St. Simeon Skete, Taylorsville Kentucky USA

With St. Simeon, the God receiver, as our patron, the skete seeks to practice the ideals found in our Rule, The Thousand Day Nazareth. In simplicity and poverty, the skete embraces the struggle of inner life through the practice of the Prayer Rope.

See our website at

Donations should be addressed to: Nazareth House Apostolate, 185 Captains Cove Drive, Taylorsville, Kentucky 40071.

Important Notice: All writings, posts, graphics & photographs in this blog are the copyrighted property of (unless otherwise indicated) Nazareth House Media, a division of Nazareth House Apostolate and cannot be copied, printed or used without written permission from NHA Media, Taylorsville, KY.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

I took the following photographs tonight at St. Simeon Skete in Taylorsville, Kentucky.  The sun was dropping behind the clouds, slipping into position to set for the night.  It was time for Vespers.  Consistently, evening after evening, here at the skete, the setting sun and rising moon manage to amaze us with a spectacular view.  

The heavens declare the glory of God;
   the skies proclaim the work of his hands

Day after day they pour forth speech;
   night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words;
   no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
   their words to the ends of the world.

In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.

It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

It rises at one end of the heavens
   and makes its circuit to the other;
   nothing is deprived of its warmth.  -Psalm 19:1-6

Revelation 4:1 
After this I lookedand, behold, a door was opened in heaven

Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! ... Therefore, rejoice,
heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! ... 

... Selah His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. ... His brilliant
splendor fills the heavens, and the earth is filled with his praise. ... 

Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights
above. ... Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens... 

He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all
the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe ... 

The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars
another; and star differs from star in splendor. ... 

Photographs by Vicki Hicks 
©2011 VHicks; NHA 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

James' Christmas Message to me....

Warning, the photos below are graphic.  Use discretion in allowing young children to view.

We all look forward to receiving our messages from loved ones on Christmas morning.  We expect to hear excitement, joy ... but that's not the case, especially in Sierra Leone.  Tragedy doesn't discriminate between Holy Days or any other day.  On Christmas morning, James and I were having difficulty connecting - phone lines in Sierra Leone were overloaded, Internet server intermittent - typical frustrations of working together separated by an ocean.   Still and all,  we did make connection and enjoyed a Christmas Phone Conversation.  However, just prior to our telephone call, James managed to fire off the following quick email to me with photos. 

As many people were opening an over abundance of gifts under the tree, these words opened my Christmas morning...

"Hello Mama Hicks,

the pic of the old man was an accident. he was returning from the BO hospital to visit his sick wife together with his son and grand children. On their way home late at night to raise remaining money to pay his wife hospital bill, he was pushing his old bicycle when an Okada rider riding a motor bike with no head lights hit this poor man. I was in a car with some friends visiting his village (to bring Christmas cheer from NHA) so we help rush with him to the hospital, he lost so much blood and with no urgent help, nor ambulance to bring him to Freetown, he died this morning. So so sad.


This is how James' spent his Christmas Eve, 

struggling to save a man's life, 

fighting against all odds to make a wrong into right.  

James begs for medical attention for this man......there is none available...

And as we close another year,  James tells me.... "mama, we still need so much here, it is so different from America, it no easy" 

And since the goal of NHA is to make a village self-sufficient, not in need of our help..... we have a lot of work to do.  Join NHA today, become a regular monthly contributor.  We can't change it all, some things are so battered and messed up we can only bear witness to it and bring awareness to the need.  But we can give love, person to person, bit by bit and that will seed the change.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

As children all over the world are waking up to find gifts under the tree,

there are many children in Sierra Leone who will celebrate Christmas by enjoying a meal with maybe an extra portion of rice.   
However, continuing the tradition in NHA, the Children's Sunday School of St. Mark's Anglican Parish in Portland, Oregon organized a project to send the candy canes for us this year.  

James received them in plenty of time and yesterday on Christmas Eve he was out distributing some of the canes to outlying villages.  

