With the help of God we are doing well. I hope you are all doing well too, always with His protection. I would like to mention some things from our Orthodox Mission here in Sumatra, Indonesia.
From the 23th to the 26th of December, 2016, I went to our parish community of the Lord’s Resurrection in Siparbue village. I stayed there to give them some counseling, since their priest Fr. Athanasios fell asleep in Christ two years ago. Until now no other priest has gone there. So, in order to give the chance to the parishioners of the Tarutung province to go to church, another priest from the city of Medan needs to go down to their village, and that is either Fr. Theodosius or me. Those days that we conducted some sacred services (Holy Liturgy, Baptism and Christmas services), they rejoiced our stay, because we were close to them. We pray to the Most Merciful God to send them a priest.
Things here in Indonesia are not good, because there has been an upsurge of religious fanaticism on the part of bigoted Muslims, who want to apply sharia throughout Indonesia. Most people do not want them, because here we have many races, tribes and religions. These Muslims have made a lot of attacks, burned churches and dropped bombs on Christian property. If Christians want to claim a leadership position, they are hindered by them in any possible way. O brothers, please pray that the Almighty God guards and protects us.
We received your donation of € 7,000 and we thank you very much for your love and kindness. In January we began the construction of the priest’s house. We have also scheduled the baptisms and paid all of Stephen’s fees for University. This year, God willing, he will finish his studies and will start looking for a job to help his little orphaned brothers, those that Fr. Athanasios has left behind.
My beloved brothers, another son of Stephen’s father, Cosmas, is keen to become an iconographer. His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos of Australia has invited him there in order to become an iconographer and a theologian too. All the costs in Australia will be covered by the Archdiocese, but in order to go there, he needs to learn the language and pass the required exams. As you know, we priests here in Indonesia do not get any salaries. Consequently, I cannot afford to send Cosmas to learn the language, which is why I resort to your love. In the future we will need an indigenous iconographer for our Mission here, which is why Cosmas is valuable to us. I appeal to your kind heart to help him learn the language. The cost will reach the amount of 3,000 euro.
This is all our news, my brothers. May the Most Merciful God bless you with His abundant goods in the new year 2017.
With God’s help we are doing well. I would like to update you on recent news and activities regarding the Orthodox Mission here in Indonesia.
On August 25, we had the ordination of Father Chariton into a presbyter at St. Demetrius S. Church in Medan. It is a great blessing for us that our Orthodox Church in Indonesia has acquired another laborer of Christ. Fr. Chariton is native to this island and is a graduate of our School of Theology. Also, his presbytera is a graduate of our School and holds a teaching degree. They have got a daughter named Eugenia. Fr. Chariton will serve his ministry in Nias, because there we have three parish communities. We also run St. Nicholas’ Orthodox School there with 135 students. The priest and his family will reside in a small room of the school since there is no other place available. It would be a great blessing for us if you could help us make a permanent house for them.
In our Theological School we have five post-graduate students who are being prepared to enter priesthood as soon as they have finished their studies. We have a small house, where they are being hosted during their studies, but unfortunately, this is all we can provide for them. We could not possibly afford any further support, which is why we appeal to your kind feelings for help.
With the money we received from your Fraternity, we bought a motorbike for Eleftherios, our post-graduate student who teaches in many catechetical schools and travels long distances. He is married, and in order to meet his family expenses, he has to work in the fields. Please, remember him and his family in your prayers and ask God to give them strength.
Our home is full of blessings! We have 16 children living with us as if they were our own. We have a large enough kitchen to serve their needs. In the mornings our house is empty, because they all go to school or to their university. As I once read, if you want to have a short-term profit, you should plant corn; if you want to have a profit for 10 years, you should plant trees; but if you want to have a profit for 50 years, you should invest in education and send the children to school. That’s why we never stop having a lot of children with us, and we always help them study at our own expense in order to ensure the future of the Orthodox Church. At this point, we would like to express our sincere gratitude for the amount of 4,000 euro that you sent us to cover their tuition.
