It is with great joy that I recall our meeting at the Fraternity Offices, in this blessed place where, armed with Faith, abundant Love and Zeal, you fight in the rear and support the Orthodox Mission around the world, part of which is our humble missionary effort in India.
I am well aware of the difficulties that our country is experiencing and the needs of our Greek compatriots and, to be honest, I find it really hard to ask for financial assistance from Greece.
We experience the results of the crisis in India as well, and despite our faith in God’s love and providence, it is humanly impossible not to feel anxious, since we are responsible for so many souls.
So far with the help of God, we have been able to keep the following programs running:
The Calcutta soup kitchens: Breakfast milk for homeless children and lunch for the blind and the disabled elderly.
Free medical and pharmaceutical treatment at the five Mission Clinics.
The operation of the five schools of the Mission in the villages where there are Orthodox churches and parish communities.
The operation of our two Orphanages, one for boys and one for girls, which we believe are the nursery of future Missionaries.
The smooth functioning of our English school on the premises of the Girls’ Orphanage, attended by our orphaned children and not only.
All of the above have resulted from enormous efforts and a great deal of concern and anxiety, as revenues are constantly falling, while needs and living costs are rising.
During this anguished effort, we received your donation of 13.300 euros, which will be used according to the purposes designated by the donors, whom we thank from the depth of our souls.
We were especially relieved by your donation for the soup kitchen for the less fortunate. I cannot describe it with words! We were about to discontinue this program due to lack of funds and our whole existence was suffering thinking all these blind, disabled and elderly people who for years survive only thanks to this little food that our Mission gives them every day. It grieved me but I had no way out. The solution was finally given by the all-merciful Lord through the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity that all these years stands by our side like Simon of Cyrene in the gloomiest moments of our cruciresurrectional course.
At the fish pond of our orphanage
All oceans have a bottom. Truly I tell you, however, that my gratitude to your Fraternity is bottomless. How could I reciprocate? I have no time to write long responses and articles. I only have a prayer from the innermost of my soul. May God grant health and strength to all of you, so that with the same zeal and sacrificial love you will keep on serving the work of God for the evangelization of the nations.
I welcome your kindness, which always accompanies our missionary work here in Calcutta. I apologize for not having written to you for quite some time. This period, we are expecting the arrival of the monsoons, which are often devastating but at the same time beneficial because, thanks to them, rice, which is the main food in India, grows to fruition.
The crisis in Greece has had –without exaggeration– a dramatic impact on us. No matter how strong your faith is in God’s love and providence, when you are responsible for so many souls, it is only human not to feel anxiety and insecurity. I constantly have to make calculations to see whether we will be able to meet our basic needs. I have reduced the staff team to the bare minimum. As a result, the workload is immense. 24 hours in a day is not enough, and I sincerely apologize for not being able to respond to my correspondence, thus disappointing kind-hearted people, good friends and brothers.
We have, of course, joyful things happening, too. In this life, joys and sorrows go side by side. Nine of our girls who have finished their studies are now working in our English school. My dream is to leave the school in Orthodox hands. Otherwise, without an Orthodox testimony and perspective, we deviate from our purpose and we fail to accomplish it.
Morning prayer at our school
Some of our girls have got married, two to Orthodox young men, and we had a joyful atmosphere with the weddings at the orphanage. Glory to God for all things!
The dream for our farm took one small step forward with the completion of the surrounding wall thanks to a donation from Trikala. So we now have our own fish from the lake, without the fear of getting it stolen by our neighbors. We have also planted vegetables in an effort to reduce food costs as much as possible. Missions must become economically self-sufficient. Unfortunately, we had not foreseen this before, when we had more donations…
Now I come to the donations from the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, for which I am deeply grateful. Above all, I would like to thank you for your understanding because, despite my silence, you are still helping Mission in India without minding which person ministers to the Mission’s needs, and this does you great credit and is something that differentiates your Fraternity from the others.
