To the Ends of the Earth

Orthodox Christian Missions

Archive for May 2011

Ancient Faith Radio: Orphans in Russia, Guatemala, and India

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Children from Hogar Rafael

Continuing to post on recent missions-related podcasts at Ancient Faith Radio, here are a few about orphans and orphanages around the world.

The Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund
From Russia, there is an interview with Georgia Williams, a founder and administrator of the Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund, which seeks to assist orphanages and orphans through camps and education, and so on, including those deemed unmanageable or unteachable. (Turns out they are teachable!) In addition to describing their work, Georgia also discusses new partnerships ROOF is hoping to form with Orthodox parishes and people in North America to further the work in Russia. You can find the interview here. It is well worth a listen.

Hogar Rafael Ayau Orthodox Orphanage, Guatemala
Hogar Rafael has become fairly well known in North American Orthodox circles. Here are two more podcasts about the work there.

The first is with Mother Abbess Ines about some new laws governing orphans and adoptions in Guatemala that is making it more difficult for the orphanage to operate, as well as an update on the building of a new orphanage site just outside of Guatemala City, which would be a much better environment for the children. You can listen to that here.

If you feel moved to assist Hogar Rafael with their building project after listening to that first podcast, you can listen to this second one about a new CD released by the Friends of the Hogar. The CD is of the children singing Orthodox hymns (they sing beautifully and apparently know everything by heart), and is being sold as a fundraiser. You can listen to that podcast here, and/or buy a CD here.

Theotokos Greek Orthodox Girl’s Orphanage, India
Lastly, there is an interview with Christina Thanos, who produced a short documentary called Lucky Girls about the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Girl’s Orphanage. She also organized a lenten fundraising campaign for the orphanage. Lent is over, but they are still accepting donations, even of just a few dollars. You can listen to the podcast here, and visit the film’s website, which includes fundraising details, here.

Lucky Girls from Lucky Girls on Vimeo.

Written by Stephen

May 30, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Ancient Faith Radio: Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry 2011 Convocation

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I’ve had time recently to browse the Ancient Faith Radio archives, and have found some interesting podcasts relating to missions. Here is one of them.

Bobby Maddex interviews Patrick Tutella, covering the state of American jails, the spiritual needs, the duties and responsibilities of a chaplain, the work of the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry, and what is going to happen at their upcoming convocation in Toronto. It is a good podcast to get a general sense of things, and can be listened to here. For a deeper understanding, check out OCPM’s website here.

If you are interested in attending the convocation, I believe it is still possible to attend. It will be from June 28 to July 2 in Toronto, Canada. Please contact OCPM for more details.

Written by Stephen

May 24, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Liturgy for the Deaf

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I have seen a couple of versions of this old article, but this one, from here, is the longest and has the most information. Thanks to a friend on Facebook for finding it. For a more recent report of this church, from 2009, and in video (which isn’t embedding for some reason), please go to RT News. This video is of the Trisagion Hymn done in sign language in a Greek Orthodox church. Thanks to Orthocath for posting it. Another video from the same Greek poster is below.

Moscow Times
Thursday, Jan. 11, 2001. Page 1

Reading Signs From Above

By Andrei Zolotov Jr.
Staff Writer

By the standards of Moscow’s Orthodox churches, the Christmas Eve congregation at the Church of Our Lady of Tikhvin was small: about 100 men and women. But it was a special congregation, mostly made up of people who could not hear elsewhere the inspiring beauty of Orthodox liturgy.

“Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, has dawned upon the world, the light of knowledge,” the small choir sang for those who could hear. For those who couldn’t, there was a woman in a headscarf standing next to the choir, in a brightly lit small chapel decorated with holiday fir trees, who with her vigorous gestures translated the hymn into sign language.

Standing behind the unusually low Royal Doors, which in Orthodox churches separate the altar from the rest of the chapel, Priest Pyotr Kolomeitsev said his prayers in both voice and hands, frequently pointing on high to signify the word “God.”

