His Grace Bishop Ilia of the Albanian Orthodox Diocese greets Jim Angelus, lead cyclist of the "Race to Respond," outside St. Alexios Greek Orthodox Church in Ely, Nev., on Friday, Aug. 23.
Bishop Ilia greets cyclists (from left) Constantine "Dino" Davlantis, Alex Mazarakos and Michael Tsakalos.
Bishop Ilia leads a prayer service for the cyclists inside the church while Jim Angelus, his son Nicholas, and Konstantin Kanelis participate.
"Race to Respond" cyclists venerate the cross after a prayer service at St. Alexios Greek Orthodox Church in Ely, Nev.
Cyclist Constantine "Dino" Davlantis talks with Bishop Ilia during lunch at St. Alexios Church.
Bishop Ilia puts his hand in with cyclists (from left) Michael Tsakalos, Konstantin Kanelis, Alex Mazarakos, Constantine "Dino" Davlantis (partially obscured) and Jim Angelus to show his solidarity with the "Race to Resond."
Bishop Ilia dons a riding helmet and official "Race to Respond" team jersey to pose with cyclists (from left) Jim Angelus, Konstantin Kanelis, Michael Tsakalos, Constantine "Dino" Davlantis and Alex Mazarakos.
Bishop Ilia in helmet and jersey with (from left) Michael Tsakalos, Constantine "Dino" Davlantis and Alex Mazarakos.
Alex Mazarakos talks with a parishioner of St. Alexios Church in Ely, Nev.
Crew chief Kerry San Chirico (right) greets parishioners John and Irene Chachas, who helped organized Friday's midday event in Ely, Nev.
Michael Tsakalos (left) and Jim Angelus ride the "loneliest highway" in the country - U.S. 50 across central Nevada.
Two riders on America's "loneliest highway" in Nevada.
Constantine "Dino" Davlantis and Konstantin Kanelis round a bend on U.S. 50 in Nevada.
Michael Tsakalos speeds down America's loneliest highway in Nevada.
Jim Angelus (left) and Michael Tsakalos on U.S. 50 in Nevada.
Ely, Nev. (IOCC) The "Race to Respond," a cross-country cycling event in support of International Orthodox Christian Charities, perfectly captures the humanitarian mission of IOCC, His Grace Bishop Ilia of the Albanian Orthodox Diocese said on Friday, Aug. 23.
"The idea of the 'Race to Respond,' involving the participation of five dedicated cyclists, draws attention to two facets of IOCC: training and preparedness, and action and visibility," Bishop Ilia said in an interview prior to the arrival of the cyclists for a midday event in Ely, Nev., on Aug. 23.
Bishop Ilia drove four hours one-way from Las Vegas, Nev., to be with the cyclists on Friday.
"Training and preparedness, because a good cyclist must do that in order to respond to the challenge of a cross-country race. And action and visibility, because a cyclist is in motion and draws attention to this activity," His Grace said.
"IOCC does the same, through multi-faceted programs which help people improve their existence, sometimes under adverse conditions," he said. "Visibility (is important) because the results do make a change in the lives of people who participate in, and benefit from, IOCC programs."
Bishop Ilia greeted the cyclists as they arrived at St. Alexios Greek Orthodox Church in Ely at 12:30 p.m. Friday. The riders began their day on the Utah-Nevada border, riding an estimated 60 miles on the "loneliest highway" in America - U.S. 50 - prior to the event.
The morning route took them through Sacramento Pass (elevation: 7,136 feet) and Connors Pass (elevation: 7,733 feet) before reaching Ely for a prayer service and lunch.
As the cyclists rode up to the church, Bishop Ilia welcomed them individually and said, "Park the horses."
Inside St. Alexios Church, where Bishop Ilia has served as pastor for 10 years, His Grace led a short prayer service for the cyclists and support crew. "God bless you and keep you safe for the remaining leg of your journey," he said. "We are exceedingly proud and happy and honored to have you with us."
During lunch, Bishop Ilia toasted the cyclists with a glass of iced tea. He also posed with the cyclists in an official "Race to Respond" team jersey.
"We congratulate (the cyclists) on their dedication and invoke God's blessing upon their witness-in-action for IOCC," he said.
Bishop Ilia compared the efficiency required for a cross-country cycling event to the efficiency of IOCC's programs worldwide.
"It is heartening to know that Orthodox Christians in America are directing their philanthropic efforts through IOCC, because it's the most effective and efficient agency available to our respective (Orthodox) jurisdictions," he said.
Ordained bishop of the Albanian Orthodox Diocese in May, Bishop Ilia is a member of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, which established IOCC in 1992.
"In 10 years, the Orthodox faithful of America have been made aware of what our dollars can do, but we must not rest there," he said. "Our strategy must be twofold: to continue to raise the consciousness of our Orthodox people about the worldwide needs addressed by IOCC programs, and secondly, to increase our level of giving. Our giving should include more dollars and more personnel, both volunteer and professional."
Prior to being ordained bishop, His Grace has served as pastor of St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Las Vegas, Nev., as well as St. Alexios Church in Ely and St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in McGill, Nev.
He soon will be relieved of his pastoral duties so he can devote himself full-time to the Albanian Orthodox Diocese, he said. In May, he visited Albania, where IOCC and its partner, Diakonia Agapes ("Service of Love"), the philanthropic arm of the Autocephalous Albanian Orthodox Church, are bringing health education programs to young people and rural women.
"I believe that the cooperative partnership established between IOCC and Diakonia Agapes is a stellar example of what can be done by an international organization such as IOCC and the efforts of the local Orthodox Church in a country," Bishop Ilia said in the interview.
He noted that the health education programs are of "paramount importance in an emerging democracy."
After the cyclists left Ely, they continued on U.S. 50 to Eureka, Nev.
The cyclists are volunteering their time the whole month of August to raise awareness and support for the people served by IOCC. Their 25-day ride will end on Tuesday, Aug. 27, just north of San Francisco.
The goal of the race is to raise $250,000 for IOCC's humanitarian work. To donate, call toll-free 877-803-4622, or visit www.racetorespond.org.
The "Race to Respond" is presented by Advantage Plus Inc., makers of Ten Plus nutritional supplement drink.