With the blessings of our new Metropolitan John, despite the fact that we are all going through this very difficult period, we live a miracle…
Indeed, true is the word of our Gospel, which assures us that love will never cease to exist! What greater proof can our soul ask for in order to verify the truth, when in the midst of such a great economic crisis, people from Greece, simple, anonymous, and poor (many of them unemployed and low-paid!) join hands together and achieve the incredible? When they manage to load a container of 25 tons, with a bunch of goods and send it to our poor and much-afflicted brothers in Malawi to share them?
Dear brothers in Christ, in our daily life we may have reasons and incidents that make us lose faith and hope in the Most Merciful God, our Father and Creator, but on the other hand, we are also given -through the facts- information that the God who created us , loves us, watches us and cares for us.
Such a token of God’s great love toward us, brothers, was the shipment of the container you sent us from Thessalonica.
The current period we are going through is still characterized by hunger, anxiety and uncertainty as the economic situation in the country deteriorates with successive devaluations of the kwacha, the national currency of Malawi, while abnormal weather along with an abnormal delayed onset of the rainy season show that survival for the poor will develop into a permanent state of anxiety.
In a country with a tropical climate, such as Malawi, summer starts round November and is accompanied by rains. It is exactly in the rain that the success of any new crop depends on. The maize, which is the main food of the Malawians, from November onwards, is planted and is waiting for the rain to grow. But this year with the long delay of the rainy season, it is very likely that the crop will fail.
The richer inhabitants have reasonable suspicion that they will become poorer and the poor that they will die of hunger… Could it be God’s love that makes us all, without exception, turn to and have our hopes in Him and only in Him?
Within this uncertainty, the container arrived in the country as a gift from God! All those who attended there in the opening of the “great gift” were filled with joy, as the spectacle in front of our eyes was tons of food, tons of clothes and so much more. Flour, sugar, rice, pulses, clothes and shoes for men women and children, school supplies, church supplies and more relief items.
The “goods of love” were stored by dispensation in the big Church of the Holy Trinity and from there were distributed in all directions.
Among the different groups that will benefit from this container, priority will be given to those who have been imprisoned. The joy of getting a bar of soap is indescribable. They are so happy when we give them a rice pouch, which they will soak in water overnight and will be able to eat it with sugar. They enjoy it as if it were the best dessert in the world… Unfortunately, in the women’s prison, there are always a few 2-2.5 year-old- kids accompanying their imprisoned mothers… they are usually shy and timid without strength to cry or claim something… but as soon as they realize that there are toys for them, then their facial expression changes… This joy brightens their eyes and they all eagerly hurry to get what is given out to them…
These visits to prisons leave a bittersweet flavor, and mixed feelings… We always leave this place with a prayer on the lips, hoping that God will be strengthening and giving courage to those who are incarcerated.
In the parishes, distribution is more joyful and festive. Usually after a worshiping congregation, whether with or without notice, the joy is always equally great… There one cannot tell who feels the greatest joy: the one who gives or the one who takes? Of course, there are also incidents where some people cannot keep the order and become disruptive… However, the most beautiful and moving moments are when we see the children happy with a toy that they are holding, even if that is a plain balloon. They feel like they have the whole world in their hands… and on the other hand, when with a careless and unsuspecting move the balloon breaks, the tears and “lamentations” that follow are heart-breaking…
Dear brothers, the distribution has already begun, and with the help of God we hope that it will soon be completed. The joy and emotion of all the people who are involved in this project is great, but also great is the responsibility and the effort to make a fair, impartial and well-organized distribution of all these goods to the natives. Only then will we have the satisfaction that your own effort from Greece and ours for the delivery and distribution, here in Malawi, were not in vain but worked.
It is also a great pleasure for us to let you know that the new projects for the drilling of the water-wells in Govati and Kalimbuga regions that you assigned us, have been completed with the help and grace of God. The gratitude of our indigenous brothers of these regions, where the wells have been drilled, towards the donors is immense.
