Trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo
In October 2006, Archbishop Gregory and Hieromonk Peter travelled to the Congo to receive and ordain clergy and faithful into the Genuine Orthodox Church. This was their first trip to Africa.
After the pictures is a short narrative of our trip, written by Archbishop Greogry.
A Photo Taken from a Plane. It shows the poverty of the country. One dirt road in and one dirt road out.
Another view of the Congo from the airplane. We think this is the Congo River.
An Aerial Shot of Kinshasa with a paved road down the middle.
Some who Came to the Motel to Greet Vladyka on his First Day.
Showing Some of the Dirt Roads with Mud Holes in the Street.
One of the Main Roads of Kinshasa.
These are Private Busses. Their Passengers fill up the Van, and Even Hang on dangerously to the end of the vehicle.
Baptism of Six Whom we Converted.
At first glance, the baptismal font looks too small.
But with a little force, it works.
The newly baptized in their white clothing.
After the baptism, standing in front of the font, left to right, Martha, Cosmas, Damian, (who are brothers), Modestos, Patrick and Theophile.
Father Deacon Ambrose and his family with hands raised, renouncing Cyprianism and Ecumenism.
Father Ambrose and his family being Chrismated.
Father Ambrose having “Laying-on-of-hands” and the Prayer of Forgiveness.
Another street we had to travel on, in the heart of the city.
A Greek Restaurant in Kinshasa.
Typical scene in the city of Kinshasa.
The Marriage of Patrick and Martha.
Before the Divine Liturgy.
Making Modestos a Reader.
Theophile being tonsured a Subdeacon.
The Great Ectenia.
The Great Entrance. The subdeacon who is about to be ordained a deacon holds the pitcher and water.
Ordaining Father Theophilos a deacon.
Father Theophilos’ first Ectenia.
Father Theophilos after he was made a Rassophore Monk.
Two More Baptisms.
Subdeacon Constantine renouncing Cyprianism and Ecumenism.
Subdeacon Constantine receiving holy Chrismation.
Arrival in Kananga.
The Ladies’ Reception in Kananga.
The East Side of the Chapel.
The Inside of the Church of the Twelve Apostles.
Vladyka Addressing the People.
The Clergy Petitioning Vladyka to be Received.
Leaving the Church for a Conference with the Clergy.
Notice the two white doves Father Theophile is holding,
which the people of Kananga offered us as a gesture of peace.
The People Outside the Church.
The Clergy Going to have a Conference with Vladyka.
The Conference Hall. :~)
Vladyka Talking to All the Clergy.
Photograph of the Clergy at the Conference, with lay people outside, listening in.
The Clergy with upraised hands, renouncing Cyprianism and Ecumenism.
The Clergy with upraised hands, renouncing Cyprianism and Ecumenism the second time.
The Clergy with upraised hands, renouncing Cyprianism and Ecumenism the third time.
Father Chrysostom being Chrismated.
The Clergy Being Chrismated.
The Clergy having the Prayer of Forgiveness read over them.
The Clergy, with the subdeacons and readers, bowing their heads, under the Prayer of Forgiveness and Laying-on-of-Hands.
The Clergy, with the subdeacons and readers, bowing their heads, under the Prayer of Forgiveness and Laying-on-of-Hands.
In the Divine Liturgy, the Small Entrance. Deacon Timothy raises the Gospel.
Vladyka Blessing the People at Holy God.
Washing the Hands before the Great Entrance.
The Great Entrance. Notice the roof with holes in it.
Ordaining Deacon Theophile to the Priesthood.
Ordaining Subdeacon Sylvester to the Diaconate.
A Photo of all the Concelebrants after the Divine Liturgy. Left to Right: Deacon Timothy, the new Priest Theophile, Father Chrysostom, Vladyka, Father John, Father Athanase, and the newly ordained deacon Sylvester.
The Faithful kissing the Cross at the end of Liturgy.
More than three hundred faithful attended the Divine Liturgy, both inside and outside the church.
The Church of the Twelve Apostles desperately needs a new roof.
A Group Photo with some of the Clergy.
Father Peter, former policeman, with the parishioner Demetrios, active duty policeman. Demetrios' salary is $30 a month plus room and board. Demetrios is wearing three tear gas grenades.
Vladyka washing his hands before the next Liturgy.
After the Entrance.
Father Deacon Timothy being Ordained a priest, kissing the four corners of the altar table.
Father Timothy being Ordained a Priest.
Subdeacon Chrysostom kissing the four corners of the altar.