That was all our news, dear brethren. May our Lord Jesus Christ bless you with His abundant goods.
Nias island lies off the west shore of Sumatra, Indonesia. Ten years ago, a big tsunami came and swept away all the coastal regions and their inhabitants. More than 350,000 died then, some of whom have never been found. For years now, their families have been looking for them everywhere to no effect.
Under these circumstances, the paces of the Orthodox Mission led me there, ten years ago. A simple Orthodox priest from far Australia, Fr. Nikolaos Marketos, visited the island. I went along with him. When we arrived, Fr. Nikolaos saw the catastrophe, raised his hands to the sky and asked the Lord’s blessing to do something on the devastated island.
Finally, he made the decision to found a school and an adjacent clinic there. Initially, there were 25 students, but gradually they were increased to 170. Subsequently, a church in honor of Saint Nikolaos was built, which was followed by another one dedicated to Saint Catherine. Finally, in 2011, with an anonymous donation through the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, we were able to build the third church of Saints Paul and Martha to meet the needs of our faithful. We cordially thank you for this great help.
Last year, His Eminence Metropolitan Constantine of Singapore ordained a deacon for the island. Besides the three islands where he ministers, he is also the principal of our “Saint Nicholas School”. This deacon is Fr. Chariton Zega, who is newly-wed and has a little daughter. I pray to the All-Benevelont God that he will become a priest in order to minister there and conduct all the needful services.
Besides this good news, we are also concerned with the development of our missionary work. Fr. Chariton lives with his family in a room of the school. Of course, it’s not the appropriate place to live in, but what can we do? Everything here in our young Mission is limited. Thus, I thought that an appropriate house should be built so that they can later live there, when the family grows. Therefore, I pray that God will send us a warm-hearted donor to offer 25,000 euros for this purpose.
Moreover, the number of students increases. This is gladsome, but also pressing, because we have no room to accommodate all these children. Hence we are planning to build at least two more classrooms. If this happens, everyone on the island will rejoice, for the children will be able to attend classes in their region.
These are our updates, dear brothers. I pray that the Almighty God will enrich you with His abundant grace.
Saint Paul Theological School in Medan, North Sumatra, was founded in 2005. Our aim was, through this School, to spread the light of Orthodoxy, because without the necessary means, it is difficult for us to preach faith in Indonesia. This is why the School of Theology was the basis for the further dissemination of the Orthodox faith.
The School has been accredited by the Government of Indonesia as a Higher Education School. Students have to attend classes for four years. Since the establishment of the School, 1002 students have graduated. These graduates are currently working in various sectors, such as teachers, civil servants, university professors. Not all of the students are Orthodox; some are Roman Catholic, but most of them are Protestants. It is not uncommon for some students to decide to become Orthodox at some point during their studies. Our current students are about 250. In the beginning, the only members of the teaching staff were Father Chrysostomos Manalu and Presbytera Elizabeth. Now the Orthodox professors are 5.
The contribution of this School is immense. Firstly, it educates young people who prepare to become teachers committed to cultivating a better world. So, prospective teachers have already been in contact with the Orthodox faith and have come to appreciate its beauty and richness, which is something they will pass to the young children as well. Secondly, to us, the Orthodox Christians of Indonesia, it has already offered three fine young men who recently entered the priesthood: Fr. Theodosius, Fr. Luke and Fr. Chariton.
The fact that the Theological School continues its operation uninterrupted is only due to God’s blessing. The professors here do not get salaries. Of course, we receive a small amount of money as tuition fees from the students, but this is used for covering the salaries of the School staff, which consists of 6 people. As for us, that is, the professors, we offer our services free of charge because the School has no revenues to cover these costs.
So far, we have had no support either from our Metropolis or from our parishes. Therefore, it is difficult for me to describe how the School is still in operation. It is a continuous miracle. With God’s help ten years have already been completed since its establishment. Over a thousand students have graduated. Our School has begun to offer postgraduate programs, and recently even doctoral degrees. Glory be to God! This is why we ask for your prayers so that we can continue this work with enthusiasm and eagerness in the name of Jesus Christ.
