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ReEngage Sheds Light on the Effects of Absentee Fathers


, located in Kansas City, is one of the newest partner ministries of FOCUS North America. It is a brand new agency dedicated to reconnecting African American absentee fathers with their children through outreach and counseling, education and preparation.



Rodney Knott, community organizer in Kansas City and Executive Director of ReEngage, Inc., realized that the problem of violence and poverty in the African American community would never be resolved until absentee fathers were reintegrated with their families. Knott says that currently 68% of all African American children are being raised by single mothers.


Statistics show that children without fathers have extremely high rates of being poor the rest of their lives, dropping out of high school, becoming incarcerated and having children out of wedlock. Then the whole cycle starts again for the next generation.


ReEngage takes a holistic approach to the whole situation. One of their tenants is to treat the family as a single unit and through love and support (not condemnation and resentment) to reintegrate the African America father as the head of the household.

FOCUS North America is proud to have ReEngage as one of our partner ministries and have awarded it a grant for start- up costs. FOCUS NA also donated a copier to ReEngage to help set up its office.


My Aching Teeth in Yancy County


God is at work in Yancy County, North Carolina. Yancy County is the poorest county in one of the poorest states in the union. This is where we just completed a wonderful exploratory meeting with those interested in forming a FOCUS Center in Appalachia.

DSC03660While I was driving to the meeting, our good friend, Ron Moore, told me two stories that even with my years of experience on the hard streets of Nashville working in homeless ministry made me pause.

Ron told the story of our first two “guests” in January that received care from one of our first outreaches of our budding FOCUS Center in Appalachia. He drove the guests down the mountain to receive dental care from a faithful dentist who offered his services free to us.

Ron told me that the first guest was a taxidermist who recently lost his job after a tragic accident. He developed an abscessed tooth that needed to be pulled. Unable to pay $200 to pay for treatment, this man tried to use a rusty metal file from his workshop to file the tooth away. The second guest was in such great pain from a cavity that he tried to use a Dremel tool to relieve the pain.

Thank God through the FOCUS Center in formation here these men were able to get their teeth pulled for free and use their very limited resources for other basic necessities. These sad stories can unfortunately be multiplied over and over again. They give us an all too tangible sense of the extreme poverty even here in North America. They reinforce the real need for us to unite in ministry through FOCUS North America to serve.

In Romans 12:4 St. Paul says, “So we being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having gifts differing according to the grace given to us, let us use them…”

St. Paul’s words to us in Romans speak of being “members of one another,” connected in an intimate way by our humanity as living icons of God that transcends our normal understanding of family and responsibility for one another. We should rejoice when others are rejoicing but also ache when others are aching. In reality, the desperately aching teeth of the poor in Yancy County should cause me to ache as well.

Based on these words of St. Paul and the two stories I heard, I am convinced that a FOCUS Appalachia Center is not only possible, it is essential. Thank you for your generous gifts to FOCUS North America that are already helping to build FOCUS Centers to help the least of these here at home.


- Fr. Justin


The Importance of Cultural Competency in Serving Others


Cultural competency. These two words are heard often in today’s society. For some, these word illicit a negative response; others have a more  positive response.

Fr. Justin recently sent me to a presentation given by one of the social workers at Reconciliation Services-FOCUS Kansas City at their staff meeting. The presentation was on cultural competency.

Part of cultural competency is to know about a culture’s history, traditions, values, family system, and artistic expression. Why is this important and what does this have to do with serving others? You cannot serve someone to the fullest if you don’t understand who he/she is and what his/her background is.

Understanding is one of the key components of FOCUS NA. In fact, it is the “U” in our acronym. We are trying to embody Christ’s ministry on the earth and we exist with the poor, not for the poor. To do that, we must not have a mentality of separating “us” from “them.” Understanding is crucial for this to be achieved. However, one must not just understand where another is coming from. One must understand his/her own personal and cultural values and beliefs. Sometimes, this is the hardest thing to do for this takes deep soul searching and can sometimes be quite sobering and painful.

One of the most interesting parts of the presentation was learning that cultural competency is an ongoing lifelong process and is never fully completed. This may sound disconcerting. However, it makes me think of our spiritual journey as a Christian. We are to constantly be active in the spiritual growth process, but we will never be fully perfected until we are united with the Lord.But it is the journey that matters, what we learn and do along the way. So it is with cultural competency. With each step, we will grow in understanding and be able to serve others in ways we would have never thought possible, knowing that Jesus Christ is the only perfect bridge between cultures.


