Congo (DRC)

Healing Human Pain

25 August 2017

Dear Friends of the Mission,

I greet you in the name of our risen Christ.

I am always touched when I communicate in writing with the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, through which my missionary consciousness was nurtured.

I dare make an earnest appeal to the charitable feelings of your Board and your donors to ask for an aid of € 3,000-4,000 for coverage of the direct medical costs of the Holy Metropolis of Kinshasa. As you know, our much-afflicted brothers here in Congo are devoid of medical care. Unfortunately, nothing is free. Everything has to be paid for!

I often think, especially at night before I lie down, whether there are any medications in stock in the little clinic that your Fraternity built in the area of Shamana to the north of the Congo jungle. Sadly enough, there is no way of communicating with that place. This tropical region is so hard to go through that the news reaches us when someone comes here after months of travelling. Besides that, I have to deal with any type of health problems that might occur in our brothers here in the capital city, Kinshasa. Unfortunately, there is no money to meet these needs, which arise suddenly and need immediate treatment, as human lives are at risk.

I am deeply grateful for your unconditional love and financial assistance. May God bless you always.

With the love of our risen Christ,
†Nikiphoros of Kinshasa

Two Shipments of Love

10 April 2017

Dear brothers in Christ,

I would like to express my great joy for contacting you and my deep gratitude as well as the gratitude of my Congolese brothers for the shipping of two containers with humanitarian aid from the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity. Their arrival created a festive atmosphere with dances, hymns and songs. With earnest enthusiasm the students of our Orthodox Theological School unloaded the containers and filled the empty warehouses of the Metropolis with useful supplies.

The two containers contained basic food items, clothing, stationery, sewing machines for the Sewing School, folding beds, sacred vessels, church bells, liturgical books (such as the Parakletike, i.e. the Great Octoechos, the Pentecostarion, the Triodion, the Menaia)various icons, theological books for the University library, dental equipment, insulation materials and many other items, all sent with love by our brothers in Greece.

Daily there are times when I hear the students discuss with each other:

“Our Orthodox Greek brothers must love us very much! We’ve heard that their country is facing a great economic crisis. What adverse situations they must be going through! We did not expect them to have such a rich and generous heart and deprive themselves of many things in order to help us. May God bless them”.

Students and believers and all of us who are here working in the vineyard of our Lord Jesus Christ in ministry of Him, feel great appreciation and earnest gratitude for your Fraternity.

Upon arrival of the containers, our collaborator Mrs. Stella Papadopoulou organized with students clothing and footwear distribution to poor students of our schools in the area of the capital Kinshasa; also food was distributed to families in great need and to the surrounding villages.

I praise the Holy Triune God for making me worthy to serve Him in the depths of the African jungle and disseminate the true Orthodox faith in our indigenous brothers.

A sincere thanks to His Beatitude Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria, who gave me the blessing to serve here and minister to the long-suffering people of Congo.

Finally, once again we would like to thank you wholeheartedly for your continuous support and assistance. May the Benevolent God give you His heavenly and earthly blessings in abundance.

† Nikiforos of Kinshasa

Like Young Olive Shoots

25 January 2017

Dear friends of the Mission,

For the holy days of the Christmas period and the New Year, we wish all of you God’s blessings in abundance. May the Lord promote the work of your Charitable Society so that you can continue your God-pleasing ministry of supporting our suffering brothers in the black continent, and everywhere else.

Once again, we would like to express our heartfelt thanks for your kind donation of €6,850 for educational sponsorship and baptisms, which you offered to our Holy Metropolis for the year 2016. We would like to assure you that this spiritual “investment” for educating the young Africans of our H. Metropolis, who, thanks to you, are given the opportunity to continue their studies, has borne rich fruit, that is, educated children.

Moreover, through your support, it is now feasible for the baptisms of our African brothers to be performed smoothly. First, catechisms are conducted, and then, follows the first Holy Sacrament, that of Baptism, which initiates our brothers into our Holy Church, for their “naturalization” into her and for their being called “Orthodox Christians”, which is the highest and more honorary title for us.

Therefore we are deeply grateful to all those who earnestly and despite the economic crisis we are going through give out of what little they have for charity and social solidarity.

Have a good and blessed New Year

† Meletios of Katanga

In weariness and toil

1 November 2016

Dear brothers in Christ,

I am writing to you with feelings of deep gratitude in order to make you once again   partakers of the joy as well as of the difficulties that the Most Merciful God gives us.