In another break from Orthodox practice, Kolomeitsev frequently faced the congregation rather than the altar, so that sign readers could follow his service.

Ministry for the deaf is well established in Western Christian denominations. But in Russian Orthodoxy, a small group of devoted activists at the Church of Our Lady of Tikhvin are blazing a new trail. They have developed, almost from scratch, an Orthodox liturgical sign language. And according to Kolomeitsev, they measure their success against the depth of involvement of their churchgoers, rather than the sheer number of them.

Many Western Christian organizations that work with the deaf focus on providing humanitarian aid, Kolomeitsev said. He said Baptists in Russia are particularly active in that regard, with deaf-friendly congregations in about 50 cities.

“We distribute aid too, but that is not the most important work for us. We too had many who came to receive humanitarian aid and then left,” Kolomeitsev said. The larger goal, he says, is to help the hearing impaired to be “full-fledged Christians.” To that end, members of his congregation take part in services, make group pilgrimages around Russia and abroad, teach in schools for the hearing impaired, and even work in an embroidery workshop for the deaf.

“Russian is hard for [the hearing-impaired], like a foreign language,” Kolomeitsev said. “Ordinary deaf people don’t usually read, [instead] they watch videos – mostly action movies, porn and comedies where cakes are thrown into faces, so that everything can be understood without translation. Our parishioners have begun to read, and this is very good.

“When I talk to my Western colleagues, I see that they have many things which we don’t have, especially as far as the technical equipment is concerned,” Kolomeitsev added. “But when they hear that our parishioners read the Synodal [standard Russian translation of the] Bible and not a ‘Bible in Pictures,’ they are very impressed.”

Sweet Incense, Holy Rain

With the visual beauty of ritual and the theological depth of iconography, Orthodox liturgy appeals strongly to senses other than hearing. In recognition of that, Kolomeitsev, an architect by education, ensures that his church has on hand only the highest quality icons and best-smelling incense.

When he sprinkles parishioners with holy water, he is generous with it – it is as if the congregation were under a heavy rain. When he anoints them with oil during vigil services, he doesn’t spare it.

But it is rendering Church Slavonic – a language so full of complicated, ancient words that even its adequate translation into modern Russian remains one of the church’s unmet challenges – that is perhaps the greatest hurdle facing any church for the deaf.

Luckily, amid the religious revival of the late 1980s, there was Archdeacon Pavel Troshenkin. Troshenkin lost his Soviet-era job as a professional interpreter for the deaf because of official objections to his faith. He became a clergyman and started to organize and translate lectures about Christianity for the hearing impaired and even to invent liturgical hand signs.

In 1991, he won permission from the church leaders to turn his back to the altar and sign parts of the services at Moscow’s Novodevichy Convent, where he served.

Soon, two young men – architect Kolomeitsev and physician Andrei Goryachev, who were sacristans at Novodevichy Convent – became involved with Troshenkin’s work. They studied sign language and were ordained as
priests.

By 1994, it was time to start their own church. They selected Our Lady of Tikhvin, which was part of one of Moscow’s largest and richest monasteries, St. Simon Monastery, before St. Simon was mostly destroyed
in 1930. Our Lady of Tikhvin’s main attraction was that the building did not have pillars or partitions that would obstruct the view of the altar.

Troshenkin, though active in the deaf community of Our Lady of Tikhvin, has stayed at Novodevichy Convent.

Only a few of the main prayers of Russian Orthodoxy were translated in the pre-Revolutionary era for the deaf. So rendering Church Slavonic into sign language has been a major undertaking. Over the past 10 years, the task has been pursued by a team of priests and also by sign-language interpreters, including Maria Danilevskaya, Pavel Afanasyev and Yekaterina Berezina.

Some sign gestures were borrowed from Western European churches, others were simply invented along the way. Kolomeitsev said the team is now ready to move on and systemize its work in books, videotape dictionaries
and CD-ROMs.