The excitement and joy of all the natives in the surrounding area for water, this great good that they have acquired through our Church, feels like a Thanksgiving prayer to our Most Merciful God, who is truly the One who inspires His own people to do such great works and noble donations where such needs exist.
We pray to God to strengthen all of you that work for His glory and for the relief of our Malawian brothers, who are going through a lot of hardship!
Once again, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support to us. May God bless you and sanctify you all.
It is true that we often hear about the difficulties, obstacles, problems that concern the local missionary divisions. Many times, however, theory differs from reality.
Going to Malawi, you experience this reality, from the way you are treated by the natives, from various third-world diseases and more generally from the adversities of everyday life. Amid this difficult situation though, abounds the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. How? Not through reasonable explanations, neither through mathematical operations, nor through inductive reasoning but through the miracle of faith and prayer.
A basic principle for the person in charge of the Mission is prayer. That is why every time he asks us for it. The Salutations, the Compline and every kind of service accompany us on our missionary trips. The cross, the prayer, the rosary are all irresistible weapons against hostile machinations.
Admirable effort is made regarding the translation of the sacred texts. A painstaking, costly and deeply spiritual work, which, as it appears, will constitute a huge legacy for the people of Malawi one day. As regards the sacrament of baptism, it is performed with all due solemnity and only if preceded by at least one year of catechesis.
But since man is not only spirit, the heads of the Mission have to cater for the body as well. About 400 children are fed on a daily basis, without including the families that have applied for assistance. In addition, there is monthly distribution of humanitarian aid, coming mainly from the containers which your love for your fellowmen collected and sent from the storehouse of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity. Soap, powdered milk, pasta, flour, sugar are just some of these essential goods.
Some of us might wonder about the motives of a person becoming an Orthodox in the much afflicted country of Malawi. I assure you that the majority of the people who consciously convert into Orthodoxy, seek the Truth, and are tired of the lies of the sects. Indeed, some of the converts raise several questions, like: “Why did Orthodoxy take so long to come to Malawi?”
In conclusion, I want to point out that through our physical presence in the Mission, disinterested love and care for our fellowmen become action and conscious living. My wish and exhortation to each and every one of you is, circumstances permitting, that you become participants in the Orthodox testimony to the nations.
Regular member of the Fraternity
Rejoice and exult at the joy of the Resurrection! Not only now that the Paschal bells are still ringing joyously in our ears but always as well …
The reason why we are writing to you is to share with you our feelings about the trials and tribulations our Malawian brothers are currently going through due to extreme weather events that have hit the country this year.
This year Easter came immediately after the devastating passage of a huge disaster that struck the country and left its mark on many homes. That incredible cataclysmic rainfall was followed by many and varied agonizing efforts to eliminate the scars and heal the wounds… The death toll was high. Many people were killed. Far more were left homeless amid the ruins, not to mention the countless wrecked homes.
Generally, the grief is great but the mobilization that followed is also moving … Various bodies, organizations, as well as the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity that is always by our side, when emergencies take place, are trying to help deal with the tragedy, each one in their own way and according to their abilities. Many of them are being involved in the reconstruction of the destroyed schools. Others are supporting and treating the needy by hosting or transferring them to their relatives. Generally, everyone does their best.
Our little mission could not remain inactive before this grief. So many are the needs in every parish and so meager are our abilities to care for all those seeking our help that we reach an impasse when we have few goods to distribute to many people in distress.
We saw that the blankets are a valuable and indispensable good for the natives and the homeless, as the humidity at night is too high in relation to the heat of the day, but especially now that winter approaches, they are necessary for our brothers who spend the night in the mud hut. Our blankets were sought after!
Our mission decided to distribute 500 blankets, which is why we appeal to all directions in order to collect them. Each blanket costs 12 euro. The more blankets we collect, the better for our brothers. Needless to say, feeling the warmth on the cold winter nights (in July and August), they will remember the donors and pray to the Most Merciful God for them.
