My Dear Brothers in Christ,
It is with great joy and with feelings of deep gratitude that I contact you again to inform you of the new blessings that the Omni-benevolent God has bestowed upon our Missionary Diocese. After the three-year pandemic, the joy of life is returning to this humble corner of our planet, Central Tanzania, and I believe that we have all become wiser than before because we have learned from our mistakes. With a new air of optimism and with the prayers of our Missionary Patriarch, all my fellow bishops and I continue the transmission of our Holy faith in every corner of Africa.
It is true that throughout Africa, your charity, the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity of Thessaloniki, leads the way in works of giving and love, helping all of us whom the grace of God has commanded to serve Him in this ministry, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”(1 Cor. 2:2). As our contemporary Saint Sophronius of Essex says, “Christ is victorious not as a crucifier, but as a Crucified “! Thus, let us not expect comfort and ease in our life, wherever we live, whatever we do, because Christ Himself showed us that the way to the bliss of Paradise goes through the Cross. This, my brothers, is our daily comfort and consolation: through daily difficulties, we become partakers of Christ’s sufferings, and if He Himself wills, of his glory as well. I remember one day many years ago when I first came to Arusha as a priest, I was confronted with sorrow and temptations when my cell phone rang; it was the late Blessed Elder Cyril from the Monastery of Saint David in Evia, and to my great surprise he asked me: “Tell me, who took you there? Wasn’t it Christ who took you there? So don’t be sad, because He Himself is bound to help you!” For so many years in Africa I have borne in my mind and heart this conversation of the Holy Elder, because the difficulties we have to face never end, but Christ works in mysterious ways!
Dear brothers, the presence of your Fraternity is, as I said, constant and encouraging. As our Patriarch very nicely says, “you are the Fellow-Cyrenians in our difficult missionary work. With the continued help of your Fraternity, we strive to meet the countless needs of our flock. You support us in every need that emerges; from the needs of the Clinic that you supply us with the medicines every month, to the drilling of boreholes through which you constantly help us to provide water to thousands of people, from the soup kitchens for our orphans to the reconstruction of so many Churches where the name of the Holy God is glorified, and wherever and whenever we need you to strengthen us. This is what we know as “Christian love”, that is, to help your brother not only with words but mainly with deeds. This used to be a matter of course, but nowadays it has become a very rare thing…
In some of our previous communications, we informed you about the completion of the construction of the Holy Church of Saints Panteleimon and Athanasios in Kalenga, Iringa, one more project also funded by your Fraternity. It is the sixth Holy Church that your Fraternity has blessed us with in the seven years that I have served as a Bishop in Central Tanzania, while together we have drilled twelve boreholes! The flowing river that springs from your noble hearts is capable of quenching the thirst of thousands of our brothers in Tanzania.
Currently, my brothers, dozens of fronts are opening before us. The work of the Arusha Mission Center with the Church of Our Lady has been launched. So once again, we are making an appeal to your kind heart for help and support. This Holy Church will make the Orthodox presence stronger in the city of Arusha. In the religious syncretism that prevails, our Virgin Mary will be the permanent point of reference and consolation of our believers. God’s blessings, however, do not cease. Along with the work in the city of Arusha, and in the region of Iringa, Orthodoxy is also flourishing further south, at the other end of the country, on the border with Zambia and Malawi, in the regions of Mbeya and Makambako. The distances we are talking about are huge; imagine that in order to go from Arusha-located in the north of the country next to Mount Kilimanjaro and the border with Kenya- to Iringa- located in the center of the country- we have to travel about 800 kilometers, and from Iringa to reach Mbeya, which is on the border with Zambia and Malawi, we need another 400 kilometers. In other words, to get from one end of our Diocese to the other, we have to travel over a thousand kilometers! But God works in many miraculous ways for His Church!
The bridge that connected the Orthodox Church with these regions is Emilian from Mbeya, a devout young man who heard about Orthodoxy, approached us, lived with us for a long time in the Kintamali Center, was catechized, and on the Holy Saturday of 2022 received Holy Baptism, experiencing the resurrection of his soul.
Emilian is about to be ordained a priest, to minister to the Church in his area. With the donations of some Mission friends from Greece, we have already acquired two plots of land in the regions of Mbeya and Makambako, where, with the help of God and the support of your Fraternity, we intend to begin the necessary work for the construction of churches and Mission centers. It is what we usually say, that God goes before us in Africa and we follow. He opens roads where there were no roads; and if our Orthodoxy continues to live, “it is because God willed it so”, as the late blessed Patriarch of Alexandria Parthenios III used to say.
Please, my brothers, pray that the seed of Orthodoxy may find fertile ground in this corner of Tanzania, so that until the end of time the name of the Most Holy Triune God may be praised and magnified!
Feeling deeply grateful for your willing assistance in our struggle, we pray to the philanthropic Lord to lavish His grace upon you, give you and your families good health and bless you abundantly! Best wishes to all of you.
With heartfelt gratitude
and brotherly love,
✝ Agathonikos of Arusha