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FOCUS on Antiochian.org


Antiochian.org posted an article about what our volunteers have been up to this summer. Check it out.  http://www.antiochian.org/node/23508

FOCUS on Ancient Faith Radio from Canada this week!


Fr. Justin was in Victoria, British Columbia July 27-30 to speak at the Orthodox Church in America Canadian Assembly. Fr. Justin got to talk about the mission and vision of FOCUS North America. Click on the link to listen now.


He also teamed up with Fr. Jon-Stephen Hedge and clinical social worker Jennifer Ferraez from our partner ministry St. Brigid’s Fellowship in Isla Vista, CA to present a lecture entitled “The Practical Side of Reaching Out”. Click on the link to listen now.



FOCUS North America Launches Wednesday Night Meals in San Diego


IMG_7921When people think of Coronado and San Diego, they think of Sea World, the Hotel Del Coronado, and old town San Diego. They don’t know that there are thousands of people unable to find work living on the streets.


Sitting in the shadows of the Coronado Island Bridge, FOCUS San Diego launched its first meal July 14 serving the homeless in the down town San Diego area. Twenty-eight volunteers from six parishes that represented four different jurisdictions served 96 homeless.

FOCUS San Diego has an all-volunteer team that has partnered with a protestant mission called God’s Extended Hand. They have been serving meals six nights a week to those in need for over 80 years. God’s Extended Handserves meals six nights a week to those in need. FOCUS North America’s San Diego Center has partnered with them to cover the seventh night. Now no one who wants a meal will go hungry on Wednesday nights in San Diego.


FOCUS San Diego now has five partner churches and several individuals who are dedicated to helping fund projects for the needy in the area.

You can help too by donating online today to support the ministries of FOCUS NA.

Whether we are working with the hungry in San Diego or those in need throughout North America, your support makes a difference!  Thank you.


FOCUS Minnesota Ready to Serve the Poor at New Location


focus-MNFOCUS Minnesota has a new location as of Thursday July 15, 2010, 1600 Lake Street, Minneapolis.   Plans are already underway to serve a deli-sandwich meal there on July 28, 2010 to maintain some momentum amongst our volunteers and to establish this activity in our new neighborhood. News of the meal has been shared with our neighboring social service agencies. 

As we build programming for the poor, we look forward to an official launch of our new center. On Saturday August 14, 2010, with the blessing and cooperation of the Minnesota Eastern Orthodox Christian Clergy Association (MEOCCA), we will celebrate the Divine Liturgy at our new center. The premises will be blessed, and following that a lunch will be served to the poor. A kids table, for neighborhood families with children who might attend the meal, is also planned and will be staffed by local Orthodox college students. This event will also act as an Open House for the broader Orthodox community. This will give the Orthodox a chance to tangibly come together around our physical location, hear about our plans for the future with lots of volunteer sign-up sheets on display for future opportunities to serve. A giant wish-list will be on display as well!

We are working diligently on the following ministries which are in varying stages of development:


• Community meals served in the center to increase in frequency to the level that can be sustained by O-resources.

• A food pantry available once a week stocked by donations, Minnesota Food Share and Second Harvest Heartland.

• Nutrition Education - diabetes, blood pressure, weight management, heart health education all through O-resources who are healthcare professionals to complement Nutrition/Food Access through cooperative programs with the Hennepin County WIC office in our area and The U of MN Extension Nutrition services - Operation Frontline and SNAP programs

• Food support for adults 60+ through faith-based urban ministries (various)


• Concentrating on  job-readiness training

• Researching existing curricula to adapt for FOCUS and O-resources/volunteers 

• Planning stages for collaboration with Step-Up (city of Mpls. Program)


• Build up a clothing closet through donations/shoe campaign started in our churches 

• Refer to St. Vincent de Paul outlet which is within blocks of FOCUS Minnesota.

• Negotiating a voucher system with local laundromats which will provide 3 wash, 2 dry and soap.


• Working with Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches  to become a site for a parenting support group that is run in various metro locations

• After School mentoring with students from The University of Minnesota OCF

• Reading hour, homework help (bilingual as well), positive social modeling, school readiness in the Fall

• Social work intake hours for emergency services staffed by advanced students from the U of Minnesota School of Social Work 

• Supervised by volunteer licensed clinical social workers (LICSW) from the O-community


Though we are not equipped to provide shelter at the center, we will be working with two organizations (the Salvation Army and Families Moving Forward) on an emergency referral basis to place people in transitional facilities. 

You can help by donating online today to support the ministries of FOCUS NA.  Whether we are serving at our FOCUS Minnesota Center or those in need throughout North America, your support makes a difference!  Thank you.


