Dear Brothers in Christ,
Lately, in the blessed field of Mission and always by the grace of God, we have experienced many and great blessings which I wish to share with you because to a great extent, we owe their realization to you.
On July 30th, we conducted the service for the laying of the foundation stone of the Church dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Savior and to St. Porphyrios the Kapsokalyvite in the village of Ingagidugu, which is perched on a beautiful mountain at a height of 2,000 meters. For many years we were performing the Divine Liturgy in a grass hut, which has recently been burned down; the only thing that was not destroyed in the fire was the carton where the Holy Vessels were kept! Our sorrow for the destruction of the grass hut was replaced by relief thanks to the immediate response of your Fraternity and your wish to rebuild a stone church, which to us sounded like an answer to our prayers from Heaven. It seems that the Lord Himself is undertaking this work in His Almighty hands, and we are merely His laborers who minister to His plans.
In August, an important project was completed; that of the bore drilling next to the Church of St. John the Theologian in Ibongo. We found a subterranean river at a depth of 110 meters in an area where the land is totally barren and burned-up, and both humans and livestock were suffering from severe water scarcity for many years. On the Feast day of St. John the Theologian, that is to say, on September 26th, in the same village, we performed the church dedication as well as the first Divine Liturgy in the aforementioned church, whose construction was also funded by your revered Fraternity. A large number of faithful were gathered to venerate the Saint and render thanksgiving for the bore drilling and the beautiful church, which admittedly is the gem of the region. With one heart and one voice we prayed to the Merciful Lord for the repose of the soul of His servant Parthena, who did not live long enough to rejoice her own gift, the beauteous church that she herself donated. Undoubtedly, her tender soul from Heaven will be able to see it and will be filled with pride and joy.
We say in our homeland, «One swallow does not make a summer,» which is true, because Mission and the Evangelization of nations is not the work of man, but a mandate which was given to the whole of the Church. This is what I was thinking on the way to a remote area, where we were invited to talk about our Orthodox faith. It is an area four hours distance by car, south of our Mission Center in Iringa region, where the inhabitants heard about our Church and with genuine interest and thirst for God, asked us to visit them. It is strange for the human mind to understand the manifold ways in which the Divine Grace works!
It was there, in that distant village, Masenge, in the area of Dabanga in southern Tanzania that the people first heard about the Orthodox Church two thousand years after Christ! They were savoring our words like rain falling on a thirsty land. For four hours, they were incessantly inquiring about our holy faith, thus revealing an unquenchable thirst to learn everything. They asked us not to forget them and visit them again to prepare them to receive the Holy Baptism. I could not help thinking then, “Where are the laborers of the vineyard? Where are the new priests who will undertake the holy mission of spreading the Word of God and preaching the Gospel? Unfortunately, lately, we the Orthodox have been competing with each other in order to prove who is more Orthodox than the other. This has resulted in schisms, accusations, and divisions … and the blessed Mission field stays uncared for, unwatered and barren. Why, Oh Lord, should there be such decadence? When shall we wake up from our deep miserable sleep? Where is the youth of our Orthodoxy? Where have the zeal and the enthusiasm for the dissemination and the sharing of the Gospel of Christ gone? Why have they been lost?
In closing my article, with infinite gratitude and positive thinking I pray wholeheartedly to Him who said, « And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” (Matt. 10: 42), to give you your worthy salary and bless with His heavenly Grace your life and the works of your hands, and instill in the hearts of the Orthodox the zeal for Mission! Amen, may it be so!
With sincere gratitude
† Agathonikos of Arusha