Pastoral Trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo
and to the Republic of Uganda
June - July 2007
Monday, June 25th
Archbishop Gregory and Hieromonk Peter departed Dormition Skete at 5:45 a.m. for Denver International Airport. They flew from there to Washington/Dulles, and then to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
One of Father Peter’s tasks was to keep a journal of the trip, and from here on out we will write this in first person – and any reference to “I” or “me” will mean Father Peter.
Tuesday, June 26th
We arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at 7:00 p.m. We spent the night in a hotel there, as our next flight to Kinshasa, Congo (DRC) was the following morning.
Wednesday, June 27th
We flew to Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, arriving at approximately 2:30 in the afternoon.
We were a bit disappointed, and concerned, that two of our bags did not arrive. None of the Gospel books for the altar tables, and the supplies for Kinshasa and Uganda, arrived. Also, one of our mosquito nets was also among the missing supplies. Apparently, one of the pallets of baggage did not get loaded on the plane, as we were not the only ones on the flight missing baggage. We prayed that Saint George would watch over them, and bring them on the next flight the following day.
We went to a “church” of an “Orthodox” bishop who had contacted us prior to our arrival. He had shown interest in perhaps joining with us. If that union was to take place, they would provide us with a church for our faithful in Kinshasa, so we met their people and our faithful there.
We were welcomed by approximately 50-60 people. They presented us with a greeting. Archbishop Gregory gave a short speech. Then Archbishop Gregory spoke semi-privately with this other bishop. Archbishop Gregory was left with the impression that they were not serious about becoming true Orthodox, and nothing ended up happening with us and this group.
The bishop was clean-shaven and dressed in street clothes. When Vladika asked him if he had vestments, he brought out a Roman Catholic cardinal’s outfit. Vladika very nicely suggested to him that he have his wife cut it up and use it to make a dress out of it. His chalice and other liturgical items were Roman Catholic. And this was a man who had supposedly been a bishop for eight years, I think he said. But Archbishop Gregory could have all his people if he would only give him two convents, a monastery, and another church building!
Following that, we went to our hotel for the night.
Thursday, June 28th
Despite the disappointing meeting the previous day, we met at this same church since it had already been arranged with all our people, and performed a Divine Liturgy with our faithful, served by Fathers Peter and Theophile, and Deacon Ambrose. Archbishop Gregory chrismated ten people into our church (none from the other bishop’s group) prior to the Liturgy. Approximately 150-200 people attended. After the Divine Liturgy, we met with another delegation of people who were interested in possibly joining our Church.
Our car broke down, so we were delayed here for some time while we found another vehicle. When we departed in this small van, we had 17 people stuffed into it. I asked one of our readers, Modestos, how many more people he thought we could stuff into the van. He thought there was still room for five more!
From there we went to the American Consulate. The U.S. State Department advises American citizens not to visit the Congo; and any who ignore their warning are strongly encouraged to register with them as soon as they get into the country. So we went there to accomplish this.
When we tried to leave the Consulate, that vehicle broke down also, so we had to find another vehicle. After a little less than an hour, we were on our way to the airport to see if our other bags had arrived. Thank God, after some difficulty with the airport police, we were able to get our missing bags.
We went to our hotel, ate a quick meal, and then met with some more people, including the other delegation again.
Friday, June 29th
We got up at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning, hoping to leave the hotel at 7:00. We ended up sitting around the hotel until 11:40, while Father Theophile went to some government offices to finish obtaining documents we needed to travel the next day to Kananga and the surrounding region.
Following that, we went to see Father Theophile’s home, so that we could see the conditions he lived in. Then we went back to the hotel and packed our supplies. The “Bravo Air Congo” Airline office had requested that we bring what was to be our checked baggage to their office the day before our flight, in order to ease that burden – which in the Congo is not insignificant. So we dropped off our bags at the airline office.
Following this, we drove for about 45 minutes, I think, to Subdeacon Constantine’s church in an area quite some distance outside of Kinshasa, picking up Father Deacon Ambrose along the way. We met with approximately 20 people there. Archbishop Gregory gave them $300 for construction of a new wall to the church, and made plans for further improvements to it. We also spoke about the possibility of buying the entire parcel of land the church is on.
Archbishop Gregory instructed Father Theophile to come here after our trip was complete, and Baptize and Chrismate a number of people there who wanted to join our Church, and to serve there periodically. It will be no small task for him, as it is quite some distance from Kinshasa; but he is the only priest in the area that can serve these people.
We went back to the hotel for the night. We had no water or electricity for several hours, but thank God they both were eventually restored.
One cannot count on having water or electricity anywhere in the Congo.
Saturday, June 30th
There was a wedding banquet in the hotel which went on basically all night. Vladika was only able to sleep until about 2:00 a.m. I managed to sleep until about 4:00 a.m. So we were both a bit tired for our journey to Kananga.
We did not know when Fr. Theophile was going to come pick us up, so we both started to get our things ready. Fr. Theophile came at 5:00 a.m. for us. We went to the Air Bravo Congo office to catch the bus to the airport. The bus left at 6:00 a.m.
The airport experience went much better for us this time than last year. However, the airport police did not want to stamp our (internal security) travel documents because of a problem with the signature on our documents. The official who had signed the documents had left that office recently, so the airport police questioned the validity of our documents. Fr. Theophile told us privately that he thought that they were just looking for a bribe. This is very common in the Congo. That is pretty much how things operate there.
We ended up paying them $150 in “special fees” to get our papers stamped so we could get on the plane to Kananga -- $50 x 2 airport officials + $50 for the Air Bravo Congo man who helped us arrange the deal. But it was well worth it, and thanks be to God we got through!
Like I said, it went much better than the last time we traveled to Kananga.
I had a moment of stupidity as we waited in a large waiting room to board our plane. We had given Father Theophile a digital camera to use to take pictures of church gatherings and email them to us for our websites. He started asking me some questions about how to use it. He wanted to take my picture, but I said no, why don’t I take yours instead? I had forgotten that it is against the law to take pictures in or of any government offices – many of which are unmarked – anywhere in the Congo. Basically, you have to be careful where you take pictures, or if there are any police or soldiers around, you might very well lose your camera, and may even wind up in jail.
I forgot about this, and took Father Theophile’s picture. Immediately, we were surrounded by seven or eight policemen. They took Father Theophile’s camera, and ours (which they happened to also see). After some commotion, we paid them $70 and they gave our cameras back – partly because Father Theophile was from the same area / tribe as them, and spoke the same language. Thank God again! It would have been a big disaster, had we lost our camera.
We got on the plane, and went to our assigned seats. Were our temptations over? Of course not. A stewardess came to us and wanted to see our boarding passes. She decided it was a mistake for us to have been assigned those seats, and insisted that we move back into other seats. So we all ended up splitting up, and none of us managed to get a decent seat. After we landed at Mbuji-Mayi, where many passengers got off, we moved up to better seats.
I found it a bit irritating that when they overbooked the flight, the same stewardess that had insisted that we change our seats then directed many other people into those very seats, and others in that section; but what can you do? There is no justice in this world... but we made it to Kananga safely, and that is what was important.
We were met at the airport tarmac by Archpriest Chrysostom and three others, and taken to a VIP room while others got our bags and processed our documents for us. With this complete, we were escorted to the Church of the Holy Apostles. Part of our escort included a policeman in riot gear, who I later learned was Archpriest Chyrsostom’s son, Theologos.
