The downside of the “fertile valley”

Most of the road from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, as California enters Nevada, lies through the Mojave Desert. Hundreds of kilometers outside the window, mountains and cacti — creeping along the sandstone and heading up — are as tall as a tree. As you approach the city, on the right side is the first one-story casino, a little further, at the entrance to the city itself is the huge Mandalay Bay complex, which was “famous” in October last year by shooting participants from the room of the hotel itself.

Las Vegas, which we do not know
“Well, yes, it’s Las Vegas,” said the pious reader. Well, yes, if you do not know that the first casinos appeared in the city thanks to a certain Mr. Tobin, a respectable Nevada resident who never played in a casino. With this money, he said, one can build many new schools. It was 1931. The fate of Las Vegas changed abruptly when gambling was allowed in Nevada on May 19. Now this type of business is considered one of the main sources of income in Las Vegas.
The history of Vegas began with an error: in 1829, a trade caravan heading for Los Angeles from Texas went astray and almost died from thirst under the scorching sun. One of the volunteers who went in search of a well found an oasis of artesian water. This area and the city, built in the desert in just 20 years, have been given the name, translated from Spanish, meaning “fertile valleys”.
What is called the “gambling capital” of the United States is just two streets. Historically, Las Vegas casinos were allowed only in the city center on Fremont Street, which forced entrepreneurs to open their establishments beyond its administrative border – on the Las Vegas Strip. On this street there are now more than a hundred themed complexes combining a hotel, a shopping center, a casino, concert halls, amusement parks, some of which repeat world sights: the Egyptian pyramids, the Venetian Grand Canal, the Paris Eiffel Tower, the skyscrapers of New York .
For those who prefer cultural leisure, there are museums in the city, world stars perform in numerous concert halls, and exhibition centers bring exhibitions by major artists. Many world-renowned companies choose Las Vegas for their presentations. 
In Las Vegas live a lot of Russian-speaking. At first they were acrobats and other circus artists who came here to work. Someone extended the contract, others remained here for permanent residence. Families came to them. Now there is an influx of migrants from other states of the country, which is facilitated by the favorable economic situation in the city: many parks, houses are being built here, the infrastructure is expanding.
In Las Vegas, something bright and unusual happens every day, but there are events that are difficult to even foresee. So we went to Las Vegas not for entertainment, but for spiritual fortification – to pray, and then deliver the peace-stream image of the Mother of God “Softener of Evil Hearts” from the capital of “gambling” in California, San Diego. Before the beginning of Lent, the miraculous icon-Muscovite, together with her keeper Sergey Fomin, has already visited California, Arizona, and Nevada – in Russian, American, Greek, Romanian, Antiochian temples and monasteries. Through the prayers before the myrrh-streaming image, only in recent years, six families who have not had children for a long time, three boys and three girls were born — girls in Russia, boys in foreign countries who visited the holy image. 

