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An unfolding miracle in Colombia

Dear Friends of the Mission,

As you know from earlier articles, Central America is experiencing a miracle in progress. Our mind effortlessly runs to the Mayan tribe of Guatemala, which we mentioned in our previous article, to Venezuela, which lives in a state of despair, fear and terror, and of course, to Colombia and to Father Juan Paul, who, by the grace of the Triune God, is doing a great pastoral and social work.

In particular, the town of Copacabana is delighted with his work. Fr. Juan Paul is a married and unpaid priest who serves at the Church of the Archangels and is the spiritual father to the 600 orthodox families in the town of Copacabana. It is really amazing to see the faithful Colombians gathering in the poor rented space of the Church of the Archangels, where only the sanctuary is built, while the rest of the church consists of a simple covering instead of a roof. This poor Church, which struggles to meet its monthly rent, every Sunday becomes the most beautiful palace where the grace of God radiates within the Colombian faithful who confess our Lord Jesus Christ as Savior by praying with tears, not due to the countless difficulties of life, but out of love for the Church of Christ, to which they were called to become members and be glorified in its Sacred Mysteries.

A competent worker of God, Fr. Juan Paul, found receptive hearts and filled them with Christ. But his work does not stop there. In searching for ways to generate revenues in order to meet the parish needs, such as the rent, catechetical needs, and support for the financially weak, Fr. Juan Paul managed to create a recycling spot. This has resulted in the partial coverage of the parish needs, but it also has other beneficial effects.

The recycling machine recycles the waste of Copacabana. It is unambiguous that a lot of hands are required for garbage collection. Fr. Juan Paul did something very humane: he hired young people who are in a drug detoxification process. This way, these young people have not only managed to earn a living, but, most importantly, they have won their meeting with Christ, and along with that, their quick rehabilitation. In fact, this social work continues with the 120 single-parent families that we support spiritually and financially. And especially when this work is done by an unpaid, married cancer-stricken priest, who despite the chemotherapy he is constantly undergoing, strives hard for his flock.

Leaving Copacabana and going to the city of Yarumal, again under Fr. Juan Paul’s pastoral jurisdiction, we find another 170 Orthodox families. Things are difficult there, too, because the praise of the Triune God is conducted in a rented space. The difficulties in Colombia may be a lot but the blessing of God is even greater with new souls constantly coming to His Holy Church.

We are deeply concerned about our Orthodox brothers and sisters from Colombia, and seeing them without a church of their own fills our heart with pain and sorrow. All of them live with this dream. This is why we humbly appeal to your generous hearts for assistance so that we can manage to raise the amount of 50,000 euro required to buy a plot of land where a church for our Orthodox Colombian brothers and sisters will be built.

Ending today’s spiritual journey, we deeply thank the few donors for the support and sensitivity they show to the work of our Metropolis, but we would also like to thank in advance those who want to become supporters of our work now and with the sensitivity of their heart will give their contribution out of the little they have to help our Colombian brothers in Christ see their dream come true.

In closing, we could not possibly fail to thank the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, this charitable society which you can get in contact with if you want to become co-workers in the Vineyard of the Lord for spreading Orthodoxy in Central America.

From the Holy Metropolis

A New Start in Timor

Dear friends of the Mission,

With God’s help we are keeping well. I received the amount of € 7,000, which you sent for our hospital. I am deeply grateful to all of you for your love, especially to Fr. Nikolaos Marketos. May God reward you with His abundant blessings. I also received the chalice and the holy icons for Fr. Chariton Zenga. Next week I am planning to go down to Nias Island and give these ecclesiastical items to him in person.

July the 16th was the beginning of the school year in Indonesia. On the first day I went to Sumbul village, where our “St. John the Baptist” School is situated, and taught them excerpts from the Holy Bible. The problem is that the children have no Bible of their own, which is the reason why we appeal to your kind heart and ask you to fund the purchase of 53 New Testament copies, whose estimated cost is € 15 each.