We were met a quarter mile from the church by 1000+ people lining the road all the way to the church, chanting hymns and throwing flower petals and palm branches in our path. They really know how to greet people in Africa! May God bless them abundantly for their love.
We went into the Church, where Archbishop Gregory was presented with a welcoming speech. He, in turn, greeted the people.
We then left the church to walk to a nearby hut to meet with our clergy. Vladika was interviewed by local television there. We also met some of the presbyteras (priest’s wives) there, and were also greeted by a delegation of the parish directors.
In this meeting, plans began to build a bigger church in Kananga. Archbishop Gregory, and the clergy, decided that Kananga should be the center of our Church in the Congo, and that we should build a new, larger church and monastic quarters there. It turned out that we have an architect in our church who came forward, and plans began in that very meeting to build a new church for them!
Archbishop Gregory spoke to the clergy about Bishop Ambrose’s slanders, and encouraged the clergy to be faithful. He also spoke with them about the necessity for them to teach the people the basics of Orthodoxy.
We ate lunch, and then reconvened, at which time he asked for a general accounting from all of the priests and deacons present on how they spend the money we send them every month. We kept detailed records for each clergyman, but in a nutshell, they all use the money to help feed, clothe, and provide shelter for their families, school for their children, etc. When they have excess, they use it for the needs of the Church, caring for prisoners, caring for other children, and for other families in need. Archbishop Gregory was very happy with their responses.
Sunday, July 1st
We were picked up at 6:40 a.m. to be taken to the Church of the Holy Apostles. We began Matins at approximately 7:30.
During the Divine Liturgy, the following was accomplished:
Priest Theodore and Deacon Pachomios were received into the Church by renunciation of Cyprianism/Ecumenism, Chrismation, and having the Prayer of Forgiveness said over them.
- Reader Lazarus was made a subdeacon.
- Subdeacon Phillip was ordained to the diaconate.
- Deacon Chrysostom (the Younger) was ordained to the priesthood.
The Divine Liturgy was attended by more than three hundred fifty (350+) people.
Following the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Gregory was asked to meet with local dignitaries.
Following that, we distributed Gospel books for the altar, Baptismal Crosses, incense, service books, and other church supplies to the clergy.
We also reviewed the information that we had on our websites about the priests so we could make any changes or corrections that might be necessary.
Having accomplished all that, we went to the church and our clergy Baptized eighty (80) former Protestants -- young and old -- who we had met with on our previous trip here. Eighty-eight others had been Baptized the previous weekend in anticipation of Archbishop Gregory’s arrival.
We ate, and then Archbishop Gregory spoke with our novices in Kananga; instructing and encouraging them. Please pray for them. Their names and ages are:
Finally, we moved to different, more affordable, quarters.
Monday, July 2nd
We were picked up at 7:00 a.m. for the Divine Liturgy.
- Deacon Pachomios was ordained to the priesthood.
- Subdeacon Augustine was ordained to the diaconate.
Following the Divine Liturgy, we were taken to the mayor of Kananga’s office. Apparently, in the Congo, whenever a visiting dignitary such as an archbishop comes for a visit, he is expected to visit the local officials. So we met with the mayor of Kananga, and told her of our plans to build a new church there. She was familiar with our existing church, and had even visited it in the past. She seemed like a very nice woman.
We returned to the church compound, and Archbishop Gregory met with the architects to discuss the plans for the new church. Then we ate lunch. After lunch, a group from Miju Mayi made a short presentation to Vladika, and a few other miscellaneous topics were discussed.
We then went to visit the nearby parish of Saint Haralambos. The local tribal chief, who was not Orthodox, came forward and spoke out about how they had donated a piece of land to Bishop Ambrose in 1990 to build a church on; and how he had done nothing at all with it. After some discussion, it was told to Archbishop Gregory that the land belongs to the parish, not to Bishop Ambrose himself. We went to see the land, and it was a very nice tract. We took pictures of it, but unfortunately, due to some technical problems we lost those photos.
Archbishop Gregory agreed with them that it was very indicative of the false love and false Orthodoxy that the Cyprianite Bishop Ambrose espouses -- that he would leave these people who had donated this very nice parcel of land for seventeen years without developing on it. The village and parish leaders asked Archbishop Gregory if he would give them some salt, and indeed, he gave them $100 and promised to build them a church there soon. It would not be a big church, but it would be something to at least get them started. They have room there for a school and for many other projects as well.
From there, we went to the Church of Saint Gregory Palamas, also near Kananga. We visited with approximately fifty parishioners there before returning to our hotel for the night.
Tuesday, July 3rd
Four hundred twenty-seven (427) people were present for the Divine Liturgy. (Someone counted.) Following the service, Archbishop Gregory spoke with the clergy, instructing them on some liturgical topics. He also spent some time speaking with Clement, the leader of the former Protestants. Archbishop Gregory decided to ordain him to the priesthood, arranging for him to be trained by Archpriest Chrysostom.
Before we had come to Africa, we had asked Father Theophile and Father Chrysostom to come up with an itinerary for our time in the Congo. They had sent us a schedule for visiting most of our parishes. We were supposed to spend this day in Kananga, and then depart the next day to start visiting parishes in the outlying areas.
In planning for our upcoming trip the following day, it came to light that it was going to cost us $3,000 to visit four parishes over the next two days. When we heard that, these plans came to a grinding halt. That was simply not acceptable. So phone calls were made, the parishioners in the villages we were to visit were informed that we would not be coming, and plans were canceled.
We had it on our schedule to visit the governor of the province today, so we departed for his office. We visited with him for about a half hour or forty-five minutes. We exchanged greetings and spoke of expectations for the future. He seemed like a nice man.
We came back to the church compound, and were informed that while we were at the governor’s office, some people had done some work on an alternate plan for our trip. We were told that everybody in the villages were very saddened by our not being able to come. One of the villages in the Dibelenge territory wanted us to come very badly, and they had come up with a way for us to come to their village for $300. They said it would only take three to four hours to get there. We would leave at 4:00 in the morning, perform the Divine Liturgy in their church there, visit with our people there, and we would be back in our hotel before evening. So, we agreed to do this.
We took care of a few other little errands that day, and made an early night of it since we were to be up and on the road at 4:00 a.m.
Wednesday, July 4th -- Independence Day
We were supposed to be picked up at 4:00 a.m. to go to the Dibelenge territory, which is approximately 130 km from Kananga. It was supposed to be a 3-4 hour drive.
We left the hotel at 8:15, went to the Church of the Holy Apostles to pick up others, and the truck would not start. We had to push start it, and departed the church at 8:30 on our voyage. There were eighteen (18) people on board, packed into the truck, for the journey -- three in the cab, and the rest in back.
The first hour of the journey was on a paved road. Actually, it was probably the best paved road we’d been on in the Congo. Probably 80% of the road was passable -- without significant pot holes or wash out.
The rest of the roads were dirt roads. The conditions of the road varied, but were always terrible. The roads were generally either large spans of very fine and deep soft sand -- like you would find on a beach. Those tracts you would try to avoid stopping at all costs lest you get stuck. Or the road would be clay -- often washed out with huge ruts we would have to navigate over / through with great care. Many times, the road would be a combination of the two -- washed out clay for one side of the truck, and loose beach sand on the other. Five to ten men pushing, and / or digging the truck out were the norm.
