The course of events, according to the popular saying, in fact, the divine providence, led our paces to beautiful Savu-Savu in Vanua Levu, the second largest island of Fiji.
This visit was originally scheduled for next month. However, a sudden big trial of our Orthodox brother Pantelis Baravilala made us leave the urgent tasks we had on Viti Levu, the first of the largest islands, and go to Savu-Savu, the natural harbor of Vanua Levu.
We were accommodated in a beautiful hotel owned by our Russian Orthodox brother Pavel Savenkov, who offered us warm hospitality. The next day we took the road to Pantelis’ village. Our car made it to a certain point of the trip. From there on, it was not easy, at least for me, to walk on the treacherous trail of the jungle. Pantelis with his children and his other companions of the jungle took me in their arms, like my compatriot Diagoras was once taken by his children in the stadium of Olympia, and with their help, along with my fellow travelers Archimandrite Meletios and presbyter Georgios, I managed to arrive in the village without any problem.
A charming village, virtually in the midst of the jungle, where today starts, initially with wood and iron plates, the building process of a church that will be named after the great Apostle to the nations Saint Paul, as well as our Russian brother Pavel, who will have an active role in the spiritual life of our small parish that is now “swaddled” in this part of heaven on Earth, which will virtually be a Church of the children, since most of the 40 members that it starts with are children.
How could one possibly describe the spontaneity and love of these children, as well as that of the adults, for whom we have been struggling for years “until Christ be formed in them”!
Dear Christian brothers, across Greece and everywhere, it is very difficult, if at all possible, to describe what happens in a missionary’s heart, when after a long time he meets with his spiritual children, whom he has taught and baptized or even married, like yesterday, when we were received into their humble house by one of our first children Sophronia, her husband Sotiris and their two cute children. She was eager to do anything to please us, offering the best she could prepare, in order to welcome and serve her spiritual father and his companions.
It is they who spoke of Him and his true Church, the Orthodox Church. As truly obedient children, they immediately agreed to leave their poor hut and carry its wood and iron plates in order to build another one in Pantelis’ village, next to Saint Paul’s sacred church, which by God’s grace will be constructed there. It should also be noted that Sophronia is the first and best chanter and being more educated than the others, will turn out as a key member in the spiritual life of the new parish.
The first thing that needs to be done is to have a bulldozer open way, so that the transfer of the construction materials will be possible. Mr. Paul will also help to a certain extent with his hotel machinery, as he has promised. God will provide for the rest.
However, our journey to Vanua Levu is not yet completed. After the Saturday Divine Liturgy, which we, perforce, conducted in Mr. Paul’s hotel court for all our Christians of the jungle to partake of the Holy Communion, we went to Labasa, the island’s capital.
There was another jubilation there, in the sacred church of Ss Athanasios and Nicholas. Our dear and zealous parish priest Fr. Barnabas, of Indian descent, is constantly working for the expansion of his flock. At least twenty people are looking forward to receiving the washing of regeneration in the beautiful baptistery of their church. But while the number of the faithful increases, the size of the church is “waning”. Obviously something must be done; a bigger church must be built in the yard of the existing church of Ss Nicholas and Athanasius. The decision was made under the cool shade of a mango tree, where presbytera Maria lovingly served us a simple lunch.
At Saint Tabitha orphanage, Viti Levu, Fjii
Being fully aware of the fact that there is no money, we took this great decision to build Apostle Barnaba’s sacred church here, as well as Apostle Paul’s in Savu Savu; these two great Apostles who together started preaching the gospel in Antioch, Cyprus and southern Asia Minor.
This is the so called Missionary “madness”. Faith on the one hand and need on the other make them defy all the difficulties and dangers involved in the Mission . “We are fools for Christ’s sake”.
May the Lord’s name be glorified for all these. †Amphilochios of New Zealand
“Blessed is God, who desires all men to be saved, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.” Peace and joy be upon you from the Pacific islands Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.
With the help of our Good God three projects have been completed in Fiji: the majestic Holy Trinity Sacred Church, the St. Tabitha Orphanage and the Home for the unprotected women known as “Safe Home”.
The inauguration ceremony held on February 8 was a reward and completion of Joy for the Orthodox Fijians and Greeks who came from Greece, America, Australia and New Zealand in order to share with them through prayer and effort all the blessings of those days. Peace and blessings be upon the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, the blessed Christians of Greece and other countries who, through this Fraternity, contributed significantly to the purchase of this land and the completion of these projects.