Within the last three months He made us worthy through baptism to welcome several new brothers into the embrace of the Orthodox Church and give seminars for Catechists and the youth on the interior of the Congo (Mouzi Mai, Luputa, Kaminda, Kananga). He also made us worthy to have the ordination of three new deacons and two elders. Apart from that, the prayer book has finally been prepared in French, and it is expected to be published soon.

The academic year for our primary and secondary schools started with much hope and with many children. Mid-October is the starting time for the Orthodox University too, our School of Theology and the School of Informatics.

This year our School of Theology has given us new graduates coming from our Diocese and the neighboring Diocese of Katanga. Nine new members of the Orthodox Church, nine young Theology graduates, nine lads ready for action.

In the past academic year we were confronted with a lot of difficulties, especially as regards the students’ feeding program, but fortunately, with the help of God, we managed to overcome them. The kids bore the whole situation patiently and did not complain for not having anything else to eat every evening except the spaghetti that had been sent to us.

But these are over now and soon we are about to get started. Our warehouses are empty. What will more than 50 students have to eat in the morning, at noon and in the evening? And how will we be able to deal with the other operating expenses, such as electricity, water, fuel, salaries, sicknesses, stationery, taxes, building and machinery maintenance, and not only?

Not to mention addressing the costs of the sicknesses of the priests and their families as well as of all those poor people who knock on our door; or the priests’ and catechists’ transportation for their missionary and liturgical work. Neither should we forget the disabled Orthodox of a central neighborhood in Kinshasa, who use the road for conducting their sacred services and expect us to build them a church. All this adds to our anguish and makes us pray fervently.

I earnestly appeal to your kind heart for help. It would be a big relief if you could send us a container with food and other necessities as well as money, so that we can address the operating costs of the Theological School and meet the needs which I mentioned earlier.

May the Virgin Mary give her protection and blessing to all of you.

† Nikiforos of Kinshasa

Educational Sponsorship: Sponsoring lives

17 May 2016

Dear friends of the Mission,

With this letter we would like to express our heartfelt thanks for the amount of €4,000 that you granted us in the past year 2015 for the education of indigent students coming from the Holy Metropolis of Katanga , Congo (DRC).

As you know, almost every family here is large, while several of them may even have 15 children. So we all understand how much money each family needs annually to meet the costs for their children’s education, which proportionally increase from Primary to Middle School, to High School and then to University, where the cost is huge. However, despite the objective difficulties that arise, they are all inclined towards learning and they try in every possible way to save some money for this purpose. This is why they are grateful to you for giving them the opportunity to study, to become useful citizens and not feel disadvantaged.

This program of «educational sponsorships” is a God-pleasing work that not only helps each student individually, but it also generally contributes to raising the education level of our African brothers.

Hence, we thank all of you who diligently offer your donations for this cause. May the Lord repay you in multiple folds.
†Meletios of Katanga

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If you also want to “sponsor a life”,

Fr. Chrysostomos Papasarantopoulos: Memorial service in Kinshasa

25 February 2016

It has been 43 years since the second Orthodox missionary of Africa, late Fr. Chrysostomos Papasarantopoulos (1903-1972), passed away in the Lord. His missionary and spiritual work in African countries where he lived and acted (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Congo) sprouted out deep roots into the hearts of the Africans and bore plentiful spiritual fruits. Thousands of Africans were baptized into Orthodoxy, many Orthodox communities were founded, many locals became priests. The saplings of Orthodox faith that were planted by this passionate, selfless and tireless missionary have now grown big and gone out to many countries of the African continent. Nowadays, Fr. Chrysostomos’ spiritual children give gratitude to him, keeping him in their memory and respectfully honoring his memory.

The holy duty of respect to Fr. Chrysostomos’ memory was also paid out by His Eminence bishop Nikiphoros of Kinshasa. On Saturday, December 27, he celebrated his official memorial service at St. Athanasios the Athonite church, in devout concentration, together with many priests and deacons of the Holy Diocese and with the participation of all the Orthodox students and many other invitees. Afterwards, in the Orthodox University hall followed the civil ceremony in his memory, in which spoke many students and priests, presenting Fr. Chrysostomos’ holy life and missionary work. Among others spoke Fr. Gerasimos from Kananga, who knew Fr. Chrysostomos in person and brought with him a piece of his sanctified relics.

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At that time, Mr. Vaios Prantzos, the former president of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, was in Kinshasa for missionary reasons and participated in the ceremony. He gave a short address and emphasized the spiritual link that Fr. Chrysostomos had with the Fraternity as its spiritual founder. The event was closed by Metropolitan Nikiphoros, who referred to the spiritual bonds that connected him and his family with the late missionary.