From the temple came the exclamations in Church Slavonic. And singing is in English. This is the Church of All Saints in the jurisdiction of the Russian Church Abroad. From the outside it looks like a ranch. And the interior of the temple is decorated “under the Russian birch.” And in some way reminds of Alaska, from where his current head priest, Bishop Nikolay (Soraich), has returned. By nationality lord – Serb. In the worldly profession – a psychologist, already in holy orders, continued to work as a child psychologist and worked with children who committed crimes or found themselves in difficult life circumstances. 
“We served the first liturgy in this church on February 1 of last year,” says Bishop Nicholas. – Now about 150 people regularly come to the temple. Behind every divine service there is always someone new, almost all – Russians; there are also Serbs, Romanians, Bulgarians, Americans, one Greek. ”
For the first time about. Nicholas came to Las Vegas in 1979, built a Serbian church in the name of St. Simeon. In 1988, he also built an American church here in honor of the Apostle Paul. 
“Many cannot believe that people in Las Vegas are praying,” continues Vladyka Nikolai. “But the temple, when the peace-giving icon of the Mother of God,“ The Softening of Evil Hearts, ”arrived in it, was full.” 
However, they could not believe that a temple was needed here, even in the office of the Orthodox Church in America, when Vladyka, then a priest, was going to build his second temple in Las Vegas. “They made fun of me, they said:“ You have only one slot machine there ”.”
And then he wrote a letter to the diocesan office, explaining the need for Orthodox life in Las Vegas: “I wrote that the casinos in Las Vegas are no different from the steel mills in Pittsburgh or the copper mines in Montana. Ordinary people do not visit these businesses. So it is here. Casinos are part of the region’s economy, not the daily life of a city’s population. For us and our children, it is important to have a place where we could come and be strengthened in the faith. ” 
Returning from Alaska, in 2012, Bishop Nicholas was going to organize a Russian Orthodox church in Las Vegas. At first, 10-12 people came to church services. Gradually formed parish. In the first year, only one baptism was committed, and last year, Vladyka baptized 52 people.
“At first we rented a room and gathered for prayer,” says parishioner Irina Foskaris. Irina, together with her Greek husband and daughters, lives 14 years in Las Vegas and has been a member of the All Saints Church for 4 years. – Vladyka Nicholas immediately said that the services should be held regularly: on Sundays – the liturgy, the all-night vigil – on the eve of Saturday evening and the service during the week. For several years we prayed in the building of the former Mexican cafe, then in the funeral home, the only room where we were given the opportunity to serve for free. ”
During this time, the parish collected donations and a year ago acquired its current premises – a complex of buildings of the former sheriff’s ranch, which was converted into the current building of the temple. There is a place for worship, Sunday classes and meals. Nearby is the former barn building, which the parishioners converted into a room for cultural events, but to this day it is still called its “barn”.
Here they gave a Christmas performance and a concert of local talents at the current Shrovetide. Soon they want to organize more solid festivals. Like the Greeks, for example. But their cathedral in Las Vegas – in the name of St. John the Baptist is already 45 years old! An example of the fact that wherever the Russians come (and the Greeks, too!), They first of all arrange a temple. Only if the first immigrants from traditionally Orthodox countries built temples on the coasts of America, then our contemporaries master the Center, the South, the continental West of the country.

The community
In Las Vegas, there is no organized Russian community, such as in San Francisco or Los Angeles. While the center of communication for the majority of the Russian-speaking population of the city is the Russian church. As for the first immigrants on the east and west coasts. History repeats itself. But today, Russians communicate a lot through the Internet and hope to open a Russian center at the church with Russian language classes and a Sunday school for children (adults are already engaged at the temple).
Irina Foskaris, like many Russian-speaking people, works in the administrative division of the casino and does not consider this an indecent occupation: “All of us, the stationery and technical staff of the complexes, work in our workplace and don’t even go directly to the casino territory,” Irina explains. – But all of us – lawyers, office and technical workers, circus artists, are united by one thing – the desire to pray in the Russian Orthodox Church. There are seven Orthodox churches in Las Vegas. In addition to ours and the Greek, there is the Antiochian Michael Archangel, the Serbian already mentioned, and two Romanian – in honor of St. George and sv. Mary.
On the present territory of the church complex there is a place for a real Russian cathedral – the majestic, with domes. And the artistic and architectural project is ready. The author of the project is Roman Verkhovsky, an architect, now a representative of the ancient Kostroma noble family, the author of two, perhaps, the most famous Russian churches in the USA – the Trinity in Jordanville and the St. Vladimir Memorial Church in Jackson (New Jersey), built to 1000 Anniversary of the Baptism of Russia.
The cathedral on this project should have been built in Los Angeles, but never built. Now another place has been found for him – in Las Vegas, and when asked when he can expect construction to start, Bishop Nicholas replies that everything depends on how soon the necessary amount is collected. And she hopes that the Most Holy Theotokos, who visited the temple in the image of Her “Softener of Evil Hearts,” will strengthen and help. 
By the way, by the current arrival on the West Coast of the USA, copies of the myrrh-streaming icon with vestments – thanks to the works of one benefactor – were written and are now in all three Russian churches in Los Angeles: in two – under the ROCA ophorus, and one – the Orthodox Church in America . Copies of the miraculous icon appeared in the temples of other Orthodox jurisdictions.
With the Great Lent, the myrrh-streaming image will traditionally again go to the USA – now to the East Coast of the country and complete its pilgrimage to Easter in the center of the Russian diaspora, the Trinity Monastery in Jordanville.