With God’s help we are doing well. I would like to write about some of our news here in Indonesia. In the first half of July we were visited by our venerable Orthodox brothers from America. During their stay in Sumatra, they helped us in teaching our faith. In the first week of their stay, they gave lessons to our simple-hearted Indonesian brothers (on iconography, confession, fasting, Church Mission, catechetical school for both children and youth). In the second week they came to the Theological Seminary and delivered lectures to our students. We were greatly delighted, because we were offered the great treasures of the Orthodox faith.
It was also a great blessing for us, the Orthodox Christians here in Sumatra Indonesia, that the Mother Church offered us two new priests to minister, with the blessings of His Eminence Metropolitan Constantine of Singapore, who visited us, performed the ordinations and stayed with us for a few days to give us his blessing. Thus, on July 11th, Deacon Luke became a presbyter to minister in Sumbul. Chariton from Nias island became a deacon with a view to becoming a priest on the same island in the future. So in Sumatra we now have three presbyters (Fr. Chrysostomos, Fr. Theodosius and Fr. Luke) and a deacon. We pray that the Most Merciful God will grant the expansion of His Vineyard in far off Indonesia and supply more laborers, that is, priests, to work in it.
A great blessing indeed, but at the same time it fills us with anxiety. This is so because the economic situation for our Mission in Indonesia is bad. If things do not get better soon and this crisis goes on for long, then we should take steps in order to help our Orthodox Mission to stand on its own feet. Of course, thanks to the great love of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, we have established a few schools, which however make no material gain, they only help in the propagation and dissemination of the Orthodox Faith.
I now have before me three priests who want to work in the Vineyard of the Lord Jesus Christ, without getting paid. However, how will they be able to support themselves and their families? And how will they stand in the Lord’s ministry since the flock is scanty? Therefore, my brothers, until the flock grows, they have to work on their own in order to meet their expenses. This is why I believe that each priest should have their own small field. This might be the solution to the existing problem so that the ministry of our Orthodox Church here in Indonesia can continue. So we pray that the Most Merciful God will send forth donors for this issue. A cost estimate for three fields suitable for this case is approximately € 30,000.
“Hagia Sophia” school, funded by our Fraternity
Our ministry on Nias island goes on well. Father Chariton is in charge of our Institute there. Besides being the headmaster of our St. Nicholas Middle School, he ministers in all three communities. We pray that the Most Merciful God through His love and blessing will make him worthy of becoming himself a priest of the Almighty God in the future. So far this year we have been to this island 3 times.
Father Theodosius is a great help to me. For each Divine Liturgy out of St. Demetrios Church in Medan, I send father Dionysios, while the newly ordained Fr. Luke is by my side assisting me, until he gains enough experience himself.
I sincerely apologize for bothering you with the problems of our Mission here in Indonesia. I pray that the Most Merciful God always blesses you abundantly.
With God’s help we are well, and we are thankful for that. I have just returned from the island of Nias, where I offered my spiritual ministry for a few days. Of course, my dear brothers, I rarely manage to write to you due to my numerous missionary commitments and responsibilities here in Indonesia. Among other things, I would like to mention some aspects of the Orthodox Mission in this country.
Our Mission on Nias island numbers three parishes and a school. I do not go there on a regular basis because I cannot afford the fare. I only go once a year as I need 200 euros for a return ticket. It would be much better if I could go there four times a year, two to the parish community of St. Catherine and two to those of Sts. Paul and Martha, whose church was built by your Fraternity.
In the village of Lae Rias we have got five fields, which you helped us to buy. There we have planted oranges and vegetables, such as peppers and eggplants. In each field there is a family who works and lives there. However, only two of the fields have a permanent hut, the rest have a plastic one. A hut costs 1,000 euros, therefore, we would need 3,000 euros to house three families. Also, it would be useful to have a tiller; this could help us make a lot of savings by reducing the number of workers. A tiller costs 2,000 euros.