The Deaf Lead the Blind

To say “Lord, have mercy,” Kolomeitsev first raises two fingers high in the letter L – which can stand for Lord in English, or if seen upside down as a Russian G, for Gospod’ – and then makes a motion as if caressing one palm with the other.

To say “Patriarch Alexy,” the interpreter makes a round motion around her head and rests her hands on her chest, as if outlining the kukol, or patriarchal white headwear. A round downward motion with both hands before one’s chest, followed through in a lifting circle, means “salvation.” And when the priest says, “Peace be unto all,” he first
clasps his hands to signify “peace” and then spreads them inclusively toward the congregation.

Speaking through an interpreter, Sacristan Dmitry Balashov recalled how he began to attend Father Pavel Troshenkin’s Novodevichy lectures and services in the early 1990s. “He guided me in my faith and opened the
beauty of Orthodox liturgy to me,” Balashov said. “I can say that since then, I have become a different man.”

Balashov was one of seven hearing-impaired men in a special group organized by Kolomeitsev’s congregation to study at the St. Tikhon Theological Institute. Today, he spreads the congregation’s mission by teaching the “basics of Orthodox culture” in a school for the deaf in Elektrostal, a town outside of Moscow.

Do the deaf have a favorite saint or icon? No, Balashov said – but he has collected more than 20 cases in which the hearing-impaired were healed through prayer.

A small network of hearing-impaired Orthodox parishes has begun toemerge. Kolomeitsev often travels to St. Petersburg to celebrate services for a community there, which is still awaiting its own priest. Occasional
interpretation is provided in several churches in the Moscow region where deaf people live or work.

A special partnership exists with a community of blind deaf mutes in Sarapul, Mordovia. Groups from Sarapul sometimes come to Our Lady of Tikhvin, and then the liturgy goes through two translations. Moscow
parishioners who can see imitate the signing gestures of the priest or the interpreter; the blind deaf mutes then hold them by the hands, trying to follow sign language by touch.

Unlike the biblical parable about the blind leading the blind and both falling into the ditch, in these situations a man who can see but not hear guides in prayer another who has lost practically all sense but touch.

Kolomeitsev says that one of his small community’s main achievements is that it refuses to be pigeonholed as a church exclusively for the deaf.

“The deaf live in their own world, in their ghetto, in their own sub-culture,” he said. “They have their schools, their theater, their clubs. Here, people all feel that they are in a normal church. We have not created another ghetto for them. We simply let the hearing impaired into the Russian Orthodox Church.”

Written by Stephen

May 23, 2011 at 9:26 pm

The Way: A New Introductory Course to Orthodox Christianity

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I saw yesterday that there is a new interview on Ancient Faith Radio. As their blurb puts it:

Bobby Maddex interviews David and Mangala Frost of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies (IOCS) about a new IOCS Orthodox evangelism tool called The Way, now available in the United States exclusively through Conciliar Press.

Modelled after the popular Evangelical Alpha Course, but from an Orthodox perspective, and with some modifications, it looks like The Way seeks to provide a place where anyone looking to learn more about Orthodoxy — whether inquirers or faithful seeking to understand their faith better — can freely discuss, question, and learn about the Faith. It has just launched in North America, and is apparently also already being translated into several other langauges for use throughout Eastern Europe. The interview is 34 minutes long. Do check it out here, and see what you think.

Written by Stephen

May 19, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Posted in America, Interview, Podcasts

Met. Ambrose of Korea Speaking to Protestants on Missions and Liturgy

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Hat tip to Byzantine, Texas. There are also a couple of good comments over on that site regarding this post, worth checking out.

(Pantokrator Monastery) – 12 Questions and Answers on Orthodox Confession and Worship. Transcribed by A.D Kondogianakopoulou.

