three of our children with us.

This is not specifically a youth trip. All are welcome to participate. I am simply issuing a special challenge and invitation to our young people so they can learn to appreciate, from now, the multitude of gifts that have been bestowed upon them, and how they can begin to pay it forward.

Come to the meeting. Learn about Project Mexico. Become inspired. Cross a border. Appreciate that we up here, and those down there share a common characteristic; we are an icon of the face of God.

Wall…fence…whatever. We’re building a bridge. Well…actually, a little house. Same thing, right?

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony