Sunday, November 14, 2010

I'm A Believer

We had two very busy weeks, and I know that I am too tired to write well.  

With head phones on and loud music playing in my ears, I am trying to shut out the sounds of a familiar and gorgeous family just beyond the walls of this room where I sit.  My husband is fighting sleep to steal another moment with his brother.  The children who have declared that they will stay up until 4am together are starting it all off with laugher and telling their stories. I rejoice in what my husband and children are doing, but it is beyond me right now.

I think of Odysseus and his passage through the canyon of the Sirens. No there are no dangers beyond these walls, but the attraction to it all is mesmerizing, drawing me into their comforts.  The audible scenes beyond the door beg me to join in the fun…. I ask myself, could we really be leaving? Had we never spent 4 years in Albuquerque, could we ever have wedged an ocean between our precious family and ourselves?   

Friday evening we met with a beautiful gathering of extended and nuclear in Columbus Ohio. Imagine my family and my husband's together in an Italian restaurant occupying 35 seats at a long and narrow table arrangement, and having those simple conversations of lifetime proportions. My father's dearest friend GE, who is also my mother's first cousin, must have an ear in heaven. He invited us all for dinner so that he could toast us before our journey. He told us that he had wanted to get together with my in-laws for a long time now, and upon learning that we were going to be in Columbus he thought to do it then. His own, and his wife's open hearted hospitality, like the christening of a ship, bespoke confidence in the mission.  They are after all believers. They themselves more courageous than we having lived in Iran just at the time of the conflict in the late 70's, know the ropes of international living and my thoughts of them will also be inspirational throughout the years to come. 

Like in the eye of a happy storm, I felt a peace within the tumult of the conversations over fragrant Italian food. It was as if this had been planned in the mind of God for a long time. It was as if my father was there with us too. God rest his soul. And the party began and ended with love and laughter and God's grace to guide us.

One of the things our host chose to tell us upon hearing the word "Patmos" in conversation, was how he met "this elder" there when he went to Greece as a young man. He said that this elder was somehow related to him, but that he couldn't recall his name at all.  Father Paul asked "could it be Amphilochios?"  "Yes" said my Theo and our Koumbaro. "That was his name".  The name of this holy elder brought to us another confidence,  the kind that comes not from what is familiar, but from the peace which passes understanding that Christ promises in the Gospels. 

And me too, I am a believer.

There's so much to share from the past two weeks, about miracles of which we have heard, heartaches that we refuse to do without like the very poignant good-byes, and uncanny events that continue to point the way to New Zealand for us.  But all in all, today I believe that the best thing to do is to just tell you about what's coming up around the bend of the next two weeks before we leave.

Thanks to a wonderful family from one of our beloved but previous parishes, and to their faith and love, last week our tickets for New Zealand were purchased.  But of course they are believers, who would, if they could, join us.  They put us in touch with their travel agent and it was the easiest travel planning I have ever done. 

We hear of the support that caring Christians give to missionaries.  Since the first days that we went to Fiji and New Zealand last year, we have seen it with our own eyes. People who understand our practical obstacles sometimes better than we to, with gladness they give, and we take closer and closer steps. Without them and their devotion to the Lord, who could say what these days would have been like.

The feeling of actually going is here, now for all of us.  Maybe that's why being in the States is beginning to feel different, and why family gatherings are more intense than ever. 

Our plans:

We fly on November 28th out of the Dayton Ohio airport, to Denver for a one hour lay over, ( My sad regrets to our friends in close but yet so far... it seems to be a theme going this week )  

And then to San Francisco for a very long layover until our flight at about 7:30 pm.  While in SF we hope to venerate the relics of Saint John of Shanghai and of San Francisco.  He was a missionary you know.    We have wanted to visit for two years, however we didn't plan it this way exactly.

Saint John the Wonderworker
Our choices were two. We could fly from Cleveland non-stop to LA for a really good price, and see the Getty museum. Or, we could fly a pricier flight and leave from Dayton to San Francisco and visit Saint John's relics during the long lay over.  We made an attempt to  buy the cheaper flight. As we were trying to book it through a travel agent, the price went up really high, and we changed to this SF passage. It is like what the elder of blessed memory was saying, Elder Paisios, "Just take care of the easy things and the God will take care of the rest". 

