Dear parish family,
As most of you have heard, I hope by the end of next month to be ready to depart for the Philippines.
The Philippines! A thousand-mile string of over 7000 islands, where more than 150 different languages are spoken. Reached by Muslims in the 14th century, by Catholic Spain in the 16th century, occupied by Japan and the US, and an independent nation since 1946.
Years ago I studied in the Philippines and learned to speak Cebuano, the language of the southern part of the country. That’s where I came to faith in Christ, and I’ve always been interested in the country and its people. About eight years ago, several Filipino denominations were received into Orthodoxy by the Antiochian Archdiocese of Australia. I followed that news with enthusiasm, but unfortunately the leaders of the new Orthodox vicariates in the Philippines did not stay Orthodox, and within a few years most of the converts were scattered. But I continued praying that one day a strong, vibrant Filipino Orthodoxy would emerge.
You may recall how in 1949 St John Maximovitch and his Chinese orphans and Russian refugees fled from the Communist Chinese. Only one country was willing to host these 5,000 refugees: The Philippines. A place was made for them on a former US military base on the island of Tubábao, about a tenth the size of Walla Walla and reachable only by boat in good weather. Early last year, a Filipino monk named Father Philip was informed that the site of Saint John’s chapel had been discovered. Through the generosity of donors in Serbia and Russia, the space was cleared and an Orthodox chapel was built on the location where St John used to serve the Liturgy, sixty years earlier.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the country, two separate communities of seekers had determined that they wanted to become Orthodox. Through Father Philip, they contacted the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, and requested a priest to come baptize them. Father Seraphim, on his way to Nepal, was asked by Metropolitan Hilarion to divert to the Philippines and receive all these people into the Church, and I had the privilege of accompanying him.
Mission Trip: August 2013
There I discovered I still understand and speak a surprising amount of the Cebuano language, and I remembered why I love the Filipino people. These two communities of seekers bcame the Orthodox parishes of St John Maximovitch and St Nikolai Velimirovich. And we had the blessing of serving the first Liturgy in 62 years at the newly-built chapel of the Theotokos at Tubábao.
They asked constantly when one of us would return to serve their communities, and it was with a heavy heart that after the month was over we had to return home and leave them with no priest.
Immediately on my return, I began requesting to be sent back to the Philippines to serve these two parishes. By the end of the year, I had the blessing of Metropolitah Hilarion and Archbishop Kyrill, and the archbishop had decided to come here in June and ordain me.
The only thing keeping me from leaving today is finances. I have raised nearly half my budget for cash and monthly support, and I hope to reach both goals by the end of August.
Because the Philippines is a developing country, the cost of living is much less than here in the US. So a person can live simply on a surprisingly small budget. A big chunk of my monthly budget is devoted to transportation between the two mission sites in Palo and Santa Maria.
How can I help?
The most important way you can support the mission is to pray, regularly, and for the long term, for the Orthodox Christians of the Philippines. It’s a missionary cliché but it’s true: I covet your prayers most of all.
You can also be a partner in the Philippine Mission through a one-time or monthly gift of any size. We have a few partners who have made monthly pledges of $50 (and I thank God for them!) but a surprising amount of the support already pledged is in increments of $5, $10, or $20. Those pledges add up! That’s why you may have seen me on Facebook saying that you can help send a priest to the Philippines for the price of a cup of coffee.
It’s easy to make a gift for the mission: Any check written to St Silouan Church with a note “for the Philippines” will be deposited in the Philippine Mission account.
If you’re moved to partner with us monthly, then you’re welcome to write a check each month via St Silouan’s. Or you can go online to the Partners page on the mission website, and choose a one-time or recurring gift of any amount. Then your gift will automatically happen every month until you choose to cancel it, as automatically as your Netflix or car insurance payment. (If you prefer to pledge via checks to St Silouan’s, would you let me know, so that I can record your pledge? That will let me know when we reach the budget target!)
Over the next few weeks, I will be in and out, traveling to parishes in the Northwest to raise funds for the mission. If I can answer any questions, please feel free to email, call, text, or just get my attention after any service. Daghang salamat, ug ang Dios magapanalangin kanimo! (My deepest thanks, and may God bless you!)