On Nias island we have three parish communities. There we have appointed an Orthodox catechist to minister to the people’s needs. However, in order to be able to offer his services as expected, he needs a motorbike to move about from community to community easily. A motorbike here costs around 2,000 euros.
Our Theotokos hospital, another important project where your Fraternity has contributed significantly regarding its construction and equipment, operates regularly. It employs 10 doctors and 20 nurses. Naturally, their salaries should be paid at the beginning of each month. Bearing in mind that our main revenue comes from the patients’ hospital costs, it is easy to understand that if we have a lot of patients, we are in a position to pay salaries and electricity bills. If not, then my blood pressure rises! Who can I resort to for help? This is why, my brothers, I am making a heartfelt plea to you: help us to collect a reserve of 15,000 euros, which will enable us to meet our needs and face such emergencies. I am certainly aware of the fact that it is a considerable amount of money given the financial crisis you are going through as well, but even the smallest contribution would be a great relief for us.
Please forgive me for bothering you with our concerns and for making such a request. May our Lord Jesus Christ bless you abundantly.
Before 1989 I knew nothing about the spiritual attitude of Orthodoxy toward the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. To me, like all Protestants, the name “Mary” was only related to the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord; as a result, no special honour or love was ever rendered to her person. I guess it was difficult for me to understand why we must venerate the Virgin Mother. In 1991 I had the opportunity to study at the Theological Faculty of the Aristotle University of Thessalonica. It was then that I started to observe the acts of veneration of the Orthodox Greeks toward the person of the Theotokos. However, I still failed to figure out the reason why they behaved this way and what information could be found in the Bible that justified such an attitude.
As you know, Protestants only accept evidence from the Bible -the Sola Scriptura; therefore, they deny the Holy Tradition of the Church. Later, I began to wonder how the so-called Christians can fulfil the gospel word according to Luke (1, 48) without knowing the Most Holy Lady. How do they say that they only believe in the Bible when they do not know how to praise and bless the Mother of the Lord, which all human generations must do?
How do they believe that Christ is the only saviour of the world, and that with His blood and body He purchased man out of the bondage of sin and freed mankind from eternal death? Why don’t they ever think of the mother through whom the fleshless Word of God became one of us in flesh and blood? And how could I love Christ’s saving work for each and every one of us without blessing the mother who gave birth to Him, nursed Him, attended Him and raised Him like an ordinary child?
How could I possibly not want to know the Mother of God, who sacrificed herself entirely for my own salvation as well as the salvation of the whole human race?
The Dormition of the Theotokos chapel in Medan, Sumatra
If I did not honour the Mother of Life, I would infringe one of the ten commandments of God, the one saying “honour your parents”, for Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14, 6).
With all these questions as well as many others, I reached a point where I wanted to study the person of the Virgin Mary as the Mother of Christ and of my true life.
In 1995 I decided to write a thesis at the Aristotle University of Thessalonica, on “the Theotokos according to the teaching of St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain”. My goal was very simple: it was not limited to academic requirements, but it would help me as a person to establish a more solid foundation in Theotokology. Indeed, the Holy Spirit revealed to me the truth, which until then had remained out of my life. The Theotokos stands as the paragon of humility, obedience and holiness.
I started to love the Canon of Supplication to her; I even translated it into Indonesian so that the people here could not only enjoy those beautiful hymns but also understand and appreciate directly the role of the Virgin in their spiritual struggle.
As a result, even after so many years since the Orthodox Mission started in Indonesia, especially in North Sumatra, we are still struggling to communicate to those around us the Orthodox attitude toward the mother of God. It is a great blessing for us to hear young children say, “more honourable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim … the very Theotokos, thee do we magnify…” as well as other hymns to the Theotokos.