Subdeacon Chrysostom being ordained a Deacon.
Axios! Vladyka bestowing the Cuffs on Fr. Chrysostom.
Father Chrysostom, the Episcopal Vicar of Kananga.
Vladyka visiting with a Protestant Group that is Converting to Orthodoxy.
Two of the Protestants converting to Orthodoxy displaying their Sign.
The Church of the Twelve Apostles from the South.
The Church's Roof.
One of the parishioners Knitting.
Vladyka Gregory making the Protestants Catechumens of the Church.
A Photograph of a Road in Kananga.
Vladyka Praying over all the People on the day of his departure.
Photo after Father Patrick was made a deacon in Kinshasa.
Hieromonk Theophile from Kinshasa.
Photo from the plane leaving the Congo on our return trip home.
Photo from the plane leaving the Congo on our return trip home.
A View of a part of the city of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
God bless you.
Thanks be to our Triune God, that He has blessed our missionary trip to the Congo.
Father Peter and I traveled on October 17, 2006 from Denver to Washington, D.C. The following day we traveled to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. The plane made one stop in Rome for refueling. From Addis Ababa we flew directly to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
We were met at the airport by the future hieromonk Theophile and many of the faithful. Being admitted into the country was a little problematic, since some of the documents which we sent to the Congolese Embassy in Washington, D.C., to obtain a visa were also demanded at the airport. The first impression, naturally, that one gets of the Congo is their airport. The airport is not run like any other that we have seen. There is much confusion and chaos. The fact that there is no air conditioning in the airport adds to the discomfort and impatience. When one leaves the airport, one then finally realizes how deeply poor this country is.
Most of the people walk, and so there are multitudes of people on both sides of the street. The roads are in a shambles, especially outside the city. The pollution is almost unbearable because all of the cars that are cast off from developed countries end up in places like the Congo. Only the new cars would be permitted to be on the road in the United States. All the others would be assigned to the junk heap. For a country which is the size of the United States from the Pacific Ocean to the Mississippi River, one would expect a lot of paved roads, but the whole country has only 300 miles of paved roads. These roads have not been maintained either. All of this neglect was due to the internal political turmoil of the country. One notices the well dressed populace. Even in such blistering heat, one sees men with suits and ties. The women are modestly covered with dresses and even head coverings and the people are very courteous amidst such miserable circumstances.
Father Theophilos took us to the motel, where we were to spend the night. Unfortunately to our surprise, the electricity failed. We were then transported to another place that was for rent, where we could set up a small chapel. This is the capital city, Kinshasa, which is noted for having many mosquitoes. The people were always very courteous and respectful. It was at this place where we met Deacon Ambrose and his family who came to be received into the Church. We have pictures of him openly renouncing Cyprianism and being chrismated, along with his family. It was here that we also baptized six of the faithful. They had already had a “baptism” from the Cyprianite heretics, but I did not want to receive these few by economia since none of them were ordained and three of them were candidates for ordination. Before we left Kinshasa, we celebrated the Divine Liturgy on two days. During these days, we ordained Father Theophile to the holy Diaconate and Modestos to be a Reader. And we also celebrated the reception of Father Deacon Ambrose.
While we were at Kinshasa we learned that Father Chrysostom, the Archpriest from Kananga, the capital of the central province of the Congo, had definitely decided that he was going to leave the Cyprianite church, along with his thirteen priests and all their parishes. Thanks to the help of our priests, we had sent to him weeks earlier many documents concerning the teaching of Metropolitan Cyprian and even his deposition papers. Thank God for this effort that we went through, because apparently it convinced them all that they needed to be under a true, confessing bishop rather than a synod of heretics.
Father Chrysostom learned about Orthodoxy when he was very young. He was ordained to the priesthood in the Patriarchate of Alexandria and did missionary work in his home town area of Kananga. After eighteen years with the Patriarch of Alexandria, from 1972 to 1990, he noticed that on some documents there were two dates. He researched this and discovered that there were two dates because there were some Orthodox who were on the Old Calendar, or what is more properly called the Church Calendar and others who followed the new calendar. After more research, he understood that he should not be in an ecumenist jurisdiction which follows the new calendar. How he decided on the Synod of Resistors of Metropolitan Cyprian was probably due to the fact that Cyprian and his clergy, since they could not grow in Greece, had a missionary effort which went everywhere. This missionary effort however, neglected to inform their converts of the origins of Cyprian and his Synod of Resistors. Father Chrysostom decided to join the Old Calendar Church, and the only option for him, as he imagined, was this Synod of Resistors. He stayed with them for fifteen years until the present time when through the efforts of Father Theophile of Kinshasa he was informed of the teachings of Cyprian and his depositions by the Old Calendar Church of Greece.