The roads varied from what we would think of as a dirt road like you would find alongside a farmer’s field (occasionally) to something just a little more or less than a walking path through the jungle. Like I said, sometimes less -- and we’d have to plow our way through the jungle, knocking off branches, etc. to make our own path. The environmentalist whack-o’s would have lost their minds watching us disturb this beautiful jungle! We’d either have tall grass along the sides of the road, or a wall of vegetation, or a wall of clay sometimes much taller than our vehicle.
About one hour and fifteen minutes into the trip, we slid into one of those walls of clay. We didn’t hit hard, and we didn’t think much of it. We just kept going. But about fifteen minutes later, when we came upon another large expanse of very deep, fine sand, we quickly discovered that the back wheels no longer had power going to them. We’d been operating only on front wheel drive. Since the front wheels were not powerful enough to get us through the sand, we came to a halt.
It appeared that when we hit the wall, we sheared the lug nuts off the back right wheel, and did a little more damage to it as well.
Now whenever you travel anywhere in the Congo -- even just around town -- and you hire a car, that usually means you get the car, the driver, and one to three mechanics (whether you want them or not). This is probably due, for a large part, because probably 80% of the cars in the Congo are complete junk heaps. Go to your average junk yard in America, look around at the cars there, and that’s the condition that most cars in the Congo are in -- except they move. Don’t expect shocks, windows, cushions, more than one working headlight, any safety equipment, etc. either. Amazingly enough, though, there are some very nice cars there, too. We even saw a shiny, new hummer.
But anyway, we had three mechanics with us, complete with shovels to dig us out, and some spare parts. And much experience cannibalizing parts from their own vehicle.
They were only able to get one of the eight sheared off lug nuts for the rear 4-wheel drive off, and this with great difficulty, and not a little time. So they took a lug nut off one of the other wheels, and decided that would just have to do.
Well, after this little thirty or forty minute delay, we were underway again. For a little while. Then we sheared that lug nut off, too. So we repeated the process. We actually repeated this process several times that day. We’d go a little ways, and shear the bolt. “Fix” it. Shear it. Fix it. Shear it.... until we came dangerously short on bolts in out other tires as well. I thought it was a bit unusual that a person would expect one bolt to hold very long, but what did I know?
It was kind of funny, but at about 1:15 in the afternoon, when we were at one of our usual grinding halts, I looked over at Father Theophile and asked him to ask Father Laurence how much farther we had to go. Father Laurence replied, “At least two or three more hours.” In that hot, mid-day African sun, most of the people in the back of the vehicle found this discouraging, and broke out some bread we had bought on the way out of Kananga.
Archbishop Gregory and I were the only ones with any water, though, and since we didn’t have enough for everyone, and Vladika was still hoping to have a liturgy when we got there even though it was in the afternoon, none of us drank.
This saga of a journey went on and on and on. When two hours had past, they would say, “At least another hour.” That response would be repeated many more times.
But this proved to be very much the quintessential African adventure. I loved it. Vladika was less than amused, as was Father Chrysostom the Elder.
We saw jungles, grasslands, stunningly beautiful African plains, etc. We saw very little wildlife, however. Apparently, most of the wildlife can only be found in wildlife refuges -- the result of much over-hunting.
We were a sight to behold. We went through and past countless -- thousands at least -- little villages along the road. And you could tell this “road” had very little vehicle traffic. But to see a little white Toyota pickup crammed full of Orthodox priests -- this caught the attention of everyone along the way.
Most of the adults would look at us like we were a very strange sight indeed. Some would wave at us with joy; others would just look at us -- mostly with bewilderment. As we passed most of the villages, the children would wave joyfully to us, yelling something nice to us.
All along the way on the road were people pushing bicycles laden with fruits and other agricultural products -- sometimes with loads that must have weighed 500-700 lbs -- all the way to Kananga to sell.
All along the way, the driver would be honking his horn and his mechanics would be yelling at these people to get off the road out of our way. We certainly could not stop, either because of the road or our speed, or both. Everyone got out of our way post-haste!
We had a humorous moment with one of these people pushing a bicycle. When he saw us coming, he dropped his bicycle and started running away from us into the field as fast as he could. He went at least 40 - 50 yards before we passed by, laughing. Someone remarked that he probably thought we were soldiers. Maybe that is why he ran.
On one of our many stops when everyone had to get out of the truck to make it lighter so they might be able to get past another obstacle, Father Chrysostom the Younger showed Vladika and I a fruit tree. With his Greek (he speaks fluent Greek, but no English) and sign language, he showed us some fruit off the tree. It looked very much like an orange on the outside, except it was hard. He broke it against the tree, and showed us the inside. It had five little balls of milky, bright yellow-orange fruit inside. It looked DELICIOUS. He communicated to us, however, that if we were to eat one of those little balls of fruit, our soul would immediately leave our body. To eat it meant instant and certain death. The fruit trees are all over the place, but only the snakes can eat the fruit.
At about 5:15 in the afternoon, we stopped in a large village so everyone could get some water there to refresh themselves. There were some Orthodox Christians there, and one little girl, about eight years old or so, ran up to me with her hands out. At first I thought she was asking for a blessing, but it quickly became apparent she was begging. I didn’t have anything for her, though.
Then when people started getting water, I decided to break out a high-energy food bar that I had, as I hadn’t eaten or drank anything all day. As I was eating, a bunch of kids came up to me. They didn’t seem to be begging. They just looked joyful. But that one little girl came up to me with her hands out. What could I do? I broke off a good, healthy chunk of my food bar, and gave it to her. She took it and ran far away, happy. May God bless her and help her. Moments like that kind of touch one’s heart.
We got underway again, somewhat refreshed, and went on. When it started getting dark, we continued to hear, only one more hour.
Father Chrysostom’s other son, Theologos, also was with us. He is a very pure and precious soul. Both he and Father Chrysostom the Younger are tributes to Father Chrysostom the Elder. They were very pure, kind, and hard working. Theologos is a policeman in Kananga. He guarded us every night as we slept to keep us safe and to make sure everyone was quiet so we could get a good night’s rest - so we could keep our health up.
Theologos had communicated to me with sign language -- he speaks beautiful French, but I don’t speak a word -- that the area where we were going was just absolutely stunningly beautiful. Unfortunately, by the time we got to that area, it was dark.
Now by now you must be wondering if we ever got there, or what happened. This trip was, after all, only supposed to take three, maybe four hours.
At 7:15 p.m. -- eleven hours after we departed our hotel, we arrived at the village in the Dibelenge territory. It was completely dark.. The moon had not come out yet. We heard people chanting Africanized Orthodox hymns, but could not see them. Then all of a sudden we saw two Congolese policemen in our headlights in the road, holding back hundreds upon hundreds of people. We came to a screeching halt so we wouldn’t plough into them; and that is how we arrived.
We all piled out, and walked the rest of the way into the village. We were offered seats in a meeting area, and all the people gathered around us, chanting. We recorded some of it for our websites.
Any time you see a crowd in the Congo, you can expect to see Congolese police present. And they take their crowd control very seriously. No American policeman would ever be as picky as them.