Because of the children of St. Mark's these children received a real treat, a real Christmas present.   To kids in America it may seem as only a simple candy cane but to these children in Sierra Leone it is amazing and they are totally delighted.   
There are plenty more candy canes and we will be reporting on their distribution later this week in the blog.   

Merry Christmas! 

Merry Christmas

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, 

the author and perfecter of our faith, 

who for the joy set before him endured the cross, 

scorning its shame, 

and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Prayers for Kadijah

Imagine being 8.5 months pregnant, feet swollen, belly extended. 

You are excited that the pregnancy is about complete and soon your little bundle of joy will arrive.

  Suddenly you are roasting, yes, the West African heat is beating down on you... but there's more...  you have fever, chills and it feels like a train is traveling through your head... pounding, roaring... 


Please keep Kadijah in your prayers as she struggles with late term pregnancy complicated by this dreaded disease mosquito born disease.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On December 1, two of the three packages we sent to Sierra Leone arrived. One box was missing. 

Inside the boxes were the medications collected and sent by the Anglican Church Women of St. Augustine of Canterbury Anglican Church in Chico,  California. 

When these packages arrived, Roo was beginning to recover from the first batch of distress from this mysterious illness he has been suffering.  
We thought we were on the upswing with his illness and things looked brighter.  
In the missing box there was a backpack (a free gift from Staples) stuffed with worm medication and hospital strength ibuprofen.
  It was disappointing that one box was missing.  For the first time in many years, postal boxes have not been coming through to Freetown.   Later is better than never and the boxes have now arrived.   The photo below is of Lucy sporting the new backpack (sent filled with worm pills). 

Recently,  another box has arrived - a critical box filled with the iron tablets that Roo so desperately needs.  It came just as he suffered yet another relapse with high fever. 
It breaks my heart to look at Roo in these photos as I see the loss of strength and weight in him.   He looks small for his age compared to the guitar.

But James reports that he is showing signs of improvement and hopefully he'll bounce back.  I had fear that it was something more serious but it could very well be a severe case of vitamin and mineral deficiency.  We are working to correct that.

Nazareth House makes monthly shipments of medication from Taylorsville to Freetown.  We encounter tremendous needs in Sierra Leone, yet we ask that people resist the urge to donate items to this cause unless specifically requested
It’s actually prohibitively expensive to export goods from the United States to Sierra Leone.  Rather cash donations are preferred and greatly appreciated.  
This approach benefits the local economy (local skills, labor & materials) - for example our NHA School uniforms:  when the material is bought in Freetown, the seamstresses are hired to make the uniforms which keeps the Material shop in business and allows the seamstress to provide for her family.  This is a win, win situation because our students get a uniform as well as others benefiting from the process.   If we make the uniforms here in America and send them, they would cost much more per uniform since we'd have to pay shipping ...and the Material Shop (local business in Freetown) and the skilled laborer (Seamstress) would have not had the opportunity to actively use their trade.   This allows NHA to concentrate on more immediate needs such as filling hungry bellies and medical assistance.
This is something NHA feels strongly about, it is our goal to provide the tools and opportunities that bring about the change and education for a community to rise above their current status and stand on their own.  NHA doesn't want, nor does the people they serve want us to constantly be giving humanitarian aid. Our long term goal is to serve a community to the point of no longer being needed.  As the community functions on their own, we can then move on to help another community, knowing the first one is self-sufficient.

"Bear one another's burdens, and so be filled with the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2).
These are the reasons we ask for funding, rather than items - plus it also assures your tax deductible donations go directly to support needs and projects and reduces administration costs especially shipping.

We try to limit the items that we send to items necessary for survival - that which are unavailable in Sierra Leone, especially in Kabala.   From time to time, we do accept donations of over the counter medications but please refrain from sending these items to us in Taylorsville without first checking with us.  Contact us via the email listed on our website.

