St. John

Courtesy of MIKE ROSTAD

St. John the Wonderworker singers and musicians at the Currier and Ives Christmas program.

We’re in the season of list-making. Pretty soon we’ll be writing down the names of people on our Christmas card and gift lists, and then we’ll be scribbling New Year’s resolutions. This week we celebrated Thanksgiving, a holiday that inspires us to make litanies of blessings that give our lives purpose and meaning.

In 2018, for my Thanksgiving Tapestry column, I shared the story of Donna Bell, who was a recipient of kidney and heart transplants. Donna was grateful to those who contributed to her recovery. She struggled with a series of maladies that seemed overwhelming at times, but she refused to give up faith and hope.

This year, my wife Kathy and I are thankful to be together following challenging bouts with the COVID virus. I spent four days in Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center, and Kathy, after being in the Kodiak hospital for two days, was medevaced to the Portland Providence Medical Center, where she spent seven weeks.

During our times of illness we’ve seen the people of Kodiak come to our aid in marvelous ways. While we were in the hospital, a crew cleaned up our house, which we had to leave on the spur of the moment.

While Kathy was in Oregon, people — some of them strangers — delivered meals to our house and reminded us that we were in their prayers. Kathy said she was “blown away” by the kindness of people in the community.

Denise Anderson also is thankful during this holiday. Local folks came to her aid as she and her husband helped her mother into her new apartment.

“I’m thankful for my family — all family members, grandchildren, parents,” said Denise.

John Bartolino said he’s thankful for “living in one of the most wonderful places in the world and having so many natural resources that make his life happy and comfortable.”

“I’m thankful for family and friends and God first and foremost,” said Rhonda (Aga) Turner. She added that she’s grateful for everyone God places in her path. “I’m thankful for every single treasure. I feel blessed each day.”

So Thanksgiving is a time to give special thanks to God for His blessings, and to thank those He uses to brighten our lives.

With that in mind, I want to bring attention to the families of St. John the Wonderworker Orthodox Academy, formerly known as St. Innocent Academy.

“They’ve poured so much into the community,” said someone who was blessed by their ministry.

“When they came, they were very refreshing and new. They did a wonderful outreach and embraced people. They shared God. They made the whole community like a church. Wherever they were, they brought” the light of Christ, she said. The community responded by showing their appreciation.

One of the ministries of the Academy was the coffee house, Monk’s Rock, which was established in 1998. In the beginning, Monk’s Rock featured Friday night programs, which included music, slide shows and lectures. I taught English at the Academy for several years, and was saddened when the Academy and Monk’s Rock closed down recently.

I shall forever remember with fondness working at that school. I was inspired to see young men with troubled backgrounds learn to laugh, sing, pray and be respectful. Eventually, ladies became a part of the school, many of them members of the Sophia House. The school also was helped by volunteers and their families.

The Delucias — founders of the school — and many of the other families affiliated with St. John’s have left the island for communities in the Lower 48. A few of the families will remain in Kodiak for some time.

One of the Academy students, on her Facebook post, said that she wished the students could have had a goodbye concert so that they could bless the people of Kodiak one more time. I was thinking that it would have been appropriate for the community to sponsor a farewell event in which we could express our gratitude for the good work they have done.

That never happened, so this column will have to suffice.

I know I represent many in the community when I say “thank you” to the people of St. John’s for bringing brightness and enlightenment to this Island community. And how did they do that?

By embracing Kodiak, including the villages. By looking after the elders, by being at the bedside of those who were suffering from illness and praying for those who were preparing to enter eternity.

By doing impromptu Christmas caroling at the post office and other places; by inviting the public to Thanksgiving, Christmas and Pascha (Easter) dinners at the Academy Protection House; by performing music to Kodiak residents and tourists alike.

By bringing that wonderful classic play, “Cyrano de Bergerac” by Edmond Rostand, to Kodiak audiences; by singing church and Gospel songs to those who dined at Monk’s Rock; by introducing the community to vigorous Pascha music from the Republic of Georgia, Bulgaria, and other countries.

By accepting those of other Christian faiths as brethren; by partnering with the Kodiak Baptist Mission in bringing the Currier and Ives Christmas program to the community; by shoveling snow-covered sidewalks and painting houses.

May the following Irish blessing, which was sung beautifully by the Academy, be our departing gift to these people who have brought much joy and inspiration to our community:

“May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

The rains fall soft upon your fields and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His Hand.”

Wherever you — the family of St. John the Wonderworker — go to bring the light of Christ, know that we appreciate all you did for this community. We will never forget you.




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