While in Christchurch, New Zealand, in the context of my first informative episcopal journey, I met Kyriakos, a rational thinker, a businessman, an energetic and active member of the local Greek Orthodox community who spends a considerable amount of his own personal time participating in civic life, providing aid and assistance.
In his own straightforward way, he gave a vivid description of the exceptional experience he had when he met with the former Metropolitan of New Zealand and current Metropolitan of Ganou and Chora, His Eminence Amphilochios, and heard from his own lips of his thoughts and plans for the beginning of a proposed missionary effort in the islands of the Pacific Ocean.
Kyriakos listened to him carefully, with great respect, and tried to understand the scope of the elder’s thoughts. He listened, and did not speak until the end. If he had spoken, it would have been with his characteristic logic, and he would have told the Elder that this vision, this project, was in practical terms impossible, since its implementation would require huge amounts of financial resources, human and technical resources and the Elder in his personal possession had only his cassock. Inwardly, Kyriakos thought that due to his age, the Metropolitan had begun ‘to lose it’ and to think illogically.
Gerontas, in the meantime, left and began the realization of his vision.
Time passed and Kyriakos found himself in Fiji on a business trip. There he went to have a close look at all those things that until then he had only heard about. And what did he see? A most beauteous and spotless Church dedicated to the Holy Trinity, standing there like a white dove in the green and rural landscape of the island. From there he could hear beautiful Byzantine Ecclesiastical hymns emenating from the mouths of the young children of the Orphanage and of local Fijian nuns in a manner that many people would envy.
He took a seat and gazed at them. He enjoyed what he was listening to and did not want what he was experiencing to end. The Divine Liturgy was about to finish, though. 30 children and all the attendees responded to the call of the officiating priest Fr. Bartholomew, « With the fear of God, with faith, and love, draw near.” Everyone without exception partook of Holy Communion. Only Kyriakos stood in a corner dumbfounded and stunned by what he was experiencing.
As soon as they came out of the church, the peaceful and reverent atmosphere of the service gave way to smiling faces and to the happy sound of children’s voices. Joy was obvious on their faces, in their movements, in their speech, in their behaviour towards each other. Kyriakos gave them four balls, two for football and two for rugby, which he had brought for them. It is practically impossible to describe their joy at these little presents. Before long, the whole place was filled with children running, playing, having fun; trustful children feeling safe and secure, knowing that they were surrounded by people who loved them and cared for them. They thanked him in a very polite and mature way, with beautiful words in Greek. However, what pleased Kyriakos the most was their smile and the expression of their joy. “This state of existence is rare in our rational Western societies”, he thought to himself. We do not teach our children how to be truly joyful, how to live and rejoice in life.
In addition, Kyriakos also visited the monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos, the Safe Home, and the guesthouse for the older boys. He was enthused, touched, and felt, deep within, the nature and importance of the work of the Church, her role, her mission in the world. With some regret, he remembered his formerly reserved attitude to Gerontas dream, and his eyes filled with tears. Wanting to make a personal contribution, he went to buy a generous quantity of food, new beds and mattresses and plenty of toys for the children. He wanted to feel like a member of this joyful community. Since then, his respect, gratitude and admiration for Elder Amphilochios and the work he accomplished have been evident and ongoing, and the only words he has been saying are words of gratitude and admiration. In conclusion, he has been encouraging all of us to continue to enhance the great, God-pleasing and «crazy» vision of Elder Amfilochios.
† Myron of New Zealand