However, no matter how difficult it is here for our brothers in Malawi to deal with the sudden death of their own people, face the destruction of their house, be left orphaned or homeless overnight, it is just as common for them to leave the pain behind and throw themselves into the daily struggle, fighting to survive with all their might.
Therefore, despite all the biblical disasters that occurred and the different types of wounds that were opened in every home, the local parishes humbly continued their program; this way, every parish passed through the Great Lent to the Resurrection of Lazarus and through the solemn entrance into Jerusalem to the Passion Week.
How touched are the souls of our African brothers by the solemn hymns of our Orthodox Church! How much our soul rejoices to see that all parishes are giving their own fight and with small steps year after year they experience and feel deeper inside the principal truths of our faith! And of course the joy of the Resurrection comes and redeems all of us who humbly went along the path of our Lord’s Holy Passion.
How fulfilling the Resurrection is! This is something that we all live within the Church even though words are inadequate to express it. But one cannot help noticing how happy everyone is, especially the newcomers into our faith, when they take the red-dyed eggs and knock them together and laugh. And how joyful is the paschal meal every parish offers to all of its parishioners, who gather and eat all together and rejoice, as happened in the first years of our Church with the “agapae”, i.e., the early Christian love feasts.
This year, thanks to the generous offer of a donor, a large truck brought sacks of flour to each parish and “they did all eat and were filled and rejoiced and exchanged the Paschal greeting”. Also, thanks to the same donor, there were hundreds of eggs that were distributed, which the natives have learned to dye in their own way, and they knock them together and exclaim “Kristu Auka” and answer “Zuuna di Auka.”
Brethren, our feelings are mixed, like the events that surround us! Thus happy events are tied to sad and joyful to sorrowful. But believe us that this daily agony is our salvation as well. It is this pain that protects us from spiritual slips and falls as well as our deviations from the redemptive path we all long for, which leads to our Creator through our fellow man. It is through the hardships and sorrows that each one of us leaves their comfort and sets out on the journey to eternity, which we are created for.
For we should always bear in mind that no matter how much security a settled and without tribulations life inspires, it does not cease to be a part of the eternal life which has been made for us and which our Lord Jesus Christ taught us through His Passion, Sacrifice and Resurrection and showed us that it is there awaiting us …
I pray fervently that we can achieve this goal all of us in unison by working with all our strength in order to alleviate the suffering of our fellow human beings; only this way can we be made worthy of getting closer to Him who we so deeply believe in and love. Amen!
Let us rejoice, brothers, in the joy of God. Let us praise our Creator and let us ascribe words of thankfulness and gratitude unto Him for the marvels that we see take place around us every day…
The spread of Orthodoxy over the world since the time of the Apostle Paul to the present day is a great miracle. Also, miracle is the construction of the Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian in the land of Malawi.
In fact, it is one of the many miracles that occur daily. It is God’s answer to the fervent and incessant prayers of our indigenous brothers. They had been praying continuously for five years so they could acquire a sacred church. Under the guidance of indigenous Father Sophronios they had been gathering for five years in the grass hut they had constructed in order to make their congregations and find a way out of the deadlock caused by the problems of their pained life.
Nothing could stop them or deter them from their goal. Trouble or pain, adverse conditions, scorching heat or threatening rain, mud or mold did not dishearten them.
Finally, gratitude pervades us all, indigenous and non-indigenous, for the pious sponsor from Greece, through whom the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity undertook the financial cost of the erection of the Sacred Church. Thanks to the donation of this generous brother, the church is becoming large and spacious, about 350 square meters, in order to accommodate big congregations, and also strong and stable so as to resist the passage of time.
By the grace of God, this project may have taken a long time to start, however, it progressed really fast once it got started. Work began five months ago and God willing, the church will be ready in a month.
