During our second pilgrimage to Sinai in January 2018, I brought with me a small amount of linen that I hoped could be hand-embroidered by Bedouin women as Pascha basket covers. I had no formal plan beyond that. After helping the monks of St. Catherine's Monastery harvest olives, we had the great blessing of being escorted by one of the monks to the hermitage of Sts. Galacteon and Episteme, where St. Paisios of Athos had resided. He then brought us to the hermitage of Father Moses, which overlooked the Holy Monastery of St. Catherine. Father Moses had helped the Bedouin women living in the vicinity of St. Catherine's Monastery to become more organized, better equipped, and more careful about quality control so that their embroidery could be sold overseas. When he was eventually obliged to retire, the Bedouin women were left without help. We were filled with the desire to continue Father Moses' work and received his blessing to pick up where he had left off. He wanted us to begin small, working with a particular group of the most impoverished women he was most concerned about first.

We left Father Moses' hermitage with a blessing to continue his work, but we still lacked an intermediary and interpreter who could communicate our needs with the Arabic speaking women. Father Justin, the librarian at St. Catherine's Monastery, then saved the day by introducing us to his Bedouin assistant who was willing to be an initial interpreter for us.
The Hermitage of Sts. Galacteon and Episteme where St. Paisios of Athos and Sinai resided.
The hermitage where Father Moses resided, overlooking St. Catherine's Monastery and on the path leading to the Hermitage of Sts. Galacteon and Episteme.

In January of 2020, as we embarked on a hike out of the village of St. Katherine towards the cave of St. John Climacus, a Bedouin woman with her young children emerged from a little stone-and-cinderblock house at the very edge of the village. She asked us to come visit her for tea. We told her we would do so when we returned from hiking to the cave of St. John Climacus. Upon our return, she invited us into her sewing room, and we could not help but marvel at the exquisite quality of her work. I also immediately felt a very strong connection with her. We purchased as many items as we could and it was my hope to return again, later in 2020. Unfortunately, Covid made that impossible.
Hoda's sister, Ada, sewing in their currently very small workroom.

But knowing of the economic desperation the Bedouin families in Sinai were likely experiencing, we decided to go ahead and travel to Sinai in February 2021, realizing that the monastery and all facilities next to it would be closed. We made arrangements to stay in the village of St. Katherine. We had originally intended to continue working exclusively with the village of women to whom Father Moses had first directed us, but the interpreter who had been helping us previously, no longer was available. So instead, in an effort to save the trip, I walked to the home of Hoda, the young mother and skilled seamstress we had met the year before by the trailhead leading to St. John Climacus' Cave.

She immediately recognized me and joyfully welcomed me and related how she had just three days earlier asked her sister, Ada, what might have happened to me. Ada had responded, "Maybe she is coming?" As it turns out, I had began my long journey there on that very day.

Since then, Hoda has become our intermediary with all the Bedouin women Father Moses originally organized. We were able to employ the full 150 plus or minus women in the community of embroiderers during our 2021 Spring Embroidery Project. Because they had been suffering so much financial hardship due to Covid, they were extremely grateful for the work. 

Since February 2021, we have traveled to Sinai 6 times. The St. Katherine Bedouin Embroidery Project has continued to expand in productivity. The women are excited whenever they see us approach Hoda's house at the edge of the village. They quickly send their children to Hoda with little black bags full of finished embroidery, which is then exchanged for new embroidery work.

In June 2022, along with StudionMinistries.org and contributions from generous donors, we provided funds for the beginning of a new workshop to consolidate and improve their working conditions and equipment, as well as store their produced goods in safer accomodations. As more Orthodox pilgrims visiting Sinai see the new designs, demand for the embroidery has significantly grown. There is a strong need for a larger workspace as well as shop to display the finished work to potential customers. Additionally, this will be an important step towards developing the seamstresses’ self-sufficiency and ownership of their labor and the fruits of it.

At the end of this month, we'll depart once more for Sinai, and we are hoping to bring enough funds to complete the construction of the workshop. If the story and work of these beautiful and industrious women touch you, or if you have had the joy of seeing or purchasing their beautiful pieces, we hope you will consider making a donation to secure a space for their continued work and this growing ministry. And whether or not you can afford to donate, please consider sharing so that others will see it.

With thanksgiving and appreciation in Christ.

Hoda, my Bedouin 'sister' and head forewoman for the St. Katherine Bedouin Embroidery Project.
This is the partially constructed workshop/shop located at the edge of the village by the trailhead to the Cave of St. John Climacus.
A Bedouin woman embroidering while overseeing her children play.
An ancient Byzantine Egyptian cross with Burning Bush floral design.
Ibex and Sinai cross design is inspired by a carved marble Sepulcher behind the iconostasis at the Holy Transfiguration Church within St. Catherine's Monastery. The rest of the design is inspired by illuminated manuscripts.
St. Catherine and Mount Sinai design is inspired by an ancient epitaphios for St. Catherine found in the museum within St. Catherine's Monastery.
Palm tree and partridge design inspired by a Sinai illuminated manuscript.
Cross design is inspired by the cross found on the bell tower at St. Catherine's Monastery. The floral design is inspired by the Burning Bush found within the monastery.

Freeing Ourselves From The Entanglements of This World and
Seeking Simplicity in Our Family Life

​Now, more than ever, as Orthodox Christian believers we find ourselves feeling trapped in an increasingly hostile culture. The security and freedom we have known and have taken for granted are steadily disappearing. How do we spiritually prepare ourselves and our families for the difficult times we sense are coming?

This short book points to the Exodus as the answer and pairs quotations from Holy Scripture and the Saints along with photography of Sinai. It also looks to the Bedouin people and their ancient culture as an example of simplicity. It is our hope that this book will both be spiritually edifying, offering encouragement and practical direction, as well as visually uplifting, capturing the dramatic beauty of Sinai and its people. 
St. Paisios the New in Sinai interweaves the life of St. Paisios with Sinai's history and holy sites. Experience the beauty of Sinai with St. Paisios through exquisite art, the writing of Debra Sancer, and the actual words of St. Paisios. This is a children's book that can be appreciated by readers of all ages.

​You went up to Sinai's holy mount, imitating Moses and devout St. John, author of the Ladder of Divine Ascent, living in ascetic discipline, O glorious Paisios, and fasting as if you had no flesh, and so received from the Spirit gifts of grace divine, like the fathers and saints had received of old.

You went to Mt. Athos early on: Esphigmenou had you as a most obedient novice, O devout Paisios; and to Philotheou you brought glory. You became a brother of the Stomion Monastery up in Konitsa. Then on Sinai, living as a man like an angel, you provided for the Bedouin there.

​~Stichera from "The Lord I have Cried" for the Vespers service on the Feast of St. Paisios of Athos and Sinai.