Orthodox Thought for the Day


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Fr. Nektarios' Decani Fund Update


Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ, 

Greetings with much love and gratitude to you all from our Orthodox brethren in Kosovo!  Having recently concluded a visit to the region (November 14-30), I am anxious to share some things with you.   

It was a great privilege to visit Serbs in the region while distributing humanitarian aid from our Decani Monastery Relief Fund.  For too long, local monasteries and families had been by getting by with insufficient appliances.  After assessing the needs, our Fund was able to supply a number of ovens, refrigerators, and laundry machines.  And what happiness ensued!   

Again and again, I was sincerely thanked.  And each time I reminded the recipients that without our benefactors, the Fund would not exist.  So, with all sincerity I send much love and gratitude from the receivers.  In my heart I believe someday you will meet them in God’s Kingdom.  There they will offer you their personal thanks.   

I cannot tell you how much your on-going care and love makes it possible for our brethren to persevere through hardship.  Since the spring of 1999, conditions have been deteriorating for the faithful in the region.  Nevertheless, they persist in conditions that would be considered torturous to us. 

During my visit I was struck by the intense cold that permeates the region during the late fall/winter season.  You could liken the winter weather in Kosovo to that found in US cities such as Boston, Detroit or Buffalo.  For those who do not live up north, consider winter temperatures ranging from freezing to below zero.  Kosovo is in a mountainous area, so there is plenty of snow, too.  Many of us live in cold climates, but try living in a cold climate with insufficient heat and see how well you manage.   


While in Kosovo, I routinely served in churches and monasteries without heat…can you imagine that?  Try turning off the heat during the winter in your church and see what happens!  Who will attend?  All attention would be focused on the thermostat—and lack of personal comfort.  Where is the heat??  How can we worship God without heat??  In Kosovo, in churches without heat, I witnessed devoted prayer without complaints, only apologies to me for lack of heat.  That was a humbling experience!  Most monasteries and churches in Kosovo have no heat during the winter time.  Is there still devotion to Christ?  Yes.  The steadfast devotion of the faithful is a witness to the fire of God’s Holy Spirit in each heart. 


Over two weeks, occasionally, I slept in rooms without heat.  It was not intentional.  The monks did all they could to see to my comfort, knowing I was not acclimated to such cold conditions.  However, a couple nights I did sleep in rooms without heat.  It was not easy, nor restful, even with extra blankets.  And physically I suffered with lowered resistance as my own body was not used to suffering such deprivation.  All the time these dear people suffer these hardships, they are still filled with love and faith in our Christ.  Hardships are refining, even if they are not easily borne. 

          In most Serbian homes during these months, all family members live in one room—the living room—usually adjoining the kitchen where a wood stove is.  The living room contains a table for eating and couches along the walls allow the room to function as a bedroom, too.  Extra bodies create extra heat and in cold weather, the other rooms of the home go unused.  The stove is used for cooking and heating water for washing.  No hot water from a faucet, everything is cold.  Laundry is dried in the kitchen—as close as possible to the heat.  The luxury of a bath or shower does not exist during the winter months.  It is too cold, period.   

          Consider what it would be like to live without easy access to hot water, in one or two rooms of your home, with multiple family members.  Consider—what would be the condition of your overall core temperature, your ability to fight and/or recover from illness, how would you manage the need to go out in frigid temperatures to do routine chores and the like and recover afterwards?  What would your skin feel like?  Taut?  Chapped?  Bleeding?  This is hardship, beloved, just based on weather alone, without considering lack of food and on-going harassment from unfriendly “neighbors” whose goal is to expel you from the region.  Physical, emotional and spiritual hardships--this the lot of today’s Serbian Orthodox of Kosovo.  There is a population of about 250,000 Orthodox left in the region. 

The Decani Monastery Relief Fund remains dedicated to helping those suffering these privations.  It is not an easy task and one the monastery has been shouldering for 17 years.  Please pray for those most directly involved in carrying out the Fund’s ministry:  Abbot Fr. Sava, Fr. Niphont and Fr. Isaiah and for Bishop Theodosije, the spiritual head for that region. 


          St. Seraphim of Sarov said, “Misery cannot exist where there is love.”  Even though the faithful of Kosovo live in miserable conditions, their hearts are yet hopeful in God and aflame with love for one another.  It is not easy; no it is not easy, to continue on year after year in deteriorating conditions.  This is where your part plays out in the tapestry of their lives.   

When you give to relieve these sufferings, your giving is unto Christ.  Just as a kiss to an icon extends mystically to its prototype, so your gifts to the Decani Monastery Relief Fund are as unto Christ.  He is the hidden person in every struggler living in Kosovo.  The struggler has faith that God, through the hearts of others, will not let him or her down.  There will be sustenance.  There may even be abundance!  Why?  Because God’s love is transmitted through you.  And the heart that loves is united to God.  And God remembers these acts of love and will reward them.  Of that I am assured. 

I thank God for you all, dear brothers & sisters!  Dear benefactors of the Decani Fund, we would have no Fund, no help or comfort to offer the suffering Orthodox Serbians of Kosovo without you.  That is the truth.  God reward you many times over for your gifts given out of love! 

The greatest need in Kosovo right now is for firewood and food.  Keeping people warm and reasonably nourished is the highest priority.  Support is needed to keep families, elderly, monastics and students warm and fed during the brutal weather months.  The six soup kitchens are active and doing as much as they can to keep people sustained.  Will you help us nourish these dear people during this cold season?  Nourishment usually consists of 1-2 meals a day, bread and with soup and perhaps some root vegetables.  Meat, only rarely, on festal occasions.

As is our annual effort, we ask you to help us feed needy families with pork roasts for the Christmas Feast.  This may be the only meat these people will enjoy this season.  We Orthodox celebrate 12 days of feasting at the Nativity of our Lord.   But, know this--when the meat is consumed by the Serbian families, within a couple days or within a week, they revert back to a fasting diet because luxury and resources lack for them.  Please…let us do what we can to give them a bountiful Christmas celebration!  Here’s our “wish list” for the season: 

FIREWOOD (for homes, schools, monasteries & churches) 

$250 buys enough firewood to last 3 months

PORK ROAST (to celebrate the Feast of our Lord’s Nativity—January 7, 2017) 

$100 will buy a pig large enough to feed a family for a week

$50 will buy a pig that will feed a family of 4 for two days 

We’ve made giving easy with Paypal.  Visit our website www.thedecanifund.org and use the Paypal donation button.  Or, if you prefer to send a check, here are the details: 

Decani Monastery Relief Fund
C/O Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
2618 West Bannock Street
Boise, Idaho 83702

Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!

Mir Boziji! Hristos se rodi!

Thank you so much and God bless your good heart and soul!

Humbly in our Lord,
+Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Who always prays for you with great Christian love

PS:  Thanks to your generosity, 1300 packages of seed packets traveled to Kosovo with me.  They will be used to plant spring gardens.  This would not have occurred without your donations.  Such a quantity of seeds arrived in Boise before my trip!  Individual seed packs were banded into lots of 10 with an icon for a blessing.  One of the sisters of the Gorioc Monastery is shown holding 20 packets of donated seeds.  The sisters are praying for you, too, with love!     

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