The thankfulness and gratitude of the native parishioners of the Ss Cosmas and Damian church is great and their prayers for the noble brother who made this donation will be incessant, since in every Divine Liturgy celebrated in the Church, the prayers for the founders always have a special place, as is the case with every sacred church.
From now on our prayers for the near future will be focused on finding a noble brother who will carry the financial burden of building the rectory next to the newly erected church, that is, the small house for the Orthodox priest. This way, by living next to each temple, the priest along with his family becomes the guardian, the caretaker and the guard of the Orthodox Church property.
Let us all rejoice in the pure joy of the parishioners of the newly established Saints Cosmas and Damian parish in Malawi. Brethren, let us participate ourselves simply, humbly and in secret with our own little prayer in securing and consolidating our Orthodoxy in this small piece of land in remote Malawi, too.
Father Nicodemus Chilembwe, Orthodox clergyman from Blantyre, Malawi, happened to be in Greece this summer in order to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Mount Athos and delve into Orthodox spirituality. Taking advantage of his presence, we asked him to talk to us about Orthodoxy in this small country in East Africa.
7 years ago I was a Protestant in religion and a translator in profession. I liked to read and translate texts from English into Chichewa, the native language of Malawi. One day, as I was crossing the city, my eyes fell upon an Orthodox church. I found the spectacle rather strange. In some way it looked like a mosque, but the cross indicated that it was something related to Christianity. Curiosity prompted me to go in and observe its interior. I got confused. Although I was a faithful Protestant, that place was totally unfamiliar to me. A deep sense of awe came over me.
Suddenly, I saw a black figure approaching me from the north side of the church. I wanted to run away, but an Orthodox priest stopped me. It was Fr. Ermolaos Iatrou. “Who are you? What made you come here?” he asked. “I wanted to know some things about this church,” I said and started to ask questions. After some discussion, I asked him to accept me for catechesis.
Some time later, Fr. Ermolaos asked me what I did professionally. Once I told him that I was a translator, he suggested that I should work in the translation and printing office of the Mission. It came as a blessing to me. At the same time, he gave me a stack of books on the Orthodox faith to study at home. Little by little, some of my friends were interested in what I was doing and wanted to come for catechesis themselves. I was baptized one year later. Initially, it was difficult for my family to understand my conversion, but by the grace of God that changed.
On May Day 2009 I was ordained priest. This was a blessing as well as a new opportunity for me to get to know my faith better. In the Orthodox Church we can never learn it all. We always learn something new.
Then, I was assigned the ministry of catechesis. In time, I came to realize that the doctrines of our Holy Church are very strong because Orthodoxy originated in the Apostolic Age, the age of the Bible. It is not like the other churches that sprang up suddenly out of nowhere, without roots.
In the Orthodox Church, when we pray, we feel the power of the prayer. The protestants know nothing about the Holy Mysteries. Neither do they talk about the Holy Trinity. They perform baptism just by sprinkling with water and not according to the teachings of the Bible. Our pastors were afraid of getting wet with the water. They do not practice the Sacrament of Confession, neither do they have a spiritual father. However, when one wants to meet a President, one has to follow a protocol. Likewise, we should keep the protocol set by God for the remission of our sins.
This is true Faith. And the people who are serious eventually come to realize that, whether they turn to Orthodoxy or not. Unfortunately, Orthodoxy is something new for my country. They constantly ask me, “Where have these people been for so many centuries?” This is a difficult question to answer. My reply is that it was God’s plan.
Today there are 2,000 people who have already been baptized Orthodox and many others who are being monitored and catechized for at least one year.
Our main activity is catechesis. Naturally, this involves a lot of traveling from the city to the villages. Getting around is really difficult. Problems like having no petrol or getting stuck on the road are very common. We have 25 parishes across the country, with the exception of the northernmost part, but so far we have only managed to erect a Sacred Church in 10 of them.
