Soup kitchen Meals for ever

Our daily effort to maintain what we so laboriously started is great. Experiencing, in our turn, the consequences of the crisis that has been tantalizing our homeland Greece in recent years, we are very often confronted with dilemmas and conflicts about how to manage the little money that comes to our hands, how to relieve and support our much-afflicted and long-suffering native Malawian brothers.

By the grace of God, so far we have begun many charitable efforts to alleviate the pain of the Malawians who live in this troubled country that has a load of problems and difficulties to face everyday…

Along with our incessant efforts to pass down our True and Living Orthodox Faith to our brothers here, we have launched a daily feeding program for 300 children.

This offering of love to the poor families of Malawi is really great, because our Mission is a daily concern for us and feeds a lot of children aged 3-5 with two meals, breakfast and lunch. This way, it relieves every poor parent who strives to fill their children’s hungry stomachs, but alongside, it takes advantage of the time that the children are under our protection so as to catechize them and educate them with the Orthodox faith.

In many parishes, the child-minding and feeding space is ours, thus the work is unhindered, with the exception of our permanent anxiety to be able to provide daily the necessary stuff for the food we promised to them.

However, in the parish of Saint Catherine, where the church has not yet been completed and the child-minding space is not ours, we have a lot of anxiety on a daily basis… Paying the rent, dealing with the services that visit us and are always trying to find anything that might serve as a pretext for imposing a fine, such as confined space, inappropriate toilets and many others. It is necessary to speed up the construction work and make this parish a privately-owned space that will house the 100 small children we host every day.

Our mind runs along with our imagination, and we have already started thinking about how to organize the new shelter, how to build the small toilets and the children’s wash basins with the little taps and how to make the playground pleasant so that the two or three years that the little African kids will live with us, be joyful, filled with sweet memories of the affection surrounding them on the part of the Orthodox Mission.

You cannot imagine the joy we see in the innocent faces of these little angels every time we give them food. They run longingly when their lunch is prepared and stretch out their weak hands to get their own dish. Very often we are told «more,» and we pray to God for this blessed soup kitchen program never to end.

Quite often, we are in great dilemmas, what kind of priorities we should put in our mission. However, these little kids hold such a special place in our hearts that almost always they come first. The wholehearted “thank you” often comes out of their lips and their hearts as they cry out «zikomo, zikomo», that is, “thank you” in their own language.

The person in charge of this ministry, Fr. Kallinikos, often tells us that we need to increase the quantity and quality of food so that the children can withstand hardships and the difficult environment they live in. We look at him uneasily and sadly. Everything requires sacrifice. The poverty that surrounds us prevents us from giving more. We do everything in our power, but we know this is not enough…

As long as the children are at the Mission, from morning till afternoon, they spend pleasant and blessed hours. But when they go home in the evenings, we know what awaits them. Their homes, made of mud and grass, are at risk of falling down in every strong downpour, especially during the rainy season. It is often the case that children are killed when the muddy brick- and -paper hut collapses onto them.

Other times in the evenings, when their parents have no food to give them for dinner, they tell them to be patient and on the next morning they will eat the blessed food of our Mission again. And that’s how these little children live, longing for the next morning, to come by our Mission and spend their whole day not only taking the two daily meals we offer them, but playing, laughing, singing beautiful children’s songs and at the same time learning short and practical prayers from our Church, such as «Holy God», « The Lord’s Prayer» and others. But they are really elated when we visit them and hand out to them a few little things that some good Christians have given us, like balloons, toys, candy… The biggest reward for us is when they embrace us joyfully, which is something words cannot possibly describe.

My brethren, we appeal to your kind heart for help and support and we earnestly ask you to pray to our Most Holy and Merciful Christ for the continuation of this noble work, and for making us worthy to humbly go on ministering to the needs of both these poor and needy children, and all our Malawian brothers in general. Amen.

Fr. Ermolaos Iatrou

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