We praise God for your continued support to us; you are always by our side helping us meet our needs, and we are deeply grateful for that. We warmly thank you for the 10,000 euro you sent us. This amount of money was used for buying Father Chariton Zega a truck which will help him and his family earn their living, since, as you know, our priests here in Indonesia do not get a salary. With this money we will also pay the teachers for our schools in Sumbul village.
We have been thinking of writing Orthodox books for years. These books are usually requested by people who want to learn more about Orthodoxy. Until now we have managed to get very few books printed in Indonesian. Now we have 8 books ready for printing, all written by Presbytera Elizabeth and Fr. Chrysostomos Manalu.
The books are:
Prayer Book. It contains morning prayer, prayers for various needs, instructions on confession, supplications, some troparia and many more.
Ancient Greek books for the Saint Paul Theological School here in Medan.
Satan and Exorcisms. Asia, particularly Indonesia, is the land of evil spirits. Presbytera Elizabeth translated the exorcisms, which we read to some people, and by the grace of God they were cured.
1 and 2 Thessalonians. Commentary on the first epistles written by Saint Paul.
Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the last 3 years the Jehovah Witnesses have made huge efforts for their Mission. It is our duty, the duty of the Orthodox Church, to testify that they are not Christians, so as to protect our flock from going the wrong way.
Synods and Heretics.
Introduction to Orthodox Theology.
These are the 8 books that must be printed, so we make an earnest appeal to your kind heart for help. We need your assistance to carry out this great project.
As for our hospital here in Indonesia, things have been really difficult so far. I honestly do not know what to do anymore. I will leave it to the mercy of God, for I am just too tired.
Even though our Theological School is doing well, its graduates are being taken by the Protestants. Unfortunately we do not offer them jobs in our Church. Now we have 3 families whose men want to become priests. They were taught the ecclesiastical things and finished the St. Paul Theological School, but until now they have not yet been ordained as we have been waiting for the blessing of His Eminence to do that.
These are our problems, brothers. Pray that our good God will strengthen us and that Our Lady Theotokos will embrace us.
With God’s help and protection we are in good health. During my stay on Nias Island in late May I called Father Chariton to meet and discuss how the projects of our Orthodox Church can move forward on this island, where we have 3 parish communities and an Orthodox school. In charge of all three communities is Fr. Chariton, who, in order to be able to minister to all of them, uses an old motorcycle as a means of transport. On weekdays Father Chariton works as a teacher at St. Nicholas High School. With the school’s revenues he can barely pay the teachers and the other employees, and very little money is left for gas. Keep in mind that everywhere on the island of Nias there are bananas and coconuts, which in villages are sold at ludicrously low prices. Fr. Chariton aims to buy them from the villages and transfer them to the city center, where they are sold at much higher prices. The proceeds of this job will enable him to perform his ministry. For this purpose, Fr. Chariton needs a second-hand car for the fruit transport and money for the purchase of fruit. So I am taking the liberty of telling you about this program in the hope that some potential donors will be able to support it because, as you know, our priests here in Indonesia work without getting paid.
Fr. Chariton with Orthodox children at St. Martha church
From June 20th to June 25th we held our Clerical Assembly in Sumatra, Indonesia. Representatives from all our parish communities came to the city of Medan. This gave us a great pleasure because we had the opportunity to get together again. Among them were our priests, Fr. Theodosius, Fr. Luke and Fr. Chariton. On Sunday, at the closing of the Convention, all the priests concelebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. Demetrius S. Church in Medan. We would like to thank you wholeheartedly for the $ 4,000 you sent us for the realization of this assembly. Our faithful were greatly strengthened and given guidance and direction as regards the continuation of the Mission in this region.
As you know, our Mission runs a few schools: Aghia Sophia Educational Center, Saint Nikitas primary school, St. Nicholas High School, St. Apostle Paul’s Theological School… The poorest of all is that of Saint John the Baptist in Sumbul, which is not self-sustained because it is new and has only been in operation for 4 years now. In the 3 grades of Middle School we only have 45 students. As it is a village and the people are very poor, we set the tuition fee at just 2.50 euro. However, with € 110, it is practically impossible to cover the wages of 10 teachers, a guardian and a cleaner. The new school year began in July. We would be grateful if you could help us make ends meet by sending us your contribution.
Warm greetings to all of you from my partners and collaborators here in Indonesia.
With the help of God we are doing well. I hope you are all doing well too, always with His protection. I would like to mention some things from our Orthodox Mission here in Sumatra, Indonesia.