The divine blessings continue to flow and have already reached the second island-state belonging to the Holy Metropolis of New Zealand along with Fiji and Samoa. The Orthodox Church has been officially recognized here as well by the Royal Government. A relative of King Tupou VI, Kisione Fakafanua, helped in finding and purchasing the land for the construction of a church in honor of Saint George the Triumphant and dwellings on the same plot for the priest rectory and the persons assisting the mission.
Parade on Tongatapu island
Peace and blessings be upon the members of the «St. John the Theologian» Missionary Society and the charitable Christians of Aspropyrgos as well as our Christian brothers- members of the Missionary Fraternity in Australia ‘Missionary Fr. Nicholas Marketos”. «Thanks to their love and generous contributions, we laid the foundations for the Mission on the beautiful island of Tonga, whose inhabitants are characterized by an upright, well-poised figure.
We would not like the third island-state of Samoa to be left disappointed. We went by plane from Tonga to Auckland, New Zealand, where, with the help of God, we conducted the Divine Liturgy in the Holy Trinity church that was celebrating, to the great joy of our Christians and us all. So, equipped with the rich grace of the Holy Spirit, we arrived in beautiful Samoa with the high mountains, the canyons and the cold waters, and above all, with its faithful and pious people.
Our trip was exploratory. We wanted to see whether it was possible to build there the church of St. John the Evangelist, as per the wish of a Christian family from Aspropyrgos.
Two things strengthened our willpower: first our wish to proceed with the construction of this church and second the beginning of the Mission on this island, which is populated by two hundred thousand souls.
The very first night I dreamed that I was at the Sacred Cave of the Apocalypse on Patmos, dealing with the cleaning and tidying of this sacred place and then discussing with people of the Holy Monastery of John the Theologian the problems of this pilgrimage shrine of global fame.
The first group of catechumens in Tonga
The next morning, my companions Fr. Paul and Fr. Meletios came out in the hotel garden to pray. They were seen in their robes by the gardener and were asked whether they were Muslims. They answered negatively, telling him they were Orthodox Christians. Soon I was there myself and we made a brief catechesis on the historical overview and essence of Orthodoxy for him. Mr. Walesi (that was his name) was enthused and so was his fellow gardener Mr. Kelly, who begged us to go to his house and bless his sick wife. Later that day, we went to Oualesi’s house and conducted a short water blessing service for his own sick wife, who was suffering from terrible pains all over her body. We told them about the sign of the Holy Cross, what it means and how it should be made, and they did so with deep faith and full awareness of its symbolism until the end of the blessing service, when, by the Grace of God, all the pains of the sick woman had stopped. Then we met Mr. Pepe, pastor of a small Protestant group, who himself did not know the exact beliefs their group professed. It was with great interest and joy that he heard what we told him about Orthodoxy, and he agreed to embrace it and become an Orthodox priest.
Another evening we talked to a small gathering of their relatives about Patmos and John the Evangelist asking for their support in finding plots for erecting a church in his honor.
People in Samoa have a peculiarity. They are calm, smiling, and deeply religious. I think that they deserve to be members of the Holy and True Orthodox Church and not expect to be fed with the spiritual crumbs of the heretical Protestants, especially those of the extreme Mormons, who do not have the crucifix in their temples. But as without faith in the Resurrection gospel preaching loses all meaning, without believing in the Cross the Christian identity disappears and the theology of salvation in Christ through the God-man’s sacrifice on the cross loses its meaning.
Let us support this new opening of the Orthodox Church for the evangelization of this island, which will lead our brothers to salvation.
It was the first word of the Risen Christ to the Myrrh-bearing women: a joyous message addressed to the troubled and afflicted by sin humanity—a message that is then delivered by the Apostles to the faithful of all time.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;” (II Thess. 5: 16-18)
Before the coming of Christ, humankind lived under sin, which is a cause of sorrow.
Faith in Christ and His Resurrection is a source of eternal joy and gladness. The preaching of the Gospel is indicative of its worldwide scope and conveys a universal message to all the nations. Total salvation is acquired through the Sacrament of the Holy Baptism “in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church», the Orthodox and rightly dividing the word of truth.
Our hearts overflow with wholehearted gratitude and thanksgiving to our Risen Savior the Lord Jesus Christ in His divine commandment «Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit» (Matt. 28:19). We have already celebrated the inauguration of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity and the Saint Tabitha Orthodox Orphanage in Fiji. And now we are in the other territory of Tonga islands making the necessary preparations for the foundation of the first Sacred Church of St. George the Great Martyr and Trophy-bearer.
