His Eminence Metropolitan Ignatios of Pentapolis, retired Hierarch of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, fell asleep in the Lord today, 9th November 2017.
The late Hierarch, born George Mandelides in Edessa in 1930, where he completed his schooling. As a holder of a degree from the Theological Academy of Athens in 1952, he was ordained Deacon in 1968, Presbyter and Archimandrite in 1969. For forty years he served as a preacher (originally as a layman and member of the Brotherhood of Theologians “Sotir”, and then from 1969 as a priest in the Holy Metropolis of Larissa, until 1998, contributing a rich pastoral effort, as an assistant to his fiery missionary elder, Archimandrite Hariton Pnevmatikakis, in Kananga, Congo. In 1997, he was placed in charge of the missionary squad, by His Eminence Timotheos, Metropolitan of Central Africa. On 14th March 2003 (passing of the late Timotheos), he was elected by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, as Metropolitan of Central Africa, ordained in the Patriarchal Church of St Savvas on 16th March 2003, by the late Pope and Patriarch Petros VII of Alexandria. On 4th March 2010, he resigned for health reasons and His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, honorably elevated him on 23 November of the same year to titular Metropolitan of Pentapolis, given him for the first time the title of the Diocese of St Nektarios, the Wonderworker, Bishop of Pentapolis. From that time, up until the day of his passing, 9th November 2017, the day on which our Church celebrates the memory of St Nektarios of Pentapolis, he gave himself to the service of the Missions, remaining in the ramparts and giving himself for the glory of God and His Church.
His funeral service will take place on Saturday 11th November 2017 at 11.00a.m. in the Holy Church of St Nicholas Pefkakia, and the interment of the late Metropolitan will take place at the Zographos Cemetery. May the memory of the ardent Missionary and honest worker of the Gospel, Metropolitan Ignatios of Pentapolis, be eternal!
The main feature of water is the flow, and when the water flows, it can hardly be intercepted. Even the biggest dams people build may seem powerless to stop it. In the Old Testament, namely in the Book of Genesis, it becomes pretty clear what “deluge” means.
However, water has another feature, its unifying power. Seas, lakes and rivers unite places, allow the passage of vessels, transfer knowledge and goods and contribute to creation, progress and unity. Let us also remember the Book of Genesis, where God’s Spirit “moved upon the face of the waters.” (Gen. 1: 2), and the beginning of the world’s creation became a reality.
Epiphany means the time of the sanctification of all things, man and creation, by the Grace of the unifying Spirit. Experiencing this truth a few days ago we, the Orthodox Christians of the newly planted Church of Congo-Brazzaville, headed for the banks of the Congo River in order to participate in the blessing of creation. We went to the river, which on that day was a mental image of our own Jordan River, where we were all spiritually renewed and saw Christ, the True Light that enlightens and sanctifies every man who comes into the world. The “King-River Congo,” according to a native expression, is the biblical Jordan River that comes as far as the African equator, since the water does not make discriminations, to irrigate the land of this Orthodox community and give life to it. This is the way God “Who has revealed Himself” gathers His Church and strengthens her.
We went out of the church of the Lord’s Resurrection, located in the country’s capital city, having partaken of the Body and Blood of Christ our Lord, aiming to go in procession to the banks of the second largest river in the world. The processions of the Orthodox Faith have a confessional as well as a didactic character, let alone for us here in Congo-Brazzaville, since the period in which we have been living – from the establishment of the local Orthodox Church until today – might as well be characterized as “Apostolic”! Besides, it is only thirty two years since then. Thus we are experiencing our own first Christian century in the year 2017, that is, symbolically speaking, we are in our own “32 AD”, whatever that means in practice …
This is the glory of the Church: Christ and His “children of light”, who tirelessly confess Jesus Christ as the world’s Savior and Redeemer! Here, our processions differ from the respective ones of our blessed homeland, since there is no official religion in this country. Here, our procession passes through our fellow citizens, who either engage themselves in traditional religious practices and rituals, or practice sorcery, or belong to another Christian confession, or experience the chaotic delusion of a sect (a person-centered “religious” group with a Christian disguise) hurt just as deeply by prejudice. The Epiphany procession is a collective expression of the Truth of the Triune God in a society enslaved to superstition and inequality, in a society characterized by lack of opportunities, in a society where the human person is most often devalued.
