Τρίτη 1 Δεκεμβρίου 2015

South Sudan: "This is a desert place..." - "Miracles work through faith and patience"

"This is a desert place..."

Narcissus of Nubia
The word of God on the eighth Sunday of Matthew is very remarkable. There are two sentences that literally describe the mission work in the countries in Africa and a miracle, that of the multiplication of the loaves, which proves beyond the slightest doubt that this missionary work is God’s work.
The disciples respond to the Lord’s commandment «you give them to eat …» We do not have enough food for so many people, only five loaves and two fish. It is obvious that human logic, «arithmetic reasoning», is limited, whereas God’s logic removes all kinds of limitations and not only makes the five loaves and the two fish be enough to feed more than five thousand people but also has an abundance left over.
In this excerpt there are two points of significance that are worthy of attention, reveal what is human and what is divine and how church work, in this case missionary work, is accomplished according to human standards.
The disciples give this minimum and meager amount of food (five loaves and two fish), which, however, is necessary for God to take and bless in order to multiply it into abundance. In fact, this is what happens on the Mission field: the slender means available in the work of the Orthodox Church, within Mission are taken by God and are multiplied, thus being enough to meet a multitude of needs.
It is also important to mention that God, after the multiplication of the scanty food, does not distribute it among the people Himself, but He gives it back to the disciples and those in turn to the hungry people. This way, Christ shows us that cooperation between God and man is a necessary condition for the realization of this project called «the Miracle of the Mission».

CC (BY-SA) WorldFish
CC (BY-SA) WorldFish

The morals drawn from this are the following: First, it was necessary for the Apostles to have those few things, which was a precondition for the occurrence of the miracle. Second, God reveals that the work of the Church, in this case the Mission, is a divine work done by human hands.
Dear members of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity and our companions in this work,
As for our lot from God, that was to minister in Africa; this is why we gladly give whatever little we have, a little bit of hard work, a little bit of strength, a little bit of knowledge, a little bit of spirituality, patience, conscientiousness, skills, generally a little bit of everything. And God gives it back multiplied so that we can minister to His people’s needs.
This work can only be realized with your own love and support to the Mission of Sudan.
These were just a few heartfelt words I wanted to say.
"Miracles work through faith and patience"
Fulfill your ministry (II Timothy 4:5)
By the Grace of God and the blessings of the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria Theodore II, I set out on Easter Tuesday on a journey to the capital of South Sudan that was meant to hold a lot of pleasant surprises mixed with plenty of difficulties.
First of all, the rainy season has started in South Sudan and malaria is on the rise due to mosquito bites, which multiply during this period. Naturally, I would not stay on the sidelines myself , since every inch of my body –whether it be hands or feet– was bitten despite the protective measures which are known to everyone. In any case, not contracting malaria is indeed a miracle, and such a miracle was accomplished in me. Thank God!
Then, the almost incessant rainfall on a practically non-existent road network made our moving from one place to another seem like Calvary. You set out for a particular destination planning to fulfill a mission, which anywhere else on this planet would take two hours at most, but here in this place it takes a whole week.

CC BY-NC Rita Willaert
CC BY-NC Rita Willaert

It is considered an achievement to bring a job to a successful completion, especially when this job is related to civil services in Africa; however, the miracle happened! The recognition procedure of the Orthodox Church from the State of Southern Sudan has been completed, therefore we have become an active member of the Southern Sudan Church Council (SSCC).
I cannot hide the joy and satisfaction I feel as well as the personal need for praising God’s name and glorifying Him, which, apart from the effort we made for the preparation required, God showed the right persons at that critical moment for a faster and more effective completion of the procedure to reach the desired result of recognition within a few months, which under different circumstances would take years.
Another big surprise awaited me, when I arrived in Wau town and headed for our parish community, where I was welcomed at the door of the Prophet Elijah church by the faithful, who were holding the Greek flag in their hands.
I was wondering how people, who had never visited Greece and might not even know its location on the map, had been able to understand the symbolism of holding the Greek flag in a distant foreign land and feeling Greek. History though shows that this is what Hellenism has always been, cities scattered throughout the world and not trapped in a geographical place, which proves its anthropocentric character and makes it known as an ecumenical culture.

CC BY-NC-ND Amy the Nurse
CC BY-NC-ND Amy the Nurse

The first example is shown, however, by the Church, since Orthodoxy does not remain trapped in a place and its people but it opens itself, goes into the whole world, seeking man, wherever he is and offers him the possibility of meeting with God without constraint, and also it creates sacred churches (as the meeting places of God and man) scattered around the world, demonstrating the universality of this faith, which lives in harmony within nations and states but has never been a nation or state Itself ; it has always been the Kingdom of God’s love.
The next day I conducted the Paschal Divine Liturgy and baptized four young children. At the end of the sermon I stressed that for us Orthodox Christians the experience of God in the world is the life of the Church through its sacraments.
Τhen, we had a meal all together and after that, I showed them pictures of my first visit to them, which gave them much joy given that there is neither TV nor cinema there.
When I returned to Juba, the capital city, I visited and met with the tribal chief of the Magala region, the Sultan (King) Tarcisio, and thanked him for the donation of the four-acre land. I also assured him that their donation would return to the broader region with many benefits from the construction of the Saint Mark Mission Center, which would include obstetrics clinic and primary school.

CC BY-NC-ND United to End Genocide
CC BY-NC-ND United to End Genocide

Thus, with the Church recognition and the land title settlement, we are starting the procedures for the submission of the architectural plans and the issuance of the building permit from the competent services for our mission center.
The miracles of faith are also a product of patience of the people to whom the miracle occurs. It is there that faith is tested and man surrenders to God’s will. “For where God wills, the order of nature yields”, and this is our faith in our project in South Sudan, where after 38 years of ecclesiastical absence (due to the civil war), the Good God gave vitality to His Church. Just as the paralytic in the Pool of Siloam had to wait for this encounter with God for 38 years, so our brothers in South Sudan took 38 years in order to find the place of their meeting with God and their Church alive, and now they are moving towards a better future in their much-afflicted country.
Please remember this long-suffering nation in your wishes and prayers so that God may grant His blessings upon them. Amen!

Bishop Narkissos Gammoh of Nubia


«I lit the charcoal briquettes at the one end of a magazine of bullets from a kalashnikov, placed the incense on top of them and censed the people accompanying me»

News & articles from Orthodox Diocese of Nubia here.

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