Within the Turkana, there live not only a heartbeat of survival and a foot-stomp of joy, but a soul that takes joy in the risen Lord. Orthodox Christianity is alive and well in the cracked, mystic terrain of northern Kenya. The Turkana, in Turkana, speaking Turkana, proclaim the Trinity with the faith of a child and with the wisdom of an elder. Through the tireless love and effort of local parish priests, the committed involvement of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC), and the willingness of many to receive the Gospel, the one, true faith has united over ten communities of believers.
I was accompanied by a team of seven incredible individuals to Kenya. It took no time at all to give ourselves the team name “Turkana Saba” (Saba is “seven” in Swahili). Strangers for but moments, we were a pan-Orthodox melting pot from Washington to California to Virginia to New York to Russia, and a few spots in between. The support and prayers of family and friends brought us together at the OCMC headquarters in St. Augustine, Florida. The passionate, dedicated OCMC staff readied us with lesson plan guidance and enlightened us on the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).
In 1987 our beloved Metropolitan Philip established the Department of Missions and Evangelism, with the commission to bring America home to the Faith of Peter and Paul. This commission and calling, given not only to the leaders of the Evangelical Orthodox Church but to every Orthodox Christian living in North America, rings even truer today, and more urgently.
Without the necessary funds, however, such commissions often go unfulfilled. The Order of St. Ignatius has helped to fund this mission for over 25 years. Under the chairmanship of Fr. Peter E. Gillquist of blessed memory, and the spiritual advice of Bishop Antoun, the Department of Missions and Evangelism has been instrumental in raising up and receiving over a hundred church communities into our beloved Archdiocese. We cannot say that these churches were started only by the clergy, for the laity, moved to serve through the Order of St. Ignatius, provided the necessary funds for these efforts to bear fruit.
This article is based on the President’s Message column featured in the Society of St. John Chrysostom- Western Region (SSJC-WR) Newsletter: The Light of the East, Spring, 2010.
One of the major developments in the modern age is the marginalization and indifference toward Christianity in society. (Jacobse, 2010; Morelli, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010). The disunion among Christian communities has not been a beneficent witness to the unity prayed for by Christ Himself “that they may be one” (Jn 17:11). Secular and politically correct values have shaped doctrinal and moral teaching and practice among some groups calling themselves Christian: abortion, euthanasia, female ordination, same sex marriage, are but a few examples that are obvious departures from the teaching of Christ. Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyevi, Chairman of the Department of External Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, has suggested an alliance between Catholics and Orthodox be advanced because these apostolic churches have held fast to the essentials of Christ’s teachings. This suggestion certainly conforms to the goals of the Society of St. John Chrysostom which has as one of its goals: to make known the history, worship, spirituality, discipline and theology of Eastern Christendom.ii