We tossed the precious cross into the Congo River, our own Jordan River. We can see that both rivers, the Congo and the Jordan, vivify God’s creation with their waters and that they are flowing at the same time. On our return to the Capital Cathedral we sang the psalm “who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God that doest wonders”. Christ promised us that he would not leave us orphaned. We can see that in the Epiphany procession, which is growing year after year, increasing in attendance and participation.
Our brothers are seeking the Light! O Lord, keep Your Light shining for us, inundating with the momentum of the Holy Spirit not only the natives’ souls so that they can experience Your heavenly blessings, but also our Orthodox Greek brothers, so that they do not forget in the whirlpool of life the offer of actual love and help for these African souls who have just tasted the redemptive power of their own”Jordan River”!
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Thousands of people have been infected with Ebola virus in Sierra Leone. Pestilence and famine have taken over the country, since food prices are skyrocketing.
Responding to an urgent appeal by the missionary Fr. Themistoklis Adamopoulos, caring people from Greece and abroad financially supported our Fraternity’s efforts for one more shipment of humanitarian aid to Sierra Leone.
25 tonnes of rice, milk, oil, pasta, salt, clothes, toys and ecclesiastical items were bought, gathered and wrapped up at our warehouse in Philyron.
On Sunday, October 19, a notable turnout of young people joined us for loading the container that left for Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone.
We want to thank all of you for the immediate financial, material and spiritual support you provided for our suffering brothers, especially our donors from Florina and Australia who contributed richly.
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On August 2013, three members of our Fraternity visited Sumatra, Indonesia. There they were received by the Indonesian missionary Fr. Chrysostomos Manalu, who showed them around the places of Orthodox missionary and charitable presence.
Enjoy the missionary zeal and the proto-Christian experiences of the Orthodox community of Medan. This Pascha, let’s keep them in our prayers!
By the grace of God and with the blessing of His Beatitude Pope and Patriarch Theodore, our Church’s mission and charity work progresses to the glory of God and to the salvation of His people. The words of the Lord referring to the Gospel are always contemporary in our minds as well as in actual practice.
It is our love for our brothers that makes us want their evangelism and the salvation of their souls and it is this love that always keeps us alert and in readiness. With the eyes of our soul, we see in depth the holy mission of our Church spread the sacred Gospel so that these people become real children of God by grace through the Holy Sacraments.
Last September, many people who had been catechized before, partook of the first Mystery of our Church, Baptism. “Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth”. The church fonts as well as the rivers become the Siloam’s fonts that regenerate our newly-illumined brothers. This joy gives us strength to defy the troubles, discomforts and dangers that we encounter and continue our struggle in distant Madagascar.
We felt the same joy when we finished the construction of a middle school in Mahasolo village, where several years ago we built the sacred church of the Holy Trinity. I remember old Abraham and his wife Sarah, full of enthusiasm and love for Orthodoxy, becoming Orthodox and building a church-a mud hut at the beginning. Since then, he has been keeping a guest book, and every time we go there, he reminds us which priest celebrated the Divine Liturgy the previous time and when-that is, the exact date, and his signature underneath. Indeed, what a moving thing to do!
After the school construction was finished, the Consecration and Opening date was set with the participation of political authorities, the schools of the surrounding areas, as well as the Orthodox school, which is temporarily housed in an old building. The celebration began with the rise of the two flags (of Greece and Madagascar), and our emotion culminated when the national anthem of Greece was heard. With their work, our missionaries far and wide are worthy representatives of our small but honored homeland.
There were speeches given by many people about the nice work that will offer the poor children of this remote village the chance to attend school tuition-free and help them further their education so that they will become people useful to the society. Here we would like to express our deep gratitude to the school donor for his generous support in memory of his late daughter Despina. Eternal be her memory!
