It could be said that our Missionary course has neither a beginning nor an end. We set out on a mission without knowing where we will end up: a life of adventures and surprises from one end of the African continent to the other. We still have a long way to go in order to fulfill our sacred mission. We may get tired, but it seems that God cares so much about His work that He takes good care of us as regards meeting our basic and essential needs.
I never expected or imagined that God would make me worthy of reaching once again this point of extreme condescension and blessing. It was not something that just happened magically. It took a lot of superhuman efforts, hunger and thirst, fatigue, sleeplessness, endless hours of travelling by car in difficult conditions! Another thing that troubled us was the encounter with wild animals, which seemed to be everywhere! The case of an aggressive elephant in the middle of our journey was something we will never forget; thank God it was daytime, otherwise it would have torn us apart. Nature is beautiful, animals small and big. We thanked God for creating everything in wisdom and for saving us.
We arrived in the desert where the famous Turkana tribe lives and works: a primitive and unique tribe, which still retains all the manners and customs of their ancestors and older generations. They claim to be descendants of Alexander the Great and are proud of this, since some of the objects they use, such as the cloak that covers their bodies, the helmet and others seem to justify their theory.
New Year’s Eve! It was raining day and night. How could we go to our Orthodox church for the New Year’s worship service? It seemed impossible, but we had to and we dared. It does not matter that we walked in the mud and found it a little difficult to reach. The whole discomfort was worth it. What wonderful melodies, what a feast for the eyes as well as the ears! And of course, chanted in the local dialect. Then we had the chance to conduct the Divine Liturgy and the ordination of a deacon. The message of Orthodoxy was heard so loudly that it definitely made the people living on the border start wondering and wanting to learn more about our faith. What a blessed New Year Day it was! As always, after the sacramental thanksgiving feast, traditional dances and songs followed with the dancers making graceful movements and leaps.
This is not as far as we went though. We visited the other two parish communities as well. The journey was difficult, since due to the continuous rainfall, the supposed road had turned into countless pond-size puddles! We saw the work carried out by our priests despite all the tropical and natural changes and interventions. Our churches are beautiful, imposing in the wilderness, consecrated in previous visits (St. John the Forerunner, St. Nicholas, St. Peter the Apostle), a living testimony of Orthodoxy in the middle of nowhere.
However, the biggest problem that people here have to face is that of hunger. Nowadays that we are supposed to live in a “civilized society”, it is totally unbelievable and unacceptable to have fellow human beings dying of hunger anywhere in the world. It is a shame on the human race. These people are literally starving! We had to help them in any possible way. Our Church is at the forefront of such situations. We bought food supplies to distribute among the needy and destitute, the forgotten creatures of God who are suffering, and managed to give them a little joy and hope.
In one case we also distributed cooked rice to small children. This is not a common situation compared with what we take for granted as regards food. People, young and old, starving to death! We thanked our Lord because despite all the difficulties, we were able to fulfill this mission as well.
In the next few days, we continued our ministry in other areas, too. Apart from the sacraments of our Church, particularly the Holy Eucharist, all the services that we conducted, such as weddings, sanctifications, funerals and others, were attended by a large number of people. The churches were all crowded to suffocation, with the faithful attending and actively participating in all the services, which was something amazing. It also shows that God is watching over us too, protecting and supporting us so that we can share life and His Resurrection all together.
From there, after this long journey, we arrived in Lamos, that is, from the north we reached the East, where we conducted the sacred services in a makeshift church dedicated to St. Panteleimon- we moved towards the end of the Indian Ocean, exactly next to Islamic Somalia! In the meantime, it is known here that fanatical Muslims literally slaughtered Christians mercilessly, which is why there were police and army everywhere. We, of course, would walk after making the sign of the cross. As for the army and the police, seeing a white man traveling to these places despite the danger, filled them with suspicion.
Thus, on arriving at the Indian Ocean, we started preparations for the Blessing of the Waters service. Just then, two military vehicles stopped nearby and armed soldiers wearing masks jumped out and took up positions, as if ready for action. As calmly as I could, I put on my stole and my little omophorion, and we started conducting the service. As soon as the soldiers realized that our purpose was purely religious, they lowered their weapons and left calmly. We continued our service.
On the same day that the waters of the Indian Ocean were sanctified, a bus carrying a lot of passengers fell into the sea off the ocean and sank. Amazingly enough, all the passengers were rescued! Not a single one drowned. What a miracle indeed! Someone who incidentally watched the whole scene was more than surprised. He happened to be friends on Facebook with one of my kids. He called my son and asked him who was this priest who threw a cross into the ocean, and mine explained to him that it was our Orthodox Bishop. And then he, without knowing much about miracles, exclaimed “Well, this is why all the people were saved and no one drowned, since the Bishop sanctified the waters of the Indian Ocean!”
O Lord, how great are Thy works!