With the completion of the NHA Compound and the building contractor completely paid off we have been asked, "What's next?"   There are always needs to be met, both in Sierra Leone and at the heart of our operations - St. Simeon Skete.   
2012 Projects, Needs, Goals
John 16:24
Matthew 7:7 
  1. Kadijah will be delivering her baby in about 6 weeks or less.  The cost for her delivery will be $500  (PAID Yesterday by ACW of St. Augustine: Chico California) 
  2. Maintenance.The buildings at St. Simeon Skete (The Chapel, The Kellia and Anna House) are wood and require immediate painting and sealing this Spring. This was the wettest year in history in Kentucky and it certainly did not help the wood at the Skete.  Much of the wood on the decks is warping and beginning to rot.  We have received several estimates, however the best was an estimate for ALL three buildings of $15,000.  This includes power washing, the paint, the sealant and repair of deteriorating wood and the labor.  For three considerably sized buildings with a lot of wood, this is an excellent quote. 
  3. Lucy, James daughter, plans to become a doctor.  Considering the troubles we experience trying to find a honest qualified doctor, to see her through the schooling is one of the most positive projects NHA can set out to accomplish.  To have our own resident doctor within the NHA team can mean wonders to the betterment of the village we serve.  Our NHA school has not reached the level of education that Lucy already has.  We add levels each year, but Lucy is far beyond that.  We struggled with homeschooling but with the insufficient Internet service in Sierra Leone and no electricity in Kabala, Lucy was being held back and losing the quality of teaching she was receiving before.  After much prayer and investigation we found a Boarding School in Freetown where Lucy can get the accelerated education and tailor her studies to that of becoming a physician.  We have been unsuccessful in convincing American Doctors to come and live in Kabala so far, so the quicker we can get Lucy on the road to becoming a doctor the better.   The cost for her education, room and board runs just at $3,000 per year.  (Payments made so far this year for her school from The Millers, Kirkland, WA;  St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church: Redmond, WA; L Burwell, Louisville, KY)  We still owe $900
  4. James must travel long hours crammed in unmaintained taxis operated by dangerously careless (many times intoxicated) drivers on treacherous roads to and from Kabala to obtain the post and financial support each month.  Every time he is in this situation, his life is in jeopardy.   We need a car owned by NHA that James can operate and maintain in a safe manner.   We don't need a large car or an expensive new car - just a safe, maintainable car.   James says he thinks we can find one anywhere $6,000 to $10,000
  5. We are at 300 students at the NHA School today, hundreds more are wanting to attend but we do not have adequate room or teachers to support such an influx of students.  To expand the school, adding more classrooms it will costs just at $17, 500.   We pay the teachers $100 per month, we currently have 8 teachers.   Each month it would be an additional $100 with every teacher we add. 
  6. St. Simeon Skete of Nazareth House Apostolate is the heart from which ongoing prayer beats the life into all that we do, especially the work in Sierra Leone.  Without this prayer, there would be nothing accomplished.  Those in residence stand before Our Lord as intercessors for every man, the whole of mankind.   They are not there because they ran away from others, but so they can become closer to others by deepening their relationship with Christ as they serve him.  This is why it is important to pray for vocations for the Skete.   In years past, people counted on those with vocations to hold them up in prayer as they went about the necessary duties of daily life.  In India they believe that the sages that do nothing but sit in prayer, high in the mountains, are the reason the world continues.  Abraham asked if the Lord would spare the cities if fifty righteous people lived there.  The Lord said yes.  Boldly, Abraham kept bargaining down, until God agreed not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if even ten righteous people lived there.  God was mercifully willing to spare the cities for the sake of a few righteous people, but none lived there.   Vocations of prayer such as at the skete or at monasteries are dwindling and I believe we see the results of this in the depravity of today's world.  Being called to be a religious at the Skete involves community, but most importantly revolves around that person's deepening of their relationship to God.  We consider the Skete "the grand experiment"  - only time will tell if the life of prayer, a deepened relationship with God lived for others will find support.   In the Fall of 2010 the skete property became available.  Nazareth House Apostolate had no funding, no credit and no idea how to make this happen.   Nazareth House's funds are twofold - that designated for Sierra Leone and that for administration & operations of the headquarters, etc. in the States. The bulk of our funding is for Sierra Leone and these funds come in and go straight back out to tend to the needs of the mission work.  We had nothing to show a banker to obtain a mortgage for the Skete.   Nevertheless, we stepped out in faith and applied for a loan.There was one miracle after another miracle in obtaining the skete property and they have not stopped once we are here.  After a week or so, with silence from the bank,  I began to think we would be declined but gave them all that they asked for - highlighting what could be rather that what had been.  I made it clear that donations for Sierra Leone must go to Sierra Leone and could not be counted towards a mortgage payment for the skete. Finally one day, the phone rang and it was the banker.   He told me he wanted to talk with me about the "loan structure".   I asked "what does that mean?"  He told me that the loan had been approved. (Miracle) I began to cry, because there was no logical reason the loan should have been approved.   The banker said "are you okay?" I replied "I am crying." "I didn't expect to be approved"   The banker replied (now keep in mind this is a BANKER) "What Nazareth House Apostolate is doing is a good thing, and we want you to do it Taylorsville".  This was a declaration that someone in the world believed it is worth the support.  An organizational interest free loan was obtained for $350,000 (miracle) and the mortgage through the bank for $250,000 for a total of $600,000.   So we are asking our readers to pray for another miracle that we can retire the mortgage.
  7. There is no electricity in Kabala provided by the government or any other means.  Therefore, it is necessary for the work of NHA in Kabala to obtain a generator for the NHA Compound.  James has checked out the available generators in Freetown and has concluded that there is one that would do adequately for us.  Its price tag is $4,500.  
  8. We are also working to secure internet via satellite to the school and the compound.   There is a little building next to the school that NHA is in the process of buying.  It cost $7,000, we've paid $1,000 for it so far.  Once we own the building we'd like to turn it into a small teacher's study/Internet cafe.  The Cafe would charge reasonable rates for use of the Internet and proceeds would go for the benefit of the school. (Another step in self-sufficiency)   I have made inquiries for donations of satellite equipment and am waiting positive response.                                