The missionary struggle continues in the charity field as well, with the female orphanage being the first and most important project. The orphanage has been operating since last year and today it hosts 50 orphaned girls. We earnestly thank the anonymous donor of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity for the orphanage’s interior equipment. Several beds have been built on the first floor as well as wardrobes. Also on the ground floor there is a refectory with several tables and seats for approximately 150 children. We praise God for His providence and His care not only for the construction of the building but also for its interior fittings.
Girls of our orphanage
There are two problems that we have had to face for the last two years. The first is the typhoons, which leave considerable damage on their way. Due to landslide, two churches in different villages have suffered great damage and have been rendered non-operational. The sacred services take place in schools next to the churches. Since this has been going on for quite some time now, the Orthodox Christians are, in a way, complaining and are asking for a new church to carry out their worship duties. We earnestly appeal to the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity and to all Christians to help us rebuild these sacred churches. We are well aware of the crisis that our country is going through, as well as most people’s narrow resources. However, we believe that when we give from the little we have, this money is blessed by God, therefore the new sacred church will eventually be blessed and rebuilt. Severe weather conditions cause big damage to buildings (churches and schools), with a resulting need for constant repairs and maintenance. Strong winds blow off buildings roofs, as the day before yesterday the mighty winds ripped off St. Christina’s church roof-top in the Tulear region.
The second problem started at the beginning of October. Since then, the capital city of Antananarivo has been infested with mice. The people are terrified as there are many victims of the infectious diseases that mice carry and spread every year. All schools are closed.
The construction of the Ascension Church in the Tulear region has been completed, and will soon be consecrated. This was another great blessing coming from a donor of your Fraternity, whom we are grateful to. What is pending though, is the completion of the interior equipment. Once again, I appeal to your kind heart for support- to the extent this is possible- so that the churches can operate regularly and the faithful can perform their duties unhindered.
Finally, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, which always stands by our missionary work by implementing new projects and by providing financial support for the general needs of the Mission.
Every Divine Liturgy is a synopsis of the Life of Christ. A synopsis that is not symbolic but real. What we have seen, what we have touched, we receive it. It is the Body of Jesus Christ. Thus, through the Divine Liturgy, we participate in the Life of Christ, which for all of us is called Church Life, while partaking of the Body and the Blood of the Lord, we are integral members of the heavenly One, Holy, Indivisible, Catholic Orthodox Church.
The earthly Life of Christ ends with His promise to the Apostles to go to the ends of the world to preach the Gospel to all nations baptizing them in the name of the Holy Trinity. At the dismissal of the Eucharist Gathering Rite, the last words of the priest give us “Blessing of the Lord and Mercy”, since we have tasted the Heavenly Bread. We come out of the Church filled with the overflowing blessing of God, undeniable witnesses to His Mercy.
It is the “Blessing of the Lord and Mercy” that we carry on with the Mission to our African brothers. We came to their hospitable land and established local Churches by the Grace of God and with the support of the Greek brothers so that the Holy Spirit comes down and enlightens this thirsty for Eternal Life land and the Light of Truth shines for every man who comes into this world whether that place be Greece, Russia, Ecuador, the distant countries of Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon, Central and West – Equatorial Africa…
There is no Orthodox church in the center of Congo-Brazzaville. Yet, the state has already offered a large plot of land to the Orthodox Diocese, requesting in the most formal way the establishment of a place of worship of the Triune God! “Come over into Macedonia and help us!” Brothers, help build a Church, ring other orthodox bells on the continent of the future and dissolve evil darkness. “Let the light of Christ shine before men so that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven”!
