Safari to Kenya Aleandros to Share Summer Experience Working in Kenya . Ένα Ορθόδοξο ιεραποστολικό ταξίδι στη Κένυα από τις Ορθόδοξες ομάδες ιεραποστολής της Αμερικής. Το ηρωικό έργο των Ορθοδόξων ιεραποστόλων σε απομακρυσμένες περιοχές της Αφρικής. Τα παιδιά που πεθαίνουν γιατί δεν έχουν εμβόλια κατά της ελονοσίας, αξίας 10 ευρώ το ένα !!!
SOUTHBURY – Christ the Savior Orthodox Church
The names of the safari leaders may be unfamiliar, but many will recognize the faces as those of the church’s own priest, Father Vladimir Aleandro, and his wife, Suzanne.
Papa Emoru and Papatheia Appua – Father Mountain and Mother Stream – were the names given the couple the day they arrived in Lodwar, a remote village in northwestern Kenya, for a month-long period of work and ministry among some 150 members of the Turkana tribe who are baptized Orthodox Christians.
Part of a group of 12 Americans and one Canadian who traveled under the auspices of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center, the couple spent the month of July working alongside members of the local Orthodox parish, building a church that would also serve as a school, a health clinic and an aid distribution center – literally from the ground up.
While Suzanne and others spent their days working to build the church, Fr. Vladimir divided his time between physical labor and arduous travel to distant villages to perform weddings, ordinations and other religious rites for members of the far-flung flock.
Following a two-day orientation in Jacksonville, Fla., the Aleandros flew to London, then on to Nairobi, where mid-winter temperatures reached the high 60s.
They spent a night at the Makarios III Patriarchal Seminary as guests of the Archbishop of Nairobi, then traveled by van for two days to reach Lodwar.
«When we say two days travel, there’s nothing in the U.S. that can compare to that,» said Fr. Vladimir.
«We left from the seminary, in the heart of the slums of Nairobi. There had been torrential rains and flash flooding right before we came, so outside the city, everything was washed away. Following the road meant you followed the camel in front of you.
«When we got through the mountains to Turkana, it was a whole other world. It went from very cold in the mountains to dry in the desert and very, very hot. The driving was off-road, over ditches and around things, following lambs and goats.»
When they arrived in Lodwar, group members found that the foundation of the church hadn’t yet been poured. With no cement mixers, the volunteers mixed cement on the ground, then transported it by hand in steel vessels similar to woks.
The only paid workers onsite were two stone chippers. The rest of the tasks fell to the Turkana villagers and the 13 volunteers, all of whom worked seven days a week for the length of the project.
«It was probably over 100 degrees most days and very dry,» Suzanne told Voices. «From 1 to 2 p.m. was our break time. I found myself lying down in the dirt, wherever I could find some shade.
«It took about five days to not be constantly thirsty,» she said. «We drank, and drank and drank.»
The volunteers ranged from 20-year-old Abbi, a strong, beautiful blonde whom villagers speculated could command «many camels» from a prospective bridegroom, to a 75-year-old gentleman who had already completed mission trips in Africa, South Korea and Brazil.
They stayed in a thatch-roofed hostel on the outskirts of town, a 15- to 20-minute drive from the building site.
«All the buildings on the property were built by two women about 20 years ago,» Suzanne said. «They maintain the hostel and they cook and serve the food. We slept on beds and we always had mosquito netting.»
By contrast, houses in Lodwar are mostly mud huts with dirt floors; some have tin walls.
«In the village, there was no electricity or running water,» said Suzanne, «and not much food. Their joy came from the Lord. They worked all day, they even came to work sick. They’re a strong, warm, giving people.»
Of the group of 13, eight were scheduled to go home after two weeks.
«That left five of us to continue,» said Suzanne. «Our goal was to build this church and we were able to get the walls up. The roof still needed to be put on, but we were able to have a Sunday service in the church before we left.
«It was absolutely thrilling to be in the church, as it was.»
Over the course of a month, the couple said, they became very close to the Turkana people.
Suzanne fondly recalled four or five women with whom she worked.
«I always thought they were older than I,» she said, «but it turned out they were all younger. They become so withered.»
Most of the people the Aleandros encountered in Lodwar had not seen a white person before. But they were greeted warmly and always felt safe.
«We were totally accepted,» said Fr. Vladimir. «Sometimes little children would rub our skin to see if our ‘real skin’ was underneath. But Abbi, they just couldn’t get over. The men said that when she entered a dark room, she wouldn’t have to bring a light. She was so bright!»
In sending groups to Kenya, the Orthodox Christian Mission Center hopes to build churches for congregations who have none and to build bonds between Orthodox communities in Africa and North America.
