Thursday, November 21, 2013
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
To the Most Reverend Clergy, Venerable Monastics and
Devout Faithful of the Holy Orthodox Churches in the Americas:
Dearly Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
On this Sunday before Thanksgiving, we begin to turn our attention to the week ahead with great anticipation. Beloved families and friends will gather together from near and far. The dinner table will be laden with our favorite foods, and we will give thanks to our Heavenly Father for the blessings that make this gathering possible.
As much as the Thanksgiving holiday is a day of gratitude, it is also a day of sharing. Had it not been for the kindness of Native Americans sharing their bounty with defenseless Pilgrims seeking refuge in a foreign land, all of the struggling families may have perished. It is with this same compassion and caring for others that International Orthodox Christian Charities, or IOCC, lives its mission each day, tirelessly responding to Christ’s call to help our neighbors in need without discrimination.
IOCC, the humanitarian arm of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, has been sharing the compassion of the Orthodox faithful with those in need since 1992. Through your generous support, IOCC has delivered $438 million in humanitarian assistance to vulnerable families and communities in more than 50 countries.
From its first airlift of food and medicine to the former Soviet Union, to its current efforts as one of few humanitarian agencies working inside Syria to aid thousands of families displaced in their own war-torn country, IOCC demonstrates daily the impact of our faith in action. Through IOCC’s close work with the Church, impoverished families in Greece have access to fresh, nutritious food and medical care; struggling farmers in Kosovo are learning new ways to grow cash crops and rise out of poverty, and the children of Cameroon are thriving with access to clean, safe drinking water.
Despite the distance that may separate us from those in need, we are nevertheless bridged by Christ’s love. The willingness to share your blessings with them through IOCC carries with it the power to help transform thousands of lives around the world. And so we designate this day each year as IOCC Sunday, and embrace the message of St. John to aid those who suffer for “if anyone has the world's goods and sees
his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” (1 John 3:16) By sharing your abundance today, you commend the larger vision of unity that lies before us, and you open your heart to greater love for others and to the everlasting grace of our Triune God.
We ask that you remember our brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering in the face of poverty, war or natural disaster. And we pray that the abundant blessings of our merciful God be with you and your family during Thanksgiving and always.
With paternal blessing and love in Christ,
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America