Friday, June 10, 2005
Cooking Up a Soup Kitchen
by Pauline Russell, OCMC Missionary in Albania
June 8, 2005
The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC), St. Augustine, FL - George and Pauline Russell have been serving as OCMC Missionaries in Albania since spring 2003. Early this year, they opened up a soup kitchen, which Pauline writes about.
"The soup kitchen my husband, George, and I worked to open now serves 50-70 people three times a week. It is truly an amazing experience seeing all those people standing outside waiting to be fed, who otherwise would be hungry. We are doing what we came here as OCMC Missionaries to do. I didn’t know I would actually enjoy it; I was so busy being nervous about how it was all going to happen. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 11:30 am, people come in like clockwork to be fed. Most of the time, George, the kids (Christopher and Madeline) and I are here to greet and eat with them. The people love to see the children there and pinch their cheeks.
Some of the soup kitchen clients are very thankful for the meal and others just come and go without a word. One man only motions to his mouth to make sure I know he is there for the food and then quietly goes back out on the street. Over time, I have learned that each person has his or her own unique story as to why they are either on the street with nothing and no one, or have some rudimentary shelter with little or no food to eat.
One gentleman was imprisoned for eight years because of a picture he painted during the Communist era. His family, over time, deserted him and he lost his mind being locked up. Even after he was released, he was never the same. He gave George one of his paintings all neatly rolled up in some newspaper in gratitude. Another man left Bulgaria in hopes of a better life here, which unfortunately did not happen. He now collects aluminum cans for one cent a piece. Another woman who regularly comes, is severely depressed from an abusive husband who deserted her and her two small children, and profusely cries and kisses my hand - so thankful to have someone interested in helping her. It is truly nonstop.
Sometimes His Beatitude, Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and all Albania blesses us with a visit and eats and talks with everyone. To see His Beatitude finally being able to sit with the people he was so anxious to feed is fantastic. We also have a local priest who tries to come once or twice a week to bless the food and be available for those who are interested in speaking with a priest. Our soup kitchen clients get a whole lot more than just food when they dine with us.
We have found that running the soup kitchen isn’t just about the logistics of preparing and serving food to a bunch of people. We have come to understand the greater responsibility of showing them the love and respect they greatly deserve. And to consciously keep in mind that all those we serve are individuals, made and loved by God, in His image. It is a humbling challenge. God bless you for your prayers, interest and support."
To learn more about the ministry of these dedicated OCMC Missionaries, please visit these websites: www.russellmission.org and www.ocmc.org. Funds to help support and encourage the Russell family can be sent to the Orthodox Christian Mission Center designated for “Russells” in memo line at PO Box 4319, St. Augustine, FL, 32085.
The Orthodox Christian Mission Center: Helping Orthodox Christians respond to Christ's call to preach, teach, baptize, minister to the poor and make disciples of all nations as the official international mission agency of SCOBA.