Though they shared a common faith and a common goal, the workers didn’t even come close to sharing a common language.
In Kenya, the national language is Swahili. While all know some Swahili, there are about 40 tribes in the region and each has its own language. Those with a little education speak Swahili; those with a little more education speak some English.
«But Turkana is very isolated,» said Fr. Vladimir. «They only speak Turkana, which has no connection to Swahili.»
Group members came to rely on a local priest, Father Athanasios, who spoke both English and Swahili and was able to act as translator.
«We called him ‘Papa A,'» said Fr. Vladimir. «In Kenya, all people are called Mama or Papa if older, or brother and sister if younger.
«The Turkana have their own way of dress, their own way of life,» he explained. «They’re largely forgotten by the government. The biggest cultural stretch for us was between that area and the rest of Kenya. It was so different.
«But we grew to love the Turkana people. I had the opportunity to go to some outlying Orthodox pockets to preach and minister to them. For me, that was the most exciting thing.»
«They’re such spirited people,» said Suzanne. «When Father said, ‘the Lord loves you,’ they would all clap. When the scripture was read, they would clap. They’re so hungry for the word of the Lord!»
As in this country, churches in the Turkana region of Kenya come in various shapes and sizes.
The new church in Lodwar was made of stone; the one it replaced was made of red clay.
«One day, Father walked an hour and a half to the next village,» said Suzanne. «The church there is like a lean-to, with a straw roof.»
Still another kind is a «tree church» – a large tree that provides shade for those who gather under it to worship.
Fr. Vladimir told Voices that he and the others went to Kenya not to convert anyone to Christianity, but to answer a need expressed by the Orthodox Christians who were already there.
«At first,» he said, «you wonder how this very, very poor area can build a church, but it serves a very, very vital function. They already had a mud church on the outskirts of town, but the church also serves as a food distribution center and a school for children. And, they had a great, great need for a clinic.»
In Kenya, the volunteers learned, people put a high value on education, with the understanding that it’s the key to helping themselves. In some areas, there is a school building, but no money to pay for a teacher.
«When you talk with the people,» said Fr. Vladimir, «that’s what they ask for most of all – the money to pay for education. A bag of grain gives them food for today, but they see education as the way out of poverty.»
Many of the children of Lodwar are orphans, he explained, with no means to pay for regular schools. Each day, those children lined up at the construction site for a meal – a portion of grain, watered down enough to be drinkable. Very often, that would be their only meal of the day.
The volunteers saw compelling evidence of the need for a clinic to treat nearby residents for malaria, a deadly disease that is common in the area.
«While we were there,» said Fr. Vladimir, «Papa A got malaria. His son, Peter, got malaria. The Archbishop came to visit us; he got malaria. When we realized that two of our little children were burning up with fever, we took them to the nearest clinic. Two other small children died while we were there.»
Malaria mosquitos come in the morning and the night, the travelers learned.
«They’re much smaller than the mosquitos here,» he said. «You don’t see them and you don’t feel them. All of us who came from the U.S. took malaria pills, but there, they can’t afford the pills. And you can’t live on malaria medication. Their only hope is to get to a clinic and get medicine as soon as possible.»
Fr. Vladimir told Voices that he and Suzanne went to Kenya not knowing what to expect.
«For all of us, from the youngest to the oldest, it was overwhelming,» he said. «It was such a life-transforming, life-strengthening adventure.»
«There was a lot of crying on both sides when we left,» said Suzanne.
Before he left on the mission, Father Vladimir spoke to members of Christ the Savior about two ways of looking at the world.
«Either the world is my parish,» he said, «or my parish is the world. If your parish is your world, you don’t feel the need to take responsibility for others. If the world is my parish, then it doesn’t matter where the need is. No place is too far away.
«We know the children will remember, ‘the Americans came to help us build the church’.»
Όσοι Ορθόδοξοι αδελφοί επιθυμούν να συνεισφέρουν στο έργο της Ορθόδοξης Εκκλησίας της Κένυα, μπορούν να καταθέσουν την αγάπη τους είτε στο Γραφείο Εξωτερικής Ιεραποστολής είτε σε κάποιον Ορθόδοξο Ιεραποστολικό Σύλλογο. Προσευχηθείτε και σήμερα και κάθε μέρα για τα παιδιά όλου του κόσμου, για τους ανθρώπους που ζουν ακόμα σε συνθήκες άθλιες, σε » χώρα και σκιά θανάτου». Ας προσφέρουμε κάτι από τα πολλά δικά μας για τη δική τους σωματική και πνευματική ΑΝΑΣΤΑΣΗ