Moreover, in 2005 a Theological School began operating in Medan, the capital city of Sumatra. Up to now, almost 1,000 students have graduated from it. The interest on the part of the students is so intense that very often we have discussions on the person of the Virgin Mary both inside and outside the classroom. Even the heterodox have started reflecting on the importance of the Mother of God, though most of them still have difficulty understanding the issue, due to false theological presuppositions.
I myself have experienced the grace of the Virgin Mary, thanks to which I was saved from certain death due to an unknown illness, which still has not been clarified. That happened on 27 October 1990, after the birth of my daughter Soteria, when it was discovered that I had been exposed to medicinal poisoning after the surgery, and the obstetrician told my family that I was going to die. He also said that only a miracle might save me. On hearing the news, the newly formed Orthodox community along with the priest conducted in tears the service of supplication to the Theotokos, using the corridor of the Roman Catholic hospital chapel. And the miracle did happen. Early on the morning of the next day, which was a Sunday, little by little I came back to life, without managing to figure out what had happened to my self, though. Later I realized that some sort of “invisible war” had taken place, but whatever that might have been, it brought me into the arms of the Virgin Mother.
There were also other incidents that revealed the grace of the Theotokos. I believe that only under her protection can I feel secure. Last year, we were paid a visit by a young 15- year- old who was in great suffering because of demons. There was a small wooden icon of Our Lady on a high shelf near the door as you enter the house. We had had it there for years and probably had not noticed that the icon was still in place. While we were praying, the young boy began to shout and point to the icon screaming: “What is this?! Why is this shining so bright that I cannot stand it?!” The demon was scared before the icon of the Mother of Christians! Thanks to this incident our daughter Evangelia overcame her fear of the dark and of the devil’s influence. Great is our Most Holy Mother’s grace!
This personal experience that we lived reveals a new spiritual power, which only Orthodox Christians have. I praise God for granting me His blessing to become Orthodox too. The Virgin Mary is like our own mother. Through the struggle of our Mission, the Theotokos is the person after Christ and the Holy Trinity that we call upon for all our actions. We never force anyone to confess the faith that grows within them, but instead, we teach and instruct them how to understand the Bible properly and also stress the fact that many passages in the New Testament speak about the role of Mother Mary in the work of the world’s salvation. It is truly right to bless her person, thus fulfilling the word of the Gospel:
“for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”
Please, turn on the English subtitles manually, if they don’t appear.
On August 2013, three members of our Fraternity visited Sumatra, Indonesia. There they were received by the Indonesian missionary Fr. Chrysostomos Manalu, who showed them around the places of Orthodox missionary and charitable presence.
Enjoy the missionary zeal and the proto-Christian experiences of the Orthodox community of Medan. This Pascha, let’s keep them in our prayers!
Indonesia almost balances on the line of Equator in Asia. It is by far one of the most exotic countries worldwide with plenty of attractions. It lies between the Indian and the Pacific Ocean. It comprises more than 17,000 islands, small and big. Its total area is 1,9oo,000 square kilometers and its population numbers 270 million people. Indonesians call their country “ Tanah Air Kita”, which means “our country and the sea”.
Due to heavy rainfall and the hot climate with temperatures annually ranging between 28 ° and 38 °C, the country is characterized by rich biodiversity. 88% of the inhabitants are Muslims, and only 6% belong to Christian denominations.
Visiting the big island of Sumatra was a dream come true. Within the last 13 years, the Orthodox Mission -despite having started from scratch- has developed incredibly having the capital city of Medan for its base.
Guests at fr. Chrysostomos’s house
Here in Sumatra, a lot of important work has been achieved thanks to two major conducive factors:
The first is the effective moral as well as material support on the part of the Greek friends of the Mission
and the second the systematic efforts, reliability and remarkable abilities of the Missionary Fr Chrysostomos Manalu along with his equally worthy wife, Mrs Elizabeth Kumesaki. Both of them did postgraduate studies on Orthodox Theology at the University of Thessaloniki,
Thanks to the varied social work and the personal efforts of Fr Chrysostomos, a great step has been taken: the official recognition of the Orthodox Church from the state of Indonesia.