There were at least eight police there, including at least two with AK-47 assault rifles. Although most police there have a full set of leather, very few have handguns in their holsters or hand cuffs in their cases. They have side-handled batons, and that is it, usually. Those who have guns carry AK-47’s or nice, new Uzi sub-machine guns. And those who have hand cuffs are exceedingly proud of them! So much of our lesson on the Congolese police.
We had a nice little meeting, and we were told they (meaning the woman who came with us to cook for us) were making food for us. So we waited, and waited, and waited.
Now when I was in third grade, I think, I learned in school a little about astronomy. I always thought it was a little strange how the Greeks could ever make out bears and tigers and things from the stars; but I also learned that while we in the northern hemisphere have the North Star that’s always in the north sky, in the southern hemisphere, they have the Southern Cross. It is four stars in a diamond pattern, that you can visualize a Christian cross if you connect with a line the vertical and horizontal stars. And it is always in the southern sky. If you are ever lost in the southern hemisphere, and can see the stars, you can always find your direction with the Southern Cross.
I've always thought that was a magnificent wonder of God, and I have always wanted to see it. This was my third trip south of the equator, but I was never able to see this even though I had tried many times. We were always in cities the last time were were in the Congo, and also in Brazil. But on the Fourth of July, when most Americans watch fireworks in the sky at night, our merciful and beloved Lord Jesus Christ somehow deigned to let me see this marvellous wonder I have longed to see for so long!
Earlier in the day, on one of our many stops that we were stuck by sand or washed out roads, Father Theophile and I were talking, and he remarked to me that there is so much beauty in Africa, and one cannot help but marvel at the magnificence of God working in it all. Glory be to Christ our Saviour. Glory be to Thee.
Back to the story.
Finally, after about two hours, we were directed into a mud hut where there was food waiting for Vladika, Father Chrysostom, Father Theophile, and myself. The others were going to eat separately. It was the same as the food Father Chrysostom made us every day in Kananga. We also augmented it with one of the dried camping food that we brought to Africa to try to make sure we had sufficient and good enough quality food.
When we finished eating, we were directed to a different mud hut where we were to sleep. Both of these mud huts that we saw had two rooms. They had an open ceiling, with various items stored up in the rafters. The floors were dirt. Vladika had his own room with a bed (I think) to sleep on, complete with a mosquito net. Father Theophile and I each had a three inch foam mat on the ground. Outside, two policemen with AK-47’s guarded us. One was particularly conscientious about his job, always watching us from a respectable distance, never letting us out of his sight.
It may seem odd to us Americans to have police guard us, but it was nice, for instance, when I went off a ways to the outhouse at the edge of the village, and got a little confused on the way back since it was very dark (no electricity for many miles, so certainly no street lights) and all the mud huts looked the same. My police escort was right there on hand to help me find my way back without falling into a hole, getting attacked by a wild animal, or without any other problem.
We got to bed at about 10:30 p.m., and were up a little before sunrise -- at 5:40 a.m. I could have used a few more hours of sleep.
Thursday, July 5th
Like I said, we got up before sunrise. We washed up a little, and went next door to the Church of Saint John the Theologian. It was a fairly decent sized mud structure with a thatched roof right at the edge of the village. We started setting up there. Vladika had wanted us to start the Divine Liturgy at sunrise so we could get on our way back to Kananga early. We started Matins at around 9:00, I think.
While we waited to get started, we photographed a woman pounding a root they have there into a powdery white flour-like substance they use instead of flour. I read that it does not have as much nutritional value, but it is all they have.
Father Chrysostom had asked Vladika the previous night if he would tonsure four men readers, I thought, and ordain one deacon for the village. After matins, and before the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Gregory tonsured six men readers: Celestine, Martin, Richard, John, Placide (after the Great-martyr Evthatius Placidas), and Elias. That took a while, as we had to do them all separately as they only had one sticharion.
We proceeded with the Divine Liturgy, starting at around 10:00 a.m. Vladika estimated there were over one thousand people attending the Divine Liturgy. Many could not fit inside the church, and were outside participating from there. Also present were about eight or so police, a few with AK-47’s, for crowd control. The Liturgy went well.
Vladika ordained Subdeacon David to the diaconate. At the end of the service, all the clergy made a procession around the church so Vladika could bless all who were outside the church. Then, of course, everyone came up to kiss the cross, receive Vladika’s blessing, and to receive holy bread (antidoron). Three police assisted with crowd control for that. Two even came into the church for that (the ones with guns stayed outside). I found that a bit odd, but like I said earlier, they take their crowd control very seriously.
Finally, when all was finished at the church, we were directed to a meeting area to meet with the local officials. Various speeches were given, and gifts were presented to Archbishop Gregory. A large crowd of people were gathered around. All of the leaders expressed their gratitude to Vladika for travelling to their poor village. Bishop Ambrose never did that. He only stayed in Kananga, except one time when he visited the city of Tshikapa.
The leaders asked Vladika for a school and a hospital, as many of their children die every year due to a lack of medicines. Vladika promised them that if God helps us, and gives us the means, he will help them. Everywhere we've gone in the Congo, he explained, the people beg him to build them a church, a school, and a hospital. He will do what he can to help them.
He also brought to their minds the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, and how in the Judgement, all will be made right. Lazarus was very poor, like them, and the rich man was very rich. In the end, the rich man went to hell for eternity; and Lazarus to heaven for eternity. What good is it to be rich in this life, only to end up in hell for eternity?
The local officials also presented us with gifts: Local honey, a set of water buffalo horns, a very nice looking goat (which Vladika named Mohamed), and other things. They gave Father Chrysostom the Younger a goat, too, as well as some chickens, horns, animal skins, and various agricultural products.
Then we waited, again, for food to be made. While we waited, Vladika went around the village blessing many of the buildings. Finally we ate, again in a mud hut, and then waited some more. While we were celebrating the Divine Liturgy, the vehicle men were working on the truck. They said they had fixed the wheel, which did look better, but then for some reason, they had to bleed the brakes. Then they had to test them, speeding through the village with multitudes of children running after them. They worked on them some more, and retested them.
Then when it came time for us to actually board the truck, we had another little delay with one of the father’s luggage which had been tied up to the roll bars / cage in the back. With all that resolved, if you thought our journey to the village with eighteen (18) people seemed a bit crowded; well, our entourage grew to -- brace yourself, please -- thirty (30) people, including two women (we came here with one), three children, two goats, at least six to eight chickens, at least three or four rabbits, one other unidentifiable bird that may have been a young chicken, but I couldn’t see it very well; plus our luggage, plus enough of those roots they make flour out of to take up roughly the same volume as 2 Œ to 3 100 pound sacks of potatoes. Some of the roots were in bags, some were free -- on the bed of the truck and stuffed in every nook and cranny. And there were also some bags of this flour, too. The truck was rather crowded, and most definitely severely overloaded to say the least.
But we departed at 3:00 p.m., and were assured things would go better, as the 4-wheel drive had been fixed, and we were taking a different road back. The road we came on was much shorter than this road, but this road we would take back was much more travelled by vehicles.
Indeed, this road was in better shape than the one we came on; but please do not think that it was a decent road. It definitely had more vehicle traffic, and we could even see tire tracks occasionally, though we did not encounter any other vehicles until we reached the outskirts of Kananga. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
This road was characterized primarily by large expanses of the deep, soft sand. We never would have made it back without the 4-wheel drive. It also had huge washed out areas. We had many, many areas where we drove between two walls of clay taller than the vehicle, and not much wider, with the road horribly washed out.
