Arrival in Guinea
The departure procedures of the country were far simpler. So were those of arrival in Guinea. Testing for Ebola was simpler and without special precautions. The traffic though was chaotic. With so many people around, how was it possible to control the epidemic? Of course in every public space, hotel, restaurant, civil services, embassies, mobile telephone offices, there was temperature screening. The limit was up to 37.9. If your temperature was higher, no entry was allowed and the competent services could be informed. However, I did not happen to see any incident myself. Particularly in small towns I did not notice any special concern. In the capital there were several Ebola-related road posters, but in small towns people showed that they had overcome it. The truth is that after living with the epidemic for so many months, it had become a part of their life and ceased to worry them. Some argue that the Ebola has been eliminated, but the international organizations continue to talk about Ebola in order to raise funds. Others wonder why the US was involved in the fight against Ebola only in Liberia and not in the other countries. The bottom line is that Ebola is there. Whether it came from Congo or was created in a laboratory, the people are dying. The strange thing about this epidemic is that the virus does not die along with the victim. It remains alive in the dead body and is waiting for the first living organism that will approach in order to infect it. That is why most victims were infected while attending funerals.
Located in Kindia, the first major city after the capital Conakry, in the Greek block (6,500 sq m) in the beautiful tropical African landscape, further beautified by palms, mangoes and children’s smiles, the Sacred Church of Saints Parthenius and Charalambos is under construction along with the Orthodox Academy. The church will soon be ready. We performed the Little Blessing service and then chanted the Salutations to the Virgin Mary. We also made a supplication to God because despite the big economic crisis, with the help of a pious couple from Trimiklini (a village in the Limassol district of Cyprus) and the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, the work progressed very fast. Then we visited the Academy. There more work is needed. We made some operational changes in the plans. In this project we have the support of the Pancyprian Missionary Association “Saint Cosmas the Aetolian” on the ‘initiative of our beloved Protopresbyter Michael Christodoulides, recently awarded by our Patriarch the Cross of St. Mark as a gift in return for his great love for ministry in Africa. Our Academy will initially have three classrooms, a library, a staff room and a computer room.
With the assistance of the Administration of the National Bank of Greece and the initiative of the former Managing Director Alexander Tourkolias, who showed great sensibility to the risk of the epidemic and responded immediately, we visited local schools and handed out antiseptics, soaps and mobile water containers for washing children’s hands upon arrival and departure from school.
I also had the opportunity to attend a traditional wedding. Preparations began early in the morning. All the women gathered in the courtyard of the groom’s house and were preparing the food. Some were peeling potatoes, others were frying them in a large pot, others were cleaning vegetables, others were preparing rice, others meat. All together as a family were helping to prepare everything properly. The men were helping the groom get adorned, some were preparing the music for the feast, while others were greeting and welcoming guests. Some women would stop the food preparation for a while to dance themselves. Generally, the atmosphere was very nice and cheerful.
Water well drilling
Since we have our own commitments as well, we left the fun of marriage and went to the place where the workers were struggling with the limited means they had at their disposal in order to open a well, so that the local people could have access to clean drinking water. This well was another gift of love from the “Orthodox Missionary Fraternity.” Safe drinking water is extremely valuable, particularly in Africa, where women and children are forced to walk 5 and 10 km, twice a day, to carry relatively clean water to their home for the family’s needs.
In the capital Conakry and on private property granted by Orthodox Ukrainians, I officiated the Divine Liturgy. Before the liturgy several people asked to confess. I was particularly touched when a 50- year- old Ukrainian came for confession, who said he had never confessed in his whole life and that he had not been to church or received Holy Communion for 18 years! “Who is so great a God as our God?”!
Searching for church construction land in Conakry
Along with the devout Ukrainians who do business in Guinea, we visited districts of the capital Conakry to find suitable land for the construction of the Church. Some were pretty good, but the prices were unreachable. Nevertheless, we are confident that the good Lord will pave the way and soon the right place will be found.
The time of return had finally come. A little virus caused a slight increase in my temperature. I was worried because upon departure at the airport I would pass through the holy inquisition before boarding the plane, and in case I had low grade fever, I feared they might put me in quarantine. I followed the instructions of the physician from Athens health inspection department that I visited before my departure from Greece and got some antipyretic tablets. Fortunately everything went well. I passed through all 5 controls successfully. After Morocco no one seemed to care about Ebola. It was now past. I hope God grants elimination of the deadly epidemic in West Africa as soon as possible so that Ebola becomes past for our fellow humans there.
Archbishop Georgios of Guinea