We traveled to Kananga with Father Theophile, Reader Modestos, and the layman Patrick, a company of five. In Kananga, the heat was a little less intense than in Kinshasa and there were no mosquitoes to speak of. Also, the air is much cleaner. The only problem were the accommodations. There was not a decent place to stay the night. There was no electricity at night, nor any running water in any of the “hotels” of the city. During our stay in Kananga we celebrated the holy Liturgy in the church of the Holy Twelve Apostles. During the first Liturgy we ordained Father Theophilos a priest and Father Sylvester a deacon. During the next day’s Liturgy, we ordained Father Timothy a priest and Fr. Chrysostom a deacon. First, however, all the faithful gathered in the church and the clergy read a letter to me, in which they petitioned to join. Then I had all the priests come into the village for a conference. We sat and spoke of many ecclesiastical matters, especially the Cyprianite heresy. They understood all things and continually asked me to send them more documentation on Cyprian and his heresy. They needed this to show other priests why they had left this Synod of Resistors. It should be noted that there are four other priests who are the spiritual children of Fr. Chrysostom who lived too far away to make it to the clergy gathering. Father Chrysostom had called all of those clergy who had the possibility of meeting me in Kananga. It should also be noted that the Cyprianites have other priests who are not in this area, but are in other parts of the Congo.
After this meeting all the clergy followed me back to the Church. There I put on my Episcopal vestments and had all the clergy raise their hands and renounce Cyprianism three times. Then I chrismated them all, down to the subdeacons and the readers. Then they all bowed their heads and I read the prayer of forgiveness over them and laid my hands on them. With these ceremonies, they were received into the Church. They all guaranteed that they were baptized with the proper form and for the reason that there were so many, I received them by economia. It is estimated that all these clergy serve and are leaders of about 9,000 faithful in their immediate parishes around the region of Kananga and another 10,000 in regions that do not have priests. Other estimates are more.
As one can imagine, Father Chrysostom has produced much fruit during his 33 years of labors in the central part of the Congo. This fruit is apparent first of all, in the manners and decorum of the priests that surround him. He has established a rule for all his priests that they perform two services every day, Matins in the morning and Vespers in the evening. On feast days and Sundays the Divine Liturgy is celebrated. While I was there, only one meal was taken, and that after the ninth hour. I imagine that this was done because of the lack of means to buy more food. The Congo is very poor and the average income of the entire population is $120 per year. The average life span for a man is 42 years.
After the reception of all the priests, I explained to them that I wanted to take pictures of each one for our web site, and I had them write down in a short biographical manner their vital information. After I received all the papers, they had on the bottom a request line, that is, what each priest needed. It should be noted that during all the time of our correspondence with Father Chrysostom, before coming to his community, and up to the time of their submitting their papers, there was absolutely no discussion of monetary assistance -- they converted only because of the Faith. Only after I received their papers did I see on the bottom of each document their requests for help. The first petition of practically all of the priests was help so they can “eat decently”. This was very moving for Father Peter and I, because we understood all the sacrifice that these priests were enduring for their flocks. Their previous “shepherds” neglected them shamelessly. Second on their lists of requests were things like means of transportation, which for them meant a bicycle or a motorcycle, since their flocks are scattered over a vast area. There were other requests for second hand cell phones, so that they can communicate, and tools, so that they can employ themselves and sell the products of their labors. I will speak more of this later in this report.
Father Peter and I were scheduled to visit another city called Tshipaka where many, many people were waiting to meet with us. Unfortunately, due to the lack of funds and poor living conditions in the heat of the season, we decided that we could not make the journey to Tshipaka, but should return to the United States a week earlier. Father Chrysostom therefore assured us that he would send a priest to that area to receive and serve the people there. This was a relief for us, but we are sure that we will not make this mistake again. We will return, God willing, during their winter season, which will be more bearable for us.