A similar problem exists in Gabon, even though Orthodoxy was officially recognized there a year ago, an act necessary for our Church to operate freely in that place. The absence of a sacred church prevents the establishment of an Orthodox parish community, which will be the nucleus for spreading the message of the Resurrection across this country. Gabon is particularly plagued by emerging religious movements and neo-Protestant organizations of American origin, by heresy and fallacy, by superstition and fears cultivated by the spiritual leaders of traditional religions with the aim of manipulating people through their subjugation to them. The necessity of establishing an Orthodox parish in the country of Gabon raises a spiritual alarm for everyone. Without the worship of God, everything is done in vain, precisely because every work has value when it is sanctified. Besides, from the earliest Christian years we see that the place of worship of the Triune God and the celebration of the Divine Liturgy was a fixed point of reference among early Christians. It was in those holy places that the Apostles performed the Divine Liturgy and the faithful communion partook of the Body and Blood of Christ. This is the heritage of Orthodoxy.
If the purpose of the Church is the sanctification of man, then there are roads that lead to it, which our Lord Himself has inaugurated. Therefore, no one can claim that he was saved by Christ, that he is in the Church, that he has lived his personal resurrection, and turn his back on those whom Christ called the least of His brothers. The more humble one is in this world, the more elevated he is in the eyes of God, and this is something that the Church of Christ never forgets. If the purpose of the Church is the sanctification of man, then the path to sanctification is the healing of the fellow human being who is suffering. “Church” cannot possibly be understood without practical love!
The protection and care of orphans is not alien to Orthodox tradition. From the age of the Holy Apostles and the later period of the Great Fathers of our Church to this day, the Church of Christ has covered spiritually as well as materially the children without a family not only by helping them survive, but by bringing them up with spiritual values so as to make them useful Christian citizens in the society, equal to the rest.
This is the Church tradition, which we, the contemporary, cannot possibly leave in oblivion. Since 2007, when with the blessing of our Patriarch Theodore II the “Saint Eustathius” Orthodox Orphanage opened its doors, it has embraced “the little brothers of Jesus”, children without a family, becoming itself a large orthodox family so that these children grow up like all the rest of the world, with safety, proper nutrition, orthodox upbringing, equal education, decent living.
It is said that “the soul of a man is more valuable than the whole world.” This is the worldview of our Holy Church. Thus, she stands separately to each one since she is responsible for the Salvation of everyone. I appeal to your loving heart for help, brothers! The joy on our children’s faces is the greatest promise that the word of Savior Christ on this land bears fruit. We are all responsible for this joy and the continuity of the great work that is taking place. Let us struggle on this road, aiming not at the earthly but at the heavenly.
After all, the Homeland is one and the same for all of us. This is theso-called heavenly Jerusalem, which the Lord promised to us. Indeed, on world maps the Congo and Gabon are quite far away from us. And yet, Christ brought us all together, made us a family. How can I watch my brother suffering without feeling for him since we are parts of the same Body? Let us respond to this question through the attitude we are going to observe in life.
It is with great joy that I recall our meeting at the Fraternity Offices, in this blessed place where, armed with Faith, abundant Love and Zeal, you fight in the rear and support the Orthodox Mission around the world, part of which is our humble missionary effort in India.
I am well aware of the difficulties that our country is experiencing and the needs of our Greek compatriots and, to be honest, I find it really hard to ask for financial assistance from Greece.
We experience the results of the crisis in India as well, and despite our faith in God’s love and providence, it is humanly impossible not to feel anxious, since we are responsible for so many souls.
So far with the help of God, we have been able to keep the following programs running:
The Calcutta soup kitchens: Breakfast milk for homeless children and lunch for the blind and the disabled elderly.
Free medical and pharmaceutical treatment at the five Mission Clinics.
The operation of the five schools of the Mission in the villages where there are Orthodox churches and parish communities.
The operation of our two Orphanages, one for boys and one for girls, which we believe are the nursery of future Missionaries.
The smooth functioning of our English school on the premises of the Girls’ Orphanage, attended by our orphaned children and not only.
All of the above have resulted from enormous efforts and a great deal of concern and anxiety, as revenues are constantly falling, while needs and living costs are rising.
During this anguished effort, we received your donation of 13.300 euros, which will be used according to the purposes designated by the donors, whom we thank from the depth of our souls.
