Dear Friends of the Mission,
I feel I should make you partakers of the delight of our native brothers of Shamana province for the completion of the construction work of the small medical clinic that was funded by a donor of Our Fraternity.
Fr. Augustine with indigenous believers went to the forest with the chainsaw, which I had sent them, cut wood and built beds, tables, chairs, cabinets, doors, windows for the clinic. It was towards the end when they found out that their supplies in cement and nails had given out, and such things are rare in the forest villages. Naturally, they could not go on with their work. They notified us, and we had to send them new supplies from Kinshasa. This is the point where the struggle of the Mission starts. The materials traveled for two months into the river in order to reach the nearest town, Ilebo.
Once we learned that the cargo had reached the town, we notified them and they went to collect the 30 bags of cement and nails that we had sent by riverboat. An indigenous group went for the collection in their canoes. They had been traveling in the river for a week before they reached Ilebo, where they received them and took the road back home. Those materials would be used for paving the floor and finishing the bed construction. Our little building was about to finish. At that point it had to be equipped with mattresses, bed-sheets, pillows, medicines, medical instruments. A new struggle was about to begin.
The natives were happy and tried to show us their joy in every possible way. We were happy too and praised God for that blessing. It is not easy to build something so far away, where there are neither cars to convey materials, nor rudimentary roads. Soon they would have their own clinic, their medicines, their nurse, their doctor and would not die helpless on the way, or within the canoes trying to reach the nearest doctor.
I remember, in that tour, when after an eventful journey through the river Sankuru we reached Shamana, in the depths of the Congo, where white people had never been before, the joy of the natives when they saw us. The children wanted to come close to me, touch my hands, my beard, and then, they ran to their mothers exclaiming with enthusiasm: “He is like us!” The old men thanked me for giving them the chance to see before dying what the whites look like. The believers were singing: “The Orthodox Church is the only true Church, here is our Bishop, here is our father; where are you all who are saying that our Church does not exist?”
I still recall the way they got out through the woods to welcome us, how enthusiastically they came down to the river banks to greet us. I remember the evening when we sat under a big tree and started discussing with the village chief and the tribal leaders of the region; among other things, they expressed their feelings of concern and sorrow for their people who fell ill, ” Old men and our children get sick, and until we take them to the nearest clinic, which is a few days away on foot or in canoes, they have died on the way.”
Their words of pain made me cry. I felt guilty. It really hurt when I was told: “We do not want anything else, just help us to have our medical clinic.“ In order to show me their love, outside the hut where I stayed the night, they spent the whole night dancing and singing around the campfire. I could not get what I had heard out of my mind that night. Now they are dancing; if they fall ill tomorrow, what will happen to them? They will die on the way to the nearest clinic. I looked at them and my eyes were filled with tears. At dawn, as I was leaving, I made a promise to them: “I will do everything in my power; pray for it to God and He will help.”
When, after a three-week tour in the depths of the Congo, I returned to Kinshasa, I contacted the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity. I told them about the feelings of anguish and pain of our brothers from Shamana and the donor was found; therefore, today we can be proud of our little clinic. God bless the donor. May God help our little clinic so that it will soon be equipped with medicines and medical-surgical instruments. Then, it will be able to offer medical assistance to our brothers there in the depths of the Congo so that they won’t die helpless anymore.
† Nikiphoros of Central Africa