Joys and Sorrows in the Mission Field

Ierapostolé (Mission Work) is a complex matter. Once a person makes a decision to join in, he feels joy. He starts imagining the places and countries where he will journey to convey the message of the Gospel, a message of Resurrection and Joy. He imagines the people he will encounter and places he will go in order to preach: their customs, their culture and many other things which he has heard or read about. Equipped with the blessing of the Metropolis where he will go to sow the seed of the Gospel, he soon finds himself there where God called him to be.

In a moment, the whole scenery in a missionary’s life changes; he finds himself in strange places, amidst a foreign language, with differing climate conditions, different people. But with the two wings, of faith and of love, bit by bit, he begins to fly.  The  first catechumens, fill the missionary’s soul with joy, not only his but also the souls of his co-workers. This joy is completed with the ordination of the first Orthodox priest and the opening of the first Sacred Church.  Though it might be a hut made from thatch and branches, nevertheless, the Holy Cross, the symbol of Christian faith and hope, has been set up and all around is sanctified. Indescribable are the joys of the first baptisms in the lakes and rivers and the first Christian marriages with their crowns of flowers and branches. And the work progresses…

Along with the joys, the missionaries know sorrows. The indigenous people are often very poor,  for this reason they may expect the Mother Church to provide everything for the needs of their Churches . They are not accustomed to contributing  toward confronting these needs nor finding solutions for the problems that occur in their parishes or communities. However, these people are guileless and always smiling. It may be that they cannot understand or even appreciate the value of the missionary’s offering; they might not even express any form of gratitude whatsoever for whatever has been offered to them. This is something which is particularly tiring for the missionaries who are close to them, as well as for all the others who help behind the scenes in every way possible and with much sacrifice.  Nevertheless, missionaries must be patient and pray for their children, that is, the newly-illumined Orthodox, for the Churches, the Monasteries, and whatever sacred institutions God has granted, which must continue to exist so that the work of the Church with the blessing and grace of God advances.

When one hears in church nearly forty voices chanting and singing  with one heart the hymn: “We have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly Spirit…”, deep emotion fills his soul and he clearly sees that not even the tiniest effort has been wasted. So also, when one sees the indigenous priest pause the Divine Liturgy being moved with sacred emotion and tears of compunction.  Or when he sees  the Holy Cross of our Lord work miracles healing both the sick and possessed people by Its grace. It is then that the missionary, along with the assembly of the newly-illumined Orthodox brothers and sisters, sings out: “Blessed be the Name of the Lord from this time forth and for evermore”, thanking and praising the Savior of all humankind, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is above all and whose grace orchestrates everything.

From His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilochios

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