On Monday 5 September, following an invitation from a Protestant theological school (postgraduate level) located outside Seoul, the Most Reverent Metropolitan of Korea, Fr. Ambrose, gave two lectures to 35 postgraduate students, all pastors. The lessons, within which the lectures were given, were on missions and the Liturgy. We have recorded the discussions for the most part that followed after each lecture and provide it below since we believe that the topics raised as well as the manner of their delivery of the Orthodox confession in Korea is of particular interest.

***

1st Question: What is your understanding of missionary activities in the Orthodox Church?

Answer: To start with, the term “mission” does not express the spirit of the Orthodox Church. We use it compromisingly because it has universal prevalence. Instead we prefer the term “witness.” The term mission, which derives from Western theology, does not exist in Holy Scripture, while the corresponding term, witness, is found many times. The teaching of the Gospel does not mean to say beautiful words about Christ but to give a daily witness of Christ with one’s words and with one’s silence, with works and by example. And if need be, if necessary, to martyr for Christ, namely, to spill one’s blood for Christ, as was done by millions of martyrs and confessors of the faith.

2nd Question: What is your opinion on proselytism?

Answer: In the Orthodox Church we consider proselytism a great sin because it does not honour man. It tramples upon the precious divine gift of freedom and debases man’s personality. Proselytism means to impose on someone else your beliefs by lawful and unlawful means, while confessing Christ means to struggle, to live according to Christ and to repeat by one’s words and life, the perennial “come and see” of the Apostle Philip to any well-intentioned “Nathanael” – your neighbour. The disastrous results of proselytism of the so-called missionary countries by Western Christianity, which we face to this day, I believe, does not leave any margin for the indefinite condemnation of the proselytising process.

3rd Question: What process is followed in the Orthodox Church for someone to work as a missionary?

Answer: In the Orthodox Church, the deacons of the Bible are not self-called but other-called. In other words, someone does not decide by himself to work as a missionary but is sent by the Church. Obedience to the Church is the only soul-saving route. If we remember, for example, the case of Barnabas and Paul, we see that the Holy Spirit chose them and the Church through prayer and fasting sent them to preach. (Acts 13:3) And when they returned to Jerusalem they informed the Church which sent them of “everything that God did through them.” (Acts 15:4)

This subject has great theological significance for the spreading of the true faith and for the unity of the Church. If everyone acts according to his opinion and desire, then the faith and unity of the Church is in danger.

At this point permit me to mention the following event: Once I flew from America to Greece with an American woman, a self-appointed missionary. When I asked her why she chose Greece for her missionary work, she told me that she admired the Greeks a lot because she knew a lot about their glorious ancient history, and that is why she had great zeal to Christianize them.

“Do you know what modern-day Greeks believe in?” I asked her.

“Of course, the twelve gods of Olympus!” she answered.

“Do you know,” I told her, “that 2000 years before you some other apostle, the Great Apostle of the Nations Paul went to Greece and preached Christianity? And that Greeks have had an uninterrupted Christian Orthodox tradition ever since?”

Such waggishness and much worse happens when behind every self-called missionary it is not the Church doing the sending.

4th Question: You accused the woman from America who went to Greece as a missionary. Why did you come to Korea? Are you not doing the same?

Answer: No, I did not do the same, nor did I accuse the lady. I simply mentioned the event to show what can happen if the missionary work of someone does not have proper ecclesiological foundations. You know better than me that in Korea there are millions of people who are not only non-Christians but are also pagans. However, Greece is a country with two thousand years of Christian history with a population of over 90% Christian. If Korea was a Christian country, the Ecumenical Patriarchate wouldn’t have sent me here.

To be more clear allow me to add the following: At the University where I teach, the parents of one of our female students are in Greece as self-appointed missionaries. And, in fact, the place they chose for their missionary activities, was the holy island of Patmos! The island of the Revelation, where the traces of the Evangelist of love, Saint John the theologian, are still fully obvious. On this island, where many Christian saints lived and acted, there are an innumerable number of churches and monasteries where the Orthodox faith of its inhabitants has its roots in the apostolic period. One could ask what could they teach the Orthodox inhabitants of the island, two Koreans who became Christians a few years earlier? Don’t you think that it is not honest to try to change the faith of people who carry in their DNA a tradition of twenty centuries?

