The Saint Efstathios Orphanage is an Orthodox orphanage situated in the city of Dolisie, in southern Congo-Brazzaville, which has been operating since 2007. This institution currently hosts 24 young boys aged 6-17, who are attended by 10 salaried employees that minister to their needs.
Its mission is to protect the Christian upbringing of the orphaned children, always under the social principles, values and beliefs of their homeland, provided these are consistent with the timeless mandates of the Gospel. As future Orthodox citizens of the country, the children are taught to respect their parents, teachers, family and social hierarchy as well as the sanctities, moral values, customs and ancestral traditions.
However, this effort is not easy. Lack of family environment from the very beginning of their life, different backgrounds, age and intellectual diversity, the communal lifestyle they have to adapt to, the psychologically complex stage of puberty, modern influences as well as the western way of life, all these factors sometimes create behavioural problems, which make their upbringing more difficult. Love, dialogue, rules of conduct and the required limits, order and discipline, always in the light of the Orthodox faith, are our criteria for raising these little orphans. Naturally, preventing conflicts and handling youth tension successfully is not always feasible.
Apart from these important issues, the operation of an institution in Congo-Brazzaville is a complex process. The Republic of Congo-Brazzaville, as a former French colony, follows the legal standards of France, to which our institution has to conform. Therefore, lawful payroll, uninterrupted payment of insurance contributions for employees and strictly protected labor rights in conjunction with occasional modifications to the legislation and periodic state inspections, make the legitimate operation of the orphanage absolutely essential to its viability.
The recent visit (on August 9) of Her Excellency Mrs. Emilienne Raoul, Minister of Social Affairs, testifies to the proper functioning of the institution as she not only publicly expressed congratulatory wishes for its excellent living conditions, but also delivered the document of its permit renewal to its Director.
However, the proper functioning of the orphanage requires large amounts of money as well. The full board of the 24 children with three meals per day, clothing and footwear, the school costs, the purchase of medicines, the maintenance of the building complex, the wages of the employees as well as the fees of the technical schools for the vocational education and training of the older children, are a permanent concern of the pastor. Besides his paternal anxiety for the orthodox upbringing of those young orphans, ensuring the total amount of 3,000 euros per month needed to address these costs is a continuous struggle for the Bishop.
Therefore, it is easily understood that the words of praise, the expressions of compassion and understanding, the wishes for progress, strengthening and fruition of this struggle, despite the good intentions of the well-wishers, are not enough…
- Who can understand the anguish of the Shepherd, when the night finds him anxiously praying to God for the revelation of a practical and effective solution which will ensure at least the food for these 24 children…?
- Who can feel the pain of his soul when he makes entreaties for a little money for the orphans, but receives negative responses due to the current economic downturn…?
- How many souls can realize that an Orthodox orphanage is not only a place for the children’s survival and protection, but it is actually one Christian family in which the life-stricken child should be moulded into a responsible orthodox person and an honest member of the society …?
The loving support and financial assistance of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity meets the needs of our young children only partly. Despite their brotherly intentions, this blessed support is not sufficient, since the costs are constant, the difficult times and the needs of the Orthodox Mission all over the world plentiful and urgent.
My brethren, allow me to express my humble view of the mission: it is neither a story of romance nor one of adventure, and it is definitely not a field of collecting challenging experiences in Africa, this ever- fascinating in terms of natural beauty continent. The mission is a joint task of the heavenly ecclesiastical Body (i.e., the church militant), in accordance with the Sunday sermons, the Apostolic and Patristic tradition and the two thousand-year old church history, order and experience, without discrimination. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
And as the King Jesus Christ on the Day of Judgement will judge us on the basis of our love for the fellow man, according to His words, ” For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me…’ (Matthew 25:35-39), let us all consider honestly the size of love that prevails in our hearts, that kind of love which, if we genuinely accept as a way of existence and as a natural outcome of the Orthodox convictions, knows how to eliminate long distances, surpass physical barriers, financial crises and personal priorities; ”for God loveth a cheerful giver” (ΙΙ Cor. 9:7). Amen!
Panteleimon of Brazzaville