Our parish, Christ the Savior~Holy Spirit Orthodox Church (Cincinnati Ohio, USA) has a warm and loving relationship with the Hogar Rafael Ayau dating back ten years. One of our parishioners joined up with an OCMC (Orthodox Christian Missions Center) team and fell in love with the Hogar, the children, and the Orthodox nuns who provide the love of Christ to these abandoned - and in many cases, abused - orphans. This parishioner (now herself an Orthodox nun here in the United States) made repeat trips, reporting back to our pastor, Fr Steven Kostoff, about this amazing oasis of peace and hope amidst the squalor of a poverty-stricken area of Guatemala City. Soon, we were sending our own mission teams, the members of whom were all deeply touched by their experience with the children. As Presvytera Deborah put it a few years ago when we began planning another mission trip, "Prepare to be loved!"
We have had the double blessing of not only sending teams and financial support to the Hogar, but of having the nuns come to our parish now on two separate occasions to lead retreats. First, in 2003, Mother Abbess Ines and Mother Maria came for a special Missions Conference which also featured Presvytera Renee Ritzi of OCMC. And now, just this September, Madre Ivonne (the Coordinator for the Hogar) led us in a very special retreat titled, "Healing in Christ: From Orphans to Children of God."
The success of this retreat, coupled with Christ the Savior's longstanding relationship with the Hogar, and the joy and anticipation we feel over our upcoming June 2009 Mission Team has prompted us to create a special page for the Hogar on our parish website, and to launch this new blog. We plan to use this space to further spread the word about this miracle in Central America, where the ninos and ninas and the faithful nuns of the Monasterio Ortodoxo Lavra Mambre (Antiochian Orthodox Church of Guatemala) together bear witness to the life-transforming Gospel of the Incarnate Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.
We invite you to read on as we report on our recent retreat, and to visit our Hogar webpage. Photos, slide shows, and (hopefully soon!) MP3 audio files from Madre Ivonne's talks will give you a brief introduction to the Hogar and the children. And should you be as moved as we have been, we invite you to follow the links to the Hogar's official website and to consider making a donation to this truly blessed haven of Christ's love.
As the nuns and the children say, "BIG is GOD!"
The Official Website of the Hogar Rafael Ayau
How to Donate to the Hogar Rafael Ayau (pdf file)
The Hogar Page of the Christ the Savior Website