Postcard from the Congo
Dear brothers in Christ,
By the grace of God our Father and your own prayers, I am at the queen of the Congo (DRC), the blessed Kinshasa of fourteeen million people.
Bishop here, as you know, is His Beatitude Nikiforos, an Athonite monk from Micra Hagia Anna. He is very burdened because of the scale of the Congo and the number of Christians he pastors. Moreover, he is also the rector of the Orthodox University here, which is already licensed by the state for five schools: Theology, Agriculture, Computer Science, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. Of these, the two schools of Theology and Computer Science have already been established and function properly. Furtermore, the Rector and his colleagues are free to set the admission rules for the freshmen. Specifically, in the School of Theology only baptized Orthodox young adults with faith, morals and a conscious Christian life are accepted.
The bishop is young and healthy, quickwitted, multitalented and brainy and by God’s grace he copes well with his ministry. I mean, he has to deal with priests, faithful, students, teachers, visitors, workers on various projects. These days, the second wing of the School of Computer Science was completed. At the same time, four schools and four churches are being constructed. The believers travel for hours on Sundays in pickup truck beds or on foot, to attend the Liturgy.
In Isiro region, they ask to be baptized. Old, young and children have sent requests for seven years, but so far it wasn’t possible. First, because proper Orthodox instruction takes time. Second, because to reach there you have to travel by plane, then by train, then by van and finally by motorbike! And third, because for each trip the fares alone cost 5,500 dollars!
Furthermore, only recently did a pastoral visit of the bishop and two priests to eastern Congo became possible. In Uvira, Maniola, Goma and Vatira, there are many Orthodox people and churches. They conducted the Divine Liturgy and baptized numerous people with a lot of toil, because until recently there was a guerilla in the region and it was previously impossible to visit. The war left behind many orphans, injured people and wounds that do not heal easily.
This week saw the beginning of the academic year, which was admittedly hard. The selection and appointment of professors of all specialties that are needed every semester is a race against time. Many courses are delivered via teleconferencing. There are professors from the universities of Sydney, Brussels, Strasbourg, Greece and the Congo, of course! How many consultations need to be done. Not to mention the tremendous costs, especially those related to charity!
We shouldn’t remain indifferent. This is a lot of work, brethren; efficient but somewhat underestimated. It resembles the Acts of the Apostles.
Let us pray for each other!
With all my respect and love
Presbytera Chrysanthi Perissoglou