We were especially relieved by your donation for the soup kitchen for the less fortunate. I cannot describe it with words! We were about to discontinue this program due to lack of funds and our whole existence was suffering thinking all these blind, disabled and elderly people who for years survive only thanks to this little food that our Mission gives them every day. It grieved me but I had no way out. The solution was finally given by the all-merciful Lord through the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity that all these years stands by our side like Simon of Cyrene in the gloomiest moments of our cruciresurrectional course.
At the fish pond of our orphanage
All oceans have a bottom. Truly I tell you, however, that my gratitude to your Fraternity is bottomless. How could I reciprocate? I have no time to write long responses and articles. I only have a prayer from the innermost of my soul. May God grant health and strength to all of you, so that with the same zeal and sacrificial love you will keep on serving the work of God for the evangelization of the nations.
We praise God for your continued support to us; you are always by our side helping us meet our needs, and we are deeply grateful for that. We warmly thank you for the 10,000 euro you sent us. This amount of money was used for buying Father Chariton Zega a truck which will help him and his family earn their living, since, as you know, our priests here in Indonesia do not get a salary. With this money we will also pay the teachers for our schools in Sumbul village.
We have been thinking of writing Orthodox books for years. These books are usually requested by people who want to learn more about Orthodoxy. Until now we have managed to get very few books printed in Indonesian. Now we have 8 books ready for printing, all written by Presbytera Elizabeth and Fr. Chrysostomos Manalu.
The books are:
Prayer Book. It contains morning prayer, prayers for various needs, instructions on confession, supplications, some troparia and many more.
Ancient Greek books for the Saint Paul Theological School here in Medan.
Satan and Exorcisms. Asia, particularly Indonesia, is the land of evil spirits. Presbytera Elizabeth translated the exorcisms, which we read to some people, and by the grace of God they were cured.
1 and 2 Thessalonians. Commentary on the first epistles written by Saint Paul.
Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the last 3 years the Jehovah Witnesses have made huge efforts for their Mission. It is our duty, the duty of the Orthodox Church, to testify that they are not Christians, so as to protect our flock from going the wrong way.
Synods and Heretics.
Introduction to Orthodox Theology.
These are the 8 books that must be printed, so we make an earnest appeal to your kind heart for help. We need your assistance to carry out this great project.
As for our hospital here in Indonesia, things have been really difficult so far. I honestly do not know what to do anymore. I will leave it to the mercy of God, for I am just too tired.
Even though our Theological School is doing well, its graduates are being taken by the Protestants. Unfortunately we do not offer them jobs in our Church. Now we have 3 families whose men want to become priests. They were taught the ecclesiastical things and finished the St. Paul Theological School, but until now they have not yet been ordained as we have been waiting for the blessing of His Eminence to do that.
These are our problems, brothers. Pray that our good God will strengthen us and that Our Lady Theotokos will embrace us.
On Thomas Monday, April 24 2017, we traveled to Congo at the invitation of Metropolitan Nikiphoros of Kinshasa and with the blessings of Metropolitan Theoklitos of Ierissos, Mount Athos and Ardameri, along with our Elder, Fr. Chrysostomos Maidonis.
We settled at the Theological School of the Metropolis. The writer of this text (Sister Akylina), Hematology physician, along with Ms Stella Stephanis, nurse, organized a small clinic at the School of Theology for the School students just as much as for the Saint Barbara parishioners , who live next to the School, but also for all the residents of the surrounding area. Our goal was to create a general medical center with free primary health care.
On 28 April this community clinic started its operation, which only lasted for 18 days. The great needs of the local inhabitants were more than evident from the very first days. Daily there were over 70 people from all over the area, even from distant regions, queuing outside the clinic waiting to be examined. This made us appoint secretariat and reception so as to separate the urgent cases from the less serious or minor ones, which were distributed by appointment on the next days and the patients could be dealt with promptly and in an unhurried fashion. Here it is worth mentioning that whole families came to be examined, and in most cases, almost all the members were suffering from a disease requiring treatment.