Say YES to a New Perspective


Say YES to a New Perspective

New PerspectiveOur life experience forms our minds and informs our decisions.  There are behaviors we have and mindsets we have that originate in our childhood, in formative times in our life, and in key situations.  In some cases, to even begin to discover why we think and act the way we do would take years of discecting.

Most of these formative experiences happen without plans, but we should also look for opportunities to gain new knowledge and to grow in our awareness of the world around us.  We should actively look for new ways to participate in Christ's work in the world and be open, through these experiences, to living in the world and viewing our role differently.

It often happens on YES trips that by simply experiencing life with people that have a completely different reality, students are brought to see the reality of life in Christ in a whole new way.  They not only come to see Christ in all people, but their own poverty is revealed to them as well. Miryam from Worcestor gave this testimony after her YES experience:

"As Orthodox Christians we are called upon to do the work of the faith. My day trip with the YES program gave me the opportunity to do so. Spending the time with the children in the shelter allowed me to become more self-aware, to be thankful of everything God has blessed me with. As participants, YES taught us how to be a kind human being, but more importantly how to be a better Orthodox Christian."

On YES trips, one of the things we all committ to is to be F.A.T: Flexible, Available, and Teachable.  By completely emptying ourselves for the sake of who God presents to us, we are able to give of ourselves wholely and completely, and gain, if we are open, a NEW PERSPECTIVE. Search out opportunities to participate in Christ's healing power in the world.  As you work for others, He will work in you in surprising ways.

In Christ,
Katrina Bitar

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Say YES to a Perfect Intention


Say YES to a Perfect Intention


The Lord puts tasks in front of us.  Some of them are small and some are huge.  If you decide that something is yours to do, based on your gifts, your desires, and your abilities, you need to make sure that the "why" of the task stays clear and present.

Why are you doing what you are doing?  And for whose glory?  The "why" can get lost when we get lost in the many anxieties and fears that come with responsibilities.  Who is watching?  Who sees me?  Who am I pleasing?  If the "who" is anyone other than God, then you need to check yourself and remember "why" the task is important to begin with.

St. Ephraim the Syrian's words here give us the assurance of what the Lord asks of us when we desire to approach Him and follow the direction He is leading us:

"These are the things which befall someone who approaches God: first temptation, then tribulation, then toil, despondency, nakedness, sufferings, anguish, contempt; in these the endurance and testing of believers is manifested; and in all these the person who gives himself wholeheartedly to God’s direction, and submits to his will, triumphs completely.

For God only asks of us a perfect intention, and he himself will give us the strength and grant us the victory; as it is written, He is the champion of all who hope in him. And again he says, The Lord is near to all who call upon him in truth. He will do the will of those who fear him and will listen to their supplication and will save them." -St Ephraim the Syrian

If your intention is truly perfect, God will bless your work.  Serve Him and others through all that you do. This will bring true joy and peace that will overcome anxiety and fear. Be careful to be self-aware and don't get lost in serving yourself and your desire to succeed.  As Mother Teresa said, "I do not pray for success.  I ask for faithfulness."

In Christ,


Katrina Bitar

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How to help Haiti


The current crisis and devastation in Haiti is hard to fathom. Already poverty-stricken and desolate, the earthquake has only increased the numbers of those who need help.

As you know FOCUS North America only works domestically in the United States, Canada and Mexico on persistent problems of poverty and not on emergency relief. But because I know that your love for those in need extends throughout the world including all parts of our hemisphere, I want to make you aware of how to help there if you’d like to.

International Orthodox Christian Charities has an “International Emergency Response Fund,” which will provide immediate relief, emergency aid, recovery assistance and other support to help those in need as well as long-term support. You can see how to assemble help packages or make a gift by visiting www.iocc.org, calling toll free at 1-877-803-IOCC (4622) or mailing a check or money order payable to IOCC, P.O. Box 630225, Baltimore, Md. 21263.

May God continue to bless you in this new year.




prayerOne very important part of being able to be in community is being able to be alone.  As Christ took his time away from the crowds for time alone with the Father, we must do the same to know His will for us and to know ourselves.  This quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer says it all:

"Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when He called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone, you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called..."

If we are to truly find community with the poor, we must take time away in silence as a means to a necessary end:  to be strengthened in Christ in order to share His love and healing with others.  Start with 15 minutes a day in a quiet place that you consistently visit at a planned time.  Ask the Lord to bless that time, being with you as you allow the reality of your thoughts and feelings to surface and helping you to be open to His will.

