Every man coming into this world has derived from God, since he is a creature of His love. Therefore, Orthodoxy, the true family of God, is the natural state for man. Seeking God is as natural as being thirsty and seeking water, or being hungry and seeking food.
Of course, we, Greeks, have had the blessing to be born in an Orthodox place, in a place “soaked” in immaculate Orthodoxy since the early apostolic times. It is not accidental the fact that Saint Lydia of Philippi, who got the holy baptism from the hands of Saint Paul in AD 49 in the Zygactes River in Eastern Macedonia, is the first European to embrace Christianity! Therefore, we have the privilege to be spiritually edified in the Church from our infancy.
However, in the contemporary missionary field things move the other way around. The inextinguishable attraction towards God that burns in the people’s souls becomes the magnet and the mystical voice that calls the Orthodox Church to the depths of tropical rainforests to articulate the word of salvation and preach the “Unknown God”, whom our brothers have been seeking for centuries. And because these people still preserve an honest intention, a simplistic way of thinking and a humble spirit, they accept the certainty of God’s existence much more naturally and spontaneously.
In our thought and heart we still keep alive the first encounter we had with the Orthodox Pygmies in the North of the Congo Republic six years ago. This is an ancient people living in the tropical forests, subsisting on what nature has to offer, heartily courteous and goodhearted. When I met them, they didn’t speak about problems or future plans. Their language lacks a future tense; there is no “will” in their dialect. Using the present tense in their talks, they experience in practice the constant present of the liturgical time, without plans for tomorrow!
Being their bishop, I tried to gradually delve into the Pygmy mindset and, in awe I realize that God has well prepared the ground in the people’s souls. Their daily life, even before they came to know the Church and be illumined by the Holy Spirit, professed this inquiry. The Pygmies worshipped, among others, the “unknown Creator of the world”, God, whom in their unique dialect they call “Kumba.” According to their worldview, the creation has always been sacred as a Kumba’s creature. Nobody can be rude against it. Nature gives everyone as much as they need to survive. For them it is a great faux pas to destroy the forest. You can only take whatever you need, nothing more. The baptism of the first Pygmy in the Oubangui River was the dawning of the Orthodox Mission in the northern Congo Republic. Just like Saint Lydia’s baptism on the banks of the river Zygactes.
All these prepared the ground for them to seek Orthodoxy on their own. They tirelessly looked for the Creator, they sought and they found. His providence unreservedly declares that the people of the jungle, the short Pygmies, are our true brothers who embrace the Church and along with us confess and worship the resurrected Christ.
It rests with our own love and decision to reveal to them the face of God with words of life and deeds of love, both spiritual and material. For centuries the Lord has blessed us to trumpet His orthodox faith to the world. Let’s not turn our back on the Lord’s commandment: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” As another Simon of Cyrene, it is your help that lifts the Cross which Christ carries all the way into the jungle, so that the propagation of the gospel in those rugged regions of Earth will be carried on and Christ will be resurrected in the hearts of our brothers. “For God loves a cheerful giver” (II Cor. 9:7).
† Panteleimon of Brazzaville & Gabon