Only a few months after the first visit of an Orthodox missionary to this isolated island nation in the Pacific Ocean, the few Orthodox believers welcomed us back with love and thanksgiving to the Lord for the new church that His love gave them. We ensured legal transfer and full ownership of the plot, signed an agreement with the contractor and laid the foundation stone of the most remote church of this world.
May the Lord bless and strengthen all the Orthodox Missionaries who are struggling all over the world despite the numerous difficulties and deprivations they have to deal with.
May He bless and sanctify all the subscribers and dedicators that often support the Missionaries and their work out of their poverty, comforting not only the indigenous faithful and catechumens but also every fellow human, who is suffering and lives in poverty or in pain.
Lord Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, shine with the light of Thy Resurrection on the people of our planet. Deliver them from the darkness of idolatry and deception, greed, injustice and hatred. Grant, O Lord, peace on earth to all mankind and let your Kingdom come in the hearts of all people, a Kingdom of holiness, love, justice, peace and joy.
A historic moment for the Orthodox Mission in Fiji! On February 8, the first Orthodox Cathedral was inaugurated in the name of the Holy Trinity, in Saweni, Viti Levu, Fiji. We are deeply content with the completion of this project, for which we gave 65,000 euros.
Immediately afterwards, His Eminence, Amphilochios of New Zealand, inaugurated the facilities of «St. Tabitha», a new big Orthodox charitable foundation for the care of orphans.
Orthodoxyin Fijihas nowmatured.Let uspraiseGod!
Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, Saweni, Viti Levu, Fiji
Bishop Amphilochios of New Zealand with Fijian priests
A lot of people participated in the first Divine Liturgy
These words of the composer were heard in the far Tonga islands for the first time, this year. Their echo reaches every corner of Oceania.
From the first visit of an Orthodox missionary in Tonga
God enters the life and history of Pacific Islanders and the joy that He spreads to their pure souls is mirrored in their innocent faces. Oceania decides to follow the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ, at a time when Europe shuts its doors to Him, whom it owes everything to, and opens them to the false prophet of Arabia and the idols of materialism and atheism.
The Light of the world, Christ, came to Earth, in order to illuminate people, but what a pity! They loved darkness more than light. But to those who faithfully followed the Godman Jesus, He gave them the power to be children of God.
Christ’s Light was handed down by missionaries Cyril and Methodius along Europe and other regions of the world, where many other missionaries carried and still carry it until now, glorifying the name of Orthodoxy.
Christ gave us the privilege and high mission to keep the Orthodox faith pure and unadulterated and to transmit it to other nations.
“Christ is born”, Orthodox brothers. Away from the lies and delusions, idolatries and cults.
Christ is the Truth and the real Life and we must follow Him faithfully and forever.
I pray that Christ, who was born in the manger of Bethlehem, will also be born in the heart of each of us and His grace will never leave us helpless and defenseless.
Merry Christmas, Many Happy Returns and a hopeful and joyful New Year 2015.
Dear brothers in Christ, members and associates of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, may the blessing and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
In the book of the Acts, chapter 16, we read that when Paul and his missionary team were in a region called Mysia, near Adramytteion and Pergamon, they thought of heading to Bithynia for the propagation of the Gospel.
However, they were prevented by the Holy Spirit, “But the Spirit suffered them not”.
Therefore, they went down to the city of Troas, where Apostle Paul was shown in a vision a man from Macedonia begging him and telling him in Greek
“Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” (Acts, 16, 9)Therefore, after this vision, Paul got ready to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called them to preach the gospel there, so he went to Philippi (near the city of Kavala today), where he started his missionary work in Greece..
Apparently, the Holy Apostles preached the Gospel being inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit.
Baptisms in Viti Levu, Fiji
Such things happen in the life and work of the missionaries in all ages, since the Mission may be carried out by people but it is a work of God.
As we speak, I would like to talk to you about the Head of the Orthodox Mission in New Zealand and Fiji, Metropolitan Amphilochios, who, until recently, with the agreement of our Venerable Shepherd His-All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the advice of a pious physician and missionary, had decided to submit his resignation from his position for health reasons. «But God works in mysterious ways.”
The first historic visit of an Orthodox missionary in Tonga islands
Now Metropolitan Amphilochios has decided not to carry out his decision for several reasons:
Because by the grace of God and after a special treatment he underwent, his health has greatly improved, and now he is in a position to continue his humble ministry.