Sometimes we would go with one side a foot or more higher than the other side, scraping the roll bar on the side of the clay wall, only to abruptly shift to the other side, being higher, with us scraping the other side of the wall. (We even tipped over one time, but the wall of clay was tall enough that it didn’t fall completely on its side, and was easily set back upright on its wheels.)
But these places were better than the places where we rocked back and forth due to the alternating uneven surface of the road. But for me, even this was not as bad as the areas where the wash out had made tall but even ridges in the road, so instead of being jarred from sided to side, we were jarred up and down... up, down, slam into the next ridge; up over the top, roll down abruptly slamming into the next ridge, etc., etc., etc. ...
Like I said, though, this road was more travelled than the other, and it was characterized more by vast expanses of soft sand. So there were many, many areas where other vehicles had decided they could not make it through the sand, and had made their own trail around it. Some of these were just as bad as the original road, and sometimes people had made their own trail around these as well. So whenever we saw one of those trails, we’d always take the outermost trail around the bad spot. And sometimes we made our own, too.
This time, however, our 4-wheel drive held up. We drove through a beautiful area of African plains, and at about 5:15 p.m., we came to a large lake. We were told that this lake is unusual in that during the day, it is very cold, and at night it is very warm. It is also very pure water.
They have a little resort area there, and we stopped for about forty-five minutes to an hour. We rested, waded in the lake, took pictures, etc. while the mechanics found a man with a welder, and worked on the wheel some more. That was reassuring.
We also did not have to stop nearly so often on the way back due to being stuck. We still were halted countless times, had to get out, dig our way out, push our way through, the driver would race ahead until the road got better -- and sometimes these distances were incredible -- and then wait for everyone to catch up.
Please forgive me, but I think it was around 9:15 p.m. when the right rear shock gave out. We were halted for at least an hour as the mechanics jacked up the truck and jury-rigged it. I was the only one with a flash light -- a little mini-maglite. They used this to work by, until it died. They gave it back to me dead. Glory to God I had a spare set of batteries for it, and they were back at work in no time.
By now, instead of the scorching African sun burning us up, we were all now cold from the damp night. So what does one do in Africa if you're cold? You light the countryside on fire to warm up! It was quite a sight. But don’t worry, it’s not like we burned up acres. It took great effort to get the damp grass to burn. It served more of a purpose just to give us something to do while the men worked on the truck.
Finally, when we got under way, probably an hour and a half to two hours later, the truck sounded and felt terrible. We got about 35 - 40 yards away, and stopped because we were dragging part of the vehicle. They borrowed my flash light again, and went back to work on it. I guess they tied whatever was dragging up so it didn’t make so much noise. But the road was in better shape and we only heard it dragging / clanging occasionally. (Of course, I am partly deaf, so it may have been making more noise and I just couldn’t hear it.)
Everyone who could huddle down in the back did so because of the cold. I’m not sure that it helped all that much, either, but we tried.
So we drove on and on into the night. When we crossed a bridge that I recognized as being about 45 minutes outside of Kananga, my spirits started lifting more despite the cold. And we continued on.
We even went past a compound of buildings that had electricity. We were still in the middle of no where, but I took this as a sign we were probably in or near the outskirts of Kananga. Hopefully, soon we would be home.
With those lights behind us, barely in sight, quite suddenly and without warning, the back of the pick up lunged up about 12-15 inches, and came crashing down on the pavement. We came to a very abrupt, grinding halt.
No one was hurt. It was not that bad.
I think everyone in the vehicle knew without even looking that the truck was not going to be going anywhere any time soon.
I jumped down, shone my flash light on the damaged area of the truck, and immediately surveyed the damage: The right rear shock was on the ground, as were the leaf springs. The tire was flat and mangled; and the rear axle was no longer perpendicular to the frame.
There was not even any discussion among the mechanics about trying to fix this mess. Instead, everyone got off the truck, and we started unloading all the baggage and miscellaneous livestock from the truck.
Father Chrysostom the Elder immediately called someone in town to come out for us. At roughly 3:00 a.m., a car and a motorcycle simultaneously arrived from two different places. Vladika, Father Chrysostom, Father Theophile and myself, and one other priest, packed into this broken down car and headed to town, sadly leaving the others behind to make their own way home.
Indeed, we were probably about 150 yards from the outskirts of town, and probably less than a mile from the city limits sign welcoming people to Kananga.
We arrived at the place we were staying at 3:15 a.m., only to be greeted by locked gates. But in only a short time, someone came and unlocked the gates, and soon we were safely and joyfully back in our rooms.
I got cleaned up by candle light, as there is no power anywhere in Kananga. Hotels and such use generators at night up until about 10:00 p.m. I was so dirty from the trip I could not imagine even trying to sleep as dirty as I was.
I was not all that tired, either, since we’d all had many opportunities to rest on the ground as the mechanics worked on the truck those many times earlier in the night. But I went to bed anyway, and go a whopping 3 1/2 hours of sleep before others in the “hotel” woke us up.
Friday, July 6th
We had a wonderful, quiet day off today -- something we should schedule in all our future trips here. Vladika and I ate and refreshed ourselves, and I spent most of the day writing this journal in between naps.
In the evening, Father Chrysostom the Elder, Theologos, Father Timothy, and Clement brought us food. We had a short visit, and then they left.
Theologos and I spent a little while trying to converse in sign language. We’d given up trying to use speech days ago. So we used silent sign language instead.
He also taught me some Cheluba. Here are some of the words he taught me, so you can get a feel for the language here.
mikolo -- legs
mutu -- head & face
mesu -- eyes
mukana -- mouth
diulu -- nose
ludimi -- tongue
manu -- teeth
mach -- ears
mesabaka -- shoes
mupanu -- pants
shemese -- shirt
menu -- fingers
bianza -- hand
Moý yo -- How are you?
Beem ba -- Good.
Some Cheluba we heard a lot of on the journey:
ma boko -- Literally, arm; but more commonly used as “Give me a hand.” We heard this whenever the driver needed us to push the truck or help dig it out.
Appa po! -- Yee Ha! -- You folks from Texas ought to like that! Whenever we actually got moving well, we heard this.
And a little Lingalla the driver taught me on the trip:
Tchi tal! -- Go!
More useful Liturgical Cheluba:
Mfumu utu fuile luse. -- Lord, have mercy.
Kudi wewe Mfumu -- To Thee, O Lord.
Lungenyi -- Wisdom!
Tuikalayi ne ntema. -- Let us attend.
Bukala -- Dynamis (louder)
Saturday, July 7th
Having had a day off to recuperate a little, it was back to work as usual today. Archbishop Gregory tonsured Clement a reader, then made him a subdeacon, and then ordained him a deacon in the Divine Liturgy.
After that, we took care of some miscellaneous business. We were supposed to go to another village, but Vladika was not feeling up to it. We were all still pretty tired. Some also were showing signs of getting sick -- coughing, etc.
We went to the hotel and rested. Archbishop Gregory was still pretty worn out from the trip. I had a splitting headache. Father Theophile was “50 - 50”. So we spent most of the afternoon resting. We were trying to avoid getting sick again like I did last year. I was sick for six weeks after the last trip to the Congo.