Saint John was the Archbishop of San Francisco for the Russian Church Abroad, after having served in Shanghai. 

You can read the life of Saint John on Orthodox Wikipedia. He is known to have helped many through his prayers.  We beg for his prayers as well.  I hope you will take the time to learn about his life.

Thanks to our friend GC  our things that were in storage in a POD in New Mexico are on their way to the West coast.  It is supposed to take 8-10 weeks for the ocean crate to arrive.  We plan  to arrive there first, and Oh what will we do for the first 6 weeks without our things?  Father Paul predicts that the shipment is coming to Auckland for Christmas. Let's see if he is right.

The past week was filled with travels. 

It started on Sunday after Liturgy when we drove to Detroit to see some friends.  We stayed one night and attended Liturgy with Father Teodore Petrutiu at Saints Constantine and Helen for the feast day of the Archangels.  A beautiful church on the inside!   Metropolitan Nicholas was there and our hearts were warmed and blessed with his kindness and prayers.  

Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church Westland Michigan

Then we traveled to Rocky River for vespers for the feast day of Saint Nectarios at Saint Demetrios parish where Father had served for a total of 10 years.  It was the first time that Father and the children were there since we moved to NM. I had visited once last year for their Feast Day.   NH thought that there must have been 250 people that evening, and we did our best to greet each one of them. Their love and warm wishes were overwhelmng to say the least.   Neither Father Paul nor I could put that experience into words. 

St. Demetrios Church
Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Rocky River, Ohio
We also visited the monastery of Saint Mary of Egypt in Cleveland for the feast day of Saint Nectarios.  This monastery dedicated to feeding the poor is run by one lonely nun who works tirelessly for the hungry and for the love of Saint Mary of Egypt.  There were only about 40 people there. It was unseasonably warm and we got to see friends and treasured family there.  One of them is my cousin JS and his wife.  We hadn't seen them in 4 years.

Next we went home to see if we got any mail..LOL.  Home for now is still our sister's house in Dayton.  We spent two nights and then took off again for Columbus where Father Paul's brother came to meet us.  Um... he has 4 brothers. It was practically a holiday just becaue we were together.  We sat at the table and told stories and jokes.  Ate a very satisfying chicken and noodles that his parents slaved all day to make with all the love in their hearts.

Then we headed for Pittsburgh where we got the blessings of a spiritual father of ours and via distance that of Metropolitan Maximos who was detained and could not receive us in the time that we had.  He was, and still is, like a grandfather to our children when they were little, when as usual we cannot be with family for holidays and weekends.  We love him like our own fathers.  He is a giant among us and a great warrior in the battles of the good fight.  

The next two weeks will be intense for many reasons. There are very important people that we have not seen.  We regret that we cannot be more available.  Our personal limitations are many.  But God is good and I know that we will have much to share in the future.  We have to be faithful in our love to them regardless, if we are going to be true to ourselves, and know that our hearts are bound by the love of Christ.  Or as my spiritual fathers say much more simply, "in God's hands we are always near".  It is as if we are in one big church.  Limitations may be there to teach us sometimes, but when we know from where our love comes, we are never without each other.

I had the opportunity to speak with Archbishop Amphilochios recently.  I asked him how long we will be in New Zealand.  It's something that everyone else asks so why not me?  Can you imagine, we haven't really asked that yet?  So his reply, was: " As far as we are concerned you can stay yia panta for always. But you will come and one day will go into another, and one day you will know".  He kind of chuckled as he was answering. I am sure that when he was assigned to go there by His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomeos, he never asked the Patriarch, a question like that.  And if you think about it,…. is it our way to want to know so much? Anyway, in each and every one of his conversations to us, whether we express excitement or anxiety, he says "Don't worry about a thing. Everything will be alright"

Talk about who is a believer….  

We need to be on our way soon.  We have your prayers to help us.    
Panaghia be with you.

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