At a pre-lenten dinner at Saint John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church here on March 10, 2016, His Grace, Bishop Paul presented a check for $31,128.50 to Priest Martin Ritsi, Executive Director of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center [OCMC], representing donations from parishes, families and individuals of the Diocese of the Midwest to purchase motorbikes for clergy ministering in Kenya.
The diocesan-wide drive, initiated in November 2015, aimed at raising $10,000.00, which would provide sufficient funds to purchase ten motorbikes.
“In his remarks at last year’s OCMC dinner, the guest speaker, His Eminence, Archbishop Makarios of Kenya, mentioned that many of his priests must walk great distances to minister to their flocks—more than just a couple of blocks,” explained Bishop Paul as he related the initial idea for the drive. “When he mentioned how motorbikes would be invaluable to enhancing their ministries, a light went off, and I asked myself, ‘what can we as a diocese do to help the Kenyan clergy?’ I thought this was a worthy project that was well within our abilities as a diocese to address.”
Bishop Paul first shared his thoughts with Father Martin in the spring of 2015.
“Father Martin in turn spoke with Archbishop Makarios, who had researched the cost of motorbikes,” Bishop Paul continued. “Having mutually agreed to embark on the project, I spoke with OCMC’s Andrew Lekos and Alex Goodwin, OCMC’s Communications Director, who worked with our diocesan Communications Director, Father John Matusiak, to develop the fund drive particulars and promotional materials. We had agreed that the project would run the course of the Nativity Fast that began on November 15, 2015.” [See related story.]
The response was beyond Bishop Paul’s expectations.
“Donations kept coming in, even after the projected close of the drive at the end of 2015, and by February 1, 2016, we were able to report on our diocesan web site that $22,538.00 — 225% of our goal—had been contributed,” said Bishop Paul. “By the second week of March 2016, the total had reached an amazing 311% of the initial goal!”
Bishop Paul said that he cannot offer enough thanks to the diocese’s faithful for their heartfelt response to the drive.
“I am, in a sense, speechless by the response of our parishes and faithful,” said Bishop Paul, “and I wish to thank one and all, from the bottom of my heart, for their generous, responsible and selfless stewardship. As I concluded my remarks at Thursday’s dinner, I stated that the drive taught me that people are indeed generous and giving when they are offered a clear sense of what can be accomplished when we give of our treasures to others. I’ve always felt that people don’t give simply to maintain church properties or to pay utility bills, but that they freely give when invited to help the Church to realize its purpose and mission as the Body and Bride of Christ, the People of God. Again, heartfelt thanks to everyone who made the drive a success, beyond every expectation!”
Also present at the dinner was Archpriest Dr. Chad Hatfield, Chancellor/CEO of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Yonkers, NY, who delivered the keynote address evangelism as a fundamental pillar of the Orthodox Christian faith. Adding that there are endless opportunities to share our faith, Father Chad observed that there is much we can learn from those to give of their time and talent to evangelize abroad—as well as those who are evangelized. “We stand to learn much from others,” he said, “as it is not just a matter of us teaching them.”