“And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42)
In the area of the Equator where we live, there are no four seasons as in Europe, but two major periods: the period of rainfall and that of drought, usually the latter being longer, and resulting in the suffering of both humans and animals. We should bear in mind that what is taken for granted in our country does not exist here. For example, when the people in Greece get thirsty, it is perfectly natural for them to turn on the tap to drink clean water, and when they get dirty or feel hot and want to have a bath, by just pressing a button there is plenty of warm water for them to wash… However, in most of Africa, and particularly here at the Rift Valley Plateau, the most impressive region of Central Tanzania, all of them are «unattainable dreams»!
It is a «dream» for thousands of children to run to the water-well near their village to wash and quench their thirst. The idea of obtaining a water supply system within their homes -at least for the next fifty years- seems to be a utopia!
It is with feelings of deep gratitude and emotion that I am writing these lines because thanks to the financial assistance of your Fraternity-the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity of Thessaloniki- we carried out two drillings in two extremely barren areas, where the people are really suffering. Thank God, we found plenty of clean water at a depth of more than 100 meters! It is very touching to see the tearful eyes and the chapped lips of the small children now in the dry season, but also the wild animals, all of which are suffering. Elephants, antelopes and giraffes, are approaching inhabited areas defeating their fear, in the hope of finding some water and quenching their burning thirst.
In this corner of the earth where we were sent by the grace of God and the love of our Patriarch, there is a great need for provision of medical care to our brothers. Many diseases, several of which weird, afflict young children and adults, which immediately raises the need for medical centers. Relying on our humble abilities and taking slow steps, we began operating a medical clinic at our Mission Center in Kidamali, Iringa, which is visited by a large number of patients from the surrounding areas. It should be organized in the form of a polyclinic with several specialties, as there are various diseases the people are suffering from and the state-run health care system is rudimentary. The current running costs of our clinic amount to € 2,000. Yet, we started this project being fully aware of its difficulties but we have faith in God and we hope for your love and support!
Undoubtedly, though, one thing is unquestionable: that the love of our Lord Jesus Christ is always present. One day we baptized a group of people, among whom a little girl with huge pus-filled pimples on her tiny head, all of which disappeared immediately after she had been baptized.
In July, we also held a Seminar for Clergy Candidates chosen among our already existing Catechists, trying to pass down to them pure, genuine love for the Tradition of our Holy Church as well as for Priesthood. Our flock is totally unaware of our faith; therefore, we must teach them everything, even the most obvious concepts of our religion. I also want to inform you that we have laid the foundation stone for the rebuilding of the old church of Saint John the Theologian in Ibongo village. This project is supported by your Fraternity in memory of our sister Parthena. We thank you wholeheartedly for that.
It is very important that our Church offers truth and love to our suffering brother anywhere in the world. We did not come to preach a Christ distant and apathetic to the daily needs of the people who are suffering but to bear witness to Christ’s presence, to proclaim that He is close to the “least” of His children, who we Christians call “our brothers”, but many times we become numb to their needs due to our complacency that derives from our participation in the long solemn services and the spiritual «garrulity» of our otherwise Orthodox experiences.
Africa needs hands and hearts that love through deeds, not words and theories, for «the harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few» (Matt. 9:37).
With infinite gratitude and love in Christ † Agathonikos of Arusha
I would like to express my sincere gratitude from the distant and fast-paced growing Mission of Eastern Tanzania for your continued support of the missionary work of God.
I am pleased to inform you that the construction works of the first Orthodox Clinic in Morogoro, East Tanzania, are being carried out systematically and continuously. I am sending you the first photos of the progress of this project, which, hopefully and always with the help of God, will have finished by the end of the summer. Then a new «nest» of love and salvation for young children will have opened its gates to offer life to the children of Tanzania. So, with the help of God and your continued support, a total of 11 clinics will be operating in Tanzania.
In Morogoro region we have already founded four new parishes with about 2,000 catechumens, 450 of whom belong to the Maasai tribe. It is there that we will need to build four new churches.
We appeal to the kind heart of the devout readers and friends of the Fraternity for support and we would like to inform you that the building costs for each church -with wise money management and full attention and personal care- amount to € 25,000.
With missionary greetings † Dimitrios of Irinoupolis
The northern and western part of Tanzania constitute an ecclesiastical territory which is under the jurisdiction of the H. Metropolis of Mwanza, and covers a geographical area of approximately 430,000 square kilometers, that is, three times more than Greece. In this part of the country there are some water resources, such as Lakes Victoria, Malawi and Rukwa as well as the Rivers Kagera, Ngono, Mara, Simiyu and others. This water may not be absolutely clean, but at least the villages or cities adjacent to these resources have access to water, whether it be easy or not. The big problem though lies with those areas that are far from natural water resources and which, due to climate change, which has also affected the African continent, suffer from drought.
There, the lack of water is complete, with whatever consequences this brings to the lives of the people. The only consolation and not a solution to the problem is the occasional rains that fill up some puddles, from which people draw dirty water, contaminated with parasites and microbes. When it does not rain at all, the situation becomes tragic. Thus, the life of the people in the mainland unfolds in this suffering. Thirst, dirt, illness, death make up the scene of this deadlock. It is an open and throbbing wound that shatters the hearts and shakes the consciences of all of us.