Moreover, I received the amount of € 2,000 which you sent for the labor and delivery of Fr. Savvas’ deaconess. Fortunately, the woman gave birth to a healthy boy in the middle of July. Glory be to God! In September, they are expected to return to Timor. However, I cannot possibly afford to pay for their tickets or their rent, neither can I buy them any simple furniture or the basic housewares and new home essentials, therefore, once again I appeal to your philanthropic love for our brothers. Fr. Savvas will be the first Orthodox priest permanently serving parishes in the land of East Timor.

Fr. Chrysostomos Manalu

Another Orthodox church is being built

By the Grace of God, His Eminence Metropolitan Demetrius of Irinoupolis laid the foundation stone of another church, that of the Holy Trinity and St. Irene in the city of Mvoumi, Eastern Tanzania.

Despite the fact that God blessed these 14 years of missionary work in Central and Eastern Tanzania so that until now 32 church buildings have been erected, the existing needs are still big due to the growing and rich in blessing and fruition Mission, and as a result, more than 18 parish churches are being housed in straw huts.

Since early Monday morning, a large number of people had begun to arrive. Among them, there were indigenous priests, readers, faithful, catechumens, a lot of students from the surrounding areas as well as Presidents, Mayors and School Chiefs, who had all gathered in order to attend the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the third Orthodox church building in Morogoro region, the heart of Islam in Eastern Africa!

Following the service of consecration, His Eminence, speaking in Swahili, praised the efforts of the Ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria in every corner of the African continent for peace, progress, education, health, prosperity and harmonious coexistence, that is, all the values that His Beatitude Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria has been trying to put into practice in the land of Africa.

From the Holy Metropolis

No future without young people

By grace of God, our Diocese held the general convention of Orthodox Ghanaian youth for the second time, with a turnout of 350 young people in Saint Peter Technical School in Larte, Accra, and with the help and participation of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center.

Our Orthodox Mission believes that whoever invests in youth, they belong in the future and the future belongs to them and we, the Orthodox people, want to be active in the future, in order to shape it and instill in it our Orthodox Christian values. This is our responsibility and duty and we must not wrong ourselves and our Church.

The African youth craves for learning the faith and experiencing real prayer and relation with God. This is easily shown by the high attendance at this convention, that included all daily services, catechetical lessons, bible studies and lot of play in the spacious and hospitable venues of Saint Peter Technical School in Larte.

This is also a means to give life to this school and get it back up and running, since it has ceased operations due to the financial crisis. With your precious help and support, we believe that we will be empowered to carry on this work, so that joy and smile will bloom in the faces of these angelic souls.

† Narkissos of Accra

The new Orthodox Mission magazine is now available online

  • What’s going on in the Orthodox Mission in Colombia?
  • Which young Asian state will get its own missionary?
  • How does God reveal through the prayers of the Malawian faithful?
  • What were the experiences of the new Indonesian deacon on Mount Athos?

Find out these and many more news and reports from the Orthodox Missions in Africa, Asia and Latin America in the new issue of the Orthodox Mission magazine.

Browse through it, read it, share it with your friends.

Missionary Journey in West Africa

On Thursday June 7, His Eminence Metropolitan George of Guinea, with the wishes and blessings of His Beatitude Theodore II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa. arrived in Guinea through Mauritania. In the following days, he met with Orthodox Guineans, Russians and Ukrainians working in Guinea and visited real estate to find a suitable plot of land for the construction of a church in a suburb of the capital city, Conakry.

On Sunday, June 10, he performed the Divine Liturgy at the residence of a Greek-American woman. On Monday His Eminence visited the “Greek Square”, as it is called by the natives, inspected the progress of the construction works of the Holy Parthenios Church and of the “Friendship of Greece-Guinea” Academy and gave the necessary instructions for the immediate completion of the projects. The Orthodox Missionary Fraternity contributed decisively to the erection of both the church and the Academy.

