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LTS New School Year (2009-2010) Begins

LTS New School Year Begins

Meet our new students, Michael and Naomi.

Michael Luciuk

I am a grad student out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I currently hold a Bachelor of Science Double Honours in Computer Science and Physics with a minor in Math from the University of Saskatchewan (it sounds smart but is actually more suicidal). I was involved with campus and youth ministry back in Saskatchewan. I am also fairly involved with my church and following Christ. You can occasionally catch me glowsticking, running, or singing some place.

I came to the Lived Theology School because I felt that I was not applying my faith. Too many times, we Orthodox, myself included, can live in a world of theory, of academia. I felt this was inconsistent with the assertion that faith without works is a dead faith (James). I wanted to live out my faith, but that is easier said than done. It is easy to say "love your neighbour" , it is much harder to do with certain personalities, especially some of the people you encounter here at the mission. I think that one should be able to look at Orthodox churches and know Christ by our actions. Perhaps Orthodox are on the verge of losing their calling, as much has been given, much is expected. What is the fruit of our life in community? I have come here to learn how I can possibly apply my faith, what Orthodox Mission looks like. If Orthodox mission is the same as other organizations, then why are we not supporting these more? If there is a difference, what is it, and how can I apply this. I was also interested in studying theology, and this is a good way of getting a theology background, fully grounded in experience.

I have learned that Orthodox Mission is different, because it is focused on the person. I would stress this; it doesn't matter if the person ever changes, becomes "normal". It is about being with a person in their pain, and having compassion, sharing their pain, being with them. Many of the people that come here will never be successful by the world’s standards. They may never be able to hold a normal job, let alone get the house and kids with the three car garage. But they are still valuable, they still have purpose. The purpose of St John the Compassionate Mission is to give people meaning, value and purpose, by creating a community. A community where people do have a role, can contribute, can feel like they are worth something because they are. It is not so much what we can do for the poor but what they teach us, about ourselves, and how to love. Logistics, and business models are part of any organization, but it is the personal relationships that makes it life-giving.

I have decided to devote myself here for a year. In belief this experience is life changing, and no matter what I decide to do in later life, I will be able to apply what I learn here. This is an experience that cannot be absorbed in a week let alone a month. I have gone and done short term charity work before and felt that I have "made a difference" and been changed by "getting out of my comfort zone". It is easy to give out soup; it is much more difficult to be with someone in their pain and anger, day in, day out. Only in being here for a long period of time can you actually build relationships with people. Also what is happening at St John's changes throughout the year as needs change with seasons. Perhaps a year is not enough time to get a feeling for mission. I hope that this is God's will in my life and I am excited for what this year brings.

Naomi and Michael

Naomi Funk

Hello. I'm Naomi and I'm from the beautiful city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. This past summer I made the very difficult decision to leave behind my church community, family, friends, job security and everything familiar to me for the opportunity to live, study, work and pray with Fr. Roberto and everyone at St. John's Mission and the Lived Theology School here in Toronto.

My decision to come here has been long-standing, and there were plenty of factors, but the bottom line in two points is that:

1) I needed the Orthodox theological understanding of the work I had already chosen for my life, as well as greater practical experience in Orthodox missions if I am to continue on this road; and

2) It is God's will that I be here. But how can one know so certainly God's will? Everything about coming to Toronto was good and right. The road I have been on for at least the last ten years has lead me to Toronto for Lived Theology School as a logical continuation of events and experiences during those years. It's just what the doctor ordered! It's exactly what I needed! Not that this year is an end -- on the contrary! A line in a well-used prayer is evoked in me: "Let me hear each day of my life the voice of Your Word, calling me into being, into the way of life, the words, the behaviours and the deeds You have created me to fulfill for Your glory..."

It is not easy to answer the question "What have you learned so far?" in one or two pithy statements (which I am to attempt in this biography). One thing I have learned is that there exists a huge chasm of difference between social workers and those who serve others in the name of God. And it has to do with one's motivation or source. If you look at the poor, homeless, and mentally ill as tasks on a clipboard to finish by the end of the day, you make them less than human. One might even say you haven't helped them at all, because what the poor man needs more than his welfare cheque is to feel your love for him. And If you look at your addicted, marginalized, lonely brothers and sisters and see Christ in them, and He is in them, and you give your life and your love, it is the difference of Life and Death for both them and you. As St John the Compassionate said, "Those whom you call poor and beggars, these I proclaim my masters and helpers. For they, and they alone, can really help us and bestow upon us the Kingdom of Heaven."

The Lived Theology School program is one year long. However, I do not feel that a year will suffice to teach me all I could learn here. There are some here whose words radiate with other-worldly wisdom and are too many to remember. The lessons are taught Thursdays, but also are hidden like gems in a mine, in those at the Mission, waiting to be discovered and treasured. Although we have services sometimes three times a day in that beautiful little church, there is no limit to the Grace that can be received through them. A year here sometimes seems like an eternity, and at other times, like a breath.