May his memory be eternal.

From the Holy Metropolis

“The Voice of Orthodoxy”

12 January 2016

The Voice of Orthodoxy is broadcast every morning reaching houses, huts, villages and the surrounding cities of the natives. It is the daily catechesis conducted here in the heart of Africa, in the Orthodox diocese of Central Africa by “Saint Athanasios the Athonite” Orthodox University. Here, in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo (DRC).

The Voice of Orthodoxy is the hymns, the lives of the saints, the catechesis, the interpretation of the daily gospel readings, it is the homilies of the Holy Fathers of the Church, it is the message of Orthodoxy.

For four hours in the morning and four in the evening the “Voice of Orthodoxy” travels through radio waves and reaches, not only ten, twenty or a hundred people, but everybody tuning their radio to 94.1 MHz.

Where the priest cannot go, where the catechist cannot enter, in houses of people of any religion, enters the Voice of Orthodoxy and there miracles can happen.

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Our phone often rings.

—I can hear you through the radio, I have learnt about you through it. What should I do to become an Orthodox Christian?
—We are 200 kilometers away from Kinshasa. We have not got any church here, neither a priest, nor a catechist. We listen to the Orthodox radio station every day. We get to know how we can be saved, we chant along what we hear. What beautiful hymns!
—I visited my friend in Kinshasa. He was listening to your broadcast, the “Voice of Orthodoxy”. “My soul found refuge”, he said, “I learnt things I didn’t know, I realized what the truth is; something spoke inside me. I got jealous of him. During my stay there, we would listen to the broadcast together. Soon I will be leaving for my village, which is 600 km away from here. How can we receive your signal there? Make such a radio station for us, too.
—I am an Orthodox Christian. A priest comes here regularly and conducts the liturgy for us. Every morning and evening the catechist gathers the faithful at our grass hut-church to chant.I am in bed, I cannot go to church, but I listen to our Church’s radio station and rejoice, forget my loneliness and my disability and praise God.
—I became an Orthodox Christian by listening to your station, and I now say to my friends: listen to the “Voice of Orthodoxy” and your life will change.

The catechesis going everywhere, the Church entering every Orthodox or non-Orthodox home, the “Voice of Orthodoxy”.

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But alas! This voice of Orthodoxy is running the risk of not sending its message anymore, of being silenced. Not because it has no other words of God to send to the people, nor because it hasn’t got vibrant and self-sacrificing people to operate the station. But because it has not got the money to buy oil and feed the electro generator, so that the radio station machinery can work.

The financial crisis in Europe has also brought financial difficulties to the Mission. We understand. Who can help us from Europe, when they can hardly make a living?

All of us here reach out our hands and wait for contributions from benevolent people in order to cope with the missionary expenses, continue operating our schools, help those who have nothing to eat, take them to the doctor, pay for their medications, make it possible for them to study and get married.

We are doing our best to scrimp and save every little bit we can, counting every single penny, every single franc. But it hurts! Should we allow the “Voice of Orthodoxy” to get silenced, our diocesan radio station to shut down, just because we have no money to buy oil for the generator?

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We appeal to God every day for donors and sponsors to be sent forth, so that the “Voice of Orthodoxy” will keep entering into the homes of the natives and permeating their hearts.

†Nikiforos of Central Africa

A medical clinic in the heart of the jungle

1 July 2015

Dear Friends of the Mission,

I feel I should make you partakers of the delight of our native brothers of Shamana province for the completion of the construction work of the small medical clinic that was funded by a donor of Our Fraternity.

Fr. Augustine with indigenous believers went to the forest with the chainsaw, which I had sent them, cut wood and built beds, tables, chairs, cabinets, doors, windows for the clinic. It was towards the end when they found out that their supplies in cement and nails had given out, and such things are rare in the forest villages. Naturally, they could not go on with their work. They notified us, and we had to send them new supplies from Kinshasa. This is the point where the struggle of the Mission starts. The materials traveled for two months into the river in order to reach the nearest town, Ilebo.

Once we learned that the cargo had reached the town, we notified them and they went to collect the 30 bags of cement and nails that we had sent by riverboat. An indigenous group went for the collection in their canoes. They had been traveling in the river for a week before they reached Ilebo, where they received them and took the road back home. Those materials would be used for paving the floor and finishing the bed construction. Our little building was about to finish. At that point it had to be equipped with mattresses, bed-sheets, pillows, medicines, medical instruments. A new struggle was about to begin.

