This happened in the USA with Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy, author of the world-renowned book “The Law of God.”
Fr Seraphim endured a great deal in his life. At the end of the 1930’s, his father was arrested, and Seraphim, still a young man, was deprived of the opportunity for a complete education, but continued to study and found work as an artist and decorator.
During World War II, “The Great War of the Fatherland,” he was conscripted to the army, and he found himself a German prisoner-of-war, performing forced labor, where he survived thanks to his artistic talents. It was then that the future priest thought to build a church if God led him out of the difficult tribulations.
After the war, understanding full well what fate awaited him in the USSR, Seraphim decided to stay in Germany, and in 1952, already a priest, he emigrated to the USA.
With time, he decided to write his book “The Law of God,” knowing how the flock in America needs access to religious literature. The textbook covered basic theology, prayers, a brief overview of the Old and New Testaments and teachings to divine services and the Church’s Mysteries, with time recognized as one of the finest textbooks for the laity. In the 1970’s it appeared in the Soviet Union, and it is now published in editions of thousands and is accessible in virtually every church.
Archpriest George Larin, one of the most senior priests in the USA, who began his ministry under Fr Seraphim in Holy Virgin Protection Church in Nyack, NY, who later became its rector, told me about how this “promised church” was built and an interesting story about it:
“After World War II, the renowned Tolstoy Foundation sponsored many emigres from Europe. Russians, including Fr Seraphim and his family, ended up in Nyack, and his first goal was to build a church.
“They had no money, so people began pooling their dollars and finally bought a small parcel of land. One of the refugees, Vladimir Mikhailovich Tolstoy, a relative of Leo Tolstoy, was the architect. Fr Seraphim himself mixed cement while wearing his cassock. Other parishioners likewise labored.
“The parishioners wished to take a loan from a bank, but when they met with the branch manager, he refused, because they had no money in reserve. There was nothing left to do but work themselves.
“Once this manager was driving by the parcel and saw the people working, and the priest himself mixing cement in his cassock. He then decided to provide a substantial loan and told everyone: if these people are so closely-knit and even the priest is working on construction, they are obviously honest and will repay the loan. Indeed, the parishioners came together and paid off the loan on a monthly basis. That is how they built the church and erected a gilt cupola.
“When my family and I came to Nyack, the inside of the church had no frescoes yet, so icons hung on bare walls. Later the parish began to grow, a parish school was founded. It became crowded, but benefactors were found who purchased the neighboring house, then another two beyond.
“I believe that this was no accident. The Lord always sends people to help. For Christ Himself said: ‘Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?… for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.’
“Fr Seraphim always followed this commandment, it was natural for him, and he always relied on the will of God. He likewise wrote ‘The Law of God,’ giving himself entirely to Christ.”