Tuesday 23rd May 2013, memory of the Holy Equals-to–the-Apostles, Saints Constantine & Helen. With the wishes and blessings of His Divine Beatitude Theodore II Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, I arrived in Guinea after a 29-hour-journey. At the airport I was greeted by the members of the first Orthodox nuclei in the country.
Wednesday 22nd May. In the car that was donated to us by the Saracakis Bros Company, we set off on our road trip for the city of Kindia, which is situated inland about 135km from the capital (city of) Conakry. It took us more than 5 hours to cover this relatively short distance. I got thirsty on the way so I asked if we could stop for a while in order to have some sort of refreshment and quench our thirst. “Such things do not exist here,” said my fellow travelers. I wondered how that was possible, since I saw little tables with bottles of popular western soft drinks throughout the way. “No, Your Eminence,” they told me, “these are not soft drinks but gas; here we buy gas in bottles of soft drinks and beer and only the richer in jerry-cans.”
Thursday 23rd May. Visit to the Technical School which is under construction in Kindia. At this Technical School there will be bakery courses and among the facilities, there is provision for the installation of a professional oven so that apart from their practical training, the students will be able to bake bread for the benefit of the local society. Next we visited local schools, where we distributed to the pupils stationery and sweets which had been sent in a container by the Limassol Co-operative Savings Bank. Wherever I walked, I heard the people call me ‘Fote’, especially the little children. I asked my fellow travelers what ‘Fote’ means, and they said ‘White man’. “Keep in mind, Your Eminence, that the majority of the people here have never seen a white man before except on TV, let alone one walking among them.”
Friday 24th May. We visited the parking lot of the 50- seat- bus which was donated to us by the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity and discussed with local agents the best possible ways this bus could meet the transport needs of the local community. It is worth pointing out that such a bus has never been used before, not only in Kindia but also in the whole of Guinea. Next I visited the three wells which are being drilled thanks to the good offices of the Metropolis, so that 3 of the poorest city districts can have access to water. “The poorest” is just a figure of speech, since 99% of the inhabitants live below the poverty line. Privileged are the ones who have a relative that works abroad.
Saturday 25thMay. I visited the local University. There I was given the opportunity to meet with the representatives of the students’ association and discuss their needs, which were focused on the creation of a lending library and the accessibility to the internet, and I could not help thinking how many books we throw away in the western world without even bothering to recycle them. We distributed stationery there as well.
Sunday 26th May. Divine Liturgy celebrated in a private venue provided by a family of catechumens. Cantor, Sacristan, Deacon. Priest: all in one person. The catechumens have a thirst for religious books. They said to me: “Your Eminence, send us whatever you can.”
Monday 27th May. Departure for Sierra Leone.Despite the very bad weather, the person in charge of the Mission in Sierra Leone, the Very Reverent Archimandrite Fr Themistocles Adamopoulos, managed to get to the airport in order to greet me. We were able to reach the Mission premises around midnight.
Tuesday 28th May. Accompanied by Fr Themistocles and all the clerics I went to Waterloo region, where I visited the Missionary center of Saint Moses the Black, which was inaugurated by the Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria on 23rd February 2012, and comprises the Holy Church of the Lord’s Resurrection, Presbytery, Primary School, Clinic, workroom for the creation of artificial limbs (prosthetics) and housing for the accommodation of the mutilated by mines children. Inside the Holy Church the pupils sang songs and recited poems. Next I told them words of (parental) love and gave them advice. Then I laid the foundation stone for the erection of the (Junior) High School.
In the afternoon I was shown around the Orthodox Pedagogical Academy, where I marveled at the work being done there. I visited the classrooms, the rich in the collection of materials library and the computer lab, and I also had the chance to talk with the students as well as the teachers.
In the evening I officiated at the Vespers service for the feast of Mid-Pentecost at the Holy Church of Sts Constantine and Helen, which was erected next to the Orthodox Pedagogical Academy, and I preached the Word of God to the congregation, which was mainly composed of the male and female students of the Academy.
Feast of Mid-Pentecost. We conducted a vigil at the Cathedral of Sts Eleftherios and George in Freetown. During the Divine Liturgy, I ordained Deacon Vaios Hancile to a Presbyter, Subdeacon Aaron to a Deacon and finally I confirmed Fr Eleftherios Edmonson to a Protopresbyter (Archpriest) through imposition of hands, whom I appointed Dean of the Cathedral on Fr Themistocles’ recommendation. I preached the Word of God mostly referring to Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, and in the end I congratulated Archimandrite Themistocles Adamopoulos on his multifarious, God-pleasing work in Sierra Leone, which he carries out under very difficult conditions. I also thanked all those who contribute to the fruition of the Missionary work in one way or another, making special mention of the contribution (material, moral as well as in human resources) of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity.
Wednesday 29th May. I conducted a blessing of the waters for the beginning of the new school term, which was attended by the teachers as well as the schoolchildren of the Orthodox schools (Primary-Junior High), which are situated beside the Cathedral, and which were inaugurated by the Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria in February 2012.
Next we returned to the Missionary center where I chaired the clergy gathering. There I had the chance to meet with all the clerics, the volunteers and the Mission staff and give them the proper parental admonitions; we also discussed the various issues that concerned them.
In the evening I departed for Senegal. Despite the bumpy journey, we managed to reach the airport in time and bade farewell with emotion and spiritual exultation, glorifying the Holy One for all the things He makes us worthy to experience daily in our humble effort to evangelize our African brothers in Western Africa.
+ George of Guinea