Moreover, we do charity work as well. We do everything in our power to provide access to clean water because Malawi faces a big problem regarding water supply. We have already drilled over 20 water wells. Besides, we strive to provide food for 300 orphans on a daily basis, a task which is very difficult to accomplish! Many times we have nothing to give them; it is then that the thought of giving up crosses our minds. But since we started, it would be like an act of betrayal towards these children. We hope in God and continue our work.
We also try to visit prisons regularly. We give the prisoners gifts and also preach and catechize them. Some groups have already been formed but until now there have been no baptisms. On our part, we have designated a committee to visit and catechize the inmates in every prison. We also wish to organize spiritual meetings for women, but so far we have not managed to realize that.
Fortunately, there are some believers who are characterized by great zeal for the propagation of our faith. We have sent six of them to Kenya to study at the Theological Seminary there. Once they have finished and if called by God, they will be ordained priests. There are also some earnest catechists who are sent to the villages for catechesis. Every week we invite them and teach them at the school for Catechists. We instruct them not to teach anything that is not included in the Orthodox books, and certainly not to improvise. If they cannot respond to a certain question, they should not say anything, but instead, consult their books, read the proper answer and then explain it.
Running the printing and translation center of our mission is a difficult and demanding job. We need to find educated persons with a very good knowledge of English. Unfortunately we have no Orthodox people available who would be eligible to undertake the translation task. We have already translated the services of the Divine Liturgy and of some Sacraments. We have provided every believer with a booklet to read and understand the Divine Liturgy. We are currently translating the Menaea. Most believers attend the Matins, the Vespers and the Compline.
The translation process is a very tedious and costly task for our Mission. Good translators ask for a good salary, too. Thus a lot of money is required, as we do not need someone who only deals with translations part-time, because then the quality of the translation will be substandard and the translation rates slower. If something is unfamiliar or new to the translators, they come to me and I explain it to them.
I hope to increase in my knowledge of God. I am not pleased with myself. Recently I was in the Holy Monastery of Karakalou. There I had the chance to do some meditation and I wondered how much more difficult it is for a married clergyman who lives in the world to be saved. I read the book on Elder Joseph the Hesychast and I realized that I did not know many things and that my knowledge of God was limited. I want to be very close to my spiritual father and other devout brothers in order to fill my life with the truth. I also want to be able to share this truth with all the people so that we can inherit eternal life, which only the Orthodox faith can attain. My vision is to become holy myself and lead people’s souls to Christ.
We are writing from far-off Malawi in Africa in order to share with you the joys and sorrows of the Mission one more time. Always with the blessings of our Metropolitan, we keep up our humble ministry in praise of oυr Benevolent God, and our Church here is growing slowly but firmly.
Through plenty of difficulties and with your valuable support so far, we have managed to erect a small number of churches and schools, thus meeting some of the neophytes’ needs. Unfortunately, neither our holy churches nor the schools are enough. In almost 10 parishes that have been formed, our orthodox brothers gather in thatched huts. It is there that they pray. It is there that their holy services are conducted. In the rainy season the roofs are often leaky, or the mud bricks collapse.
One of these parishes is the Chiradzulu region, in the mountainous village of Ngwara. In this village, we baptized the first orthodox Christians in the last four years. Their patience and endurance are admirable.They themselves made this thatched hut and gather on Sundays and feast days. One might expect that their interest in faith would decrease and that they would be turned away from our Church. On the contrary! They were not disappointed. Nor did they betray their faith.They often say: ”We were baptized Orthodox Christians, and with that faith we shall die.” They often pray to God with tears in their eyes so that He reveals a devout donor to build them a proper church. That is the only request they have in their hearts: a Holy Church in which they will be able to worship our Triune God decently.
