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By Mike Toth

Father Johannes Aawadalla, priest of St. Paul the Anchorite Coptic Orthodox Church on Royal York Drive in London was on his way to Windsor when he received the call. The business he and his wife, Treavina Saadalla, have owned for 6 years, was going up in flames.

Father Johannes Aawadalla and his wife, Treavina
Fourteen businesses were destroyed or heavily damaged on the evening of June 30, 2016 when a fire swept through the strip mall at 1700 Hyde Park Rd in London. The fire appears to have started near the rear of Porcino Restaurant and quickly engulfed the businesses, including Saadalla’s Dry Cleaning and Alteration Centre. The fire marshal has not allowed her back into the building to survey the damage as it is still considered unsafe.

Potentially lost in the fire are the specialty sewing machines and quite a stock of fabric used in alterations. Unfortunately, many customers had garments in the store to be cleaned, including some customers who lost expensive and precious items.

“My customers have been so kind,” says Saadalla. “Even the customers that have lost the most have said, ‘It’s not your fault, there’s nothing you could do.’ Their hearts have been very tender toward us.”

Until they are able to assess the damage and make plans for the future Saadalla has been working out of her home on a very limited basis. If the commercial machines are ruined, though, the business will not reopen. Father Johannes does see a bright side to the difficult situation.

“I have been praying that we would be out of the store,” he says with a smile and a shrug. “There is a blessing in slowing down.”

While they may be slowing down from the aspect of running a business, the couple is most certainly not slowing down in the in their faith or their dedication to serving Christ in the community.

“The material loss is nothing,” says Father Johannes. “We lack nothing. He (God) is faithful and He should be glorified.”

“The Kingdom of God is near, and we need to evangelize and live a holy life. The world is falling down and I am afraid for the future generations. We need to be honest and deliver the message of the true gospel, working harder for the Lord and not hide our faith. We need to make known the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

Father Johannes and the congregation of St Pauls’ are actively involved in reaching the Arabic speaking immigrants in the London area. St. Pauls’ mass is conducted in Arabic and is Sunday morning at 9 am. They can be reached through the contact page at