Firstly, once again I would like to express my deep and sincere gratitude for your undivided material, moral and mainly prayerful support to the missionary work of our Holy Metropolis. I wholeheartedly thank you for your love and your noble donation of 7,500 euro to our Metropolis to meet the multiple functional needs of maintaining and continuing our missionary work in this fertile missionary province of the Patriarchate of Alexandria.
With this letter, I hereby wish to ask for your assistance for the drilling of a water-well in Empremai village in Ghana. In this village, we have just completed the construction of a new elementary school, which will offer free education to the children in the area, who would probably otherwise remain uneducated. The building complex is ready, but we need to drill a borehole so that students can have access to clean and safe drinking water. The total drilling cost along with the equipment is estimated at 4,000 euro.
I am well aware of the fact that the current economic conditions are extremely unfavorable and most often prohibitive. However, I draw courage from your love for the Mission and look forward to your positive response to our request for helping the young school children.
Over 200 Orthodox youth between the ages of 12 and 22 gathered at the St. Peter’s College, Larteh, in a ten-day Youth Camp organised by the Orthodox Church, Ghana.
On Tuesday 22 August, the young campers started arriving in chartered tro-tros (the mini buses used for public transport here), in taxis and even some buses. They were registered and put into two main groups under their supervisors or Camp Guides. There was immediately a lot of bonding between the young campers and the camp staff. There was an infectious joy all around. Soon, there was a slogan ringing out from gathering to gathering, from class to class, from event to event:
Learn the Orthodox Faith!
Live the Orthodox Way!
The idea was to create and provide an atmosphere of complete immersion into Orthodox life as was possible. This would be one way of strengthening the faith of our young ones, and protect them against aggressive and harmful proselytism. Daily activities included Morning Prayer and Bible Study in groups, followed by Matins. Breakfast was then followed by two study sessions with a short break in between; and then a lunch break followed in the afternoon by afternoon activities that included crafts, sports and games, talks on life issues targeted to this age group and lots of play. There was barely enough time to freshen up before we all crowded into the now too small Chapel of the Resurrection for Vespers which, like Matins, the campers sang with gusto. At each of these services one of the leaders, a local pastor gave a pep talk on how to “live the Orthodox way” and be a better Orthodox Christian. Vespers was followed by supper and an evening programme of meaningful and educative entertainment. Evening Prayer followed in small groups before the campers retired to bed.
The campers received many great ‘take-aways’. Prominent among these were the eye-catching inflatable solar lamps that will surely make studying a bit easier for the young ones in their rural communities, or when power fails, as it still often does, for the few in urban homes. Many were those who were proud to show off their bright string back packs displaying the camp logo, and the gifts they had made for their mothers on their return home.
As a first, this was a great camp, a great success. The chant of the children on the last day of the camp said it all. As they gathered in the small hall for last instruction, and in the grounds in front of the Chapel for the closing ceremony, they chanted:
Yɛpɛ a yɛnkɔ!
This does not translate well into English. They simply meant: ‘We don’t want to go!’ That chant ebbed only when they were assured that this would be an annual affair and that next year they would have not less than two weeks. That news was greeted with loud cheers of joy.
One Sunday morning in August, we were expecting in our Mission Center a priest from Sierra Leone, who had brought to Ghana his wife (presbytera) for health reasons. She was suffering from the incurable disease in different parts of her body. That morning Father Alexander came alone because his presbytera was in hospital. That clergyman was of short stature and had just been ordained. As he walked, his feet entangled in his robes but his step on the ground seemed light and the humility of his spirit was visible.
Several days went by and after a while, they came and stayed with us at the Mission Center of Accra. Unfortunately, besides a certain disability, his presbytera also had her right arm amputated due to cancer.
I watched them in their daily living with us. I noticed Father Alexander, every other day, washing his own clothes and those of presbytera’s in the tub himself, and her sitting next to him on a concrete block and speaking to him, keeping him company this way so as not to leave him alone. As soon as he finished washing, he carried the clothes to hang them at the other side of the Mission Center. She would follow him with slow steps while he was hanging up the clothes to dry. Her leaning on the crutch made it impossible for her to give her husband a helping hand, but in fact, she helped him with her attitude. In the afternoon, they would sit side by side under the big tree of the Mission Center and he would read her various verses of the Bible. When you saw them talking to each other, there was complete harmony. They spoke and looked in the same direction.
The presence of Father Alexander and his presbytera Elizabeth was a great living example and at the same time a sermon on conjugal love, devotion and faith in God’s will. Their living is a silent sermon, which leaves a deep impact and provides a vivid example of the silent presence of God among us.