On the afternoon of Thursday, June 14, he went to the Conakry port customs office and settled the customs clearance procedures for a humanitarian aid container, which arrived in Guinea a few days later and was sent to the children of Guinea by the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity. It was loaded by volunteers on May 6th and contains- among other things- religious items, 576 rice bags, 100 boxes of biscuits, 96 boxes of sugar, 83 boxes of flour, 55 boxes of candy, 52 boxes of sweetened condensed milk, 50 boxes of cooking oil, 40 boxes of salt, tomato paste, pasta, halva and 329 boxes of clothes, shoes, toys, books, and others. This aid will relieve hundreds of poor families in Guinea, where 47% of the population lives in abject conditions while 93% of them have no access to drinking water, and infant mortality is soaring.

Late Friday evening on June 15, His Eminence Metropolitan George of Guinea arrived in Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone, where he was welcomed at the port by the Chancellor of the Metropolis Fr. Themistocles Adamopoulos.  On Saturday morning, he officiated at the Divine Liturgy and preached the Word of God at the Church of Saints Constantine and Helen, and during the D. Liturgy, he ordained Soterios Sesay to Deacon. His Eminence gave parental counsel to the new Deacon, stressing the responsibilities he assumed as a soldier of Christ, and then addressed to the young people, who comprised the majority of the congregation, saying among other things how important it is to take advantage of the opportunity given to them by the Orthodox Schools in Sierra Leone to train and study in model schools and colleges so as to be able to work in order to improve the living conditions in their country and help- each one in their own way-for its  growth and prosperity, always having the Lord Jesus Christ above all and the saints of the Church as  role models. At the end of the Divine Liturgy, the youth presented an artistic program of Christian songs and traditional dances, and Sister Minais distributed knitted crosses to all the young people present.

In the afternoon His Eminence was briefed by Fr. Themistocles and his associates on the course of the works and thanked Fr. Themistocles, Maria Adams, teacher, and Dr. Eleni Athinodorou for the great work they have been doing in Sierra Leone, particularly in the field of education.

On Sunday 17 June, His Eminence Metropolitan George of Guinea officiated at the Divine Liturgy and proclaimed the Divine Word at the Church of St. Moses the Black in Waterloo region of Sierra Leone and ordained Deacon Nektarios Kollie to Elder and the instructor Athanasios Sesay to Deacon. In his address, His Eminence referred to the Gospel of the day, gave admonitions to the new clergymen, and then spoke about the position of the woman in the Orthodox Church and the duties of the elders’ wives (presbyteres), who should be role models for all women in the parishes where their husbands serve as church priests. He went on to stress the importance of the work the teachers in Orthodox schools have to do, and also referred to the great destruction that the Ebola virus had caused, wishing it would stay in the past as a nightmare and urging everyone to be careful and strictly follow the instructions of the Ministry of Health for prevention of reccurrence of a deadly virus outbreak in the country.

After the dismissal of the Divine Liturgy, the Eminence visited all the classes of the Kindergarten and the Primary School of the parish, and distributed to all the children candy, pencils and balloons, and to the outstanding pupils color palettes, courtesy of the congregation of the St. Athanasios Patriarchal glebe in Kypseli. Next he visited the clinic and the first building of the Orthodox Children’s Village for Orphaned Children, which will be inaugurated in November by His Beatitude Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria.

On Monday, June 18, His Eminence visited the largest slum in the center of the capital city of Sierra Leone, which has sheltered over 20,000 adults and children living under wretched conditions without water, electricity or any access to sanitation facilities. During the rainy season these people are at risk of being drowned by large water streams or being killed by landslides. There His Eminence and his entourage were met by a local councilor, who led them to the rudimentary school for the slum children. The pictures were horrible, yet, despite the miserable conditions and the hassle of the children, they were all very glad about our visit. His Eminence, on behalf of the Patriarchate, pledged to undertake the immediate refurbishment of the school and the rapid training of the teachers at the Sierra Leone Orthodox Pedagogical Academy. To all the children Sister Minais offered candy and stationery.

In the afternoon a gathering of priests took place in the presence of all the clergy and members of the ecclesiastical youth choir. Functional as well as other practical issues were discussed at the meeting. Finally, gifts were offered to all the priests and the young people present.

