As a retired clergy couple from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, we have heeded the call of God to serve as missionaries to the newly emerging Guatemalan Orthodox Church. The journey to this point in our lives, has been long, but steady in its focus on the will of God. Shortly after our marriage in 1965, we (John, a high school English teacher, and Alexandra, a hospital food service manager) accepted a Peace Corps assignment to serve in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Spending the next 30 months of our lives in this service, (John, teaching in a university, and Alexandra, teaching sewing and pattern drafting in vocational schools) heightened our sensitivity to the poverty and suffering of so many in the world.
Upon returning to the U.S. we realized that we could no longer live comfortably, knowing that so many of our brethren had to struggle each day just to survive. After a great deal of soul-searching and prayer, we made the decision to commit our lives entirely to Christ, promising to go wherever He would send us. This led us to the Holy Cross Seminary in 1971 (John, studying for the priesthood, and Alexandra, sewing cassocks for the seminarians). After Fr. John’s ordination, we served in three parishes over the course of 38 years.
For 31 of those years, we served Holy Cross Church in Pittsburgh, PA, where our four children and eleven grandchildren continue to be members. Never losing sight of our original purpose of serving the poor, we organized many parish clothing and food drives, fed the homeless, aided refugees, furnished homes, housed missionaries from Indonesia, Africa, India, and Latin America, and led mission teams to Africa, Upper Galilee, and Guatemala. In 1997, we took a six-month sabbatical from our parish to serve the church in Tanzania (Fr. John, teaching theology, Presvytera Alexandra, teaching sewing).
We have had a long and warm relationship with the nuns and children of the Hogar Rafael Ayau orphanage in Guatemala, having led many mission teams there. In fact, our youngest child, Jennifer, was adopted from there. It was through Abbess Ines Ayau of the Hogar and the Holy Trinity Lavra Mambre Monastery that we were brought to our current mission.
She introduced us to Monsignor Andres Giron de Leon, leader of the 300 Mayan communities which were accepted into the Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico.
Now, in Guatemala, Fr. John is helping to establish a seminary, train catechists, coordinate the arrival of mission teams, support orphans and needy children, and aid the clergy in ministering to the sacramental needs of the communities. Presvytera Alexandra (a.k.a. Sandy) is teaching the sewing of priestly vestments, cassocks, robes for altar boys, and other ecclesiastical necessities. We feel both honored and blessed to be a part of this tremendous growth in the Orthodox Church. As long as God gives us strength, we will continue to serve Him wherever He sends us.