Our Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Bless! The Lord!
Each year we have a lively interaction by email and/or by regular mail with all of our active donors and many of the other names on our active mailing list. It is a way to keep in direct contact with all of you who have been such a direct and meaningful part of our lives here at the Skete, Convent, and Mission. As a part of that interaction, this is the fourth time that we have direct mailed to you this year. Traditionally December has also been a major part of our donations received each year. We hope that this December will at least be the same.
The reality of recent economic constrictions has affected almost everyone here in North America at this time as it has for over a year since the economic melt down that began last October, 2008. What has happened increasingly since then is a more realistic attention to how people buy and sell, and how people give and receive. We still do it, but it is more thoughtful and it is more restrained.
Overall using good sense and conscious reflection on using our resources wisely is a good lesson at any time, although most forms of advertising have been focused in other years to get people to spend their resources freely, and often beyond their means. So we all need to be careful that our resources really help with our necessities, and to prioritize after that what is the most needful next. Yet prudence does not eliminate doing what is good or helpful in our lives. Supporting good works is an important part of giving and receiving.
Since the Skete, Convent, and Mission’s beginnings there has been a conscious effort to outreach in our time and resources to help others whom God brings into our life. This is done through active prayers offered each day in our monastic round of services and private prayers, which includes praying for you and those who have been brought into our lives through various forms of contact. Today there are even more means for contact than when this monastic effort and mission work began 23 years ago. This active prayer is a most important part of our ministry – prayers and supplications for all of our friends and our many brothers and sisters in Christ, and you are also included. We also still have visitors who come to visit us, and they are most welcome. You are welcome too if you are ever in our neighborhood or wish to come for a retreat.
Another active part of our outreach has been to make available at reasonable prices many of the great icon treasures of the world in high quality mounted icon reproductions, and most recently also in laminated print only form. We have also found many other devotional gifts and spiritual books to help others with the tools for growth in their Christian spiritual life. Although we have spent now 21 years doing this with intense efforts, the reality is that it has taken more assets of time and money than it has received. Since this is also a conscious part of our calling to ministry, we are glad to do so as we have been able all of these years. Yet without active donations and prayerful support, it is not possible for the monastics to always do so within our restricted means. As in our other donation appeals, we are now asking your active help.
We here at the Skete live a relatively poor material life style. The monks live in small 12’ x 16’ cells with a small wood heater in the wooded secluded back valley. We spend most of our days working on what will here support our daily needs and on our outreach to bring the wonderful visual treasures of Orthodox Christian theology into our dear friends daily lives by finding, indexing, and then producing and making available these icon treasures and by also hand-painting icons. Our food is relatively simple yet healthy, our clothes mostly well-worn but still warm in winter, and we walk the third of a mile up and back from the back Skete valley to the Mission Center and icon production workplace each day.
Mother Elizabeth, in the Convent of St. Silouan nearby, lives in an older mobile home with limited space and amenities. Her’s is a simple life too with limited resources, and she helps with book selections for the bookstore and educational work for later publication of Orthodox Christian grade school materials. She has more health needs because of her diabetes and the winters are hard on her mobility.
Our monastic life, both for the Skete and for the Convent, even if lived in a simple way, still costs money to live each month and each year. By careful budgeting this year we have been able to do with less but we cannot do it with this much less. We still have to buy groceries, household goods, pay for heat, electricity, gas, medicines and doctor’s visits and buy eyeglasses when needed. We have never been able to afford any health insurance. We have lived on the edge of real poverty for many, many years, and this is voluntary. Our donations in other years have barely covered these basic needs, and this year they are down substantially by 37%. November and December donations have been down too from last year over 20%. Although many, many non-profits have experienced such substantial drops in income since this economic downturn, so we are not alone, it is still very difficult to just make simple ends meet. Please help us if you can.
These last two years have also seen many small and some extensive repairs of buildings and roofs at both the Mission Center and in the back Skete valley that could not be put off and were done relatively quite inexpensively by ourselves contracting the work or doing it ourselves, but this still drained available funds from other daily needs.
It is hard for us to ask when we see clearly that everyone has their own economic restrictions, but we are not asking much, just what you can give right now, and as you can give throughout next year. It is soon the end of this year, and this decade is passing away too. Your donations are tax-deductible. Please, please, help us keep going.
We have had in the past special donations for capital campaigns that built much of the Common Monastic Building for the monks, and St. Nicholas Orthodox Church at the Mission Center. Your generosity helped build those buildings and continue to help those who live and worship within them each day. We deeply thank you for your gifts in these regards.
We have not asked for much related to these or other capital funded projects this last year. Our requests have been mostly for just the means to live simply and pay our bills. We are asking now again, but even more earnestly for help yet this month to finish out this year with the means to continue our work of inward and outward prayer and of our outward ministry in the production of icons. Please pray and see if your hearts are moved to give whatever you can with a good and thankful heart. Please also remember Mother Elizabeth and the Convent of St. Silouan. We all here give too even in our limitations as God sends us even poorer people as He sees is good. Everyone can afford at least a small gift.
Thank you for your time to listen to news from the Skete, Convent, and Mission this whole year. We pray that God will give us all thankful and generous hearts at this time and season of Christ’s Nativity. He gave us the best and most perfect gift of every season – Himself – as the living and precious icon of God now made manifest and tangible in our presence. May Jesus Christ, incarnate and both fully human and fully Divine, hear our prayers and meet our needs, and give us all the patience and love to thank Him for this wonderful and fruitful season of generosity and love. He is the very meaning of this holy season of the year.
You are in our prayers and thoughts. Please keep us in your prayers as He draws near.
God bless your good hearts,
The Brotherhood of St. Isaac of Syria
and the Sisterhood of St. Silouan’s Convent
and the Community of St. Nicholas Church
Common Monastic Building - Fall 2009