Friday, October 26, 2012

My Papou was a Freedom Fighter

With the celebration of Greek “OXI Day” coming on October 28th, I am moved to tell a story about my papou (that’s Greek for grandfather) and his story as a Greek immigrant. This story is a compilation of stories my father shared with me and my own research in 2007 and 2008 while living in Boston, MA. I decided one weekend during my years at Seminary that I would take some time to investigate my papou’s immigration story. Using the valuable resources at, I was able to discover the date my papou arrived in America and the location of his first address. Here is his story…

Angelo Haros (Ευἀγγελος Χαριλάου), my papou, was born in 1900 in the city of Constantinople (today knows as Istanbul, Turkey) and moved early as a child where he grew up living with his family in the city of Argyrokastro in what Greeks know as “Northern Epirus” (today Gjirokastër, Albania), also the birthplace of Albanian Communist leader Enver Hoxha in 1908.

According to shipping manifests I was able to view at, he arrived in America  in 1923, at the age of 23, (which is how he always gave dates when speaking of his own life history) and went to live in Waterville, ME. While in Waterville he worked, as most immigrants did, in the textile mills along the river, even living in a mill-owned boarding house with several other men. In 2008 I was blessed to travel to Waterville in search of his first American address. I found no building at that location, but after inquiring at the town Assessor’s Office, I was given a copy of the property tax files WITH A PICTURE from, if you can believe it 1922. Though the boarding house was gone, I was able to somehow connect to my papou’s first home thanks to the Assessor’s meticulous files. (As an aside, while investigating Waterville, ME, I can across the name of a “famous” Greek who went to Colby College in Waterville, the current Metropolitan of Pittsburgh, His Eminence Metropolitan SAVAS.)

After living is Waterville for only a few years, my papou returned to Argyrokastron. According to my father, Waterville was too cold. After being married to my yiayia (that’s Greek for grandmother) and having two children, my two aunts, the family returned again to America, this time settling in Chicago where my father was born in 1939. I laughed when my father said Waterville was too cold, because I couldn’t imagine Chicago was any warmer. I don’t suspect, though, that cold was the only reason he settled in Chicago.

There were two things about my papou my father has shared with me that helped fill in the blanks. When my papou arrived in Maine he was told they didn’t “like Greeks” so he changed his name from Harilou to Haros, also a common habit of Greek immigrants. While back home in Argyrokastron, war was rampaging the region among Greeks, Albanians, Germans, and Italians. When he arrived back in America, I imagine living among the large Greek population of Chicago was comforting to him and the family. My father also shared memories of his father hosting several men in secret in their home in Chicago. These men were discussing how they could assist the freedom efforts of the Greeks in Northern Epirus. For his efforts to assist the Greeks in Albania, he was honored by Patriarch Athenagoras, but was also not “free” to return to his homeland.

He spent the remainder of his life dedicated to his family and his Church making Chicago and America his home. He had a deep love for his homeland, but he never returned as the Communist Party held tight control over the only officially declared atheist nation in the world. He fell asleep in the Lord in 1984, at the age of 84, only 7 years before the fall of communism and the restoration of freedom and the Orthodox Church to his homeland.

When I read stories of the restoration and expansion of the Church in Albania I am comforted and smile when I think of how proud my papou would be to hear of the heroism of today’s freedom fighters such as Archbishop Anastasios of Albania who has led the Orthodox Church’s revival throughout Albania following the collapse of Communism.

Freedom is a gift from God and must be defended at all times. Learning my papou’s story helps me understand this. When I celebrate “OXI Day” this Sunday, the day the Greeks refused  to “hand Greece over to the Axis Forces” of Hilter’s Nazi Party, I will fondly think of my papou, the first freedom fighter I ever knew.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

You Are in Complete Control

When we are face-to-face with the demons of life, it sometimes helps to remember that we are in complete control of our life. If we desire to be with God, then no demon, real or imagined, can keep us from His healing power. As Jesus travels from place to place, He comes to visit our hearts and offers to heal us from our demons. What is our response? Will we welcome Him or chase Him away as those swine herders did in the Gospel? (Luke 8.26-39) We are in control of our response…nobody else.