We estimate that about 500 people were examined. We examined all patients, irrespective of religion. Most of them were Protestants, second in number were the Roman-Catholics, a lot fewer were the Orthodox, and some others belonged to various religious sects.
The organization of primary health care is of vital importance to the Metropolis of Kinshasa. A Health Center is already being built in Mont Ngafula area; its construction will have been completed by September but the structure needs to be equipped with medical supplies and staff.
Shortly before the end of the clinic’s operation, an event was organized, informing the residents of the area about prevention of ill health and hygiene measures. The event was attended by more than 300 people.
On our way back, we felt as if we were leaving behind us a major task: to do everything possible -always with the power of God- to help organize primary health care at the Diocese of Kinshasa, which will be based on volunteering, so as to be offered free of charge to all inhabitants regardless of religion or economic status. That’s why we are making an appeal for volunteer doctors of any specialty, especially pediatricians and general practitioners, but also for aid in the form of medical supplies and equipment.
With God’s help and the blessings of Their Eminences Metropolitans George of Guinea and Theoklitos of Florina , a journey to Sierra Leone in West Africa was carried out by a missionary team from the Holy Metropolis of Florina from May 23rd to June 9th, 2017. That team consisted of the writer himself, two nuns from St. Athanasius H.Monastery of Florina, and Mr. Constantine Christomanos, honorary professor at the University of Thessalonica.
The visit took place at the invitation of the missionary Rev.Themistocles Adamopoulos. The purpose of this mission was to offer assistance in a difficult and multi-faceted work that is carried out there, such as the clergy specialization or training in liturgical matters, given that in Sierra Leone there is no Orthodox ecclesiastical tradition, since the Orthodox Church has only had ten years of life there.
During our twenty-day stay there, we tried as much as we could to meet the purpose of our journey. Several lessons were given regarding issues on the value of the holy service, the performance of the sacred services of Vespers, Matins and of the Divine Liturgy, as well as the general order and the decency of the church. I must admit that the interest on the part of the indigenous priests was very big.
At the same time, the nuns tried to teach women how to knead prosphoro (altar bread) for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Unfortunately, several times the priests in the African Sea are forced toperform the sacred mystery using common bread (loaf) that they buy from a bakery! The women were also instructed how to make koliva (boiled wheat). A sewing machine was also bought , which enabled us to make covers for the Holy Tables, altar boy robes and other ecclesiastical stuff.
Moreover, other activities were carried out, such as church preaching, catechetical classes to youth gatherings and lectures given at the Orthodox Pedagogical College by Mr. Christomanos.
During our stay we were hosted at the Orthodox Mission Center, which is situated in Freetown, the country’s capital. In this compound, apart from the residence center where we stayed, there is a sacred church dedicated to Sts. Constantine and Helen, which was built through the sponsorship of the Missionary Alliance «St. Cosmas the Aetolian « in Thessalonica. The compound also houses the College (Pedagogical School) which we have previously mentioned, project funded by the generosity of the same Alliance, a notable institution of our Church offering a high level – study and being attended by some 135 students. Also under construction is a kindergarten along with a boarding house for destitute and deserted children.
In Syke Street, another area in the center of the capital, there is the second Orthodox Center, which includes St. Eleftherios Cathedral , which was funded with donations from the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity of Thessalonica, as well as a School for 2,000 Kindergarten and Primary School children. In the same premises there is a school building consisting of 16 rooms, funded by the generosity of a lady from Athens through the same Fraternity.
The third Center is located in Waterloo, 20 km away from the capital. Within its premises there is the church of the Resurrection of Christ and St. Moses the African, also sponsored by the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity of Thessalonica. There is the second school unit of our Orthodox Church, which is attended by another 500 children. In the same compound there are small houses hosting disabled victims of the civil war, which plagued Sierra Leone between 1991 and 2000.