May God keep you in good health and always bless your labors and your work. Please remember us in your prayers.
With deep gratitude & love in Christ Sister Nektaria
Christ is Risen! May the Light of our Lord’s Resurrection shine in the souls of all people and His joy fill our hearts. I pray that His peace will prevail on Earth.
I would like to thank wholeheartedly the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity for their new donation for the immediate needs of our two girls’ and boys’ orphanages. As you know, these little children were literally collected from the streets. I wish we could take more within the protective bosom of the Orthodox Church. I earnestly apologize for not being able to send more frequent updates. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
So here, thank God, the atmosphere on Easter Week and on Easter Sunday was beautiful; simple and full of devout reverence. Until Good Friday the services had been conducted at the Orphanage Church, but on the night of the Resurrection we went to Calcutta to celebrate all together at the Greek Church of the Transfiguration of our Savior Jesus Christ.
On Easter Sunday we had a love feast at the Orphanage. I was very tired with the preparations and the coordination, but the happy faces of the children were the best reward for me. That’s all my news for now. May God always keep you in His loving care. Lots of Easter wishes, greetings, love and thanks to all Fraternity members.
The charity work of the Philanthropic Society of the Orthodox Church in India is extremely rich. Our Fraternity always tries to support the Society’s tireless efforts. In 2010, we contributed 100,000 euros to the building of a new boys’ orphanage. Both this and an Orthodox girls’ orphanage houses 150 impoverished orphans, found on the streets of Kolkata, West Bengal. The orphanage provides them with accomodation, nutrition, clothing, education, protection from exploitation and, above all, the right to dream of a good future.
Please, do not forget contributing to our orphans in Kolkata. Without your help, the orphanages will close down and 150 children are in danger of going back to the streets. The needs are immediate and pressing. We are confident in your love.
When I decided to come to India-specifically to the orphanage of the Orthodox Church in Calcutta- and I announced it to my friends, they all asked me the same question: “Where will you spend your Christmas? At least, will you have any relatives there?” And I replied, “Yes, I will have my aunt, Sister Nektaria”.
It is true that Christmas is a family celebration customarily spent with the loved ones. But I came to Calcutta and was welcomed into a larger family. More than 100 boys and girls who live in the orphanage received me as their brother, and we spent these Holy Days together.
A few days before the holidays, the older girls made prosphoron (communion bread) for the Divine Liturgy in our Greek Church of Calcutta and for the church of the Girls’ Orphanage. Due to these preparations, the grounds of the orphanage had a festive atmosphere. On Christmas Eve, the older girls again went to clean the church. They polished all the utensils, swept, mopped and decorated the place with colorful flowers to be ready for the reception of the faithful, who would come to church to celebrate the Nativity of Christ.
Boys, girls, and many faithful from the village and the surrounding area turned out in the evening for the all-night vigil of Christmas. The choir consisted of the girls of the orphanage, who sang Byzantine hymn tunes in Greek, English and Bengali. People of all ages, young and old, were all attending the Divine Liturgy without talking, silently participating in the Mystery. All these people came to know Christ and were baptized into His Church, believers in a country where Christianity is a minority and fanaticism is fierce. They are true Christians. I felt infinite admiration for them and I will try to imitate their example in my own personal and spiritual life.
After the Divine Liturgy, all the participants gathered in the orphanage refectory to drink tea, eat cake and watch the ladies sing Christmas songs. At midday everyone gathered in the same place to enjoy the Christmas dinner. The atmosphere was so nice and festive! The children were happy and the food simple but wonderful.
In the afternoon, we visited the church in Calcutta with a group of boys and girls. I was told by Sister Nektaria that on such a day lots of people come from early in the morning to pray. What I saw though, was far beyond my imagination. We sat in the church for a few hours in order to have a look at it and venerate the holy icons and during our stay there, thousands of people passed to light a candle and pray. The queue outside the church was huge. The most impressive thing though, is the fact that these crowds were not Christians. They were Hindus, who, nevertheless, acknowledge and respect Christ.