From the 23th to the 26th of December, 2016, I went to our parish community of the Lord’s Resurrection in Siparbue village. I stayed there to give them some counseling, since their priest Fr. Athanasios fell asleep in Christ two years ago. Until now no other priest has gone there. So, in order to give the chance to the parishioners of the Tarutung province to go to church, another priest from the city of Medan needs to go down to their village, and that is either Fr. Theodosius or me. Those days that we conducted some sacred services (Holy Liturgy, Baptism and Christmas services), they rejoiced our stay, because we were close to them. We pray to the Most Merciful God to send them a priest.
Things here in Indonesia are not good, because there has been an upsurge of religious fanaticism on the part of bigoted Muslims, who want to apply sharia throughout Indonesia. Most people do not want them, because here we have many races, tribes and religions. These Muslims have made a lot of attacks, burned churches and dropped bombs on Christian property. If Christians want to claim a leadership position, they are hindered by them in any possible way. O brothers, please pray that the Almighty God guards and protects us.
We received your donation of € 7,000 and we thank you very much for your love and kindness. In January we began the construction of the priest’s house. We have also scheduled the baptisms and paid all of Stephen’s fees for University. This year, God willing, he will finish his studies and will start looking for a job to help his little orphaned brothers, those that Fr. Athanasios has left behind.
My beloved brothers, another son of Stephen’s father, Cosmas, is keen to become an iconographer. His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos of Australia has invited him there in order to become an iconographer and a theologian too. All the costs in Australia will be covered by the Archdiocese, but in order to go there, he needs to learn the language and pass the required exams. As you know, we priests here in Indonesia do not get any salaries. Consequently, I cannot afford to send Cosmas to learn the language, which is why I resort to your love. In the future we will need an indigenous iconographer for our Mission here, which is why Cosmas is valuable to us. I appeal to your kind heart to help him learn the language. The cost will reach the amount of 3,000 euro.
This is all our news, my brothers. May the Most Merciful God bless you with His abundant goods in the new year 2017.
With God’s help we are doing well. I would like to update you on recent news and activities regarding the Orthodox Mission here in Indonesia.
On August 25, we had the ordination of Father Chariton into a presbyter at St. Demetrius S. Church in Medan. It is a great blessing for us that our Orthodox Church in Indonesia has acquired another laborer of Christ. Fr. Chariton is native to this island and is a graduate of our School of Theology. Also, his presbytera is a graduate of our School and holds a teaching degree. They have got a daughter named Eugenia. Fr. Chariton will serve his ministry in Nias, because there we have three parish communities. We also run St. Nicholas’ Orthodox School there with 135 students. The priest and his family will reside in a small room of the school since there is no other place available. It would be a great blessing for us if you could help us make a permanent house for them.
In our Theological School we have five post-graduate students who are being prepared to enter priesthood as soon as they have finished their studies. We have a small house, where they are being hosted during their studies, but unfortunately, this is all we can provide for them. We could not possibly afford any further support, which is why we appeal to your kind feelings for help.
With the money we received from your Fraternity, we bought a motorbike for Eleftherios, our post-graduate student who teaches in many catechetical schools and travels long distances. He is married, and in order to meet his family expenses, he has to work in the fields. Please, remember him and his family in your prayers and ask God to give them strength.
Our home is full of blessings! We have 16 children living with us as if they were our own. We have a large enough kitchen to serve their needs. In the mornings our house is empty, because they all go to school or to their university. As I once read, if you want to have a short-term profit, you should plant corn; if you want to have a profit for 10 years, you should plant trees; but if you want to have a profit for 50 years, you should invest in education and send the children to school. That’s why we never stop having a lot of children with us, and we always help them study at our own expense in order to ensure the future of the Orthodox Church. At this point, we would like to express our sincere gratitude for the amount of 4,000 euro that you sent us to cover their tuition.
That was all our news, dear brethren. May our Lord Jesus Christ bless you with His abundant goods.
Nias island lies off the west shore of Sumatra, Indonesia. Ten years ago, a big tsunami came and swept away all the coastal regions and their inhabitants. More than 350,000 died then, some of whom have never been found. For years now, their families have been looking for them everywhere to no effect.
Under these circumstances, the paces of the Orthodox Mission led me there, ten years ago. A simple Orthodox priest from far Australia, Fr. Nikolaos Marketos, visited the island. I went along with him. When we arrived, Fr. Nikolaos saw the catastrophe, raised his hands to the sky and asked the Lord’s blessing to do something on the devastated island.