In the same way, it was not honorable what the Roman Catholic Church did during the 90’s, after the fall of communism in Russia. Immediately after, the Uniates ran to underhandedly convert the Russians with their centuries-old tradition into Roman Catholics. If one wishes to do missionary work, let him turn to other non-Christian countries.

5th Question: Would you like to tell us about the personality of a missionary (hierapostle)?

Answer: In answering your very substantial question, I will try to explain very briefly what the theoretically ideal missionary is like. Of course, I am not maintaining that what should be done is always what is done. The one doing the missionary work of the Church must first have Christ as their prototype and all those who followed the steps of Christ, namely the saints. The missionary must without doubt be a person of many virtues, the main one being that of a person struggling against his passions. The cleansing for the acquisition of the Holy Spirit is the first step. From cleansing one then progresses to enlightenment and theosis (deification). You cannot transfer to somebody something that you do not have. To give a witness of Christ you yourself must necessarily have tasted the presence of Christ in your life.
Question 6: What is the method for missionary work in the Orthodox Church?

Answer: In the Orthodox Church we follow the practice of the early Church as we find it in the Book of Acts. When the Apostles saw that their numerous cares for the service of the tables would “steal” time away from their main work, they proposed to elect seven deacons. For themselves they announced to all the following decision: “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). In other words, the Orthodox Church following the apostolic tradition places worship before preaching. One can easily see this, if they visit a worship service at an Orthodox Church and then does the same at a protestant assembly. The emphasis in a congregation of the Orthodox is dedicated to the worship of God, while for the Protestants it is preaching. That is why we often hear from the Protestants who have come to know Orthodoxy that “in our congregations we hear many words, but in the Orthodox Church we pray a lot and hear few.”

We Orthodox are taught the Holy Gospel, which we always have at the centre of the Holy Altar to remind us that the word of God must be at the centre of our daily life, during our Divine Worship in three ways. Firstly, we read it. At every holy service, holy readings are read. Specifically, at every Divine Liturgy we hear the word of God from the Apostole and Gospel readings and from the divine preaching that follows. Secondly, we sing it. The wonderful, most theological hymns of Orthodox worship are for the most part full of direct and indirect scriptural references. In fact, in many cases if one compares the texts they can see that certain hymns are word-for-word quotes from the scriptural texts. In other words, we have “melodised” the text of Holy Scripture. And thirdly, we see it. We see the Gospel in Orthodox icons. That is, icons are an “illustrated” Gospel. If, for example, we pay attention to the icon of the Transfiguration of the Lord, we shall note that the iconographer through the designs and colours repeats iconographically the words of the evangelists who described the miracle of the Transfiguration. In conclusion we say that in the worship of the Orthodox Church we have a perfect audiovisual system of the Gospel teaching.

7th Question: You said that in the Orthodox Church worship takes precedence over preaching. However, the Apostle Paul only preached when at the Areopagus.

Answer: The Apostle Paul was speaking to the Athenian idolaters for the first time. It was logical to start the preaching about the “unknown God.” To which God could he pray with the idolaters? During any other situations though as we learn from Acts, the Apostles followed the hierapostolic method of worship and then preaching. Their gatherings had as their main purpose the “Breaking of bread” and teaching.

8th Question: You have spoken in great length on worship and its centre point, which is, as you said, the Holy Eucharist? How do you believe that the bread and wine is the body and blood of Christ?