Dear Members of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity of Thessaloniki,
It is the presence of God in our lives that plays the most important role in our achieving refinement. A living example of this is the two protagonists of our story described above. They are examples to be followed and imitators of the Lord’s life, which can only be described in one word: LOVE.
This love is something you make a reality as well through your kind support of our struggle on the large Mission field of Africa, where we try to sow the seeds of the love of God into wretched but decent human souls.
By the grace of God, this week we experienced two joyful events in our local Church of Ghana: first, the ordination of deacon Isaac into priesthood and second, our visit to our most remote parish in the region Ashanti in the northern part of the country for the celebration of Saint Cosmas of Aetolia. There we baptized a new group of converts into our Church and we inaugurated the new aqueduct of the village, a project funded by our Church for the supply of clean water to this underdeveloped area.
Early Sunday morning, on August 21, we embarked for the central region of Ghana, most particularly the church of Saint John the Theologian in Abo Dom village, where we ordained deacon Isaac a presbyter. Father Isaac is married and has two little girls. He and his wife are teachers. During the Divine Liturgy and before the commencement of the ordination, I addressed the wanna-be priest, emphasizing the burden of the responsibility which he was to undertake before God and men, and stressed that priestly life is one of constant offering and sacrifice. «Stay humble in your service, and God will bless you. Humility is a jewel and adornment for the cleric, which will adorn you, will make you lovable by all people, especially by your parishioners. The priest that is loved by all his parishioners is loved by God Himself.
The most essential quality of a priest should be the spirit of sacrifice and not the spirit of inertia. This means that the priest must give himself up for Christ rather than sacrifice the Church for himself. Keep your ears open to every advice, wherever it comes from, because you can always be taught something by anybody».
At the end of the Divine Liturgy, we congratulated the villagers on getting their new priest, for this parish had lacked its own permanent priest for a long time, as well as for an additional reason: Father Isaac was a child and fruit of this village.
Afterwards, we travelled for two more hours in order to visit the family of Samuel, the late catechist of our Church who had migrated to the Lord some days earlier, so as to comfort his spouse, who had accompanied him on all his catechetical tours from village to village, where he preached the Orthodox faith in the whole of Ghana. May his memory be eternal and his example followed by many others.
On Wednesday, August 24, we set forth at 3 a.m., so that five hours later we could reach the celebrating Saint Cosmas of Aetolia church, where we baptized a new group of catechumens in the river in place. May Saint Cosmas, this great missionary of our Church, be the patron of this Orthodox parish on the country’s northern border.
Later on, along with the local chiefs of Konsimwa county of Ashante region, we inaugurated the third well in a row in this place, which is an offer of our Church to the local society, so that people can have access to clean potable water, whose scarcity is one of the biggest problems of the nation. We should note the appreciation, the respect and the gratitude that everyone there feels for the Orthodox Church for its spiritual cultivation and for its humanitarian contribution in the fields of education, since our Church has also built a primary school and a library for this region.
At night, we arrived back at our base in Accra, worn out by the journey but redeemed in our heart and our soul for the missionary work that is done.
In this work, dear friends of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, you have always been succorers and companions on the journey of this holy mission. From its very beginning until these hard times, you have generously supported us with everything you have and can give so that the light of the Mission will not go out. May our good God bless you and strengthen us to keep on this long journey to the far ends of the Earth, so that the day when worn out we arrive at our heavenly base, the Lord will give us the redemption of our souls. Amen.
By grace of God and with the blessing of His Beatitude Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria, on January 13 I arrived at the capital of Ghana, the seat of my new diocese, after a long journey starting from Athens to reach the Western African shores of the Atlantic. Leaving a frozen Athens and getting off the airplane, you are received by a 33°C heat and 90% humidity and forthwith you understand that you are somewhere else.
With your first contact with people, at once you see how dignified and naturally peaceful they are, which is reflected on their eyes. They love foreigners and their first word is Akooaba! Welcome! Everywhere around people working. I didn’t notice any beggars in the traffic lights, on the road junctions, anywhere. This I confirmed the following days. Early in the morning they rush to work, whence it is regarded as one of the most rapidly developing countries in Africa.
Arriving at our missionary center, where lie the see and the Transfiguration cathedral, immediately I perceive that I was preceded by persons who have labored there a lot, so that I can find this organized missionary unit. Afterwards followed prayer and veneration at the church, a short tour of the place and my settlement in the bishop’s residence, which obviously looks like it was built to become a clinic, not a house to live in. My first care was to settle in my place and adjust it to my own needs and my daily life schedule.
