‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat’
Christ and the Poor
The concern for the poor is undoubtedly one of the chief tenets in the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is found repeatedly in the Gospel writings. Indeed it is so central to His proclamation that He identifies Himself in total solidarity with those who are poor, hungry, socially and physically disadvantaged.
In a striking statement in the Gospel of St. Matthew, He thanks those who feed the hungry in personal terms: “I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me to drink” (25:35). This form of a complete identification of Christ with the poor is unique among the world’s various religions. It is therefore logical to conclude that we who claim to follow Christ have a non-negotiable obligation to help the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger – wherever they may be found!
The Orthodox Mission in Sierra Leone and the Hungry
The Orthodox Mission in Sierra Leone take Christ’s above principle very seriously. We are located in one of the poorest nations on this planet, recovering from a long and barbaric civil war, a deadly Ebola outbreak and catastrophic floods. Therefore the obligation to feed the hungry becomes an imperative tenet of our Mission’s practical theology (“orthopraxia”).
The Orthodox Missionary Fraternity of Thessalonica
Towards the accomplishment of this Orthopraxia, we are very grateful to our friends in Greece, especially the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity of Thessalonica. Every year for the past several we have receive at least one container of food and other supplies. Indeed during the Ebola crisis we would receive at least two containers. In particular we are grateful for the generous supply of rice and oil. Rice constitutes the basic staple diet of the people of Sierra Leone. This indispensable supply forms part of our Mission’s various feeding programmes.
School Feeding Programme
On the fringes of Freetown (the capital city), we have established a compound with comprehensive facilities – a large Church of the Resurrection of Christ and St. Moses the Ethiopian (funded by the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity of Thessalonica), a nursery school, a primary school, a medical clinic, a large dining hall, housing for a community of disabled people, two houses for priests and guest houses for staff workers and overseas missionary visitors. Our schools on this compound have 485 pupils and twelve teachers.
Every school day we offer them a free hot meal. In addition we also feed our entire staff at the compound. That means every work day we feed over 500 people a free cooked hot meal. It is important to remember that many of the children attending our school come from an extreme poverty background. Indeed some are Ebola orphans. Before this feeding programme was initiated last year many of our pupils would come to school in an empty stomach and could hardly concentrate in class. And would have even struggled to obtain a hot meal on a guaranteed daily basis. This situation has now changed. We here in Sierra Leone are very grateful to your benevolent organization for its wonderful contribution of food –especially rice– in feeding the hungry children of Waterloo.
Sunday Feeding Programmes
Every Sunday after the church service we offer a free hot meal to all members of the congregation both in our Cathedral of St. Eleftherios and St. George in Freetown and in our Church in Waterloo. We also hand out food supplies (especially rice, oil and sugar) to those most in need including the members of our disabled community in Waterloo.
The news has gone out among the poor in Freetown and in Waterloo that our church offers free hot meals on Sundays, does not ask for any offerings, nor tithe anyone. That is quite unique in this country. Consequently the numbers are growing every week.
I wish to thank your noble organization, all the volunteers who work hard to procure the supplies, assemble the container and shipping all this food across the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean for the consumption of the poor of Sierra Leone. Thank you for acting as our missionary partners in feeding the hungry and therefore in feeding Christ Himself.
May God bless you!
✝ Archimandrite Themistocles Adamopoulos
Freetown, Sierra Leone.
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