Planting Grant Missions: Evangelization from the “Inside Out” in Arizona

Faithful and guests take annual “parish family” photo after festal Divine Liturgy.

“2017 is set to be a pivotal year in the life of our mission,” said Priest Andre Paez, Rector of Saint John the Evangelist Mission here.  “It will be the last year of the generous OCA Planting Grant, as we transition to being self-sufficient, and it will also be the first year of our new five-year lease in our recently modeled 6,650 square foot space.

“Proverbs 29:18 says ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish,’ and without the visionary financial and prayerful support of the OCA, our hierarchs, and the faithful, our mission would not have been able to achieve all the milestones we accomplished over the last two years,” Father Andrew reflects.

Saint John’s had 20 tithing families in 2015.  By 2017, it had grown to 32 tithing families with a total of 43 families attending.  Sunday Divine Liturgy today attendance ranges from 80-90 souls, and Saint John’s offers the Phoenix Valley’s only Orthodox Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Montessori-based experiential children’s education program.  Currently, there are nine children in the level one class, and eight children in the level two class.  Says Father Andre, “the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program offers children a beautiful and powerful hands-on way of experiencing and growing closer to Christ.” 

Father Andrew continued, “the OCA invested in us, and because of its love and support, our mission has been able to flourish.  In turn, I as a priest, have been able to invest myself full time in my mission in order to properly nourish and feed my flock.”  This, he says, is “‘Evangelization from the Inside Out,’ as the OCA helps support the local Body of Christ so that Jesus Christ the High Priest can work through the local priest to heal his people.”

Archbishop Benjamin with Matushka Samantha Paez.

For the Saint John community, Jesus Christ is their vision and goal.  It is with this goal in mind, that they “seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteous” [Matthew 6:33] in order to be healed by Christ and then effectively learn to be His hands and feet in the world.

“If we desire to change the world we have to change ourselves first,” Father Andre concluded.  “As Saint Seraphim says, ‘Acquire the Spirit of Peace—the Holy Spirit—and a thousand souls around you will be saved.’  We strive to live up to our high calling of being living temples of God’s all-Holy Spirit by following God’s commandments and seriously engaging in the work of repentance.  In so doing, it is only by experiencing the love of God in our lives first, that we can then become effective witnesses and evangelists to our neighbors of his salvific gospel.  Love of God and love of our neighbor is the fulfillment of all the commandments, and we aim for this to be manifested first in Saint John’s community and then to the rest of the world.

Follow the growth of Saint John the Evangelist Mission on-line.

The Mission Planting Grant Program is made possible in part due to the generous support of the Stewards of the Orthodox Church in America.  See what you can make possible by becoming a Steward today!