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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Everyone Needs Christmas Cards

My wife has a greeting card business and she has just released her new Christmas Card design for 2012. 10% of all sales benefit Orthodox Christian Charity so you are helping Orthodox Charities AND sending loved ones and friends REALLY nice greeting cards. Check out her website...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Jesus’ Healing Tour; Next Stop….Your Heart

Throughout the Gospels, we hear of Jesus moving from town to town healing crowds of believers of everything from paralysis to demonic possession. At each of these events, there are always witnesses who are shocked by what they see with their own eyes. Sometimes the shock leads to a deep faith in Christ; other times, the shock leads to rejecting Jesus and sending Him away.


In the Gospel of Luke, we hear how Jesus heals a man who was being controlled by so many demons that, when asked his name, the demons replied, “Legion.” In sending the demons out of the man, Jesus allowed them to enter a heard of pigs. The pigs couldn’t endure the torment of the demons and “ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned.” (Luke 8.33) As with every healing, many witnesses saw this event and some believed while others rejected God. The Gospel says, “Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes, asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him.” (Luke 8.37-38)


Jesus has chosen to stop in your heart today and do some healing; we all need a little healing from Jesus. One thing remains….how will you react?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Everyone Has an Equal Chance at God's Love

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus explains that God chooses to “cast His seed” without hesitation and without discrimination to whomever receives His word. He says, “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside…some fell on rock….some among thorns….and some fell on good ground.” (Luke 8.5-8) It is important to notice that God didn’t wait to make sure His seed would only fall on good soil. NOR did He worry about whether or not there were weeds “waiting” to choke out the good seed. When God sows His seed, He throws it out for everyone, no matter who they may be. It is then up to us to receive His word, nurture it in our hearts, and bear rich bountiful fruit.


Sometimes, as the parable teaches, demons come and snatch the good seed out of our hearts or our fruit may even rot on the vine. We should never be discouraged though, because next season, God will return to scatter His seed once again and we will have another chance to receive it, nurture it and bring forth fruit. Of course, we should do whatever is in our power to fend off the demons, but there will always be times, hopefully not too many, when we are not strong enough and we see the seed carried away from our hearts.


Sometimes, as the parable teaches, our hearts receive the seed but our world filled with many distractions, draws our attention away and, even when the seed sprouts, it doesn’t produce strong fruit. But again, we should not worry, because God will come again and scatter His seed.


When should we worry? When we give up trying to produce the fruit; that’s when. As long as we keep trying, then God will keep sowing. So if you look into your heart today and can identify with either the path, the thorns, the rocks or even the good soil, consider that God is sowing His seeds for you to receive. Your job is to do the best you can and bear the best fruit with what you have in your heart.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Joy that Goes with Having Visitors

We all know what joy it brings to have guests visit our home, especially visitors that are important and special. We all know how exciting it can be when a famous person visits our town. We all know how people talk around town when a famous and important person is seen in our neighborhood. So we can imagine just how excited the crowd was after Jesus brought a young man back to life. They said, “A great prophet has risen among us. God has visited His people.” (Luke 7.16)


And we also know just how much work is required for that special visitor. Even if we haven’t personally hosted a special guest in town, just based upon what it takes to host a guest in our home, we can expect how much work is involved in hosting such a special visitor. So we also can imagine another reaction to Jesus when, “fear seized them all.”


It is a huge responsibility to host any visitor, let alone God, but the joy of hosting and being honored by such a guest, far outweighs the burden. If we can understand this about how the crowd reacted to God’s visit, maybe we can bring ourselves to have the same reaction to Him. Maybe we can express the joy and awe that the crowd experienced when they were visited by God.


Why????????????Because He visits our Church during EVERY Liturgy.