Prior to his departure from Sierra Leone, His Eminence publicly thanked the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity for their continued support for twenty consecutive years now as well as for the humanitarian aid they sent through this container to Guinea and Sierra Leone.

George of Guinea

Insurmountable difficulties

Dear Friends of the Mission,

With the help of God and the blessing of His Beatitude Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria, one more missionary journey is coming to an end. Like all our journeys, this one had its difficulties as well. This is so because the populations of the “Black Continent” continue to suffer from the new form of economic, political and social uncertainty.

In the blood-stained countries of Central Africa, particularly in Burundi and Rwanda, the twenty-year civil war between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes created millions of homeless people who, having lost their ancestral land, were pushed into the cities, where they formed  miserable suburbs, slum areas with cheap labor.

It was in these social strata that the comforting word of Christ found response. This happened around 1850, when we have the beginning of Christian missionary activity in Central and Eastern Africa. In 1876 the Protestants arrived first in Uganda, and two years later followed the Roman Catholics. Finally, Uganda, Rwanda-Urundi and the Eastern Congo were christianized by the Order of the White Fathers of French origin, while later we had the arrival of Belgian missionaries, who also undertook the education of these peoples. Naturally, the main historical problem of Africa is the setback it suffered, particularly in countries where civil (tribal) wars broke out: Major cities were totally destroyed, education, traditions and historical continuity were lost, while production relations were set back for centuries.

This created the need for African countries to be organized and, as part of that need, there were colonial policies organized on other bases, and waves of European colonists settled in Africa. At the same time, Confessions like the Dutch Reformed Church, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Anglicans, the Adventists, the Chiliasts and other Americans, the French Evangelical Mission, the Roman Catholics of the Order of the White Fathers, and many others, sent their missionaries to the interiors of the black continent.

In the case of Burundi and Rwanda, the Orthodox missionary penetration is relatively recent. My ministry in these countries dates back to 2002. My predecessor, Fr. Savvas, was transferred to another Metropolis, and I replaced him by the will of God and with the blessing of our Patriarch Theodoros II.

The difficulties we encountered were, without exaggeration, insurmountable. Our main concern was and still is to help these people, to the extent possible, stand on their feet. However, moving from one country to another was very difficult indeed, and now it has become even harder after a road accident in which our car was completely destroyed. Now we are forced to use public transport, which means a terrible waste of time, while inland the bicycle is extremely useful for our journeys.

The country where we encounter many obstacles that are difficult to overcome is Rwanda. In particular, the government has stipulated that all religious confessions should own a large plot of land (at least five acres) and build a church in accordance with the European standards (water, parking, toilets for men and women, floor tiles, and many others…) and not conduct a divine liturgy in the countryside under the trees.

Ten out of the eighteen parish communities that we had have been closed due to the fact that we did not have the plots required and, in general, we did not meet the new standards. Naturally, we are very concerned about the souls we have baptized (5,000 catechumens and baptized + 2,500 on hold), since we cannot have them gathered. We do not want to be pessimistic, and we always believe that our brothers in Greece, despite all the difficulties they have to face, will help us, as they have done so many times in the past, so that we can buy some plots. These in Rwanda are very expensive indeed, especially the ones near a street (about €30,000-40,000). As for the construction of a small church, that varies from € 60,000-100,000.

The government also calls on us to support its social work for the help of orphans, widows, and multimember families through our own contribution. Our parishes in Rwanda are served by five priests, four deacons, two sub-deacons and fifteen readers, who, in the absence of a priest, read the typikon. We are also moving forward with the translation project: Translation of the Divine Liturgies of St. John the Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great, the pre-sanctified liturgy as well as the services of all the Holy Sacraments.

In Burundi, things are a bit different. The government grants plots of land to us on the strict condition that we have finished the building construction within a fixed period of time. And since our conviction is that Education saves the man, we started building six rooms in Buramata region, where the “St. Paisios Middle School” will be housed— an oasis in the desert. We felt it was necessary since all the children who finished Primary School and considered Secondary School study had to walk at least ten kilometers on a daily basis.

I will not abuse your love and your patience. I would just like to ask you to pray to God for us and for the success of the missionary work.