During our stay in Sierra Leone we made two important visits. One was to the School for Blind Children, a state institution for blind kids abandoned by their relatives. Their children attend classes at the School there and are hosted at a boarding house which is within the premises of the institution. The boarding house is supplied with food by the Orthodox Mission, since the state cannot meet all its needs. We were deeply touched by the blind children’s beautiful singing and the expression of their gratitude to all those who send food from Greece. Rev. Themistocles suggested that the Orthodox Church should undertake the school’s running and maintenance.
Visit at the school for blind children
The other visit was to a district of the capital, Kroo bay, which is considered among the poorest and most deprived areas in the world. This visit was one of the most striking experiences of our lives. There are no words to describe the living conditions in that slum. Humans live in sheds most unsuited for human shelter, without adequate access to sanitation and health services or drainage system, resulting in the entire region giving off an unbearable stench. It is considered to be the «Africa of Africa «. With a lot of difficulty and precautions, we walked on the muddy and dirty paths and visited the school and the clinic only to find them in an awful condition. We couldn’t believe our eyes. What we saw was really incredible. When we left, we had the feeling that we had come back from hell. Rev. Themistocles is considering asking the state to concede the school’s maintenance and operation to our Church.
Our journey left us with a lot of indelible impressions and conscience-shattering experiences. We experienced the miracle of the creation of a Church. We saw how the grace of God, without the human means and facilities employed by other denominations, attracts the souls to the only true Church, Orthodoxy, overcomes all obstacles, and opens up streets to spread the Gospel.
When one is given the chance to have a close look at such difficulties, they feel it is their duty to pray more fervently for the work of our missionaries and support it in every possible way.
“And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42)
In the area of the Equator where we live, there are no four seasons as in Europe, but two major periods: the period of rainfall and that of drought, usually the latter being longer, and resulting in the suffering of both humans and animals. We should bear in mind that what is taken for granted in our country does not exist here. For example, when the people in Greece get thirsty, it is perfectly natural for them to turn on the tap to drink clean water, and when they get dirty or feel hot and want to have a bath, by just pressing a button there is plenty of warm water for them to wash… However, in most of Africa, and particularly here at the Rift Valley Plateau, the most impressive region of Central Tanzania, all of them are «unattainable dreams»!
It is a «dream» for thousands of children to run to the water-well near their village to wash and quench their thirst. The idea of obtaining a water supply system within their homes -at least for the next fifty years- seems to be a utopia!
It is with feelings of deep gratitude and emotion that I am writing these lines because thanks to the financial assistance of your Fraternity-the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity of Thessaloniki- we carried out two drillings in two extremely barren areas, where the people are really suffering. Thank God, we found plenty of clean water at a depth of more than 100 meters! It is very touching to see the tearful eyes and the chapped lips of the small children now in the dry season, but also the wild animals, all of which are suffering. Elephants, antelopes and giraffes, are approaching inhabited areas defeating their fear, in the hope of finding some water and quenching their burning thirst.
In this corner of the earth where we were sent by the grace of God and the love of our Patriarch, there is a great need for provision of medical care to our brothers. Many diseases, several of which weird, afflict young children and adults, which immediately raises the need for medical centers. Relying on our humble abilities and taking slow steps, we began operating a medical clinic at our Mission Center in Kidamali, Iringa, which is visited by a large number of patients from the surrounding areas. It should be organized in the form of a polyclinic with several specialties, as there are various diseases the people are suffering from and the state-run health care system is rudimentary. The current running costs of our clinic amount to € 2,000. Yet, we started this project being fully aware of its difficulties but we have faith in God and we hope for your love and support!
Undoubtedly, though, one thing is unquestionable: that the love of our Lord Jesus Christ is always present. One day we baptized a group of people, among whom a little girl with huge pus-filled pimples on her tiny head, all of which disappeared immediately after she had been baptized.