Answer: In the Orthodox Church we believe that the greatest work that is performed on earth is the Divine Liturgy. And this is because during the Divine Eucharist we relive the occasion of the Last Supper for the redemption of the human race. Just as then when in the upper room in Jerusalem Christ surrendered His Body and His Blood to His disciples, so it is that at every Divine Liturgy Christ Himself is invisibly present hypostatically and essentially as victim and sacrificer and imparts His Body and His Blood to the baptized faithful, who occupy the place of the Apostles. And, of course, we who receive Holy Communion believe that we commune the same holy Body and Blood of Christ “for the redemption of sins and unto life eternal.” Not symbolically, because Christ did not say during the Last Supper to His disciples, “Receive, eat, this is like My Body” or “Drink from this all of you, this is like my blood” but “this is My Body” and “this is My Blood.”

9th Question: In other words, what we do in our worship is nothing?

Answer: The great difference between Orthodox worship and yours is the fact that in your worship an imaginary representation is made of the sacrifice of Christ, namely a fictitious act of the Last Supper. In contrast, in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Christ are present, and Christ is given “again and many times” to “be eaten and be drunk” by the faithful – “Always consumed but never spent”. The Apostles received the tradition of the celebration of the “Last Supper” from the Lord. They passed it on to their disciples and the Orthodox Church continues this tradition to this day without interruption. In the ecclesiastical history of the Early Church there are great number of references to the time of the persecutions and the catacombs that testify to the zeal of the first Christians and the dangers they ignored by participating in the Eucharistic gatherings to commune the Body and Blood of Christ.

For us Orthodox, it is incomprehensible how Protestant theology interprets passages of Holy Scripture that speak most clearly about the heavenly Bread, such as those found in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of St. John: “He who eats of my Body and drinks of my Blood has eternal life and I shall raise him in the last day” (John 6:54) and “he who eats of my Body and drinks of my Blood dwells in Me and I in him.” (John 6:56) Just as our body has absolute need of actual, and not symbolic, food and drink to be sustained in life, likewise our soul has absolute need of the Body and Blood of Christ that it may not die spiritually. We cannot live either in this or the next life if we do not eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ. Perhaps this sounds harsh. However, let us remember that many of the disciples ceased to follow Christ after everything He told them about His flesh and His blood. And addressing the twelve He asked them “Don’t you too wish to leave?” (John 6:67) He repeats the same even today to all who wish to be Christians but do not wish to believe and accept the whole teaching of Christ.

10th Question: Is man not saved only by preaching? Why do you insist so much on the topic of worship?

Answer: The salvific work of the Church is not accomplished only through preaching. Someone listening to the word of God and saying, “I am saved” does not mean that he has already been saved. The Orthodox Church apart from the word of God also offers man the sacramental life. Man, by participating in the Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Church, is sanctified and achieves theosis. The offering, for example, of Holy Communion to the faithful is done “for the remission of sins and life eternal.” The faithful through the Holy Eucharist are mystically unified with Christ and become “partakers of the divine nature…” (2 Pet. 1:4) What else is the salvation of man beyond this?

11th Question: How can you explain to us what a Mystery (Sacrament) is?

Answer: It is hard for one to believe in the sacramental life of the Church if he does not first understand what the word “Mystery” means. A Mystery is something we see being performed but is impossible for man’s mind to comprehend how it is performed. If we could understand the manner in which the Mystery is taking place then it would not be a Mystery, but a common daily human activity.

We say, for example, that God is Triune. I ask you: Who of us understands the Mystery of the Holy Trinity? Three Persons, one Essence! This Mystery when considered with human logic is absurd. However, if a person sees it through the dimension of Faith then he will understand that it is not illogical but beyond logic. Who could understand what God is? What is, for example, the essence of God? NO ONE! Nevertheless, we believe in God. Not because we understand it, but because we feel His presence mystically and we heartily feel His love. In other words, we can understand the uncreated energies of God, as the great fathers of the Orthodox Church have so beautifully theologized about, but not His Essence. Let us see what God said to Moses when he asked God to show him His glory: “I will make my glory pass before you…but you cannot see my face: for there shall be no man see me and live…” (Ex 33:18-20) The same happens in all matters of faith that surpass natural laws. We “see them without seeing them,” we “know them without knowing them” for they are all wrapped up in the “divine darkness” (Gregory of Nyssa). We experience and participate in them only through the power of Faith. If we insist on believing only in what we understand with our finite logic then we narrow extremely our spiritual horizon and in the end cannot be Christians. For ultimately “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1) And, of course, faith is conditional to true humility, with which we attract the grace of God. For “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) The humble man who trusts God more than his logic, with the grace of God, can understand the Mysteries of the Church.