You are always in our prayers and in our hearts. Thank you for supporting us in our work. Without your moral and material assistance, none of these would have been achieved.

Innocentios of Burundi and Rwanda

Matthew, a Pious Maasai

Every time we return from Greece or from a long journey to our Mission Center in Kidamali, Iringa, crowds of faithful, little children, young and elderly people, come with manifest joy and kindness to welcome us, but also to ask for some financial or material assistance. This phenomenon is common and we are delighted to see it happen because we know that it is not pretentious but genuine and spontaneous. Besides, this region is the poorest and most primitive of Tanzania, and these people are our own people, our beloved family.

One day after my return to Arusha, I see at my door a tall, thin lad in the characteristic Maasai dress and with a broad smile on his face. It was Matthew. We baptized him when he was a little kid. Since then, he had attended school, loved our Church and when he came of age, he married a pretty and modest young woman from his village, and now he is a father of two children. Indeed, on our last visit to the Maasai village all of them asked us to ordain Matthew priest for their village.

Well, that morning seeing him right in front of me filled me with joy mainly because deep inside of me I have hopes for him that some day by the Grace of God, he may become a good priest of our Church. When he kissed my hand, he said to me, “Caribbou Askofou,” that is, “Welcome Bishop, I have come to take your blessing”. I could not help thinking that he wanted to ask for something, and I was wondering what that might be. Instead, he repeated that he had heard I had returned, and that he was there to greet me. In the conversation that followed I told him that some of our brothers from Greece had given us some money for borehole drilling in their village. The Maasai villages are isolated from the rest because they have a different cultural background and tradition from the other Africans. They believe they originated from Alexander the Great and do not mix with other tribes.

Matthew’s answer to the question left me speechless. Instead of feeling delighted and say that the borehole would save them from walking miles and miles to carry water, he said: “It would be better to do the drilling between our village and the adjoining African village because the Orthodox Church is the Church of Love and does not discriminate among human beings “!

An answer I really did not expect to hear, which shows the nobleness and the manly dignity of these people and proves how deeply the truth of the Gospel touches their pure souls..

Before he left, I asked him if he needed anything, and he only asked for a prayer rope. His face light up when I hung it round his neck, and he went away overjoyed. From the depths of my soul, I praised the Triune God, who supports us in our work with such spiritual joys, which make us draw courage and continue.

Agathonikos of Arusha

The sick woman who was healed

In Zomba, the old capital of the state, there is a church that was built in honor of Sts. Athanasius and Cyril.

Recently we had another marvelous event there, which strengthened our faith and made us love, honor and revere more the saints of God, who are always by our side, and help us in a scandalous way, as a holy man said.

The Church of Sts. Athanasius and Cyril is situated in a conspicuous position, on the main road, opposite a large hospital.

Indigenous Fr. George, both priest and pastor, spends many hours in the church dedicating them to prayer, so many passers-by find him on duty there, diligently performing his ministry, when they seek support and help from Heaven for anything that troubles them.

That morning a taxi brought a sick Malawian woman -accompanied by her good-hearted husband- from her village, to the city hospital due to a health problem that she had. Let’s say how things happened, though.

Devout Fr. George with his family

Mrs. Nefi, is a Malawian woman around the age of 40, married and mother- of -four. She and her husband are educated. She works in the hospital while her husband is a head teacher in a local school.

The woman was in her village and she was feeling very sick. The pain was acute and was coming down to her stomach and to other parts of her body.

Her condition was getting worse and worse, so she decided to go to hospital. However, she had the feeling that she could hear a voice that was telling her: «If you want to be saved, go to the Greek Orthodox Church, not to hospital.» She said that to her husband, but although he would always listen to her, that time he said, «No, we will go to hospital”. They took a taxi to go straight to hospital.» While the taxi was passing outside the Church of Sts. Athanasius and Cyril though, the woman heard the same voice say the same words: «If you want to be saved, go inside this church and do not go to hospital.» Once this happened, the woman lost her senses and collapsed. She seemed to be nearing death. Her husband had no other choice but to tell the taxi driver to stop at the Church. Without wasting time, he carried his almost half dead wife inside.

