Our Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Bless! The Lord!
Unusually frequent rains coupled with spiking temperatures have made this Summer so far in southwestern Wisconsin a time for the crops to grow at record rates, especially the corn, soybeans, and hay at local farms. Unfortunately the time for planting our garden disappeared between these rains and the typical week of the last killing frost, usually the first week in June at the front Skete Mission Valley. We do have some plants growing profusely this Summer in the 60 foot greenhouse of the Common Monastic Building in the back Skete Valley, and so we are getting some blessings from the earth this Summer to come to our table.
The lush growing season also has other side effects as the grass and weeds, wild flowers and trees make up for Winter’s cold by bursting forth in abundance. This year much of our lawn equipment has needed major repairs, putting us behind in the initial mowing needed to keep things under control, but recently we were able to have it all fixed or replaced and are now getting a handle on bringing things back to “normal.” Fortunately we were able to find a quality used zero-turn professional grade mower for a reasonable price, and that addition plus another used mower has helped greatly. Our weed-whipper also needed to be replaced, and repairs are still needed on our brush hog for really large and tall weeds and grass. It is always an ongoing struggle but joy to maintain the extensive grounds at the Skete and Mission Center.
There is a local joke in Wisconsin that there are really only two seasons: Winter, and Road Repairs. Because of the real Winter here, this is not just a joke but a needed reality to make all important outdoor repairs in the Spring, Summer, and early Fall before or after the frosts or snows with low-temperatures make such repairs very difficult if not impossible. In the last few years the main area of repairs at the Skete and Mission have been to the many roofs of the buildings here. Two years ago the roof of the Common Monastic Building had to be taken off, the insulation and air flow reworked, and then the holes sealed and repair screws used to put the steel roof back on again to fix the leaks that had come up in this twelve year old roof damaged by ice damming the year before. It was a major repair that allowed the reworking of the entire back of the Common Monastic Building which had received extensive damage from moisture, mold, and their toll. The root cellars were removed, the gravel floor replaced with cement with the heat lines embedded in it, all the mold removed, the insulation replaced, and more windows put in to light up this 30% of that building. Outside relandscaping redirected water away from the building to finish all of the suggestions of the structural engineer to avoid future damage.
Common Monastic Building
Last year the shingle roof on the Chapel of the Theotokos in the back Skete Valley was replaced, as was the shingle roof on the old St. Nicholas Chapel, and on the front valley study just opposite the new St. Nicholas Church. They had all exceeded the life of the shingles and were beginning to show signs of damage. This year we had an opportunity to repair the roofs of eleven trailers (which house our kitchen and dining room, our bookstore, our offices, shop area, print production, guest house, icon studio, and hospitality center) very reasonably as many of them had deteriorated because of excessive ice damming in the last three years, causing damage and leaking. To protect the value and functioning of any building, the first step is to prevent leaking and subsequent water damage, which means to repair and maintain the roof. Like local road repairs, this is not an option, and it cannot be put off but needs to be addressed while the weather cooperates. It looks like these roofs are now all fine at last, and as time and money permits we will fix the damage inside.
Summer is not just repairs, or mowing, or tending a garden, but also a time for travelling, visiting, seeing loved ones, being outdoors more, and celebrating the special festal times both religious and secular. From Memorial Day through July 4th and until Labor Day, we enjoy this beautiful time of blue skies, lush green trees, lawn, bright flowers, abundant produce, flowing streams and rivers, and the colorful and cheerful sights and sounds of the many birds here in this part of Wisconsin. A tame doe and her growing fawn regularly visit our Mission Center and also the back valley of the Skete. We also see red foxes, raccoons, possums, skunks, stray cats, squirrels, moles, groundhogs, and can hear occasional coyotes too.
The Summer Fast and Feast of SS Peter and Paul and also those of the Dormition, and the Feast of the Transfiguration are all a part of this season too, as well as many other Saints’ celebrations. Some Saints also have a special summer feast to augment their main winter feast, especially if there is a translation of their relics in these summer months, and these include St. Nicholas, St. Seraphim, and St. Sergius of Radonezh. The abundance and exuberance of the outward season does add fullness to these summer feasts.
Summer at St Isaacs
This is our third email and direct mail sent to you this year of a newsletter and donation appeal. Our last appeal was helpful, but overall our donations this year are still down 32% from last year (which was tight), and June and July have been a particularly hard months as June was 48% below last year, and July is now 70% below last year. We struggle to just make ends meet for our daily life, and yet still have needed repairs to just keep the rain out of our buildings that have to be addressed in this season before the weather turns. We are not asking much, but everyone can give something to others: prayer, love, a kind word, and as we are able, some alms-giving.
Your donations go directly to support our daily needs, to help others, and to do necessary repairs and maintenance. We at our Skete also do outreach to many others each week, including gas vouchers for those without fuel. The roof repairs this year have cost us already about $4,500 and there is another approximately $1,000 to go to finish two other roofs already started. The Convent also needs their roof repaired which will cost about $2,800 to repair and reshingle their roof now over 25 years old. It has begun to leak in several places.
We had a generous donor give us a home-made log splitter that will help with this year’s wood to keep the back Skete Valley’s Common Monastic Building warm this winter. Thank you, and God bless you. There is a present opportunity to get another wood-fired boiler that would heat all of the monastic cells after the proper pipe and radiators were purchased and installed, and an electric upgrade to our solar panels. This is from a friend who would give it to us for only $5,000 which is a very good price for this equipment. He also has available a well taken care of skid loader (a different brand Bobcat) with skid forks and a bucket for $6,500, less than wholesale price, and an electric brake trailer to move it for only $800. These pieces of equipment are a part of a long-range plan for proper and efficient self-sufficiency plans for the Skete and Mission in the long run.
We ask you to pray to see if you can help with any one or more of these financial needs: our basic normal physical support of food, heat, electricity, and just simple living; help to replace funds spent on roof repairs and used mowing equipment; and help to now purchase heating and maintenance equipment to make us more self-sufficient for the future. In every case, we know that your prayers for us will help. With the current recession, only 4% of the people that we mailed our last donor appeal responded with a donation. Over 7% responded from our Lenten appeal. We hope that more will answer this time with whatever they can reasonably afford.
We pray this Summer that God will bless you and all in your household, your relatives and friends, your church community, and most of all your good hearts. We will continue to pray for you all, and your good desires, your hopes and dreams, and your spiritual yearning to reach out and touch the Living God through Jesus Christ and all His Saints.
God bless you and keep you in His Holy Name,
Your Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The monastics of St. Isaac of Syria Skete
and the Convent of St. Silouan,
and the community at St. Nicholas Church