This is my first day of feeling semi healthy since returning from Alaska. So I figured I would do a wrap up to the Mission. When Brad Tingwald gave a talk to the congregation on the mission looking for more missionaries several months back, I decided I would look into it. I submitted the application and deposit. Then it hit me. Umm I do not know if I’m a good fit here. No doubt I am a dedicated Orthodox Christian male that can leap tall buildings and call down the grace of God..uh NOT!! LOL. I am a dedicated Orthodox Christian male who can smash cement blocks and toss around sections of telephone pole like posts, however how would I converse on a spiritual level. Also as many of you know I have a unique sense of humor that only James Childs could understand J I always have to bring my sense of humor into any situation. I never take anything to serious unless I have my Butter bars on (comes with the territory). I believe that life is hard enough just in itself, so have as much God loving fun as I can, while I can, cause the one thing I can never side step is death. So I attend the first meeting and my fears set in. I really, really do not think I am a great fit. My personality seems a little leftish lol.. However, I stuck it out. I have to thank Eddie and Samar for giving me my first sense of relief that I will be a fine asset to the team. I decided to just be myself and God willing everything will work out. Now back from the Mission sitting at my desk reviewing the 100′s of emails I have to read and respond too and thinking… I know the work was hard in Kodiak (14-16 hr days), I know I am a desk jockey. So you would think I would be so happy to be here, granted I am thankful I have my job! However, I miss my routine of up at 5am, the morning stroll to the coffee shop trying not to walk into poles staring at the skyline. Writing up my Blog on my phone (yea that was fun) and talking to the fisherman/woman at the coffee shop. Morning prayers in the Chapel then off to work with everyone. The many, many, many jokes, meeting and talking with fellow Orthodox Christian’s of Kodiak. Listening to the several Great Councils of Kodiak ..LOL. Bocsh, Eddie and Samar, Doug, Fr. Rad, Fr. Innocent, Springwald, Fr. Greg, Fr. Juvenaly, the midgits, Chef Greg-O-ary, Dn. Marko and Bilijana, and how can we forget Ellen. Bo the man who can swipe a Bear off a mountain side with his Bare hands, CaptainVic, Bruce Almighty and is he ever lol, Suzanne the famous pie maker, Eustacia and his brothers who are what I call Country Strong. Their father Ambrose, the bell ringer, I did want to get a little lesson on ringing the bells but didn’t have enough time. Commander Gill good luck on your new assignment I know Fr. Innocent and the Cathedral will miss you. Costas I didn’t spend a whole bunch of time with him but the time I did you would of thought I was his long lost son, man was he happy to see a fellow Greek Orthodox! I guess finding a Greek on Kodiak Island is like trying to find a Chicago hotdog stand on Pillar Mountain. Sasha a man that is and will always be a part of Spruce Island. You would not believe how he and his family handle the winters. Yan the gentleman I met with Sarah.. who offered the team a boat ride. Officer Holdman who was the only honest Kodiakian that admitted once he retired he was moving south to warmer conditions lol. Good Luck Brother!! Be Safe!! As I laid in my bed trying to fight off this nasty cold. I found myself looking for the remote and what do I say? “ Who tooka the remote?” LOL!! The team had a great time. The Kodiak Orthodox Community got a huge boost and I have to say that I felt as if I contributed admirably via my personality and YES I did behave lol. I am sure the stories of me are embellished. I miss hanging with the crew when Sarah calls. I especially miss working with Fr. Rad. I hate to admit… I kinda miss the Midgets, they had a great sense of humor. Never thought I would ever say that. I always dog out my buddies with girls and how easy the boys are. Again, I am very appreciative of my job, but the work done in Kodiak was truly a humanitarian effort. It is a sense of accomplishment. The work we did truly helped others and we seen this first hand. I do not get this sense in my full time job as I am sure many of us don’t. It is almost like the next day after a long night of drinking. I was on an Orthodox High with worship, mental and physical labors in an Orthodox Christian setting 24 hrs a day for 10 days. Now I have the Hangover, back to life lol. If any of you ever can or get a chance to get on the mission team to Alaska, as Nike says… JUST DO IT!!! Even if you are “Orthodox Light” (A new term I learned). I promise you it will be well worth it. Sounds like in 2 years we will be going again. Who knows maybe there will be two more Greeks back on the Island of Kodiak. Thanks to all who supported me!!! May God grant you and your family many years and blessings!!
We completed many projects. At the Cathedral we rebuilt the handicap ramp and installed the door and frame, moved 900lbs of old church bells, removed a pile of old support beams the size of telephone poles and other scrap wood, cleaned the inside of the Cathedral. Stained new trim that was installed, dug a trench for electrical wire for lighting of the outside stairwell and laid concrete to fix large cracks in the sidewalk in front of the Narthex. At the Seminary we tore down and rebuilt two stairwells for the form rooms, stained the outside of the whole chapel, reinforced the foundation posts, painted the outside Icon stands as well as Fr. Rad and Doug fixed a bathroom sink. Bilijana wrote music for the Lords prayer for the Aleutian language. Monday was a day of closing up some small projects and relaxation. A group of us were taken to the Kodiak Military Museum. I had a blast. We also got to go to the Kodiak Wildlife Museum. Fr. Innocent and some parishioners also had a pitchin dinner for us. Fr. Innocent gave us all some anointing oil from the vigil lamp of St. Herman’s reliquary. I am going to miss Fr. Innocent. He is a great person, human being and most important a great Orthodox Priest. Fr. Juvenally was also very kind in driving us around and taking small groups to the local tourist spots. Nicholas did a great job feeding us. We all did more than just build and fix things. We got to know each other better (do not believe any stories you hear about me in Kodiak) lol. We inspired the local parishioners to appreciate the great treasure they have, but most importantly to show them that fellow Orthodox brothers and sisters are here to help and love them. We all had something to contribute to the group in are own special way. I grew more in the love of Christ due to these labors, speaking with local folks and parishioner. I thank all of of you for your support on this mission. May God grant you many years and bless you and your families.