12th Question: How can one study Orthodox theology in Korea?

Answer: Because Orthodox theology is almost unknown in Korea, the Orthodox Metropolis of Korea is trying to build an Orthodox School of Theology, which will be the first not only in Korea but in the whole of East Asia, to provide the possibility to anyone wishing to approach this precious treasure. Pray that our wish soon becomes a reality for the glory of God.

[The lectures with question sessions lasted more than three hours (with a 10 minute interim break) were concluded with the following epilogue.]

My dear, before I leave the rostrum, I would first like to thank you for your polite invitation and for your particularly concise questions. Secondly, I apologize, for it is possible that some of you may have been disturbed by my answers. My intention was not to annoy anybody. Because I believe that for a dialogue to be meaningful and fruitful (for I believe that no one came here to hear empty idle talk and waist one’s time), without doubt, frankness and love must govern, that is why I told you what I believe with the language of truth and love. “Speaking the truth in love…” (Eph. 4:15) and “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) was the scriptural foundation of my thoughts. Finally, I wish to add, to avoid any misunderstanding, that I did not tell you that we, the Orthodox are all holy. Our goal, of course, is our sanctification for which we struggle. However, what everyone does in his personal life is what will be judged by God. What I tried to tell you is that we Orthodox believe steadfastly that we have the correct Faith. We continue in the Faith of the one undivided Church of the first millennium, keeping in mind the apostolic admonition: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold fast the traditions you have been taught, whether by word or by epistle of ours.” (2 Thess. 2:15).

I warmly thank you.

Written by Stephen

May 10, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Taiwanese Orthodox Missionary’s Letter to the Greek People

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A letter from the first Taiwanese Orthodox missionary Pelagia Yu to the Greek people.

I am Chinese, born in Taiwan and my Christian name is Pelagia. I was a Protestant Christian, and it took me five years to become Orthodox. I love to read the Holy Bible and have all of its publications in the Chinese language.

I have visited Greece and discovered that it is a truly unique country. While travelling in your country, even before I arrived, on the plane I saw how different in temperament Greek people were, how cheerfully they conversed with each other, how they laughed and how they applauded the pilot after the landing, something unheard of for us Asians, who are more conservative and do not easily display emotion. I learnt after this experience that the expression of freedom requires passion and liveliness.

In Greece, I visited many churches, I participated in the Divine Liturgy, and when I received Holy Communion it reduced me to tears even though I did not understand the Greek language, because the Orthodox faith is the same, no matter what the language.

I would have liked to be born Greek, to have been born Orthodox, to have received Holy Communion and venerated holy icons from my years of infancy right up until my death.

I cry for me and my compatriots, because instead of Holy Communion, we eat and drink food sacrificed to idols.

I would have liked to be born Greek, so my ears may be filled with holy hymns.

I cry for me and my compatriots, whose ears are filled with the noise of sutras and the screeches of those who worship the idols.

I would have liked to be born Greek, so that I may smell the sweet aroma of incense.

I cry for me and my compatriots, who are constantly assaulted by the pungent smell of the smoke rising up from the sacrifices offered up to the idols.

I would have liked to be born Greek, so that my hands could touch the holy icons, the holy relics of the Saints and be filled with the love of Christ.

I cry for me and my compatriots, whose hands touch the idols and the things sacrificed to them, but who in reality are holding on to nothing.

I would have liked to be born Greek, so that I may light candles to Christ – not like here, where we burn money as an offering to the spirits.