They got into the Church and found the indigenous priest Fr. George. The husband explained to the priest what they had lived at home and outside the Church and begged the Orthodox priest to pray for his slowly dying wife.

The priest’s first reaction was to say that the woman was not Orthodox, therefore, he could not possibly pray for her. The husband continued to beg him to pray in the name of the Orthodox Church. Then the priest, out of brotherly love for every human being that is suffering, yielded to his entreaties and said he would pray but he would not be wearing a stole, neither would he touch the woman with it since she was not Orthodox, and so he did.

The priest prayed wholeheartedly for long, and suddenly, the woman who was almost dead, stood up completely healed.

Their gratitude was indescribable! They left the Church praising and glorifying God, but on Sunday morning, they were both in the Church again. At the end of the Divine Liturgy, they confessed to everyone present there the miracle they had experienced and said: “From now on, we belong to the Orthodox Church, and when the priest decides to baptize us after our catechesis, we will be ready. We firmly believe that here is the only true Faith, and that the Triune God has called us personally to it, which makes us be eternally grateful to Him.”

When Fr. George told us all this, we marveled at the infinite love of God, Who works miraculously on His humble creatures and Who thus draws them close to Him and helps them become acquainted with His One, Holy, Apostolic Church.

We also marvel at the attentiveness of the native priest and his respect for the rules of our Church, which say that we must not pray with people of other faiths or other denominations, neither must we administer the Holy Sacraments or put the stole over people who have not entered the baptismal font of the Orthodox Church. Even if our brotherly love is big, we still do not betray our Faith, and as Fr. George has proven with his stance, especially in the hard and confusing times we live in, we are impressed by his zeal and enthusiasm to keep the Tradition of the Holy Fathers of our Church to the letter.

In our humble opinion, the attitude of the native priest, whose encounter with Orthodoxy took place just 8 years ago, is particularly noteworthy; and yet, he is humble in his work and sets a very good example to us who were born in Orthodoxy and who sometimes feel “over confident” about violating the rules established by the Holy Fathers, the Holy Tradition and the 7 Ecumenical Synods.

Equally remarkable is the virtue of the priest’s humility, which makes him attribute everything to the Triune God. He confesses everything to his spiritual father, and is thus covered by temptations on both the right and the left hand.

Among others, he narrated the following incident. An acquaintance of his, an orthodox parishioner, lost his cell phone and was deeply sad. Then he went to the priest and begged him to pray for his cell phone to be found. Indeed, Fr. George fell on his knees and prayed for this little matter, since love in God does not differentiate between small and big matters. God instructed us to always love and help our neighbor. What happened next made us marvel at God’s prompt responsiveness. A man very hurriedly went past the house from which the cell phone had been lost, and with quick moves he pulled the missing phone out of his pocket, threw it onto the porch and vanished. Someone forced him to do that. Prayers have a lot of power and can even defeat passions, make thieves return the things they stole, but the most amazing thing they can do is to make people believe in the Holy Orthodox faith. Such experiences are quite common here.

Dear brothers and sisters, our Orthodox Faith is alive, true and unique! Let us hold it as a treasure to be cherished, as a valuable gift from Heaven, and be steadfast in it.

Fr. Ermolaos Iatrou

And, lo, I am with you always…

Light of Light shined onto the world with our Lord’s Resurrection! Light of Light also shined here, on the equator of Africa, so far from homeland. Christ has risen! This world-redeeming news is the truth, it is the glad tidings which we live and convey. The Holy Light is a fact that invites us to see the faces of the others in the Light of Life and not in the shadow of death. As Christ was revealed to us after the Resurrection, so we are revealing the Risen Christ in the exercise of love.

Only someone who lives here can understand what it’s like to be in a community that is newly planted in time, which is persistently seeking to escape the futility of the old error/fallacy, to which it has been chained for centuries. In these places, being Orthodox is first of all a revolution against the enemy of habit. When we say in the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, in these places, the phrase “releasing us from the delusions of idolatry «, we are talking about something daily, something that exists around us!