On the second day, we planned our first moves: a clerical assembly, where I and my direct associates could meet each other, a meeting with the Orthodox youth groups and the arrangement of the enthronement. Phone calls, briefings and a lot of procedures, residence permit, telephone contracts and some initial matters. Finally, it was an important priority for us to be informed of and prepare the annual retreat for our Orthodox communities that takes place in late January. This retreat is a four-day program, when the Orthodox from all over Ghana join in Fomena village, where there is a big lot of our Church with the Annunciation chapel on it and the place is configured much like a summer camp in Greece. There gather the Orthodox faithful of all ages to attend a program of worship, sermons, evening prayers. Each group presents a musical or dance performance. The youth, the children, everyone participates. Of course, all the priests of our diocese are present. Generally, this retreat helps to strengthen relations between the Orthodox communities around the liturgical life and the spiritual nourishment which our Church offers and they tremendously need.
I cannot hide my satisfaction and joy I felt seeing their piety and devotion and great faith. Maybe this sign we meet everywhere in Ghana is no coincidence: Gye Nyame, “nothing except for God”, which is a symbol of God’s supremacy. This unique and beautiful symbol is ubiquitous in Ghana. It is the most popular decoration denoting the deep religious character of Ghanaians. Gye Nyame, “nothing except for God.”
Then I gave praise to God for the missionary work, because it has been done systematically for many years by all my predecessors, and I realized that these efforts should be continued, for they bring forth such fruits for the glory of God’s holy name.
However, it is necessary to stress that, though it is important to create a structure by raising a church, a school or a clinic, it is even more important for all these buildings to be glorified in a durable operation, which needs constant help and support for the proper functioning of these facilities. Unfortunately, in case that this support is absent, we lose what we earned by investing in the construction and we cannot operate them in the long term. Here comes the most difficult aspect: functional expenses. It is matter that few people pay attention to, namely only the people who can see more than their eyes, who have a vision and insight and are not confined in a picture, but this picture becomes the occasion for reflection and action.
Dear members and supporters of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, you are people of reflection and action, which is why you came to be involved with the Orthodox Missions. May our good God bless and give grace to you! I am grateful, for many times you have delivered us in your own way from problems we face in our ministry, hence I thank you.
I am sending you my warmest greetings from Accra, the capital city of Ghana, a country that is struggling to eliminate human misery.
It should be noted that the country lacks water supply network; even in the capital there is no potable water. It is worth mentioning that at the Metropolis we have two cisterns and the purchase of water costs us approximately 700 euros monthly, plus the potable water, which we have to buy as well.
There are hundreds of deaths due to contaminated water on a daily basis, even in Accra. Also, sewage runs on the roadside and the risk of contagious diseases, especially various forms of hepatitis, is high. A lot of clerics as well as children have died of hepatitis. In the province, things are even worse with the most terrible “disease”, famine, ravaging whole families, and in conjunction with the unsuitability of water, the worst scourge of all, these people have not only nothing to eat but also nothing to drink.
Things are getting more and more difficult due to the economic crisis in Europe as well as in Greece and Cyprus, since you are the main supporters of the Missionary Work. Unfortunately, the truth is hard to say and it hurts.
All of us in Africa are doing everything in our power in order to keep our Metropolises and Dioceses alive in every possible way and not have to abandon the Mission.
We are struggling to maintain our schools and institutions without any donations any more. This is why I would like to ask you to help us. If you know any schools in Greece which have school-buses that they no longer need, you could transport them in containers here in Ghana, and we could put them into circulation. This way, on the one hand, the people who go through a lot of discomfort due to lack of transport could be served, and on the other, the Metropolis would be able to have some revenues.
Another thing that is necessary is the purchase of water wagons for the transport of potable water to Parishes and Schools. This way, we will be relieved not only of the high transport costs but also of the frequent infections of the pupils due to water contamination. I would kindly ask you to publish this in the next issue of your periodical “Orthodox Mission”, in the hope that some warm-hearted person will be touched and help with even a small contribution. This way, we will be able to keep our work alive, because unfortunately there are no other solutions to resort to, and we are on the verge of collapse.
With God’s grace and the help of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity in Thessaloniki, we completed the construction of the computer laboratory in St. Peter’s vocational school in Larte, Ghana. Despite the difficult circumstances and the many problems our country faces, the Fraternity members managed to collect the necessary funds for the erection of the laboratory and what’s more: soon the construction of a science laboratory will start.
The computer lab came to supplement the deficiencies of St. Peter’s School and make it one of the best schools of the Larte province. 200 young men and women currently attend the school and there are hundreds of requests by candidates. Within the school, there is a Church of the Resurrection of our Lord; among other subjects the students are taking religious education classes and every Sunday after the Divine Liturgy there is a Sunday school for them. All students are offered a meal and most of them are offered free housing in the dorms.