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The natives were happy and tried to show us their joy in every possible way. We were happy too and praised God for that blessing. It is not easy to build something so far away, where there are neither cars to convey materials, nor rudimentary roads. Soon they would have their own clinic, their medicines, their nurse, their doctor and would not die helpless on the way, or within the canoes trying to reach the nearest doctor.

I remember, in that tour, when after an eventful journey through the river Sankuru we reached Shamana, in the depths of the Congo, where white people had never been before, the joy of the natives when they saw us. The children wanted to come close to me, touch my hands, my beard, and then, they ran to their mothers exclaiming with enthusiasm: “He is like us!” The old men thanked me for giving them the chance to see before dying what the whites look like. The believers were singing: “The Orthodox Church is the only true Church, here is our Bishop, here is our father; where are you all who are saying that our Church does not exist?”

I still recall the way they got out through the woods to welcome us, how enthusiastically they came down to the river banks to greet us. I remember the evening when we sat under a big tree and started discussing with the village chief and the tribal leaders of the region; among other things, they expressed their feelings of concern and sorrow for their people who fell ill, ” Old men and our children get sick, and until we take them to the nearest clinic, which is a few days away on foot or in canoes, they have died on the way.”

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Their words of pain made me cry. I felt guilty. It really hurt when I was told: “We do not want anything else, just help us to have our medical clinic.“ In order to show me their love, outside the hut where I stayed the night, they spent the whole night dancing and singing around the campfire. I could not get what I had heard out of my mind that night. Now they are dancing; if they fall ill tomorrow, what will happen to them? They will die on the way to the nearest clinic. I looked at them and my eyes were filled with tears. At dawn, as I was leaving, I made a promise to them: “I will do everything in my power; pray for it to God and He will help.”

When, after a three-week tour in the depths of the Congo, I returned to Kinshasa, I contacted the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity. I told them about the feelings of anguish and pain of our brothers from Shamana and the donor was found; therefore, today we can be proud of our little clinic. God bless the donor. May God help our little clinic so that it will soon be equipped with medicines and medical-surgical instruments. Then, it will be able to offer medical assistance to our brothers there in the depths of the Congo so that they won’t die helpless anymore.

† Nikiphoros of Central Africa

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The historical background of the monastery in Kolwezi, Congo (DRC)

29 May 2015

“History teaches us that it is from monasteries that sprang up all church missions, and that missionaries founded monasteries wherever they traveled.”

– Archimandrite George Capsanis

Since Orthodoxy is inconceivable without monasticism, in November 2006 the abbot of Gregoriou Monastery on Mount Athos, Archimandrite George, gave us a blessing-mandate: to celebrate a sarantaleitourgo (40 consecutive days of Divine Liturgy) at the monastery’s dependency of Saint George in Thessaloniki, and use the “revenues” from it  for the establishment of a male monastery in Kolwezi, Congo (DRC).

The sarantaleitourgo was held in January-February 2007 and brought in a lot of blessings, while the contributions on the part of philomonastic people were continued intermittently in the following years.

The Blessing Service of the foundation stone was celebrated by Bishop Meletios Gregoriate in September 2009, and in 2012 most of the work at the holy monastery was completed. In October 2012 the Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodore II, conducted the established Blessing Service during his missionary tour in the Congo.

Η Ιερά Μονή Αγίων Αποστόλων Kolwezi

The Holy Apostles monastery in Kolwezi

Fr. George commissioned the worthy monk Fr. Barnabas Gregoriate as the  abbot of the new monastery, and prior to his departure on November 4, 2013, he blessed him, giving him inspired counsels. The enthronement took place on April 21, 2014 and already the Congolese monastery is run according to the “typikon” (set of rules) of Mount Athos with three indigenous novice monks.

Arch. George Capsanis participated in the divine life and love and, having experienced the “spiritual change in Christ”, he had accepted the global vision and the apostolic responsibility of the Orthodox Church in the modern world at the command of Christ “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …” (Matt. 28: 19). This is why he believed that “Mission is the evangelism of those who have never met Christianity as well as the re-evangelism of those belonging to the Church in name only”, and considered it to be a need of the united to Christ soul, according to Paul’s maxim, “For if I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to boast about; for necessity is laid on me; but woe is to me, if I don’t preach the Gospel…” (I Cor. 9: 16)

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Fr. George could give “no sleep to his eyes or slumber to his eyelids” in order to contribute to the evangelism of our brothers, those living nearby, but also those afar, in the Congo. So in 1978, when the late hieromonk Cosmas Gregoriate (Aslanides) asked him to authorize his participation in the mission of Kolwezi, he pioneered as an Athonite abbot and immediately accepted his proposal, saying: “But go thou and preach the kingdom of God”(Luke, 9: 60) to our brothers in the Congo. And on the occasion of this event, he organized the missionary team for the city of Kolwezi, which he unfailingly directed until his last days.