Because so far no plot of land has been found in Fiji in order to erect there an Orthodox Sacred Church of Saint George the Great Martyr with money sent by the Orthodox Missionary Society “Saint John the Theologian” from Aspropyrgos, Greece.
Because a newly illuminated but zealous Orthodox Christian, Mr. Silouanos Vea, baptized in Melbourne Australia, came from Tonga, the other island of Oceania, and asked us to go to his homeland in order to propagate Orthodoxy there and build a sacred Church.
Because in Sydney , on the initiative of the pious priest Father Nicholas Marketos and the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos, the Greek Orthodox people offered enough money for the erection of the Sacred Church of St. George in Tonga; this way, the Orthodox Mission will take its first steps there. As for Silouanos, we have appointed him to the position of catechist on his island. On October 21 we saw him off at the airport where he would fly to his country, and there we met a fellow traveler of his from Samoa, the third island near Tonga, who also wants Orthodoxy to spread in his homeland; therefore, after Tonga, it is Samoa awaiting us.
Naturally, after such overt intervention s on the part of God, it would not be possible for His Eminence to think about resignation and things like that.
The first Orthodox Divine Liturgy in Tonga islands (November 23, 2014)
«I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke, 12:49). This is the fire of Pentecost. The fire of the Orthodox Mission in Oceania is growing bigger and bigger! A gift of the Divine will granted to us. We cannot do otherwise but bow in reverence to the God of love who wants «all men to be saved and come unto the knowledge of the truth «(Tim 2: 4), repeating the words of St. Job the Much-Suffering : » The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord now and to the ages. Amen”
It is about two years since that blessed moment when His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilochios of New Zealand laid the foundation stone of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Saweni, Fiji. With the help of the Good God and the financial support of the friends of the Mission, the procedures for the painting of the church have already started, and soon windows, doors and floor tiles will be fitted in.
The beauty of the church as well as its imposing presence, attract the attention of drivers and passers-by, who are given the chance to see a Greek Orthodox Church for the first time in their lives. On the same land is the orphanage, whose construction has already been completed; now we are making efforts to fit it out with furniture and equipment. When His Eminence comes to Fiji, he will perform the inauguration himself.
Like everywhere else, here in the Antipodes life goes on at about the same pace. With the Most Merciful God making His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sending rain on the just and on the unjust alike and with those living and ruling the world, some of whom thank Him and praise Him while others deny Him and utter blasphemies against Him.
In New Zealand there is a state of non-religiousness. Everyone is free to believe or not to believe, to sin or to do good. Thanks be to God for the existence of the innate moral law. However, the presence of the Cross is a consolation for the Orthodox churches and especially for the Holy Monastery of Levin. The word of Orthodoxy spreads more and more. Orthodoxy is the sweet and only hope of our time.
In Fiji and on the Oceania islands in general, poverty goes together with simplicity and the real humanity of life. The indigenous live the way God wants and do not go against His laws, as the supposedly civilized people of Europe, America and Australia do.
The orphanage has been completed – The church construction has started
In Fiji islands, Orthodoxy advances slowly but firmly by the Grace of God. The building of the orphanage in Saweni, as seen in the photo, has been completed and soon the opening service is going to take place and the church will start functioning, much to the delight of the poor Fijians and all those who helped in this God-pleasing project.
The foundation of the church; in the background the completed orphanage
The foundation was laid on the same plot, which was bought with funds raised by the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, and God willing, in a couple of weeks the construction of the Holy Trinity church will proceed. This church will be our cathedral. The cost will reach 120,000 FJ$ (around 65,000 USD). We start off with the hope that this project will be completed as well and that we will be blessed to celebrate the first Divine Liturgy and chant the beautiful Trinitarian hymn:
“As befits God, let us all praise, with songs inspired,the Father and the Son and the divine Spirit, three-personned might, one Kingship and Dominion.”
Naturally, In the course of these projects there are also difficulties and suspensions caused either by nature (such as continuous rainfall) or by men (insincerities, clumsiness…)
On this occasion, first I want to thank the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity and secondly all the known and unknown contributors, who have helped and will help in these holy projects which are executed on the beautiful Fiji islands and by which Christ and His Church as well as our Orthodox countries are praised.
May the Creator of the Universe, who sent His only begotten Son into the world to illuminate and save us, grant that despite our being weak and sinful, we will not forget Him or embitter Him with our ingratitude, but that we will always thank Him and praise Him day and night and every hour and every moment, just as the animals and birds and all the irrational creatures do on earth as well as the Angels and the spirits of the righteous do in Heaven.
