Ivory Coast – the name alone sounds interesting. It is, of course, reminiscent of another era, a tough one, that of colonialism. The colonists then gave the countries names after the products they took from them. One night, from those typical of such tropical regions, my predecessor, His Eminence Metropolitan Narcissus of Naucratis, very wisely pointed out how much we, Orthodox Christians, differ from them. They insisted on grabbing what was most valuable to the countries, whereas we bring them what is most valuable to us, Orthodoxy.
In Abidjan, the capital city of Ivory Coast, we have our first parish with Fr. Jeremiah Behanzin as parish priest. Recently, two other priests have been ordained and two new centers of Orthodoxy have been created, two new parishes. In Akures village, 47 km away from Abidjan, where Fr. Sebastian Mahi serves, the sacred services are performed inside a straw hut. In Agboville, a town 70 km away from Abidjan, Fr. Albert Ebrin conducts the sacred services in a makeshift tent. Fortunately, with the help of a local believer, we have secured a plot of land on which a church building is already under construction. His Beatitude our Patriarch is also planning to have a clinic and a school built in this area.
Despite all the difficulties we face on the Coast – the need for church buildings not only in the two new parishes, but also in other suburbs of Abidjan, the necessity of continuous training of clergy as well as of finding prospective candidates to the priesthood – yet, our missionary zeal does not wane. This explains how Orthodoxy has traveled all the way through from Ivory Coast to Burkina Faso.
Accompanied by a group of believers, Fr. Jeremiah visited the neighboring country, and his contact with the natives there bore fruit. In a relatively short time, our first parish community was created. With the frequent visits of either Fr. Jeremiah or Fr. Albert, there were catechisms, baptisms, Divine Liturgies. A house in the Benogo region of Ouagadougou, the capital city, has been used for the conduction of the Sacred Mysteries and as a gathering place for the faithful.
With the spread of the pandemic, the borders between the countries have been closed. As a result, our faithful in Burkina Faso are deprived of the visits of our priests as well as of God’s blessing, since the Holy Mysteries cannot possibly be conducted without a priest. We pray that things change for the better soon. It is encouraging though that there is a newly-lit brother distinguished by his moral values, faith and thirst to know more and more of the Orthodox faith, who would make a good first permanent priest for our new parish community.
Even though things are not at all easy for our Mission, I do not lose faith as I remember the words of our Lord in the Gospel of Matthew (9:37), «The harvest is plentiful.» We may lack resources, but with God’s help along with your support and love, I strongly believe that everything will be accomplished, even if it takes more time.
Wishing in the Lord, † Peter of Accra