While in Kananga, there was another group of Congolese people who had determined to join our Church three years ago. It is a whole parish of Protestants. We visited them and had a very constructive meeting. Their head spokesman was a man named Clement. They wanted to be united to the Church as quickly as possible. I admired them for their zeal, but explained that first they had to be catechized and be familiarized with the many aspects of true Christianity, Orthodoxy. They were thrilled to see us, but disappointed not to receive holy baptism immediately. I explained to them that God had not forsaken them at all, and that Fr. Chrysostom has now joined us and that he and his priests will come to catechize them and expose them to the holy tradition which is necessary for them to hold. Before I left Kananga, I arranged to have another meeting with this group, who wanted some kind of blessing from their bishop. We had already given them many icons, but they wanted something from my hand. I decided therefore to read over all of them the prayer to make them catechumens. This is the first prayer of the holy baptismal service. This group of Protestants, but now Orthodox catechumens, also informed us that there are twenty four other Protestant groups who are waiting to see the outcome of Clement and his parish. These twenty four would likely convert if all things went well. I ask our faithful to remember in their prayers Clement and the catechumens of Kananga.
On the last day we thought we would be with Father Chrysostom, those with us were surprised to see that none of the clergy or the people who had gathered had returned to their homes. I was told that this was the first time that anything like this had ever happened. Usually the clergy and people met the bishop and then left immediately, but our gathering did not want to leave and stayed there for three full days. I asked why...since so many came from so far? Father Theophile told us that the people were so excited and lovingly grateful at our meeting, especially our lectures about Orthodoxy, the holy canons, our Christian conduct in these last times, and the Jesus Prayer, that the people did not want to leave, but wanted to hear more and more. They wanted icons, they wanted prayer ropes, they wanted anything and everything connected with their Faith. Some families did not have even one icon in their home. Now, this has all been remedied, because we carried with us hundreds of icons. Thanks to Father John, the Home Prayer Rule was translated into French and was distributed to the faithful and sent to those whom I could not meet. Also we brought with us chalice sets and vestments, as well as antimensia and holy myrrh. All of these things were a great comfort to them.
Before we left four young men and two women approached us with their desire to become monastics. All of them had jobs, except for one young woman who was 16 years old and still in school. They did not want to marry, but to dedicate themselves to God in the monastic life. I blessed Fr. Chrysostom to sew for them the black clothes of a novice and give it to them in church. They all live separately, but only the future will see how the young men can establish a monastery and the women a convent.
I believe that Fr. Chrysostom saw how difficult it was for us to be there during the heat of the season and he showed great sympathy. Before we left, he called and asked that we return once again to say goodbye to all the clergy and the people for the last time. Therefore, the next day, our departure day, we told the taxi to go back to Fr. Chrysostom where I read a prayer over all the faithful and blessed them farewell. I promised them that I would come back in the winter time, which is our summer time.
It is obvious to all of us that God has worked a great miracle here. He beheld the labors of so many priests who were sincere to the very depths of their heart in working for our Savior Christ. He did not permit all their labors to be scattered to the wind by any involvement in the deceitful heresy of our time, Ecumenism. These people are competent. All they ask is a helping hand, so that they can get on their feet and support themselves. Others made the observation that now that true Orthodoxy had visited the Congo, it just so happened to correspond with their elections, which the whole country was hoping would change their standard of living. May God grant this country to raise itself out of its extreme physical poverty, just as now so many have been raised out of their spiritual poverty.
I believe that we can help them tremendously. Up to this time in our history at Dormition Skete, I did not require our faithful to tithe, although this is a Christian tradition. Now is the time for all of us to show an effort in helping our clergy in the Congo. If we can guarantee to each clergyman $100 a month, this would be a tremendous help to them, which they have never experienced in their lives. I believe that if they are given this money for food and other items which they would purchase on their own, it would go a long way in establishing the Church. If just a few of our parishioners would voluntarily tithe, they would support the spiritual works of fifteen clergymen. Can one imagine the blessings that will come upon those individuals who voluntarily support so many clergymen? We are able to do this because of the poverty of the country. Our dollar goes a very long way in the Congo. Unfortunately, to buy chalices, vestments and to construct buildings one requires much more money.
We at Dormition Skete are committed to provide these major necessities for the clergy in the Congo. This first trip cost us over $10,000 (this includes airline tickets, accommodations, inoculations, icon gifts, etc.), and as long as God gives us strength to work, we will continually support our priests, by sending them the necessaries for performing the Divine Services. As for a monthly stipend, I hope and pray that God will incline the hearts of many who read this report on our trip to the Congo, to take it upon themselves to support one of these priests.
All their pictures are uploaded on our web sites, on GOCAmerica.org and ROACAmerica.org. Also, a great number of pictures of this trip have been uploaded. Please help them.
May God bless you all.
In Christ our Savior,
+ Archbishop Gregory