Many of our readers may not be aware that the Bishops in Africa are just as dependent on your good will as the many missions you see us featuring and often times the Bishops who are the center of the Church are neglected and often have a very difficult time carrying out their mission which not only encompasses the many Orphanages but every other active mission. In this article His Grace, Bishop Athanasios (Akunda) of the Diocese of Kisumu and all Western Kenya explains the situation on the ground in his Diocese and what needs he, as the Hierarch, may have. Below is his response to our request, for which we are most grateful.
Dearly Beloved in Christ,
The Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ commands us to go to nations teaching and baptizing them in the Name of the Father and The Son and the Holy Spirit. This is the sacred duty given to us when we get out of the seminary and are ordained.
However, stepping out into the field we always find what we did not expect. We find other needs, where we realize that if we do not attend to those needs, we may not be able to fulfill the Great Commission as written in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, chapter 28. We are confronted by hunger, sickness, and illiteracy. Our preaching becomes engraved in building schools, hospitals, orphanages, etc. Where there is the Bishop, so there is the Church. Therefore, the bishop becomes the center and unity of the Church. He becomes the Visible Christ to the people. He becomes the central figure in charge and completion of all the above.
The bishop, in this case, does not only preach and teach but he goes out to ensure his priests and flock are well taken care of. He spends most of his time working on the vision and sustainability of his Diocese, especially at the material level. This, therefore, calls to mind that for the Church to be strong as an institution, the Office of its bishop must be strengthened. As we all derive our strength from Christ, so does the Orthodox Church and all its institutions derive their strength from the Bishop. All that we as Christians support, be it orphanages, schools, etc., without the Bishop the Church is not complete because for all to function they need the blessings of the local bishop.
This calls to mind that as much as we support these institutions, let us remember the Chief Pastor has to have an active office to oversee all these. Bishops in Africa do not have a kind of stipend or salary every month. Yet, despite that being the case, people expect him to give; even those who seem to have private donations. The Bishop needs to keep the church running. He needs to travel, to pay staff that work with him, and needs day-to-day provisions to keep his office open and running. This fact seems to have been forgotten where an interest has been developed in the institutions under the bishop and not the bishops. Most of us will sponsor orphanages, sometimes directly behind the Bishop’s back and assume that the bishop who is overseas do not need to survive. In this way, we weaken the Bishop’s position, institution or office and rather, strengthen the clergy and their organizations creating an imbalance whereby the office of the bishop becomes insignificant and therefore not respected.
If the bishop is not able to travel to provide pastoral care and cannot even feed himself or has no shelter, yet in his Diocese he has institutions that are supported with millions of dollars from Christians who claim to recognize the bishop’s office is this not ironic? Let us all know that just as orphanages and other institutions need support, the bishops in Africa need your support to be able to effectively and efficiently oversee his Diocese’s projects. Otherwise, we will have an Orthodox Church without effective, functioning and poor bishops. What good is that? As is said above, for in the Orthodox Bishop is the center of unity. The more he able to be given power to function easily in his pastoral work, the more the institutions under him are blessed and grow strong.
It is important that those in the West understand how differently things work in Africa. In the West, even the poorest bishop has a house, a stipend, a car and his pastoral expenses paid for by the parishes. In Africa there is nothing like that. The bishop has to find his own way. And the way is yourself! Brother and Sister Christians.
As you know, we have problem with the lack of priest’s salaries. Another of our goals is, slowly by slowly, creating self-sustainable programs that will enable us to find our own way and be able to care for our priests and bishops. Join us with this goal.
Continue helping our orphanages, donate to find a priest means of transport to and from church through a motorbike. Support one orphan by 30 dollars per month and you can join any of our self sustaining program. Choose any of the above.
In the Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, please accept my sincere thanks. You have done much for this Diocese, especially adopting our orphanages. Thank you for your contributions towards the mini-bus the Diocese bought. Thank you to all of you.
May God bless you as He has blessed us!
To donate in support of the Diocese of Kisumu and All Western Kenya click here!