The Coke lady and the ice. Stories from the International Winter Youth/Young Adult Service Retreat, Pharr, Texas

I am in Pharr Texas, at St George the Great Martyr parish, attending in their 5th annual Winter retreat. I plan to come back many times. There have been many moving things in my time here, and although I am on a slow connection, I wanted to at least share a couple stories with you in the next two posts. If God allows, I will tell you much about my time here in more future posts. I have much to say to my flock about things we should do based on the good example of Father Antonio, Matushka Elizabeth and the parish of St George.

The Coke Lady and the ice.
Reader Stephen spoke on opening night. He and his wife were formerly Protestant missionaries in South America, and especially Guatemala. He told of a trip to a little town in Guatemala with a group of youth missionaries, which started in a Southern US state, in a van without air conditioning. One disaster after another occurred – car breakdowns, tire blowouts, and oppressive heat and lack of sleep, food and hygiene. When they arrived in Guatemala, they had been up over 24 hours, and were exhausted in every way a person can measure.
They got out of the van and were wondering what to do next, and as he told it, looked “pitiful”. An old Guatemalan woman was selling cokes from a cooler beside the road. She looked at them for a long time, and then opened her cooler and chipped off a chunk of ice (the ice was a large chunk), and gave it to Steven, so they could refresh themselves with the ice on their wrists and necks and face.
I was so moved by this story that I used it as the main point in a homily I was asked to give later in the retreat. I asked the young people, and I ask you now – WHY did the women do this? Correct, but superficial answers are things like “She noticed their suffering”, or “She saw that they were hot”, or “She took pity on them”. If this is your first answer, I will be like a three year old and again ask WHY? Why did she notice, and take pity on them? What is the root reason?
It is related to the opposite of the disposition of the rich man who had a bountiful harvest. This is important stuff. This woman, most likely a Roman Catholic, and incredibly poor, had something that we need to have if we are going to be saved. The Rich man did not have it. What is it?


  1. Bless, Father !
    I’m so very glad that you have met the Perdomo family, and are attending this event ! Mat. Elizabeth and her two older daughters are treasured friends of mine for some years now. Thank you for sharing “glimpses” of this year’s service retreat.

  2. Hello Father Seraphim, this is a very good story. I will try to answer your question… What did the Rich man not have? detachment from material things? I suppose ice should have been expensive for those women, since you mentioned this took place in a small town of Guatemala. did they give away the most important what they had which is ice? Ice which allowed to cool the drinks, sell them and make some small living? I really don’t know, but something tells me that they gave something very valuable to them. Yet they gave it away with no regret because they could not watch suffering. What did the Rich man not have? Mercy, love for other people, detachment from earthly things?.. at the end of the day though it probably did not matter whether they were Roman Catholic or Orthodox. It is said in the Scripture something like this “Child, give me your heart”. Their hearts seem to be in the right place. Their hearts had mercy for other person’s pain and answered to it without looking back, without thinking of how they will feed their families at night if they don’t sell drinks.

  3. Bless Father Seraphim,

    Is it that the old lady, unlike the rich man with the bountiful harvest who thought only to award himself, gave what she had — even needed, for to ensure her small harvest — because she perceived a need in those who could not help themselves otherwise?

    In so doing could she have exhibited true love of neighbour and more than anything else a manifest faith in God to provide for her harvest?

    This also reminds me of the widow’s mite.

  4. She not only had the ability to see their need but to see what she, despite her extreme poverty, had to offer. And she, though poorer than they, had the willingness and love to give it.

    She is the widow giving her “two mites”.

  5. She had love. She looked at them, and loved, and gave freely from what she had to give.

  6. The root of the reason was she saw them as she saw herself: human flesh and no different then her own self or her own family (for that ice was profit and food to her to keep the coke cold to sell it to gain funds.)

    This is why the holy law says: “love thy neighbour as thyself”. To God who is no respecter of persons and not partial to any man all people are the same crafted by His Hand. In loving them she loved herself and in doing that she loved God “for if you do this to the lest of these you do it Unto Me” says The Lord.

    Grace and Peace to you from
    St Georges Greek Orthodox Church, Toronto, Canada

  7. I have known Fr Antonio and his family for over two years now. I have been at the summer camp for two years now, and plan to continue to be at the camp and the retreat for many years.

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