Dear Mission friends and supporters,
It is with brotherly love that I write to you in order to share with you the story of the conversion of me and my family to Orthodoxy.
In Colombia, Orthodoxy is unknown. Most people are Roman Catholics and are nescient of the existence of the Orthodox Church. In Roman Catholicism, priests are not permitted to get married. My wife and I wanted to devote our lives to the work of God, but we wanted to do so through the vocation of marriage. A Roman Catholic priest with whom we were aqcuainted suggested our seeking Orthodoxy.
By studying the Holy Bible, we came to realize that the true faith is not with the papists, when we read the following: “The Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry” (I Timothy 4:1-3). Thus, we understood that this prohibition had been imposed by people and not by God! Glory to God, we found the true faith!
In order to learn about Orthodoxy, we traveled to Venezuela and Argentina. There I met some Serbian Orthodox and I consequently went to Serbia, where I was ordained a deacon. Later on, in Colombia, bishop Athenagoras visited Medellín and invited us to become members of His diocese. Four years ago I was ordained a priest by His Eminence Athenagoras, and we have since striven for the growth of Colombian Orthodoxy.
His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico is a very good man who has greatly labored for Orthodoxy in our region. He is the man who opened the doors of Orthodoxy to our country and has sent many people to Greece so that they can learn about Orthodoxy in depth and communicate this knowledge to their countries. My eldest son is among them and is currently studying Theology in Thessaloniki.
Our parish community lies in Cereté. We celebrate the Divine Liturgy once a month at my parents’ house, because I live in Medellín and the journey to Cereté is 10 hours long by bus. Thankfully, our community has grown a lot and I will now move to Cereté permanently with my wife and our three children. This community, however, is very poor and cannot provide financial support to our parish. Last June we conducted the first Orthodox wedding. In Cereté there are 300 Orthodox faithful, 40 of whom have been baptized and the rest are catechumens. We want to share the true faith with every person who seeks the real Church that preaches God’s love.
Fr. Rafael Padilla