Time alone with the Father will center you and help you to feel comfortable in your own skin.  It is through being alone that you will find yourself better equipped for community.


Katrina Bitar
YES North America Program Director

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The Treehouse: Wichita, Kansas


Your gifts at work through FOCUS North America and its partners.

The Treehouse: Wichita, Kansas

It is because of gifts and grants that The Treehouse is able to keep ministering to women who have chosen to carry their babies to term and give birth under difficult circumstances.

One of these mothers is Ashley. She has a 3-year-old son, a 1-year-old daughter, a 9-year-old stepson and is expecting a new daughter any day now. For the past three years, she’s been going to Treehouse. The first time she went looking for support as a new mother and to get back in touch with God. “When I look back,” she said, “I remember how I felt the first time I walked in and was greeted by smiling faces. I immediately got the sense that I was in the right place. It didn’t take long before I considered the Treehouse to be a refuge. I could go there and unload all of my problems, worries and fears. I was always met with smiles, laughter and love. I found the positive role models I needed as well as new friends with children and similar lives. The Treehouse also helped me through some of the hardest financial times.”

Other women, like Ashley, are being helped every day at Treehouse as they continue to support the courageous, life-affirming decisions of new mothers and the needs of their babies by:
•    Giving eligible mothers a one-time free distribution of basic infant necessities
•    Providing a thrift store for birth to 4T clothing, basic supplies for infants and toddlers, maternity clothes and more
•    Offering educational classes
•    Donating extra assistance five-times a year with diapers or formula

The Treehouse proudly serves the women of Wichita Kansas and the surrounding area. To learn more visit http://www.focusnorthamerica.org/partner-ministries


We are now in the Cloud!



Over the New Year’s weekend Focus North America made the transition to the "Cloud" we are now have our website hosted on a scalable cloud serves so our IT can grow as the ministry grows. This upcoming year is going to see lots of growth and expansion with FOCUS City Centers coming online, the YES Program will be at least doubling and other programs that are in the works.



We also upgraded our donor management software and added new twitter functionality.

Thank you for all your patience and support.


Jacob Lee

Website Administrator

PS: If you have any questions or find any bugs don’t hesitate to email me at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



Year End Appeal! Help FOCUS end the year with a Bang!


Dear Beloved in Christ,

Thank you for helping to make our first nine months of ministry together so fruitful! Here are three ways your gifts helped to minister to the poor and build this hands on domestic ministry in 2009:

·   Established our pilot FOCUS Center with hundreds of volunteers helping to serve over 14,000 hot nutritious meals a year and new FOCUS Centers poised to launch in 2010

· Over $50,000 in grants given to a tremendous list of FOCUS partners helping the poor across North America

· Hundreds of kids equipped for ministry and double the number of YES trips booked (Youth Equipped to Serve – our powerful leadership training ministry for youth, formerly OYO)

Will you help us grow this ministry to help even more people in 2010 by giving a gift of $50 or even $100 today?

The first 5 people to donate $50 will receive a free Ancient Faith Radio T-shirt. The first 5 people to donate $75  will receive a free wooden icon bracelet. And all gifts of $100 or more enter you into a prize drawing on January 1st for a $150 gift certificate to www.FULLNESSoftheFaith.com.

Thank you!
Have a Blessed New Year!

Fr. Justin Mathews
Executive Director, CEO

PS -  Make sure to use the donate button to give online and win prizes and a chance at a $150 gift certificate!  Thank you!

Say YES to fellowship



As we approach the great feast of the Nativity of our Lord, it is likely that we will be feasting in various ways with various people.  It is a time to see each of these opportunities as a blessing to connect with family and friends... but also to connect your family with your needy brothers and sisters in Christ who will not be celebrating as you will.


There are some that won't have the warmth of a fireplace or the company of loved ones.  As you look around your dinner table and laugh with numerous family members that have come together for this feast, consider giving thanks to God for the love of the people around you by taking it to the streets!

-We all love leftovers.  That is true!  However, there will likely be a greater enjoyment in making your leftovers someone's first meal.

-Also consider the gifts you receive that you are likely to put away in a closet and never look at again, or toys that the children in your family don't get super excited about. Those gifts would do much better in the hands of someone who will find it to be such a treasure.

Bring your family and meet your extended family in a homeless kitchen or on the street.  It is not the amount of food or the quality of the gifts that will matter most, but the love and fellowship that you extend to your extended family- our most needy neighbors.  Give thanks for your family by being family for someone else.

Merry Christmas!


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