He said the same words to his successor hieromonk Meletios in 1989 and recently to hieromonk Barnabas, when he sent him to undertake the office of hegumen: “propagate the Word of God and hand down in the African land the spirit, the prayer and the life of the Holy Mount Athos”!

The history of the modern missionary era will have a lot to record as regards the contribution of Gregoriou Monastery to the Congo, especially that of the prime mover of this God-inspired activity, the abbot Fr. George, because he renewed in our time the old missionary policy concerning the establishment of holy monasteries by contemporary missionaries.

It would be a truly admirable and pious work, if the renewal of this policy were made by other monasteries as well –male and female–, which would allow some of their members to continue their sanctification in a brother monastery abroad. This would be the greatest, the most pious act of charity (a form of spiritual almsgiving) of the parent monastery to all the faithful brothers of our Church. This, in our humble opinion, would be a clear manifestation of our obedience to the Lord’s commandment, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …” and of our belief in the contribution of monasticism to the Church. The necessity of both is also confirmed by the establishment of 17 monasteries in North America.

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Some people say, “When your garden is thirsty, do not pour the water out.” But, my brothers, we must not forget that our garden is none other than the garden of Christ, and that according to the Orthodox teaching and worship, this garden is the whole world!

Archimandrite George visualized all the above, lived them and put them into practice, both “in words and in deeds”.

Our wish, then, also wish of all missionary divisions, those that cannot find monks or nuns in order to start two monasteries in their diocese, is that the example of the late abbot George Capsanis should be followed and find many imitators… God grant it!

Fr. Georgios Kougioumtzoglou

Postcard from the Congo

29 April 2015

Dear brothers in Christ,

By the grace of God our Father and your own prayers, I am at the queen of the Congo (DRC), the blessed Kinshasa of fourteeen million people.

Bishop here, as you know, is His Beatitude Nikiforos, an Athonite monk from Micra Hagia Anna. He is very burdened because of the scale of the Congo and the number of Christians he pastors. Moreover, he is also the rector of the Orthodox University here, which is already licensed by the state for five schools: Theology, Agriculture, Computer Science, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. Of these, the two schools of Theology and Computer Science have already been established and function properly. Furtermore, the Rector and his colleagues are free to set the admission rules for the freshmen. Specifically, in the School of Theology only baptized Orthodox young adults with faith, morals and a conscious Christian life are accepted.

Στο σχολείο "Χρυσόστομος Παπασαραντόπουλος"

“Chrysostomos Papasarantopoulos” school

The bishop is young and healthy, quickwitted, multitalented and brainy and by God’s grace he copes well with his ministry. I mean, he has to deal with priests, faithful, students, teachers, visitors, workers on various projects. These days, the second wing of the School of Computer Science was completed. At the same time, four schools and four churches are being constructed. The believers travel for hours on Sundays in pickup truck beds or on foot, to attend the Liturgy.

In Isiro region, they ask to be baptized. Old, young and children have sent requests for seven years, but so far it wasn’t possible. First, because proper Orthodox instruction takes time. Second, because to reach there you have to travel by plane, then by train, then by van and finally by motorbike! And third, because for each trip the fares alone cost 5,500 dollars!

Ιεραποστολική περιοδεία από φοιτητές της Θεολογικής Σχολής

Missionary tour by students of Theology

Furthermore, only recently did a pastoral visit of the bishop and two priests to eastern Congo became possible. In Uvira, Maniola, Goma and Vatira, there are many Orthodox people and churches. They conducted the Divine Liturgy and baptized numerous people with a lot of toil, because until recently there was a guerilla in the region and it was previously impossible to visit. The war left behind many orphans, injured people and wounds that do not heal easily.

This week saw the beginning of the academic year, which was admittedly hard. The selection and appointment of professors of all specialties that are needed every semester is a race against time. Many courses are delivered via teleconferencing. There are professors from the universities of Sydney, Brussels, Strasbourg, Greece and the Congo, of course! How many consultations need to be done. Not to mention the tremendous costs, especially those related to charity!

Μεγάλη Πέμπτη: Βάψιμο κόκκινων αβγών

Holy Thursday: Dying red eggs

We shouldn’t remain indifferent. This is a lot of work, brethren; efficient but somewhat underestimated. It resembles the Acts of the Apostles.

Let us pray for each other!

With all my respect and love
Presbytera Chrysanthi Perissoglou