Sunday, July 8th
Today, Archbishop Gregory ordained Subdeacon Constantine to the diaconate, and Deacon Clement to the priesthood. He also tonsured five more readers for the Church of St. Thomas and the Church of the Holy Apostles. Their names were: Nestor, George, Philip, Haralambos, and Andres.
That afternoon we went to the Church of Saint Nicholas in Kananga, where Father Clement will serve. These were the 182 former Protestants who had converted to Orthodoxy. Seventeen of our clergy also came as a show of support. Vladika had a little talk with the new converts, talking with them about some of the basics, and encouraging them in the Faith. We had a meal, and by the time we left there, it was almost dark, so we called it a night. We went back to our hotel and packed for our trip to Tshikapa the next day.
Monday, July 9th
We were picked up from our hotel at 6:30 a.m. and went directly into the Divine Liturgy, as we needed to leave for the airport by 10:30 a.m. Archbishop Gregory ordained Subdeacon Haralambos to the diaconate. We said our farewells, and there was a short photo session with Vladika. Many people wanted their picture taken with Vladika.
While we were waiting for the car to come to take us to the airport, another Cyprianite priest came to the church to see Vladika. He and his deacon had contacted Vladika the day before, and they petitioned him to receive them into the Church. So at the last moment before we had to leave for the airport, we received Father Leo and Deacon Jeremias into the true Orthodox Church.
The car finally arrived at 12:15, and we were a bit concerned that we were running so late; but those concerns proved to be unfounded.
We were happy to see that the airport in Kananga had been completely remodeled since the last time we were here. (We really did not see much of it when we arrived.) The airport looked at least 1000% better. For all intents and purposes, it used to be very much like a gutted concrete shell, and it had obviously been that way for a very long time. Now it has been fixed up very nicely.
We ended up waiting I think another four hours. I spent the time writing about some of the interesting aspects of the Congo that you might find entertaining. I don’t think it is really appropriate to include it in this text, but if you are interested in reading about some of our observations of life in the Congo, here is a link to a separate page for this.
We got on the plane at a little after 4:00 p.m. My first impression of it was that it was an old Russian-made cargo prop plane with some seats in it. Then after I thought about it a little, I decided that it probably was really designed to be a passenger plane. In any case, the crew seemed more concerned about the cargo, some of which was stacked in the seats with us, than the passengers. As we approached to enter the plane, I found the dirty, one inch tall yellow on gray letters painted on the fuselage particularly comforting. They said, “In case of emergency, cut here.” -- meaning, cut an escape door here. Of course, those letters were about four feet directly opposite the engines, so if there was a fire, the firemen would never even see them... nor would it be an ideal place to cut. Besides, we’d all be charred corpses by then anyway. Very comforting.
We also really had to appreciate the Russian ingenuity that went into designing this airplane. The luggage racks consisted of a shelf that was not enclosed at all. They were not even big enough to hold my small, soft briefcase. And behind where the luggage would have been, if you could fit it on the luggage rack, was where the ventilation system’s vents were located! Finally, to add to our adventure on this flight; when we got into the air, and they turned on the ventilation system, a fine mist that at our first glance looked like smoke belched out of those vents. Oh, and Vladika only had half a seat belt!
We landed on the dirt runway of Tshikapa. I kid you not. It was a dirt runway. They also had six or seven biplanes in service there. Three of them were old airliners that had to have been made in the late 1930’s -- and were still being used as airliners! It was like stepping into another world.
We were met by Father Kosmas and an entourage of about 5-7 others. One of them looked almost exactly like Daniel -- Father Theophile’s very nice and helpful brother in Kananga. It turned out that it was Palamon, his twin brother! He was a very nice and helpful young man also.
All of our bags arrived, and we got them with the usual tumult. We were used to it by then. Then we waited and waited for the authorities to stamp our travel documents. Although it took some time -- maybe an hour or so -- for them to let us go, at least we didn’t have to pay them off. It just took a long time to get through the paperwork.
When we left the airport and got out onto the “street”, we were in shock -- but we also could not help but laugh. The “street” was a wide expanse of deep soft sand like we had experienced a few days ago, with three (possibly four) sets of tire ruts in it. Father Theophile and I joked, “Ma boko. Ma boko.” like the driver on our excursion yelled every time he needed people to push the truck. “Ma boko” literally means “arm”, but is commonly used in the sense, “Give me a hand.” Even Father Chrysostom the Elder laughed.
We went to the hotel and dropped off our bags. Then we left for the church.
The “streets” in Tshipaka are utterly unbelievable. You would not believe them even if we took pictures. They are everything we went through in the bush, except wider in some areas, and filled with people. And worse, actually. We would see some of the loose sand or washed out areas, and we could not even imagine how we could possibly make it through the maze of ruts and boulders. It’s no wonder dirt bikes are the preferred mode of motorized travel in Tshikapa. One has to have a very sturdy 4-wheel drive vehicle to make it over these “roads”.
Our driver was having a bit of trouble keeping his vehicle running. It was not that old, but it kept dying on him. At one point, after we crossed a bridge I don’t even want to try to describe right now that crosses a very wide, muddy river that cuts through the city, the vehicle’s engine caught fire. They stopped, threw some dirt on it to put it out, started it back up, and we began driving on again like nothing had happened.
Our journey in that vehicle ended a short distance ahead, as the police stopped us and wasted no time in detaining the driver and impounding his vehicle. They were not the slightest bit interested in us; but they had business with him that they were determined to resolve right then and there.
So we gathered our things, and walked the last half mile or so to the Church of the Dormition, where we were met by a large crowd of joyful faithful. It was dark, as we had arrived at night. We had a short exchange of greetings, and most of the people went home as we waited for quite some time for someone to find another vehicle to take us back to the hotel. When we finally found a driver, he wanted $100 to take us home. Thank God, our faithful were able to talk him down to $15. We arrived, unpacked a little, ate, and went to bed for an early start the next morning.
By now, I was sick; and Vladika was well on his way to getting sick.
Tuesday, July 10th
We were supposed to leave the hotel today at 6:30 a.m. to go to the Church of Saint Anastasia. We left a little after 7:00. The Land Cruiser broke down on the way. It was not a pleasant sight to see the mechanics take the right front leaf springs completely off. There’s nothing quite like watching them do major repairs on your transportation on the roadside while you wait. Some nice people brought plastic lawn chairs for Vladika and me, and a wooden bench for the others traveling with us. I was miserably ill, and Vladika was worse, too.
We arrived at the Church of Saint Anastasia a little after 9:00 a.m., and began Matins. Archbishop Gregory tonsured six readers before the Divine Liturgy: Constantine, Martin, Gregory, Basil, Bartholomew, and Demetri. He also ordained Subdeacon Kyril to the diaconate. The Divine Liturgy finished at approximately 2:00 p.m. We left the church at approximately 2:15, and arrived at the hotel a half hour later.
The driver of the vehicle we had taken to the church had raised his price, so we found another driver. We packed eight people plus luggage in a Jeep CJ-5 or 7 (I couldn’t tell which), and had one more sitting on the spare tire outside. Two others tried to ride on the back bumper, but couldn’t.
We ate, had our water barrels filled (we didn’t have running water there), and rested. The air conditioners didn’t work, either, for some reason.