In July, we also held a Seminar for Clergy Candidates chosen among our already existing Catechists, trying to pass down to them pure, genuine love for the Tradition of our Holy Church as well as for Priesthood. Our flock is totally unaware of our faith; therefore, we must teach them everything, even the most obvious concepts of our religion. I also want to inform you that we have laid the foundation stone for the rebuilding of the old church of Saint John the Theologian in Ibongo village. This project is supported by your Fraternity in memory of our sister Parthena. We thank you wholeheartedly for that.
It is very important that our Church offers truth and love to our suffering brother anywhere in the world. We did not come to preach a Christ distant and apathetic to the daily needs of the people who are suffering but to bear witness to Christ’s presence, to proclaim that He is close to the “least” of His children, who we Christians call “our brothers”, but many times we become numb to their needs due to our complacency that derives from our participation in the long solemn services and the spiritual «garrulity» of our otherwise Orthodox experiences.
Africa needs hands and hearts that love through deeds, not words and theories, for «the harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few» (Matt. 9:37).
With infinite gratitude and love in Christ † Agathonikos of Arusha
My missionary struggle began with the blessing of the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria Theodore four years ago in the Diocese of Burundi and Rwanda, these two long-suffering countries of East Africa. Our main concern has been to heal the wounds or rather the deep scars left by the fratricidal war, which lasted nineteen whole years and ended relatively recently, in 2006. We want to teach them love by treating them with love. Healing, giving love: words that are easy to say or good to hear, but very difficult to put into practice. In addition to the wounds, poverty, privation, the difficult conditions in which these poor people have to live without even elementary medical care, without organized education, make them unable to overcome these problems by themselves and look upon us as their support and spiritual prop. They thirst to experience Orthodoxy, to be baptized and regenerated. As for us, we cannot say “no” to them. There are plenty of objective difficulties that we are confronted with. For example, our moving from place to place is not easy at all. This has become even more difficult over the last year after an accident on a rough road of our Diocese, which resulted in the destruction of the old car that served us. Now we are examining the solution of the motorcycle, but I do not know if this solution could be implemented because its price is still prohibitive for our meager means. However, we are not disappointed and despite all the difficulties that arise, we always find a way to visit our brothers, baptize them and establish parishes and Christian communities.
In Rwanda in particular, we have fourteen parish communities, four of which are very well-off given the conditions there, and number five hundred members each. Unfortunately, there are only four priests, who have to go around the whole country. One can easily understand that they are definitely not enough. In addition, there are no churches. People’s worship needs are served in the countryside, under the trees, the African baobabs, which also serve the children’s learning needs, since they fill the gap caused by lack of schools.
People of faith, readers and catechists have undertaken the difficult task of catechism, which precedes baptism. Also, their help is valuable in our effort to translate ecclesiastical books into the local dialects. We already have the translations of the sacraments of the Divine Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil and that of the Presanctified Gifts , the Great Supplication (Paraklesis) and the Akathist Hymn, the Services of the Pentecost and the Epiphany as well as some occasional benedictions. We consider this work a great blessing of God, which fills the souls of the newly illumined with joy and happiness and encourages us to continue our struggle and try to imitate the work of Saints Cyril and Methodius.
As far as our missionary work in Burundi is concerned, it is generally the same as in Rwanda. Here we have eight parish communities and two deacons. Naturally, our moving from one parish to another is as difficult as that of the faithful. Therefore we consider church construction necessary for meeting the believers’ spiritual needs. One more dream which, up to a point, is about to be realized thanks to the kind hearted donations of anonymous brothers, is the operation of Middle and High School, the only one in Buramata region. We believe that by September we will have been able to raise the necessary amount for flooring, window frames, doors, plastering, the purchase of desks and other furniture and equipment that is necessary for the whole school process. Most indigenous children come from single-parent families, with the mother playing a dual role-that of the father too, struggling to make ends meet without any help from anywhere. Poor people, beaten by life and fate, who look upon us as their sole support .We try not to disappoint them, but at the same time we are careful to be sparing of our words and promise them every time what is feasible to be done. Arousing false hopes and expectations- especially in such poor creatures- is equivalent to frustration, which is something none of us wants, otherwise this whole effort could have disappointing results or be totally wasted.