It was in this context that the program for the supply of clean drinking water for the H. Metropolis of Mwanza began three years ago. With the help of St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox parish in Los Angeles, USA, we have acquired not only a new drilling rig but also other modern machinery and equipment. The goal was to provide solutions to this serious problem, which is affecting the people of Tanzania. The program staff consists of 6 young people, trained for 2 months for this purpose. We are seeking two more people to be able to be trained at a higher level.
If there is a qualified staff, the machine can drill 24 wells per year. We have been licensed by the state of Tanzania to operate the drilling rig all over the country and we are working with the Ministry of Water for the laboratory testing of the water quality of the wells that are being drilled. These are then recorded in the state’s general list of wells.
We have a sincere desire to offer dynamically as regards well- drilling. However, difficulties and challenges will always arise. For example, we need more complete staff- training, good planning, continuous funding, good roads for easier access to villages and raising awareness of the communities where the works are done. All this means good cooperation with all public authorities and bodies. It is imperative that the state make efforts to open roads in areas where access is impossible. All these as well as other factors affect the cost of a well.
Despite all the difficulties, we want to give the joy of presence of clean drinking water to as many areas as possible. In this way, we are given the chance to apply the command of love to the least of our brothers, and furthermore, we give testimony and the seal of the Orthodox Church of Christ, Who is interested in every single person, and Who approaches each one of them in a redeeming way, starting from their most tangible and urgent needs.
During these 3 years, 30 wells have already been drilled, which can serve approximately the needs of 100,000 inhabitants. It will be good for our poor brothers if we manage to continue this God-pleasing work. The machinery exists and can do this job, and we want to relieve these long-suffering people. We are really grateful to those who help us and those with whom we work together. We particularly appreciate the support coming from St. Paul’s parish in Los Angeles, the state of Tanzania, the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity and others. We hope to overcome the challenges that arise through understanding, patience and cooperation. Water is essential to life, let alone clean drinking water. May God make us worthy to offer it to those who have so much need of it. † Ieronymos of Mwanza
The command of the Lord Jesus Christ to His Holy Apostles and, by extension, to the Church and every single Christian, was clear: “Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28: 19-20). This command is the starting point and the guideline of every missionary effort of the apostolic Church throughout the centuries. It is also clear that the command of Christ relates to a teaching-learning relationship between the evangelical message conveyors (“everything I have commanded you”), and the recipients of this message (“all nations”).
The Church is called to incarnate and teach the great, admittedly, mystery of godliness (1 Tim. 3:16), and the nations are called to become disciples and be initiated into the mystery. The teaching process is laborious, requires suitable and favorable conditions, deposition of blood and spirit on the part of both participants in the teaching-learning process, which can be lifelong, perennial, until it reaches Christocentricity (i.e., Christ-centeredness) and Christoethics, always by the grace of God.
This is therefore the very essence of Mission. The reason, the activities, the visions of the missionary work of the Church should constitute its very existence. Only then will the results be pleasing to God and beneficial to the present and the eternal future of those people of the world who hunger and crave for the Truth and the Light.
In her course the Church preaches, catechizes, admonishes, is evangelized by her word and deed, using forms and terms of this world, to which she gives a whole new dimension and depth. The conditions of the various peoples are considered and exploited in the best possible way in order to become the tools of sowing the seed of God’s Word, i.e., of Christ. This path is the uninterrupted Incarnation of the Son of God in the hearts of His children.
In the case of Africa, and not only, the missionary plough is called to proceed slowly and very carefully, and spend a lot of time and effort preparing the ground which fell to its lot. It first needs to develop culture and then transform it and make it Christ-centered. The road to civilization has always passed through education. Therefore, it would be no exaggeration to say that in the African reality before the Mission builds, organizes and operates a church, it should build, organize and operate a school.
Once again, it is on the school-church pair that we are left to build our missionary visions and orientations.
On 11th December 2016, His Beatitude Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria officiated at the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy at the Sacred Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Savvas the Sanctified of Alexandria and during that he performed the ordination of the new Bishop Agathonikos of Arusha and Central Tanzania.
His Grace Bishop Agathonikos (Nicolaides) of Arusha and Central Tanzania was born in Giannitsa in 1964. He graduated from the Pedagogical Academy of Florina and the Theological School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Since 1986 he has been a monk of the Monastery of Saint Dionysius of Olympus. He served as Preacher of the Holy Metropolises of Florina and Kitrous, while from 2004 to 2011 he served in various Missionary Divisions of Africa, and then as a Chancellor of the Holy Metropolis of Irinoupolis in Tanzania. In December 2013 he went to Alexandria, where he served as Dean of the St. Athanasios Patriarchal Academy, and as Codicographer and Director of the Patriarch’s Private Office. On November 17, 2016 he was unanimously elected Bishop of the newly created Diocese of Arusha and Central Tanzania.
The Orthodox Missionary Fraternity welcomes with emotion the assumption of duties of the new missionary struggles by His Grace and hopes that he will continue the rich fruitfulness of his predecessor. Worthy!