The Day of rest!!! Which we all needed!! The team has worked tirelessly all week..12-15 hrs of manual labors. Brad Tingwald, who I affectionately call Springwald because he is like the energizer bunny rabbit…he keeps going and going and going….and….going. God bless him I do not know of a person who can work as hard and long as him!! Fr. Innocent gave a homily that was beautiful and right on point!! He had the whole team come to the front of the church to recognize our accomplishments the past week. I was fortunate enough to work with him quite a bit over the week and feel we bonded. He grew up just West of Chicago. I could sit in the Cathedral and just meditate for days. I could never express what is felt in the heart in words. You would have to be here to experience it. I have made a point to stay as long as possible in the Cathedral after services all week. We all had lunch then prepared for the boat ride. Brad T was extremely heartfelt for my worries of sea sickness and checked on me quite a bit on the boat ride over. It took about 1hr 25 or so one way. I had no issues in fact I started talking like a pirate and whistling the Old Spice tune….lol. I guess I grew some sea legs. While we approached Spruce Island you can see the domes and Crosses from a distance. When we hit land it was so quiet and tranquil. The Spruce trees are absolutely huge with Spanish moss hanging from them. It was a sight I had only seen in magazines. We followed the trail up about 100 yards and there was the holy spring. I gave venerations filled my little jar and drank some out of a wooded cup as well most did everyone else. We got to go into St. Sergio’s home in which everything is still in tact as it was when he fell a sleep in the Lord. We headed up about another 100 yards where the church and the original burial ground if St Hetman is housed. Myself and Fr. Rad gave venerations and entered under the house to get some holy dirt. The grave site was amazing. Icons, crosses and flowers all around. We all sang the troparion of St. HERMAN. I found a nice walking stick which I wished I could of taken home with me. As we were waiting for our boat at the beach I decided to look for the small rocks that have markings of crosses on them. I walked the whole beach with no luck. Sat in a cave like structure and just listened to the waves hitting the beach. After all we are on holy ground so I really wanted to take this in. About 15 min layer Fr. Innocent called me over due to the boat coming in. Fr. Innocent then handed me a stone that had the cross on it.
Well the weather has changed to typical Kodiak weather. Mid 40’s and light rain. St. Herman must have blessed us with such great weather all last week so we could finish all our projects!! Fr. Rad and I slipped over to McDonald’s for a quick cup of Java. Inside was an older Kat who was loud with a familiar accent. He looked at me with a great big smile. I said kalimera….and wouldn’t you know it he was a Greek Orthodox! He gave me a giant hug and I introduced Fr. Rad, in which he took off his hat asking for a blessing. We still had work to do but Costas (the Greek gentlemens name) insisted we sit and have a cup of coffee with him. Costas was very appreciative of the teams work on the Cathedral. Watching him and Fr. Rad converse brought back memories of when I was young and going to the Greek Orthodox Church festivals till 1 in the morning; my uncle Mike and relatives talking. After a while we headed back to the seminary and worked till 11pm finishing up the last stairway. Finally Sunday Liturgy was almost here!!
Friday Fr. Rad and I were assigned to finish up the handicap ramp as well as the cosmetics around the frame of the door. Bruce was there to assist. While Fr. Rad worked on the door I finished mounting the last two posts and handrail as well as installing a few spindles. Bruce helped me out. The rest of the crew was working hard at the seminary with the two stairwells and the staining of the chapel. Once the ramp and door was done. Bruce asked me to help out with the alarm system. I went to get me a Diet Pepsi to celebrate the accomplishment. The sun was out and it was in the low 60’s. I came back and helped clean up. Those broken cement pieces were calling out my name so I had to move them again..lol. I reworked the cut out sod back into the dirt by the ramp and it looked pretty good. I asked if I could go into the church to look at how well Samar, Bilyana and Deacon Marko did cleaning it up. IT looked majestic. They stained some new trim as well as removed all the wax on the floor, polished all the brass and cleaned all the glass candle holders. Then Bruce gave me some history on some the Icons and the Diocese. To have such a treasure as the Cathedral is a real blessing and it is unfortunate that the help to keep it up is not available. I could easily come up here every summer to help out. The rich history in this church is remarkable and to have the relics of St. Herman is amazing. There is also an Icon of the Theotokos that was restored. I really appreciate what Fr. Innocent is doing here for all of Orthodoxy. I went back to the seminary to see if they needed anything from me. Eddie, Doug Fr. Rad and Bosch were coming along great with both stairwells. I felt compelled to work some more on the Cathedral and asked Bosch if he wanted to help. Bosch mentioned the cement job to fix the huge cracks in the sidewalk leading to the Narthex. We knocked that out and called it a day.