Once again I was immensely impressed by the reverence of these people. Inside the church they were peaceful and serene, and when arriving in front of the icon of the Virgin Mary with Jesus Christ, they knelt down to venerate it and pray. Hindus of all ages passed through the beautifully decorated Orthodox sacred church.
The spectacle was unprecedented and unique. The church interior was so beautifully floodlit and decorated! Externally, not only the building but also the surrounding trees and the manger were illuminated with spectacular lights. Everything was adorned with remarkable care and attention, a sign of devotion and Faith, love and gratitude to the newborn Christ, our Savior.
The fact that the Mission in this distant country is blossoming is a blessed work, which presents Orthodoxy as a religion of love and offer to the fellow man and which honors all those who support it, both materially and morally.
May God enlighten all those responsible for this remarkable missionary work and give them strength and health to continue their daily struggle to change the lives of even more people in need. Hector Roumeliotis
I am writing -admittedly, with a certain delay- to inform you that we received your € 5,000 donation, and to thank you wholeheartedly for that. I would also like to express our sincere gratitude for your overall support.
Lately I was in hospital day and night next to a 6-year-old girl, who, while being healthy and cheerful, all of a sudden suffered an intracranial hemorrhage, which was manifested with a severe headache. I immediately took her to the doctor, but there she lost consciousness and would not recover. Then I took her to hospital, where I spent all my savings. She got intubated and fell into a deep coma. The doctors were not at all optimistic, but I was hoping for a miracle. She was in the intensive care unit and I was allowed to visit her three times a day. I would speak to her aloud hoping she might be able to hear and wake from the coma. I was praying to God, to our Lady and to all the Saints. Three days ago she passed away. That was God’s will for this poor creature.
This week in West Bengal everything is closed due to Hindu festivals. Nobody is working except me. The orphanage staff is on leave because of the feast, so I do the cooking as well. Actually, I am mostly coordinating things because the older girls help me a lot. All things should be done unto the Glory of God!
May all of you enjoy good health. Please, remember us in your prayers.
Taking part in the work of the Philanthropic Society of the Orthodox Church in India is truly to experience Sister Nektaria and who she is.
Just one facet of the works of the Society is a life commitment for any one person, and yet sister Nektaria all alone takes on the responsibilities required of an army of people: she manages five schools -four village schools and St. Ignatius English Medium School-, five medical clinics in the remote villages; twelve churches, the clergy, personnel; the daily morning feeding program which provides milk and biscuits to about 60 to 100 children in the morning. For some children this is the only meal they will receive all day. She also runs the daily Lunch Program which serves prepared meals to 80-100 of the poorest of the poor. And of course she runs the Theotokos’ Girls Hostel, home to 80 girls and St. Ignatius Boys’ Hostel, which currently has 50 boys. On top of all that, she deals with the never-ending list of daily tasks, and the infuriating bureaucracy involved with everything.
The children are so beautiful and talented and intelligent. Sister has provided not just a shelter, but a home for them. More than lucky, they are blessed. They have hope and dream. They have accomplishments lined up ahead of them and the potential that radiates from them is infectious. They have so much love to share; it hits you in the face at full force from the moment you walk through the orphanage gates, and you are swept up in it, engulfed and locked tight into a this huge new family. Their smiles are constant, instantaneous and achingly genuine. I too was immediately bonded with them and became part of this big family.
Transformation of Souls
The children have never owned anything; they never went to the school, nor they knew how to hold a pencil or how to wear their clothes properly or even how to bathe themselves. The transition from their old life of unimaginable poverty and pain to living at the hostel, where they have food three times a day, with seconds and thirds if they want, or where someone isn’t beating them or shouting at them and they have a bed and a bathroom and walls and clean clothes and a million other new things; this transition can be difficult for them; it’s a completely new world, but you can see a transformation in them instantly.
Modumita whose mother died in an accident and her father was not fit to take care of her, came to the orphanage when she was very young and now 7 years old, through the education at St. Ignatius School, she can dream of becoming a teacher!