It is worth mentioning that the present and future of Orthodoxy in the specific country is moulded within a frame of peaceful coexistence between religions.
This laborious vineyard has the following achievements to present:
The School of Theology in Medan,
the Computer Science School,
the “Saint Sophia” Educational Center comprising kindergarten, primary school and high school (junior and senior).
A four-storey medical clinic that covers fields like pathology, surgery, pediatrics, microbiology, and provides facilities, such as doctors’ meeting rooms.
In addition, a number of newly founded parishes have spread all over the region.
Visiting “Theotokos” hospital
It is easy to understand that such accomplishments presuppose a titanic struggle and continuous vigilance for the maintenance, smooth operation and future prospects of these projects. Behind this creative result though, one can discern the Vision deep inside the Missionary’s soul rising gradually. A vision for the Inconceivable, the Noble, the Ideal, which can only become real and strong with the consent of the Heavens to the earth.
During our stay in this hospitable country, our team was involved in various activities.
Mrs Aggeliki Arnaoutis, professor, gave an excellent talk to the students of the School of Theology, in which she interpreted and clarified theological matters.
Mr Demetris Vrakas, film maker and associate of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, shot interesting snaps of the activities, the daily life and the incomparably beautiful landscapes. He also covered interviews with important figures of the region.
As an ophthalmic surgeon, I had to deal with relevant incidents by visiting not only the School of Theology but also Sumbul, an area in the jungle located at an altitude of 1,500 m.
We were offered very warm hospitality at the cozy family environment of Fr Chrysostomos and his wife Elizabeth. We had the chance to meet their two sweet daughters as well as their other thirteen “children”, needy children taken in by the family until they have completed their education and have got settled professionally.
So far, approximately sixty children have been brought up thanks to their personal care. These kids have benefited from the educational program and have succeeded in their professional life.
Ophthalmic examination by Dr Alexandrou
Indonesians are smiling people, kind, humble, hospitable and benevolent.
Greece has received positive comments and has gained recognition from the Indonesian society thanks to its contribution to the social work. Our Fraternity has greatly conduced to the fulfillment of this program. This is how much Fr Chrysostomos is respected and esteemed by the authorities of the country in his capacity as representative of the Orthodox Church in Indonesia.
As an epilogue, I have kept a message that we took from Indonesia.
“By means of their language, Greeks have spread the light of the Greek culture and Orthodoxy to the peoples in the four corners of the earth. Supposing there were no more Greeks, and as a result, the Greek language were no longer spoken, this would mean deep cultural darkness all over the planet! You should take care of the edifice of Hellenism”.
The peoples believe that Greece accomplishes its supreme mission despite the challenges of history, because its own History is long and profound, dates back to thousands of years and will incessantly be feeding the global network with light!
Regular member of the Fraternity
We would like to thank you wholeheartedly for your last financial aid of 5,000 euros for equipping our Theotokos Hospital in Medan, as well as for the 5,000 euros, donation of a pious lady from Volos, which you sent us for printing the liturgical books in Indonesian. In a few days, I am going to our communities of Saint Ephraim and the Annunciation of the Theotokos in Pargambiran in order to see the projects there.
To be honest, my brothers, the other project has not yet been completed due to a new problem that has arisen. A week ago, the Ministry of Health sent us a circular according to which all the hospitals in Indonesia have to obtain a Certificate which testifies that the hospital meets the standards required before 2014, because from January only the hospitals that hold this Certificate will be allowed to operate in Indonesia. As you can see, my brothers, we have only a few months available in order to make the necessary preparations for that. The expenses required for the Certificate amount to 10,000 euros. Should we not have it, then we will get the operation license of our newly created Hospital- for which your Fraternity has assisted us so much- removed.
This is why, my brothers, I do not know where to appeal. Of course, I resort to our Lady asking her to mediate to her Son for help, and I believe that she will listen to us and send us the money required through a charitable donor.
That is all our news, my brothers, and that is my fervent plea. May God bless you all with His generous gifts.