Finally, he made the decision to found a school and an adjacent clinic there. Initially, there were 25 students, but gradually they were increased to 170. Subsequently, a church in honor of Saint Nikolaos was built, which was followed by another one dedicated to Saint Catherine. Finally, in 2011, with an anonymous donation through the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, we were able to build the third church of Saints Paul and Martha to meet the needs of our faithful. We cordially thank you for this great help.
Last year, His Eminence Metropolitan Constantine of Singapore ordained a deacon for the island. Besides the three islands where he ministers, he is also the principal of our “Saint Nicholas School”. This deacon is Fr. Chariton Zega, who is newly-wed and has a little daughter. I pray to the All-Benevelont God that he will become a priest in order to minister there and conduct all the needful services.
Besides this good news, we are also concerned with the development of our missionary work. Fr. Chariton lives with his family in a room of the school. Of course, it’s not the appropriate place to live in, but what can we do? Everything here in our young Mission is limited. Thus, I thought that an appropriate house should be built so that they can later live there, when the family grows. Therefore, I pray that God will send us a warm-hearted donor to offer 25,000 euros for this purpose.
Moreover, the number of students increases. This is gladsome, but also pressing, because we have no room to accommodate all these children. Hence we are planning to build at least two more classrooms. If this happens, everyone on the island will rejoice, for the children will be able to attend classes in their region.
These are our updates, dear brothers. I pray that the Almighty God will enrich you with His abundant grace.
Saint Paul Theological School in Medan, North Sumatra, was founded in 2005. Our aim was, through this School, to spread the light of Orthodoxy, because without the necessary means, it is difficult for us to preach faith in Indonesia. This is why the School of Theology was the basis for the further dissemination of the Orthodox faith.
The School has been accredited by the Government of Indonesia as a Higher Education School. Students have to attend classes for four years. Since the establishment of the School, 1002 students have graduated. These graduates are currently working in various sectors, such as teachers, civil servants, university professors. Not all of the students are Orthodox; some are Roman Catholic, but most of them are Protestants. It is not uncommon for some students to decide to become Orthodox at some point during their studies. Our current students are about 250. In the beginning, the only members of the teaching staff were Father Chrysostomos Manalu and Presbytera Elizabeth. Now the Orthodox professors are 5.
The contribution of this School is immense. Firstly, it educates young people who prepare to become teachers committed to cultivating a better world. So, prospective teachers have already been in contact with the Orthodox faith and have come to appreciate its beauty and richness, which is something they will pass to the young children as well. Secondly, to us, the Orthodox Christians of Indonesia, it has already offered three fine young men who recently entered the priesthood: Fr. Theodosius, Fr. Luke and Fr. Chariton.
The fact that the Theological School continues its operation uninterrupted is only due to God’s blessing. The professors here do not get salaries. Of course, we receive a small amount of money as tuition fees from the students, but this is used for covering the salaries of the School staff, which consists of 6 people. As for us, that is, the professors, we offer our services free of charge because the School has no revenues to cover these costs.
So far, we have had no support either from our Metropolis or from our parishes. Therefore, it is difficult for me to describe how the School is still in operation. It is a continuous miracle. With God’s help ten years have already been completed since its establishment. Over a thousand students have graduated. Our School has begun to offer postgraduate programs, and recently even doctoral degrees. Glory be to God! This is why we ask for your prayers so that we can continue this work with enthusiasm and eagerness in the name of Jesus Christ.
With God’s help we are doing well. I would like to write about some of our news here in Indonesia. In the first half of July we were visited by our venerable Orthodox brothers from America. During their stay in Sumatra, they helped us in teaching our faith. In the first week of their stay, they gave lessons to our simple-hearted Indonesian brothers (on iconography, confession, fasting, Church Mission, catechetical school for both children and youth). In the second week they came to the Theological Seminary and delivered lectures to our students. We were greatly delighted, because we were offered the great treasures of the Orthodox faith.
It was also a great blessing for us, the Orthodox Christians here in Sumatra Indonesia, that the Mother Church offered us two new priests to minister, with the blessings of His Eminence Metropolitan Constantine of Singapore, who visited us, performed the ordinations and stayed with us for a few days to give us his blessing. Thus, on July 11th, Deacon Luke became a presbyter to minister in Sumbul. Chariton from Nias island became a deacon with a view to becoming a priest on the same island in the future. So in Sumatra we now have three presbyters (Fr. Chrysostomos, Fr. Theodosius and Fr. Luke) and a deacon. We pray that the Most Merciful God will grant the expansion of His Vineyard in far off Indonesia and supply more laborers, that is, priests, to work in it.
