February 11, 2010
North Ft. Myers, FL: VIM Volunteers completed a work week at St.
On Sunday, January
24, volunteers from the Volunteers in Mission (VIM) program, headed up
by Priest John Moses and other members of the Diocese Council, arrived
for a work week at St. Nicholas Monastery in North Ft. Myers, FL. The
monastery was in dire need of repairs ranging from electrical work to
painting and housekeeping. The volunteers also laid down a tile floor
in the monastery trapeza and poured concrete for a ramp. Fr. John
submitted the following daily journal of work week.
1 - Sunday
After several days
of travel, the team arrived in North Fort Myers and the Monastery of
St. Nicholas. The weather was beautiful and the temperature reached a
high of 84 degrees. We were greeted warmly by Mother Andrea and Mother
Anna and each member was assigned to a place to sleep. We were given a
tour of the monastery grounds and discussed the various projects that
we would do in the week ahead. After trapeza and prayers, we went to
2 - Monday
We woke this
morning to an incredibly beautiful sky. It was a wonderful
red/orange/gold color. We began our work week with Liturgy in the
monastery chapel. The service was held in memory of the holy martyrs,
St. Tatiana and St. Sava. Afterwards, we went over to the damaged
trapeza building and planned the course of our work. The main job was
to get the main floor tiled. Other jobs included repairing the walls,
repairing some of the electrical systems, knocking down walls for new
doors and entry ways, expanding the bookstore, and many jobs in the
garden and grounds. Thanks to a generous gift from the Fund for
Assistance, we were able to purchase the tiles and contract for cement
to make a ramp for the disabled.
Both the men and
women, the old and young, picked up sledgehammers and shovels and got
to work. George and Serge began to work on the forms for the ramp and
It rained a little
today, but most of the time it’s been sunny skies.
trapeza, we ended the day with the canon for the saints of the day.
3 - Tuesday
met in the skete for morning prayers, and again the temperature was
low. This time it got down to the 60s! Brrrrrrr! The trapeza has been
special, because each day we have locally grown fresh fruits and
vegetables. In fact, there are orange trees and grapefruit trees on
the property, which covers about 13 acres, and we can pick fruit from
them. The monastery has three houses, one that serves as a skete for
the nuns, and two that serve as guesthouses. The chapel is in a
separate building and is very well apportioned. Besides the trapeza
building, there are various buildings that are used for candle-making,
bee-keeping, woodworking, and so on.
We were able to
finish the form for the ramp and prepare the floor for the tiles. We
also knocked out most of walls that needed to be moved and this
produced a great amount of rubble. So, we manned the wheelbarrows and
hauled the rubble away.
Some of the team
began planting seeds in small planters to get them ready for the big
Tonight, we were
invited by a local Orthodox man who owned his own restaurant, Mel’s
Diner, to be his guests. It was a beautiful restaurant and the food
was quite good. At the end, we invited him over and sang “Many
years” to him and presented him with an icon from the monastery. He
was very touched and invited us to come back and be his guests again.
Then it was home to prayers and bed.
4 - Wednesday
We met in the
trapeza building for morning prayers. Now the temperature was getting
seriously low at 52 degrees. Still, by the afternoon, the temperature
returned to the 80s. Today, the young people were invited out to take
a 4 hour boat ride on the inter-coastal waterway by an Orthodox family
that owns a fleet of rental boats. They had a great time on the water
and get to spend a little time on the beach. Lunch included a tray of
After prayers, we
had a breakfast of Dunkin Donuts and egg and cheese biscuits. Work
continued on the tile floor and all the forms were readied for the
ramps. Tomorrow the cement truck will arrive and we will be able to
complete the ramp and landing.
As I mentioned
before, one of the major projects is to get the monastery garden in
order. So, some of the team has been busy covering the garden with
agricultural cover and irrigation lines. This helps to keep the weeds
down and reduces moisture loss by conserving water. Since the garden
is about 3000 square feet, this has been a very labor intensive job.
which had been in the trapeza building, had to be moved due to the
dust from the renovation. It was moved temporarily to a room attached
to the chapel.
We ordered in
pizzas for dinner, which everyone enjoyed. Afterwards, we ended the
day with evening prayers.
5 - Thursday
began the day at 7 am in the chapel. Then, the cement truck arrived
and we were able to finish out the ramp and landing. The tile floor is
about half-finished and Kyril is working feverishly to get it
completed by the weekend. Father Gabriel spent most of the day working
on plumbing in the skete. Those that were working on the garden ran
into some fire ants when they went to get mulch. They also met a 5
foot black snake in the garden. They let the snake move on unharmed
because they are valuable. They help keep the number of vermin down.
The fire ants met their end!
served a meal of grouper tonight.
The night ended
with evening prayers.
6 - Friday
workday began with a Liturgy in honor of the Chains of St. Peter. Then
after trapeza, we got back to work. The floor is ¾ finished and many
other projects are close to finished. John and Svetlana spent the
morning doing homework that they had emailed to them from their
school. Fr. Gabriel finished the plumbing in the skete. As the sun
began to set, the crew began to clean up around the trapeza building
and we ended with a group picture.
In the evening, the
team, with Mother Andrea and Mother Anna in tow, went to Olive Garden
to celebrate the success of the work project. It was a wonderful time
of fellowship and sharing. At the end of the meal, we stood and sang
the blessing in the middle of the restaurant.
7 - Saturday
This morning, after
morning prayers and breakfast, the contingent from All Saints left the
monastery to head back to Virginia. It was sad to leave the nuns and
the rest of the team. We noticed that the farther north we travelled,
the colder it became. The group spent the night in Columbia, SC.
8 - Sunday
We attended Liturgy
at St. Elizabeth the New Martyr Church, in Cayce, SC. It was a
pleasure to worship with Fr. Mark Mancuso and his congregation. After
lunch, we headed home and saw our first snow at Charlotte, NC. As we
continued north, the snow got deeper. We arrived at All Saints around
8 PM and there was about a foot of snow on the ground. We missed those
warm days in Florida.
9 - Monday
I spoke to Mother
Andrea by phone this morning to find out if peace and quiet had
returned to the skete. She told me that it may take some time for them
to recover, but they had little time to reflect because the Kursk Root
Icon will come to the Monastery this week. She also told me that
George had made it to the airport and flown home on Sunday.
During lunch at
home, I got a call from Serge that they were having lunch in Staunton,
which is only 10 miles away. I would have invited them over, but due
to the snow, there was no place to park a car. Also, I knew that they
had about 6 hours to go and I didn’t want to detain them.
And so, the first
VIM trip has ended. This was a wonderful team and contained some of
the hardest workers I’ve ever had the chance to be with. Besides
working hard, we had a lot of fun and great fellowship and spiritual
enlightenment. I hope that we will be able to encourage others to sign
up to be a part of a future VIM team.
The team was made
up of Fr. John Moses, his matushka, Alexandra, and his son, John; Fr.
Gabriel Weller and his matushka, Tatiana; Brena (Svetlana) Dunning,
Serge Lopoukhine and his wife, Anastasia; George Nikolsky, Kyrill
Zaporoshan, Seraphim Cook, and Luke Graham.
Report by Fr. John Moses
Report by Serge Lopoukhine
Media Office of the Eastern American