Where the sky smiles and the earth assents, there is a miracle unfolding in front of you, as Orthodoxy takes its first steady steps!
This time we are here in Southern Congo at the Holy Diocese of Katanga, whose see is in Kolwezi. Reaching this destination, you behold a small organized city: St. George’s Church, the episcopal office with the radio station, the hostels, the boarding school, the hall of events and seminars, the school building complex with Primary, Middle and High School, as well as warehouses, where the farm products of the Mission are stored.
His Eminence Meletios surrounded us with cordial hospitality throughout my stay along with Mrs. Angeliki Arnaouti, educator and secretary of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity. Missionary Fr. Efthimios co-ordinated our program, attended to our needs, and at the same time oversaw all missionary work. Mrs. Theano, a formidable figure called «mother of the Mission», gave her tireless and cordial love daily, as she has been doing for 30 years now.
The Mission in Kolwezi began in 1972 from the late missionary Fr. Chrysostomos Papasarantopoulos, the spiritual founder of our Fraternity. In 1973 he was succeeded by Father Amphilochios Tsoukos, who called over John, later Father Cosmas of Gregoriou, who, with his sacrificial love and offer, consolidated the edifice of the Mission. Behind St. George’s Church is the grave of the late Fr. Cosmas, to whom we bow, paying tribute! He fell asleep in the Lord on January 27, 1989, after a road accident.
Since 1989 his work has been continued by His Eminence Meletios, who has been rapidly increasing and enriching the legacy he has received. What he is particularly vigilant about is the spiritual training of the locals in the Orthodox Faith, transferring the spirit of the Athonite tradition into the liturgical life and instilling into them the experience of inner truth. For this reason, there are monthly seminars for priests, catechists and chanters, which are organized every year.
Today, 160 parishes and over 60,000 Orthodox Christians are under the supervisory jurisdiction of the Holy Metropolis of Katanga. Another concern of the Mission is the consolidation of monasticism, which is the reason for the creation of the Holy Apostles Monastery a few years ago. All this time Abbot Barnabas has been making superhuman efforts for its proper operation. There is also a convent, that of Saint Nektarios, with 5 nuns and their Abbess, Mother Markella. The native nuns also serve at the administration of the Mission Hospital.
By running our daily schedule, we arrived at the wonderful hospital, whose operation is perfect and exemplary. There, I was given a comfortable practice room to conduct daily ophthalmological tests to the residents of Kolwezi.
Our account at the end of the trip was full of rich experiences. I feel deeply touched by these people, whose life is filled with devoutness, joy and gratitude, for the gates of the Orthodox Mission were opened to them, and they were offered the treasure of Truth.
And now on the way back, I am thinking of our little homeland, Greece, where there is a tree planted like the one that produces incense. For the incense to spurt from the tree trunk as a distillate, the tree has to be carved in many spots, exuding the product with the finest fragrance all over the world, from East to West and from North to South! The more they wound this «tree», the more intensely the fragrance of Greek Orthodox culture is offered as a sacrifice to the peoples of this world!
Ophthalmologist – Board Member