A great blessing indeed, but at the same time it fills us with anxiety. This is so because the economic situation for our Mission in Indonesia is bad. If things do not get better soon and this crisis goes on for long, then we should take steps in order to help our Orthodox Mission to stand on its own feet. Of course, thanks to the great love of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, we have established a few schools, which however make no material gain, they only help in the propagation and dissemination of the Orthodox Faith.
I now have before me three priests who want to work in the Vineyard of the Lord Jesus Christ, without getting paid. However, how will they be able to support themselves and their families? And how will they stand in the Lord’s ministry since the flock is scanty? Therefore, my brothers, until the flock grows, they have to work on their own in order to meet their expenses. This is why I believe that each priest should have their own small field. This might be the solution to the existing problem so that the ministry of our Orthodox Church here in Indonesia can continue. So we pray that the Most Merciful God will send forth donors for this issue. A cost estimate for three fields suitable for this case is approximately € 30,000.
“Hagia Sophia” school, funded by our Fraternity
Our ministry on Nias island goes on well. Father Chariton is in charge of our Institute there. Besides being the headmaster of our St. Nicholas Middle School, he ministers in all three communities. We pray that the Most Merciful God through His love and blessing will make him worthy of becoming himself a priest of the Almighty God in the future. So far this year we have been to this island 3 times.
Father Theodosius is a great help to me. For each Divine Liturgy out of St. Demetrios Church in Medan, I send father Dionysios, while the newly ordained Fr. Luke is by my side assisting me, until he gains enough experience himself.
I sincerely apologize for bothering you with the problems of our Mission here in Indonesia. I pray that the Most Merciful God always blesses you abundantly.
With God’s help we are well, and we are thankful for that. I have just returned from the island of Nias, where I offered my spiritual ministry for a few days. Of course, my dear brothers, I rarely manage to write to you due to my numerous missionary commitments and responsibilities here in Indonesia. Among other things, I would like to mention some aspects of the Orthodox Mission in this country.
Our Mission on Nias island numbers three parishes and a school. I do not go there on a regular basis because I cannot afford the fare. I only go once a year as I need 200 euros for a return ticket. It would be much better if I could go there four times a year, two to the parish community of St. Catherine and two to those of Sts. Paul and Martha, whose church was built by your Fraternity.
In the village of Lae Rias we have got five fields, which you helped us to buy. There we have planted oranges and vegetables, such as peppers and eggplants. In each field there is a family who works and lives there. However, only two of the fields have a permanent hut, the rest have a plastic one. A hut costs 1,000 euros, therefore, we would need 3,000 euros to house three families. Also, it would be useful to have a tiller; this could help us make a lot of savings by reducing the number of workers. A tiller costs 2,000 euros.
On Nias island we have three parish communities. There we have appointed an Orthodox catechist to minister to the people’s needs. However, in order to be able to offer his services as expected, he needs a motorbike to move about from community to community easily. A motorbike here costs around 2,000 euros.
Our Theotokos hospital, another important project where your Fraternity has contributed significantly regarding its construction and equipment, operates regularly. It employs 10 doctors and 20 nurses. Naturally, their salaries should be paid at the beginning of each month. Bearing in mind that our main revenue comes from the patients’ hospital costs, it is easy to understand that if we have a lot of patients, we are in a position to pay salaries and electricity bills. If not, then my blood pressure rises! Who can I resort to for help? This is why, my brothers, I am making a heartfelt plea to you: help us to collect a reserve of 15,000 euros, which will enable us to meet our needs and face such emergencies. I am certainly aware of the fact that it is a considerable amount of money given the financial crisis you are going through as well, but even the smallest contribution would be a great relief for us.
Please forgive me for bothering you with our concerns and for making such a request. May our Lord Jesus Christ bless you abundantly.
Before 1989 I knew nothing about the spiritual attitude of Orthodoxy toward the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. To me, like all Protestants, the name “Mary” was only related to the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord; as a result, no special honour or love was ever rendered to her person. I guess it was difficult for me to understand why we must venerate the Virgin Mother. In 1991 I had the opportunity to study at the Theological Faculty of the Aristotle University of Thessalonica. It was then that I started to observe the acts of veneration of the Orthodox Greeks toward the person of the Theotokos. However, I still failed to figure out the reason why they behaved this way and what information could be found in the Bible that justified such an attitude.
As you know, Protestants only accept evidence from the Bible -the Sola Scriptura; therefore, they deny the Holy Tradition of the Church. Later, I began to wonder how the so-called Christians can fulfil the gospel word according to Luke (1, 48) without knowing the Most Holy Lady. How do they say that they only believe in the Bible when they do not know how to praise and bless the Mother of the Lord, which all human generations must do?
