Celebration in Los Angeles - 08/21/2005Los Angeles, California
Several generations of campers and counselors who have had the blessing of spending their summers at Camp St. Nicholas have also had the blessing to be treated to the Orthodox Christian hospitality of the “Camp Parents”, the Very Reverend Father Nicholas and Khouria Malvi Neyman. For those generations, it will be hard to imagine Camp without them. And for the faithful of Holy Cross Mission in Palmdale, California, going to church will not be the same, either. After 24 years of loving, devoted leadership for the Camp, including 15 years of the same to their mission, the Neymans are retiring from both to start a new life and ministry in Idaho. There, Father Nicholas and Kh. Malvi will be closer to three of their children and their families; and Father will take on his new role at St. John the Baptist Church in Post Falls, Idaho.
The Neymans were treated to a warm weekend of wonderful memories in two banquets in their honor, with the blessing of His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH, who presided over both. First, Holy Cross hosted a farewell luncheon on Saturday, August 20, 2005. This event, filled with so many memories and so much love, was a fitting culmination to the tireless efforts and years of labor the Neymans gave to establish an English-speaking Orthodox church in the Antelope Valley. Fr. Nicholas and Kh. Malvi would commute 100 miles each way from their home at Camp St. Nicholas to minister to the Holy Cross faithful.
Co-chairpersons Melinda Bentz and Robyn Nakonechnyj coordinated a fantastic program to make the luncheon truly special. After the invocation by Bishop JOSEPH, more than 75 guests dined while a classical duet played beautifully in the background. The entire banquet was then treated to an extraordinary concert of Orthodox liturgical hymns by the Antelope Valley Choir, followed by an exquisite slide show of Holy Cross from its beginning to the present, prepared by Nickolas Nakonechnyj.
Father Nicholas and Kh. Malvi were presented with gifts of appreciation from the parishioners of Holy Cross including a hand-written icon, a jeweled-pectoral cross and other generous gifts.
The celebration continued the next day, August 21, at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Los Angeles. The morning started with a beautiful Hierarchal Divine Liturgy celebrated by Bishop JOSEPH, along with the Cathedral clergy, Fr. Nicholas and his son-in-law, Reverend Father Samer Youssef, the pastor of Church of the Redeemer in Los Altos Hills, California.
More than 250 clergy and faithful from St. Nicholas and the Southern California Deanery broke bread next door in the Cathedral Hall. The Neymans were treated to another festive yet warm banquet by the parish for their years of devotion to Camp St. Nicholas. The attendees were regaled by stories of Fr. Nicholas and Kh. Malvi, who first met at the Camp in Frazier Park in 1966 during a Pan-Orthodox retreat. The young couple was soon married at St. Nicholas, and began their life together. The Neymans were the first married seminarians to study at St. Vladimir Seminary in Crestwood, New York. Following graduation and Father Nicholas’ ordination to the priesthood, the two ministered to the Orthodox Christian flock in Pueblo, Colorado and West Palm Beach, Florida. Fr. Nicholas and Kh. Malvi were called back to California in the fall of 1981, returning to their roots at Camp St. Nicholas, where they would serve as the Camp Parents for 24 years. Along the way, they raised four wonderful, Christ-loving children: Richard, Mariana, Joanna and Juliana.
Fred Milkie, Jr., served as master of ceremonies, and Larry Nicola prepared the wonderful lunch. Danny Andrews made presentations on behalf of civil dignitaries of Bakersfield and Kern County, as well as federal forestry officials. Bishop JOSEPH presented another icon of the Theotokos to the Neymans, who said that icons were all they wanted in this world.
Many of the servers and attendees had received the godly attention of these two wonderful people over the years as campers and counselors. The Neymans and all in attendance were treated to the comic styling of a former camper and counselor, St. Nicholas’ Louie Sadd, who imitated President George W. Bush! Side-splitting laugher filled the room, as the “President” made hilarious comparisons between “himself” and the Neymans. For example, they all have homes in the woods (Frazier Park and Crawford, Texas). However, just because they are in the woods does not mean they are on “vacation.”
As Fr. Nicholas and Kh. Malvi move on to nurture a new flock in Post Falls, and be near three of their four adult children and seven grandchildren, they leave Holy Cross with over 70 parishioners who are committed to continue to grow Holy Cross Church under the guidance of His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH and its new pastor, Father Michael Tassos. And though Camp St. Nicholas awaits the assignment of new caretakers, everyone knows that Father Nicholas and Kh. Malvi are irreplaceable, and they will be sorely missed. May God grant both of them many years of health and happiness in their new home.
By Kh. Christina Tassos and Subdeacon Peter Samore