I was searching for the Truth, using more than 30 different publications of the Holy Bible, which unfortunately, were all full of errors (translated by non-Orthodox).

I would have liked to be born Greek, so that I may read the Holy Bible in its original form!

I cry for me and my compatriots, because, although we have eyes, we are blind.

I would have liked to be born Greek, so that I may be able to see the grace of God all around me.

I cry for me and my compatriots, who are surrounded by temples dedicated to false gods.

Yes, I am Orthodox, but living in Taiwan, I have very limited opportunities to experience the Orthodox Christian way of life.

I cry for me, because I do not have the ability to show my compatriots the greatness of our faith. The people here want to see signs and miracles.

I cry for me and my compatriots, because we do not have the gift of hearing of and seeing so many miracles, so many holy words that you have seen and heard over 2000 years in Greece, and which you still see. Taiwan is not an Orthodox country, our feast days and holy days do not look at all like yours.

I am disappointed that in Greece, although you have so many beautiful mountains, you do not look after them, you burn them down. However, I am amazed that practically every mountain in Greece has at least one monastery. We have mountains filled with Buddhist temples and monasteries.

I would have liked to be born Greek, so that I may go and pray at an Orthodox monastery easily.

I cry for me and my compatriots. For the first time, I visited an Orthodox monastery dedicated to St John the Forerunner in Pelion. I travelled to Greece from Taiwan – 16 hours on the plane, a few hours on the train to Larisa and another hour with the monastery car, that was driven by one of the nuns.

I saw the ancient ruins of the Holy Monastery, I saw so many other places in Greece that have been abandoned and my heart bled. In Taiwan, we do not have such a wealth of archaeological artefacts, holy and beautiful places, but you do not appreciate them.

I cry that we do not have beautiful icons. I cry because I feel like Christ is weak and naked here.

Greeks, you think you are poor due to the economic crisis you are going through, but you do not know how truly rich you are.

Taiwan is a country with a huge amount of material development and progress, and yet it remains in the darkness of Satan and our spiritual life is empty.

In Greece, I saw a lot of people, especially on Sundays, drinking and celebrating and not going to church. But here in Taiwan our fellow citizens, mainly young people, even if they wanted to, find it impossible to come to church, because the only Orthodox church in the entire country is a small room on the 4th floor of a huge apartment building on the outskirts of Taipei. Many times, people cannot fit into the church and remain outside for the duration of the services.

My brothers and sisters in Greece, even though I am spiritually handicapped, I still have my legs active so that I can kneel before you and beg.

I pray that you consider me like the poor man Lazarus, so that you may throw to me some crumbs from the spiritual treasures you have, of the gifts you give to your churches, of the many little churches you build on all corners of your homeland.

Our Orthodox flock in Taiwan, as you know, is small – less than 100 people. We are not wealthy. We do not have the means to buy a decent place in the city that will be able to meet our needs for worship, catechism and teaching. Fr. Ionas conducts lessons on a regular basis, targeted mainly at the young people of our city and of course, open to whomever wants to come and meet us in person; those people that up until now have only had the opportunity to see the Orthodox Church in Taiwan through the Internet.

We do not ask for help to build an Orthodox church building here. It would cost millions. Please help us to buy a bigger place in the city centre, which we will convert into a church, for the sake of our nation, our brothers and sisters, who have never had the opportunity to hear about and know our Christ. We are a country of 23 million people! And yet we have need of your help.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, if the need arises, I will do whatever is in my power to repay a little of your love. I will do whatever is needed with all my heart and for the duration of my life.

I thank you. Forgive me.

Pelagia Yu.

Source: Translated by P.S.Z. This article was originally published in Greek in the Periodicαl “Agios Kosmas o Aitolos” (Issue 84 – first quarter 2011) and online at http://www.iersyn.gr/pelagias_letter.php (Tuesday 22nd February 2011).

Hat Tip: Mystagogy

Written by Stephen

May 7, 2011 at 10:53 am