How do they believe that Christ is the only saviour of the world, and that with His blood and body He purchased man out of the bondage of sin and freed mankind from eternal death? Why don’t they ever think of the mother through whom the fleshless Word of God became one of us in flesh and blood? And how could I love Christ’s saving work for each and every one of us without blessing the mother who gave birth to Him, nursed Him, attended Him and raised Him like an ordinary child?
How could I possibly not want to know the Mother of God, who sacrificed herself entirely for my own salvation as well as the salvation of the whole human race?
The Dormition of the Theotokos chapel in Medan, Sumatra
If I did not honour the Mother of Life, I would infringe one of the ten commandments of God, the one saying “honour your parents”, for Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14, 6).
With all these questions as well as many others, I reached a point where I wanted to study the person of the Virgin Mary as the Mother of Christ and of my true life.
In 1995 I decided to write a thesis at the Aristotle University of Thessalonica, on “the Theotokos according to the teaching of St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain”. My goal was very simple: it was not limited to academic requirements, but it would help me as a person to establish a more solid foundation in Theotokology. Indeed, the Holy Spirit revealed to me the truth, which until then had remained out of my life. The Theotokos stands as the paragon of humility, obedience and holiness.
I started to love the Canon of Supplication to her; I even translated it into Indonesian so that the people here could not only enjoy those beautiful hymns but also understand and appreciate directly the role of the Virgin in their spiritual struggle.
As a result, even after so many years since the Orthodox Mission started in Indonesia, especially in North Sumatra, we are still struggling to communicate to those around us the Orthodox attitude toward the mother of God. It is a great blessing for us to hear young children say, “more honourable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim … the very Theotokos, thee do we magnify…” as well as other hymns to the Theotokos.
Moreover, in 2005 a Theological School began operating in Medan, the capital city of Sumatra. Up to now, almost 1,000 students have graduated from it. The interest on the part of the students is so intense that very often we have discussions on the person of the Virgin Mary both inside and outside the classroom. Even the heterodox have started reflecting on the importance of the Mother of God, though most of them still have difficulty understanding the issue, due to false theological presuppositions.
I myself have experienced the grace of the Virgin Mary, thanks to which I was saved from certain death due to an unknown illness, which still has not been clarified. That happened on 27 October 1990, after the birth of my daughter Soteria, when it was discovered that I had been exposed to medicinal poisoning after the surgery, and the obstetrician told my family that I was going to die. He also said that only a miracle might save me. On hearing the news, the newly formed Orthodox community along with the priest conducted in tears the service of supplication to the Theotokos, using the corridor of the Roman Catholic hospital chapel. And the miracle did happen. Early on the morning of the next day, which was a Sunday, little by little I came back to life, without managing to figure out what had happened to my self, though. Later I realized that some sort of “invisible war” had taken place, but whatever that might have been, it brought me into the arms of the Virgin Mother.
There were also other incidents that revealed the grace of the Theotokos. I believe that only under her protection can I feel secure. Last year, we were paid a visit by a young 15- year- old who was in great suffering because of demons. There was a small wooden icon of Our Lady on a high shelf near the door as you enter the house. We had had it there for years and probably had not noticed that the icon was still in place. While we were praying, the young boy began to shout and point to the icon screaming: “What is this?! Why is this shining so bright that I cannot stand it?!” The demon was scared before the icon of the Mother of Christians! Thanks to this incident our daughter Evangelia overcame her fear of the dark and of the devil’s influence. Great is our Most Holy Mother’s grace!
This personal experience that we lived reveals a new spiritual power, which only Orthodox Christians have. I praise God for granting me His blessing to become Orthodox too. The Virgin Mary is like our own mother. Through the struggle of our Mission, the Theotokos is the person after Christ and the Holy Trinity that we call upon for all our actions. We never force anyone to confess the faith that grows within them, but instead, we teach and instruct them how to understand the Bible properly and also stress the fact that many passages in the New Testament speak about the role of Mother Mary in the work of the world’s salvation. It is truly right to bless her person, thus fulfilling the word of the Gospel:
“for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”
Please, turn on the English subtitles manually, if they don’t appear.
On August 2013, three members of our Fraternity visited Sumatra, Indonesia. There they were received by the Indonesian missionary Fr. Chrysostomos Manalu, who showed them around the places of Orthodox missionary and charitable presence.
Enjoy the missionary zeal and the proto-Christian experiences of the Orthodox community of Medan. This Pascha, let’s keep them in our prayers!