By the afternoon, Archbishop Gregory and I were both sick. I was sick enough that I started taking some of the animal grade tetricycline that we had brought with us. I remembered reading somewhere that the physiology of pigs is very similar to humans, so I tried to base my dosage on the instructions for swine. Of course, we didn’t have a scale to weigh the medicine out on, but we did the best we could. When you are sick in the Congolese frontier (and Tshikapa is considered the frontier), you will do things you might not otherwise do.
Wednesday, July 11th
We were supposed to leave the hotel at 7:30. We left at 9:30 for the Church of the Dormition. Obtaining vehicles in Tshikapa can be quite challenging. I don’t think there are very many of them here, and the conditions in Tshikapa are horrible.
Archbishop Gregory tonsured seven readers for various churches in the Tshikapa region. They were: Moses, George, Richard, John, Gregory, Timothy, and John.
He made four readers subdeacons: Moses, Palamon, Seraphim, and Bartholomew.
Archbishop Gregory ordained Subdeacon Moses to the diaconate, and Deacon Kyril to the priesthood.
We ate lunch at the church, and then went back to the hotel, arriving there at about 4:00 p.m. We spent the rest of the day resting as much as we could.
I was still miserably ill, and so was Vladika. I felt sorry for him, though, as he still had to deal with people stopping by to see him, whereas I stayed in my room and rested as much as I could.
Thursday, July 12th
Archbishop Gregory tonsured three more readers for the area: Gerasimos, Joseph, and Nectarios. He also made six subdeacons: Gerasimos, Timothy, Joseph, Basil, and Gregory.
We then traveled back to Kinshasa, as Tshikapa was so horribly expensive and difficult. Plus, we were both very sick. Traveling, of course, took all day. We flew back on another Russian Antonov 24. We had not been very happy with our rooms in Kinshasa when we first arrived there a couple of weeks ago; but they did not look so bad this time around, after having come from the Congolese frontier.
Friday, July 13th
Archbishop Gregory and I tried to rest while Father Theophile took care of some church business for us. Vladika was sick enough that he started taking the animal grade tetricycline, too.
Saturday, July 14th
Vladika started feeling a little better, but he was still pretty sick. He definitely needed to rest. I was still a little sick, but I was doing a lot better than I was, thank God.
Father Deacon Ambrose and others stopped by this morning. They visited with Vladika much of the day in his hotel room.
This continued to be another day of rest -- trying to recuperate. We had hoped to perform a Divine Liturgy this morning, but we just were not able to.
Sunday, July 15th
After a problem getting a car, we were off to the airport, accompanied by Father Theophile and Hypolotos.
On the way, we had to pull over and let the presidential motorcade pass by. It consisted of three motorcycle police, and approximately seven nice, new SUV’s -- some black and some metallic gold / bronze. We were on a four lane divided highway, and everybody in our two lanes pulled completely off the road to let it pass. You wouldn’t see that in America, that’s for sure.
The airport police would not let Father Theophile or Hypolotos in the airport since they were not traveling, but they called Ethiopian Airlines, and a very nice employee of theirs who spoke English came to help us through the process of going through the airport.
There is almost no signage of any kind in the airports in the Congo, and none whatsoever in English. You have to deal with a lot of pushing, shoving, and yelling; going from unmarked place to unmarked place, scattered here and there. But thank God, we had the Ethiopian Airlines interpreter for parts of the process, and we made it through. The people at the last couple places, I think, saw that we were pretty worn out, and were extra nice to us.
We got on the plane fine, and flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the airline put us up in a hotel for the evening, as our flight to Uganda was not until the following day. My room had bed bugs, however, and I had to change rooms at 1:15 in the morning. I didn’t get much sleep that night.
But thank God, I don’t think I brought any home with me.
Monday, July 16th
We made our flight to Uganda, thank God. We were met at the airport by Father Joachim and Father Cyprian, and a delegation of our lower clergy and faithful. We then drove from the airport at Entebbe to Kampala, the capital of Uganda, where our main church complex is.
We were very pleased to see that Uganda appeared to be in much, much better shape than the Congo. They have real roads, nice vehicles, electricity, running water, decent drivers, etc. We were not jostled at all -- not even once -- throughout the entire hour and a half drive to Kampala. The closest thing to it was that they have a lot of speed bumps in the road here.
Another real plus is that most people here speak English as their second language, so it was a bit easier for us here for that reason, too. It was also very interesting to note that the people of Uganda are much quieter than the people in the Congo. They are so soft-spoken, in fact, that most of them are even very hard for us to even hear.
There is no pushing, yelling or shoving in Uganda. They are very orderly people. They enter the que (get in line), wait patiently and quietly; and are just generally very polite and well mannered.
FYI -- They drive, and walk, on the left, as in the UK. We also saw women riding side-saddle on motorcycle taxis there. They were not holding onto anything! I've never seen that before.
Until we got to Kampala, it almost did not even seem like the rest of Africa we had seen. Almost all of the buildings were permanent structures, and many were quite nice at that. We did not see any open air markets or other areas that resembled shanty towns, as in the Congo and Ethiopia. And there were no junk-box cars at all, and very little pollution. Uganda -- or at least what we saw of it -- was a nice, clean place. I think an average American could live in Uganda, and feel quite at home.
After we arrived at the complex where the Church of Saints Joachim & Anna, and all of our other projects are, Archbishop Gregory blessed the church with holy water. He received Father Joachim and Father Cyprian into the Church by renunciation of Cyprianism and Ecumenism, Chrismation, and by reading the Prayer of Forgiveness over them.
Archbishop Gregory gave the people present a short history of Cyprianism, and spoke with them about various other topics. We then performed Vespers, and the choir sang a hymn for Vladika.
They do not have any married candidates for ordination at this time. All the people that might otherwise be ordainable are still single. But as Father Joachim said, that is no problem. There is no need to rush.
Father Joachim and Father Cyprian, and some others, gave us a tour of their church complex.
They have an HIV/AIDS examination and testing clinic, which they also use to treat patients with other illnesses as well. They have a school for nursing there, too. They would like to expand the building upwards, building another story to add four to six more rooms for their clinic. They need medicines and supplies very badly here.
They have many problems with cholera and malaria, and need help getting medicines for these. Their government is not able to help them at all with this.
They showed us their orphanage, at least the male portion of it anyway, which has five beds, but currently houses seven boys. They have trouble keeping them fed, and could use help with this, too. The boys learn nursing and/or tailoring, and sew clothes to help earn their keep. They are also an integral part of the church choir.
They used to have chickens, but they all died a few years ago of disease. They would like to start raising them again, and perhaps other livestock as well, but space there is very limited.
They showed us their kitchen, complete with a dirt floor and stone wood-burning oven. They do not have any running water there, but they do have their own well and storage tank for the church and some of the other buildings.
In speaking with them about other matters, they told us that when they found out about Metropolitan Cyprian’s depostions, they asked Bishop Ambrose about it. They said he told them to mind their own business.
Also, just for your information, Father Cyprian’s church is named after the Annunciation. It is in a village far from Kampala.
Tuesday, July 17th
As I said earlier, they have a school for nurses at our church complex in Kampala. This was their graduation day. They postponed their graduation ceremonies a little when they learned Archbishop Gregory would be coming to visit them in Uganda.
We traveled to the Church of Saints Joachim & Anna, and were greeted by the nursing graduates singing hymns, and others throwing flower petals. We arrived at 9:00 a.m., and started Matins shortly thereafter.