†Amphilochios of New Zealand
Support the construction of the Holy Trinity Church in Saweni. Help so that our orphanage, which will soon host its first children, functions properly. Aid the work of the Orthodox Mission in Fiji by making a donation.
This is the advice I was given by a great Missionary, the Archimandrite Gervasios Raftopoulos, on the day of my tonsure to a Monk.
It was that unforgettable morning when at the end of the Matins His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilochios of New Zealand tonsured me to a Monk by giving me by his own will the name Fanourios.
Father Gervasios happened to be there because those days he was on the Fiji Islands in order to visit the inmates of the prison there, as he had done in New Zealand before.
A holy man. A man of sacrifice and offer. Father Gervasios is a true Missionary in every sense of the word.
It was the best wish I was given after my tonsure to a Monk and my consecration to a Missionary of the Eastern Orthodox Church within the boundaries of the Metropolis of New Zealand.
Although I had been previously engaged in the Mission to Alaska, India and Thailand, it is on Fiji that I found what I was really looking for.
The tropical climate, the simplicity and kindness of the inhabitants, and most of all the ecumenical spirit of that local church, where, as I saw in New Zealand when I was called by our revered Elder Metropolitan Amphilochios for my ordination to a Deacon and a Priest, clerics coming from Greece, Russia, Serbia and Romania concelebrate the Holy Liturgy and the flock from these countries as well as natives from New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga attend the services in unison.
Father Gervasios gave me a wish: to be a living symbol of the Risen Lord, and call all the people I associate with into the love of the Lord and His Body, which is the Holy Orthodox Church. I hope I will be able to live on Fiji, the place of my repentance, at the Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos, a God-pleasing life, taking advantage of my studies on Theology and my vocation as a Monk and a Missionary.
I hope more local people follow my example. I long to see the children of the Mission dedicate themselves to Orthodoxy and work hard, the men and the women love each other and have the Church as the center of their lives.
I am determined to support their faith through catechesis and preaching but mainly through sacramental life. When the time of God comes, Fiji as well as other islands will comprise a time-resistant ecclesiastical society, whose native Christians will be able to read and chant the Holy Services by themselves, catechize the newcomers into Orthodoxy, do the icon-painting of their Churches and offer further support to the Mission in Oceania.
The Elder teaches the indigenous believers and helps them meet their material needs through the cultivation of their lands and other jobs.
My wish and fervent prayer is for the Orthodox Churches and the schools to rise and multiply in this vast area of Oceania, like the orphanage and the big Church of the Holy Trinity, which are already under construction in the beautiful suburb of Laotoka, Saweni.
With the wishes of Saint Fanourios and of our revered Elder Metropolitan Amphilochios, I have found what my heart truly longed for: to serve God and His newly founded Mission in Oceania.
One day, on the second biggest Fiji island, Vanua Levu, the person in charge of the Mission for the island , Father Barnaby, along with the hieromonk Savvas visited the hospital at the city of Labasa in order to comfort a patient. As they were talking with the patient, they heard unnatural loud screams coming from the other side of the corridor, and being alarmed by those grisly screams, they moved towards there in order to help.
In an adjoining room there was a girl lying in bed, who was blocking her ears with her hands, was twisting her head left and right and was screaming in a hair-raising way. The nurses were just standing aside, unable to understand what had happened and too scared to do anything.
Father Savvas approached a nurse and told her: “We are from the Greek Orthodox Church. Could we just make the sign of the cross over her?” Then he takes out the cross which had the True Cross inside and started making the sign of the cross on her face. The more he did so, the more she screamed. In the end, the priest put the cross into her mouth and immediately she calmed down. It was obvious she was possessed, and with the power of the True Cross the evil spirit finally left.
This incident reminds us of the words of the hymn of Octoechos «Great is the power of your Cross, o Lord». Christ came to the world and was crucified for the salvation of all people. That is why the power of the Holy Cross is not only restricted to Christians, but also to any person under the power of Satan.
The cure of this Fijian girl through the touch of the True Cross as well as the faith of the fathers who thought of making the sign of the cross over her, was the best sermon for herself, her own family and everyone else who witnessed this miracle.
When Christ said to his Disciples that he would be with them all along their proclaiming His Gospel, this is exactly what he meant: His living presence witnessed by the signs and wonders that would follow.
Therefore, the Missionary work is done by Christ Himself, who uses as means ordinary people, like the Fijian father Barnaby and the simple monk Savvas. Mission is not a matter of wordly wisdom but a matter of faith “acting through love”.