FOCUS Orange County Serves Homeless Children Living in Motels


IMG_7188When one thinks of Orange County, California, one doesn’t normally think of poverty since it is one of the wealthiest areas in the nation. However, there are over 20,000 children who are homeless in the county. Many of these children live in motels. In some cases there are more than six children living in one hotel room. They often do not know where their next meal will come from. FOCUS is working to unite the local orthodox Churches to serve these kids and help provide them the necessities they need.

Earlier this month FOCUS North America’s Orange County center launched a back-to-school program in conjunction with Nana’s Kids (a ministry of Grandma’s House of Hope) and the Collaboration to Assist Motel Families Orange County to help homeless kids living in motels in Orange County.  Six parishes have participated in the program as well as the Los Angeles OCF chapter.  The program is a three month commitment. Over 300 backpacks were given out with the name of a child on it. When people take a backpack, they are committing themselves to pray for and provide for that child. The backpacks will be filled with school supplies and returned at the end of July, and FOCUS Orange County will help to distribute these backpacks on August 7.  Also FOCUS North America is asking the sponsors to provide a pair of shoes for August and a bag of groceries for September.IMG_7544

Jacob Lee, FOCUS Orange County’s interim director, said, “The program has received overwhelming response. We could’ve have given away twice as many backpacks. I have received calls from the priests at the participating churches who said that the backpacks were great but their people wanted more. They want to get hands-on.”

FOCUS North America’s Orange County Center is dedicated to continuing its work with these children and their families that are living in motels and will be providing the hands-on action that the parishioners requested. At the beginning of September, FOCUS Orange County will begin weekly meals for the homeless families living in motels in the city of Anaheim.

You can help too by donating online today to support the ministries of FOCUS NA.  Whether we are working with homeless children in the motels of Orange County or those in need throughout North America your support makes a difference!  Thank you.


FOCUS North America Sends Mission Team to Appalachia


Last month, 30 Focus North America volunteers (aged 9 to 69) drove the 943 miles from the Kansas City area to Bakersville, North Carolina to help do work projects for some of the needy families in the area.

Times are tough everywhere nowadays. However, Mitchell County, North Carolina has been hit especially hard since the local textile industry was outsourced overseas and left the economy with a 20% unemployment rate.

guys_in_houseThe FOCUS North America mission team was able to help several families during this difficult time.

Melvin had to quit his job in a grocery store when his back gave out, and Marcia had been unable to work since her health issues had confined her to a motorized wheel chair. This past winter, the record amount of snow caused their roof to leak and destroy their ceiling. They were able to patch the roof, but they could not fix the damage done to their ceiling.  FOCUS North America purchased the materials and provided the volunteers to fix their ceiling. A team of eights served in Melvin and Marcia's house for three days, removing and replacing the rotten ceiling panels in the living room, dining room and two bedrooms.   Melvin said, "I thank my God for you (the Focus volunteers) coming and serving. You are a real blessing."   

Amber and Burt were at their wit’s end.  Their ten-year-old son Gabriel was born healthy. NCT-SMHowever, right before he entered pre-school, he was diagnosed as having autism.  Gabriel had an uncanny ability as an escape artist. His passion was picking locks, windows, doors--any form of containment.   At first it was cute to Amber and Burt, but it became more serious when Gabriel would escape and run onto the country road at the bottom of their property.    Underemployed and under-resourced, Amber and Burt could not afford the materials nor the labor to construct a safe-solution for Gabriel's containment--a picket fence. Gabriel could not climb up and over a picket fence. Focus volunteers from Kansas City brought with them funds for concrete, rails, pickets, and hardware as well as a generator, power tools and an air compressor.  Over three days, six Focus volunteers erected a Gabriel-proof containment system--a 6 foot picket fence--around the perimeter of Amber and Burt's home.   No longer fearing for her son's safety and able to sleep at night for the first time in 5 years, Amber offered, "I don't know what to say...this gift has changed our lives..."

Geneva Wilson has lived up in the hills for all of her 100 years.   As a "colored person," she and her husband were denied access to an education and good jobs.   But they scrapped enough together during the depression to purchase land and build their home--the home Geneva still lives in on her own.   Until last month, it had group_in_front_of_houseonly been painted once.  Then Focus team from KC arrived with scrappers, ladders, paint, brushes and rollers.   Eleven volunteers blanketed the sweet little home in the woods, lovingly applying a coat of protection on the wood that can surround Geneva for the next 100 years.  Said Geneva,"I have never heard of somebody painting somebody else's house for free--and driving a long way to do it. I want to say thank you."

But the needs far exceed the demands.  Though this first team of Focus volunteers was able to fund the materials for and complete six projects, Focus has an ever-growing list of needs in the area that now exceed 45 projects.  