Archbishop Gregory tonsured five young men to be readers: Paul, Nicholas, Alexi, Elias, and Gerasimos.
Vladika gave a very nice sermon to the forty or so people who attended the Divine Liturgy. Among other things, he spoke to them about how our Orthodoxy is our life and our hope. He told them that two things are required of us: that we keep the Faith, and that we live an Orthodox life, i.e. that we keep the fasts, do our prayers, do not sin so that we can partake of the Holy Mysteries, etc.
He told them that most Americans have lost sight of the true wealth they had in Orthodoxy. They became ashamed of the Gospel; and no longer believe in one Faith, one Baptism, one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. In the end, they call Christ a liar.
Following the Divine Liturgy, at 12:40, we all assembled at a tent outside the church for the graduation ceremonies. Presbytera Margret gave a welcoming speech, followed by a greeting from Father Joachim thanking Archbishop Gregory for coming to Uganda to receive them into the Holy Orthodox Church.
They have a very nice church choir, and people in Uganda in general like to sing. They had written many of their own songs. They sang several songs for us. The first one was a song they wrote for us welcoming us to Uganda. The second was written specifically to Archbishop Gregory. We recorded these two, and are going to try to put them on the website, too.
Most of the choir, and the nursing students, are orphans. All of them are members of our church.
Most of the songs they sang to us after these two were in their native language of Lugandan. They were about:
-- Praising their college.
-- How during Fasting Periods, you are supposed to pray harder.
-- Praising the Lord.
-- Christ was crucified for our sins, and after three days rose again, conquering death and the devil, i.e. the Resurrection.
-- Christ is the best Shepherd.
And more songs.
We ate lunch, and then the graduation ceremonies continued.
We were told that Academics and Discipline were stressed at the nursing school.
Archbishop Gregory presented diplomas to the six graduates, and photos were taken.
Then some students gave Vladika and me some very nice mats welcoming us to Uganda, which we both like very much, and have in our rooms to always remind us of the great love these people have.
The chorus also sang a song congratulating the graduates.
Finally, Archbishop Gregory gave a speech to the graduates. He encouraged them in the Faith, and to use the gifts that God has granted them to do good works, so that in the end, they may find themselves worthy to enter into the Kingdom of the Heavens.
We ended the ceremonies with a hymn to the Virgin Mary.
We had a few private talks with the clergy, and took care of some miscellaneous Church business, and then went back to our hotel at around 5:00.
Wednesday, July 18th
We began the Divine Liturgy at 9:40 a.m. Archbishop Gregory tonsured Patrick to be a reader for the Church of Saints Joachim and Anna. Father Cyprian became ill, and had to leave the service early. They took him to the clinic, and a blood test confirmed that he had malaria. They gave him some medicine for it. He must have had a very mild case because he did not seem that sick; and he was feeling better the next day.
We went to Father Joachim’s house for lunch.
Among the talk there, Father Joachim told us about how they had left the Cyprianites briefly for HOCNA, thinking they were among the last true Orthodox -- but not knowing about their perversion. He said that when they found out about it, they were shocked. He said that the culture in Uganda does not accept homosexuality. It is actually against the law there. If a person is caught doing things like that, they are thrown in jail. Father Joachim said that when he wrote to the HOCNA bishops about it, they told him to just leave the matter alone. Just be quiet about it. Father Joachim said that they met and decided among themselves that since Orthodoxy does not permit this, and their culture does not permit it, they wanted no part of people of that persuasion, and they went back to the Cyprianites because they did not know of any other true bishop or Synod to go to.
Archbishop Gregory also asked him about how Bishop Ambrose treated them. Father Joachim told us the same story as what Father Chrysostom in Kananga, and Father Kosmas in Tshikapa had told us. Bishop Ambrose would give the priests $50 every two years -- when he visited. Vladika figured out that that is about fifty cents a week. My, what love, especially considering the Cyprianites are well known in Greece to be quite wealthy.
From Father Joachim’s house, we went back to our hotel to pack and get ready for our return trip to America.
Thursday, July 19th
We performed the Divine Liturgy with Father Joachim serving. We followed this with lunch. They gave us some crafts to bring back to America to try to sell. If any of you visit here, or are interested in anything made by our faithful in Uganda, please let us know. The work is quite nice. All proceeds will be sent to the church mission in Uganda.
We said our goodbyes, and with much sorrow to be leaving these nice people -- but also some joy in finally returning home after so long and arduous of a trip -- we departed for the airport in Entebbe. Father Joachim drove us in his car. It was the first time he had ever driven there himself.
We stopped briefly at Lake Victoria, which is the source of the Nile River. Vladika had asked him the day before if we could plan on stopping there on the way. He said that the actual source of the Nile was far away, but certainly we could stop at the lake on the way to the airport; but that where ever we ended up stopping, we would have to ask the locals if it was ok to stop there, as they have many crocodiles there that were known to eat people.
Here is a little excerpt from Wikipedia about Lake Victoria:
Lake Victoria or Victoria Nyanza (also known as Ukerewe and Nalubaale) is one of the Great Lakes of Africa. -- Lake Victoria is 68,800 square kilometres (26,560 mi²) in size, making it the continent’s largest lake, the largest tropical lake in the world, and the second largest fresh water lake in the world in terms of surface area (third largest if one considers Lake Michigan-Huron as a single lake). Being relatively shallow for its size, with a maximum depth of 84 m (276 ft) and a mean depth of 40 m (131 ft), Lake Victoria ranks as the seventh largest freshwater lake by volume, containing 2,750 cubic kilometres (2.2 million acre-feet) of water. It is the source of the longest branch of the Nile River, the White Nile, and has a water catchment area of 184,000 square kilometres (71,040 mi²). It is biologically important as an evolutionary hot spot with great biodiversity. The lake lies within an elevated plateau in the western part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley and is subject to territorial administration by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. The lake has a shoreline of 3,440 km (2138 miles), and has more than 3,000 islands, many of which are inhabited. These include the Ssese Islands in Uganda, a large group of islands in the northwest of the Lake that are becoming a popular destination for tourists.
We had a nice little break at the lake, and then drove on to the airport.
We were very sad to say our good-byes, but alas, we had to leave our hosts in Uganda and return home.
Our flight left Uganda at 6:30 p.m. We flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. From there we caught a connecting flight at 10:15 p.m. to Washington DC.
Friday, July 20th
We arrived in Washington DC at about 8:10 a.m. Friday morning. After proceeding through immigration and customs, we went to the United desk to check on our flight to Denver. There we learned that our flight had been canceled. They no longer offered that flight. They put us on standby for the next flight out; but warned us that that flight, and the next flight out were both overbooked.
As I got cleaned up a little bit, somehow a United employee who is with HOCNA saw Archbishop Gregory, and began talking with him. After Vladika told him of our situation, he took us to a United desk, and booked us on two connecting flights through Kansas City. He was a very nice man. He said that, “Ah yes, we (in HOCNA) have some parishes in Uganda.” Vladika told him, “Not any more. They're with us now!” But it did not cause any problems with him, and he took very good care of us.
To conclude the trip, we were met at the airport in Denver by Sister Elizabeth and her daughter, Leslie, who was visiting from college. They drove us the rest of the way back home.
It was a very long and difficult trip; but thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ, it proved to be a very fruitful trip.
Glory be to God for all things great and small!