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.
First of all, I would like to thank you wholeheartedly for the sincere support of your charitable society to the needs of our Holy Monastery, which is mainly used for the purchase of garden essentials.
The cultivation of plants, vegetables, fruit trees in our nurseries, greenhouses and cultivated land, besides curing our own needs, is also a means of maintaining our Holy Monastery in order to make it self-sufficient as well as one of apprenticeship for the young indigenous novice monks of our Holy Monastery in the ministry of the gardener.
So once more I ask for your support for the purchase of plant genetic material and tools. The aforementioned stuff is worth about € 1,500 and will be sent over here in a shipping container, which is already being loaded.
We would be grateful if you could assist in this purchase, and on our part, we will commemorate you for good health and fruition of the God-pleasing work that you are doing, through the intercession of the Holy Apostles, in honor of whom our Holy Monastery is named.
Wishing in the Lord, Hieromonk Varnavas Gregoriatis
The last period has been very difficult due to the various distressing events that have occurred, especially in the inland areas of the country, the large number of deaths, a feeling of intense insecurity, population displacement and the economic crisis that has further impoverished the already poor. The economic situation is also difficult to be dealt with; the low wages that the natives receive in the local currency do not suffice to meet their basic needs. Things are getting harder and harder.
Thankfully, the love and care of our gracious Orthodox Missionary Fraternity sent us food with the last two containers, and so we can face the feeding as well as the other needs of the dorm of our Theological School.
Now we are in the final examination period and at the end of the month we are going to award the degrees to our new graduates. Young men full of fervent zeal and ready for action, prepared to go back to their regions and minister the Church as teachers, catechists, choristers, and those of whom that God wants, as priests.
This year we had a great blessing of God: the creation and operation of the Sewing School. That was something completely new for our Mission. There are thirty girls attending it tuition-free. This School helps these young women acquire sewing skills in order to be able to find a job and provide financial support for their families.
The pastoral journeys into the province were continued, despite the fact that many new difficulties have arisen. Mbuji-Mayi, Kabinda, Nkanka, Mbanza-Ngungu, Kikwit. The ones into the interior of the Congo helped us keep abreast of the efforts of our priests and catechists as well as of the possibilities and problems of our Mission, and made us rejoice and pray with our faithful to the Lord to send out workers loyal to His Gospel.
With the blessings of His Beatitude our Patriarch Theodore, we had the ordination of the Professor of Kinshasa State University Photius Kimpabala. He was appointed to the city of Mbaza-Ngungu, 150 km away from Kinshasa. Since his appointment there, he has been struggling to organize as well as possible his parish and the church mission not only in that city but also in the surrounding villages. The city of Mbaza-Ngungu is at a focal point on the route from Kinshasa to the Atlantic Ocean. There are prospects for its becoming a missionary center of key importance in the upper Congo.
Another great blessing of God was the progress of the Byzantine School. The young people’s choirs in the capital have been reorganized, and it gives us so much joy to hear them sing enthusiastically and harmoniously the hymns and troparia of our Church. Naturally though, the lack of music books makes their work much harder.
A new prelatic region has been formed in the interior of the Congo, in the city of Mweka, with a radius of more than five hundred kilometers. If one wants to visit this area by boat, they have to travel through rivers for a whole month. The Mweka Reverend, Fr. Alexander Minga, was appointed Vicar, and in collaboration with the other three local priests, he moves forward with the missionary work. By the order and blessings of His Eminence, immediately after Easter his Deacon Fr. Chrysostomos was sent for a month in his support. The latter oversaw the continuation of the works at the Holy Apostles Church in Ilembo, helped with the catechesis and organization of seminars for young men and women, and visited several parishes.
We received considerable help from the visit of the Chancellor of the H. Metropolis of Ierissos Fr. Chrysostomos along with the 4 ladies that were accompanying him – the two nuns, Sisters Akylina and Paraskevi from the H. Monastery of St. Kosmas in Arnaia, and the two laywomen, Ms. Venetia and Ms. Stella. Two of them, Sister Paraskevi and Ms. Venice, undertook cooking duties at the Theological School’s dorm. Sister Akylina, hematologist doctor, and Ms. Stella, nurse, undertook running the University’s surgery. Three offices were made into surgeries, and apart from the university students, the St. Barbara parishioners as well as all the local residents were examined. Soon, another person was added to that team: Rev. Dr Michael Dandoulakis, who had come as a Professor of Medicine to teach at the Theological School. Blood tests and other medical exams were made, and free medications and medical advice were given to those present. Approximately five hundred people were examined. Fr. Chrysostomos taught at the Theological School the subjects he teaches every year. The visitors collaborated with the catechist of the Metropolis Ms. Stella Papadopoulou in the catechetical work and visited several parishes.
A great crusade must begin for the acquisition of a building plot and a church in the neighborhood where the disabled live. They continue to gather together on the sidewalk of their neighborhood, to conduct sacred services, and to be catechized. It breaks your heart to see them all in such gatherings. We visit them regularly, catechize them and conduct the services. We all pray that with God’s help, there will be donations for the land purchase. Unfortunately, this parish is in the center of the capital, where building plots are really expensive to buy.
A new group in another district of Kinshasa gathers in a house, chants and is catechized; this is the beginning of the creation of a new parish.
There are many calls for the Mission from the various parts of the Congo, but there are many difficulties as well. We are few, we are not enough, despite the fact that all our partners work with all their power.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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?
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.