Ashim (Minas) is a 12-year old sweet boy, an orphan from father and his mother is suffering from incurable decease, unable to take care of even herself. He never went to school until he came to the boys’ orphanage 5 years ago. Now he attends to class III at St. Ignatius School. He does not mind to be in the class with the children who are younger than he. He is rather grateful for this opportunity and studies hard. When he grows up, he wants to be a priest. On Sundays he leaves the boys’ orphanage early morning and walks to the church on the orphanage ground to serve in the altar. I found him in the altar at 6:50am every Sunday!
Sister Nektaria is blessed with so many incredible talents. She speaks many languages. She acts as administrator, as accountant, as teacher, as headmaster, as mother, as spiritual guide often all at the same time. And all this incredible humanitarian work she does in a state, where Christianity, let alone Orthodoxy, is a minute presence if it is visible at all. Her Christian inspiration is entirely through her actions as a self-less, loving servant to God. And yet, everything she does is under suspicion.
I am not, by all means, writing this article to praise her. I am writing, because through our efforts perhaps we can lessen the burden that Sister has to bear and continue fulfilling the works of the Philanthropic Society of the Orthodox Church.
I hope I can see her again, so I can embrace her and her children and my children there with my heartfelt greetings; kalimera sister, kalimera children.
I feel deeply affected by your manifestation of love as well as the financial aid your Fraternity offered us these difficult days that we are going through here in India. It is important for us to know that some brothers remember us. Thank you for doing so now, as you have been doing since the beginning of the missionary work in India by the late Fr. Athanasios Anthides.
It is true that I have been late in contacting you, because we have been through fire and water and diseases and needs and difficulties, especially during the last three months. Without electricity or free time for correspondence and with a mind frequently blocking in front of deadlocks!…
It seemed like a deluge coming from Heaven. It had been pouring with rain day and night since August 19th. The city of Calcutta was flooded, and so were we, in the girls’ Orphanage! Rivers and lakes overflew. Roads turned into rivers and the whole place became impassable. Transport in the city can only be conducted with makeshift dinghies made from tree logs.
The first two days, the children seemed to be enjoying it. The rainwater was clear, and they were able to swim and play in the yard, but afterwards it was stirred with dung and sewage from spilt-over sewers and turned into mire. The only good thing was that our yard was filled with fish. We haven’t bought any for three months. God brought them to our door! However, along with the fish, the water drifted in poisonous snakes, which were looking for a dry place… But the only dry place was our buildings, which are fortunately elevated. The water only came to a halt when it was 2 cm. below the top stair of the entrance.
We have made makeshift bridges, on which you must keep a good balance in order to be able to move from one building to another. However, our biggest nightmare was and still is the snakes. Lots of people in our region have died of a snakebite, two of whom were little children. God has protected us by now and, I hope He will be by our side till the end.
Then came the epidemics, by which we weren’t spared. I am currently staying at the boys’ Orphanage. Most of the children are ill with chicken pox. Cherubim, the Orthodox lad in charge here, was also infected and left and so did the cooker with all the staff and the doorkeeper. 58 boys need care. Since I moved here, I’ve been struggling to do everything by myself, working night and day!… Pray that God will help me hold up, until everyone has recovered.
As you know, our region is rural. Due to this torrential downpour though, people’s crops have been totally destroyed. To top it all, the typhoon has uprooted fruit trees and has blown down houses.
Basic foodstuffs are now luxury goods. There is a great shortage of them, so prices have soared! Inaccessible to the majority. People are desperate, homeless and hungry. The come to our mission in hope and beseech for help. My heart breaks. Nobody believes me when I say that I am very sorry but I am unable to help, because I myself can hardly scrape out an existence.
What can I say? On October 29th I needed 3,800 euros for the payroll of teachers, doctors and other staff, but there was only a little money left in our account. This is why initially I said that my mind blocks in front of deadlocks… If it was not for the good God and His love to find a solution at the last minute, we wouldn’t exist today. “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being.”