We are deeply touched by their moving interest and sole concern, which is to have a strong, healthy parish. Actually, they have organized their parish very well. They have elected church-wardens. They discuss their problems all together and in groups they visit other Christians who are in greater need. Each one of them gives a few kwachas; This way, they manage to raise a scant amount of money and relieve some afflicted souls. This parish is an enviable model of philanthropy and love. These people give out of the little they have in order to help others who need it more… some elderly, the orphans of the village, the lonely ones, the disabled and the destitute. All these receive the assistance of the parish and have its protection. Our brothers there often ask us which Saint they should dedicate their Holy Church to (that is, the thatched hut they use for a church). We do not answer them because we do not know ourselves, since it is the donor who usually determines where the Holy Church will be dedicated. And they wait patiently. Patience and prayer.
Brothers, let us not keep these good-hearted people waiting, for they are conscious believers who have applied the Bible to their lives. We appeal to your love: if any of you can afford it, let them offer this region a church. The one who builds a Holy Church in the Chiradzulu region, Ngwara village, will be granted a lot of blessings. These people will be deeply and eternally grateful to the one who will offer them a plain Holy Church. Their ardent prayers will be with him/her for ever. Their priest will be commemorating their benefactor and his/her family in the Divine Liturgy continuously.
From that spiritual flock, a new gifted future priest has already stood out. It is the catechist Alexander, who, by the Grace of God, will be sent next year to study at the Theological Seminary of Kenya for three years. It is no wonder that from such parishes like the one of the Ngwara village, only spiritual virtues can come out!
With love in Christ Fr Ermolaos Iatrou from Malawi
The first bucket of clean water for the residents of Likulezi, Malawi
By the Grace of God and with the blessings of our Archbishop Joachim we are pleased to tell you two pieces of good news. The one is that the drilling of our first well from the new series which you funded has been completed. It was delivered to us just a few days ago. The other is that after the completion of this well, we went there with four Malawian priests for group christenings, which had been scheduled long before they took place.
Imagine what a beautiful combination that was! What a great blessing! On the one hand, the neophytes could not thank us enough for the well that we drilled for them, and on the other, their joy for joining the Orthodox Church through Baptism was unspeakable.
Two joyful events occurred in one day. Since these people first drank the spiritual water believing in Jesus Christ and being baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now they can drink from the material water as well, which you so lovingly drilled for them in Likulezi, 90 km away from Blantyre.
Thank you once more for your invaluable contribution. Father Ermolaos Iatrou
The news of our missionary struggle here in the heart of Africa, is that by the grace of God and despite the numerous difficulties, tribulations, adversities and hardships, we maintain a high spirit and keep on fighting, even if it is for a single soul! Here in Malawi we are striving to keep the candle burning with the Orthodox light!
Today, we are writing to tell you something very important. We have repeatedly appealed to your love for this matter. For two years now we have been launching appeals towards various directions but in vain.
We would like to remind to your love that our Mission owns in the heart of the city of Blantyre, the second-largest city of Malawi, where we live, a rare piece of land, which was bought with plenty of sacrifices and on which His Beatitude himself Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa Theodore II laid the foundation stone in 2011, with the hope that a Holy Church will be built there in honor of the Nativity of Christ.
Neophyte Orthodox brothers in Malawi
So much time has already gone by and the Nativity icon which we buried there under the foundations, is patiently and quietly expecting a noble sponsor to appear so that the Church can be built.
Living in such financially unstable times, we do not dare ask from a donor to undertake the burden of the whole project. What we dare do though, is to ask all of you to give us an amount of money that will enable us to start the building of the Church.
Once the works get started, little by little, brick by brick, God will grant that His Church will be built.
It is a spiritual law that if we give one thing to God, He pays us a hundredfold in His own time and He promotes us and makes us worthy of being His precious partners!
We thank wholeheartedly all of you who support the Mission in Malawi in one way or another. May God always bless you and your families.
Please, my brothers, each and every one of you do your best to contribute to the realization of our noble wish in any possible way.
May we all be granted to see soon the beginning of the construction of the Church of the Nativity of our Christ in the heart of Africa.