Millions and Millions of dollars in donations are asked for everyday by many organizations.  Our goals are modest compared to many of these requests, however, the impact of their fruition is beyond measure. 

"Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 9:18)".

As NHA strives to fulfill the needs listed above, we continue to meet the regular monthly requirements to sustain both the life of prayer at St. Simeon Skete and the life of those struggling without food, medical care, proper sanitation, running water in Sierra Leone.  Each month we pay our teachers and provide rice and medical assistance for an ever-growing number of families. 

We cannot stress enough that Nazareth House Apostolate relies totally on God as he expresses Himself through our supporters’ prayers, compassion and generosity.  This allows us to work together as a team, a family (The NHA Family) to reach thousands of lives by the act of prayer, love and touch.  

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” 

“Come and see.” 
John 1:46

Friday, December 2, 2011

Donkey Bells and a soft bed for Jesus

Denny and Joanie's donkey

Another tradition that Nazareth House Apostolate continues during Advent is that of pinning a tiny silver bell (one that actually rings) in the sleeve of the left arm of our clothing (the left arm because it is closer to the heart).  

Vicki's Advent Bell pinned in her sleeve

The bell represents the bell on the donkey that Mary rode into Bethlehem, ringing with every step the donkey takes.   

Joanie and Denny's donkey

With the bell hidden in the sleeve, every time we move our arm we hear it’s tiny tinkling ring.  Every ring reminds us that this is Advent and Jesus is coming.  The bell has a very gentle non-offensive sound and can be worn all day, wherever you are. 

There are other traditions from around the world. Catherine Doherty is well known for reviving many holy Christian Traditions.   Nazareth House Apostolate recommends her book:  Donkey Bells” 

In Seraphim’s family, an empty creche was placed in the living room.  A box filled with 2 inch strands of golden yarn sat next to it.  

Every time a family member performed a good deed during Advent, they took a strand of yarn (representing hay) and placed it into the manager creating a soft bed for the Child Jesus to lie in.  In other words, the place that Christ comes to rest in is our good deeds.

They were encouraged that the good deed and the placing of the yarn (hay) into the creche should be done in secret. That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”- Matthew 6:4