God’s love is big, He often tests us “as gold in the furnace” and eventually He stretches forth His hand smiling and saying to us, “you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
May God give you health and strength and bless the work of your Fraternity. Sister Nectaria
Looking at our children’s pictures, it is really hard to think of the sufferings they went through in the first years of their lives.
Seeing the living conditions as well as the provisions they have in our Orphanages, one cannot imagine from what terrible conditions they got away. In the text that follows, we depict the past of two of our children. Their stories are different. Common denominator is the wretchedness and the neglect/abandonment which scarred their infancy, a fact that characterizes the earlier life of all of our orphans.
Maria (Poja) was brought up on the streets of Calcutta. When she came to the Orphanage 4 years ago, we saw a child whose little body was full of sores due to skin infections. Immediately she reached out her hand for money saying “taka, taka, daw”, which means “Money, money, give me money”, since she experienced the hard face of life from her infancy: during the day she begged in order to survive and at night she slept alone on the streets.
On entering the Orphanage, she was relieved of her dirty, shabby clothes and a hot bath welcomed her wretched little body. Her skin had so many sores that even the contact with the water and the soap hurt. A good portion of a hot meal is what followed, and right after that a second and a third one. ..
Little Maria could not believe her eyes: she had so much food without having to beg! And it was not only the food: medical treatment and proper medication healed the sores on her body and she was relieved of the skin problems that total lack of care and hygiene had caused.
But above all, it is love that comes to heal all the wounds of orphanage and abandonment. In the 4 years that Maria has been with us, she came to know the meaning of the words “care”, “affection”, “joy”, “company”, “play”. She already knows how to write and read, and despite her young age (she is going to nursery school in a month), she can communicate very well in English.
Boys of our orphanage
Among the boys of our Orphanage is little Ronny. Ronny was born in the slum huts that spring up in every corner of Calcutta. He was like a wild beast when he came to the “Saint Ignatius” Orphanage 2 years ago. He was a nervous and unruly child, who could only communicate through dirty words, which could make even adults blush. An enraged boy, full of violence and reaction inside of him due to the cruelty his pure eyes faced in the slum areas where he lived.
He would kick, call names and spit in order to keep the people around him at a safe distance. God knows what kind of abuse he had undergone to react this way. From the very first day he was surprised at the fact that no one reacted violently to his attitude. The only things he found in us were love and a warm hug. His change was extremely fast and spectacular: he has become one of the most eager to help and obedient little children we have, happy and sweet-spoken. He likes school and he gladly puts on his uniform in the morning in order to go to nursery school. He has been in the orphanage for 2 years now.
When these children are playing in the yard after having done their homework, sometimes they look at the gate of our Orphanage in case some relative of theirs visits them. So far no one has shown up. They have no relatives at all. They are all alone in the world, like many of our orphans.
However, despite their young age, they know that in a distant country, there are some Orthodox people who care about them, some people who cater for their needs without knowing them in person. These people comprise the big family of this Orphanage, thanks to whom the children’s needs and dreams can be realized.
That’s why they are happy and grateful. They have no way to pay back your great donation; however, from their pure innocent heart there is a wish for you going upwards in their daily prayer:
I am writing these few lines with feelings of deep gratitude in order to thank you for your continuous love, support and aid to the Mission in India.
Despite the hard, tragic times our country is currently facing, you have miraculously managed to support us financially during the last three months (March to May 2013) with a considerable amount of money (12,300 € in total).
No matter how hard we try to cut down on the expenses, the needs for such an extensive and multifarious work are still plentiful and urgent; therefore, every single euro is of vital importance to us. We pray to God so that His Love and Providence do not abandon either our Greek compatriots who are suffering or us in the far-off India.
Please include us in your prayers so that the Lord enlightens and supports us in this hard struggle and blesses our humble ministry to His own Work.
With heartfelt thanks and love in Christ