Under these circumstances, we once again arrived in the land of the Pygmies in the joyous atmosphere of the Easter week. It was a pastoral visit to the northernmost point of the Congo-Brazzaville, on the border of our country with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (former Zaire) and the Central African Republic.

The tranquility and beauty of the tropical nature is the first welcome after the two flights required from the seat of the Holy Metropolis to this place. After a short pilgrimage to the Holy Parish Church of St. John the Forerunner and St. Nicholas, which completed its first year of life since its construction and consecration, with a heart full of enthusiasm we rushed to the bank of the River Oubangui. The twenty-two catechumens were patiently standing there in anticipation of the Holy Baptism! Christ’s mandate for peoples’ evangelism is a timeless one,» Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world» (Matthew 28:19-20).

Members of the two sovereign tribes of the north, the Pygmies and the Bantu, receive the Holy Light in the waters of their own river, which thus becomes their own Jordan River! Glory in the Most Holy Name of the Triune God! «Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost».

But baptism is only the beginning of the spiritual and redemptive course that the newly-baptized people are starting today. «.. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”. What follows is the constant teaching and preaching, the evangelization of the faithful, and the application of the evangelical mandates to our daily life, the «good alteration», which results in the formation of Christians who not merely bear the name but who first and foremost bear Christ in them.

So, on the Sunday morning of Doubting Thomas, we performed the Holy Eucharist in the newly-built church, thus becoming all brothers of the Master Christ, older and newly-illumined Orthodox! And with this power of unity in the Resurrection, we rushed to the settlement of our Pygmy brothers, in the rainforest, in their own homeland.

The Pygmies are noble people. Although they used to systematically avoid contact with other tribes, particularly with the white race since they had suffered from them during the years of colonialism, they are sociable people with values, principles and secrets of their tribe which they preserve vigorously, consciously refusing to abandon their ancestral homes and embrace the modern «western» way of life. They owe their name to Herodotus (5th century BC), who named them “Pygmies” because they have a small body «like the size of a punch» (“pygme” in the ancient Greek language). They were also known to the ancient Egyptians, who called them “Aka”. This is one of the oldest human tribes that have survived to this day. They are considered to be the best trackers and hunters in the world. Consequently, they are constantly on the move after herds of wild life, depending on the annual migratory movements of the African prey during the rainy season.

It is this people that the Light of Christ has already reached! Salt, soap, matches, toothpaste and toothbrushes, antipyretics and analgesics were our humble gifts, but the joy of our African brothers was great, because these are the things they need and live with. With the salt they will preserve the wild game meat, with the soap they will be washed and cleaned, while the matches will enable them to cook, light up their dark nights and keep them warm; as for the other gifts, they will help them take care of their health.

And if with the goods mentioned above our African brothers are practically relieved, with the Holy Communion they are spiritually shielded. This purpose is served with the construction of a traditional for them hut, which will be the Orthodox «Shrine» of the forest! Our spiritual children observed the apostolic request of their Shepherd a year ago and prepared their own sacred space so that the good and hardworking priest from the north, Fr. Timothy, can go every month to those who cannot possibly move to the Central Parish Church, in order to perform the Divine Liturgy there, always preach the word of God, illuminate souls, “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever the Lord hath commanded us”.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Christ invites us to a triple process which involves: seeking souls and teaching faith (Go ye therefore, and teach all nations), baptizing (baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost), and faithfully applying His words (Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you).

And since baptism has already been performed and the teaching of faith as well as catechism and evangelism are continuous, «and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world»(Matthew 28: 19-20), what is left, O Lord, is the accomplishment of our ultimate purpose, our encounter with You! Meeting and being united with You, regardless of race, nation or language. Come on, brothers, let us continue the Mission work of the Apostles! All together, united, with each one of us practicing generosity and selfless love and giving our offering, whether it be a material good or a spiritual gift! The Lord, «the One who trieth the hearts and reins», awaits our good intentions!

† Panteleimon of Brazzaville and Gabon