Focus--Appalachia is putting out a call to Orthodox Christians nation-wide.   Bring a team from your church to serve.  When you arrive, Focus can connect your team with appropriate projects for you skills and budget.  Focus can arrange lodging, meals and logistics.   Our Lord said, "The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.  Beseech the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the fields."   Focus is praying for God to send more teams to Appalachia.   Is that you?   

Click here to e-mail Bryan Dahms, National Director of Ministries, about your interest in sending a group from your parish to Appalachia.


FOCUS is at GOA Clergy Laity in Atlanta


Clergy-layity-boothWe are at booth 711 - Stop by and get entered into a chance to win an autographed Troy Polamalu jersey!

Jacob Lee - Creative Director and Nick Kasemeotas -  Philanthropy Coordinator are manning the booth and would love to talk to you about FOCUS and how you can get involved.


FOCUS Minnesota Serves First Meal June 30


FOCUS Minnesota will launch its ministry by hosting a free meal from 6:00 – 8:30 pm at St. Paul Fellowship Church on Wednesday, June 30.

“All FOCUS ministries are about serving others, plain and simple,” said FOCUS Minnesota director Vera Proctor. “The meal is representative of what we will continue to do as our ministry develops: give to anyone in need out of love.”

Proctor added that this meal will be the first of many in the area. She hopes to develop more partnerships with other Christian organizations like St. Paul Fellowship Church and to eventually find a location to transform into a permanent home for FOCUS Minnesota.

Proctor stressed that the meal is a “pan-Orthodox” effort, meaning that Eastern Orthodox Christians from all the Orthodox jurisdictions in the Twin Cities – Greek, Romanian, Russian, and others – are assisting in the effort.

St. Paul Fellowship Church is located at 868 Sherburne Ave., St. Paul, MN, 55104.


Is Your Will, Your Will?


Studies over the last several years find that the majority of Americans, somewhere around 60%, do not have wills. However, 100% of all Americans have estate planning!  That is, if you do not have a will or trust, the state will divide up and distribute your possessions for you. The state, of course, will have a claim in it.

One of the inevitable events in our life will be our death (unless the Lord comes during our lifetime), yet one of the most difficult subjects to bring up with family, friends and donors is death and estate planning. It seems to us callous and insensitive. However, this is far from the truth. The Church fathers remind us to keep death before us daily. It makes sense that if most of us have managed our finances during our lifetime, why would we want someone else to manage them after we die?  Yet, the majority of us seem OK with that.

I have always believed that what happens after we die (i.e. our funeral, our estate distribution, etc) should reflect how we have lived or better.  If we have tithed during our life, why shouldn’t we tithe after we die?  Why do so many assume that everything should go to our children?  Someone said, “Love your children enough not to give them everything.” Not infrequently, I have seen children arguing over the will. I am saddened when I think of these parents looking down from heaven and seeing their children suing each other and not speaking to each other over what they have left behind!

There is a hard hitting scenario that challenges our attitudes about where our wealth should go. I can’t recall where I first heard it, but it goes something like this… If we really believe that God has given us everything, that we truly possess nothing, then we correctly view ourselves as “stewards” of what has been given us. I like the word “managers” better because it is a word we relate to more in our culture. If God is the owner and we are the managers, then what store manager would have the right to give the store’s possessions to his children after he dies? The store belongs to the owner, not the manager. The owner has given the manager a salary to run his store, to build it up, yet in the end; the store belongs to the owner.  This is an incredible way to start thinking about what we have. It really belongs to God. It really should be His to distribute…according to His will.

If our life is a preparation for our death, then why are we so reluctant to take care of what God has given us and where it will go?  Did not the Lord do this on the Cross with His mother? We need to be prepared and make sure we are good stewards both in this life and after. It is our last act of management. May our will, reflect His will…


FOCUS North America Welcomes a New Edition to the Family



FOCUS North America is happy to announce the birth of Owen Michael Lee. Owen is the son of Jacob (Communications Director)and Calee Lee.

Owen was born on Monday May 31. He was 5.11 lbs and 18 inches long. May God grant him many years!


In Memorium: Mrs. Stematoula Avramis


Touscon, AZ -- In Memorium: Mrs. Stematoula Avramis
Our hearts and sympathies are with Very Rev. Fr. Tom Avramis, a founding Board member of FOCUS North America, and with his entire family as he mourns the loss of his mother Mrs. Toula Avramis. Toula, 82, died peacefully in Tucson, wolfriverlodge AZ on Saturday, May 1, 2010 surrounded by her loving family and friends.

May the Lord Jesus Christ, our Life and Resurrection, grant her eternal rest, and may her memory be eternal.
In Christ,
Fr. Justin Mathews

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