First pastoral visit to Serbs in Zambia

During period May 18th till May 22nd of this year, Rector and Dean of St. Apostle Thomas Orthodox Church in Johannesburg, Archimandrite Pantelejmon, had visited members of Serbian community in African country of Zambia. Serbs started relocating to Zambia in mid 1960's. This had been the first visit by a Serbian priest to our Orthodox believers, living in Lusaka in approximately 50 years - and as such it had been of historical value for Serbian people and Orthodox Church in Africa.

The visit has been organized and initiated by Father Pantelejmon and our faithful in Lusaka and has been carried out with Blessing of His Grace Bishop of Zambia Kyr Ioakim. The most recognition for preparation of this event goes to Charge d`Affaires of the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia in Zambia, Mr. Mirko Manojlovic, followed by Mr. Bozo and Mr. Mladen Banovic, Mr. Bojan Blagojevic, Mr. and Mrs. Mihailo and Agnes Popovic and other members of Serbian community.

During first day of visit, Mr. Mirko Manojlovic, his wife and son prepared a warm welcome and friendly lunch at their official residence, attended by Bishop of Zambia Kyr Ioakim and His Excellency Ambassador of Russian Federation to Zambia, Mr. Boris N. Malakhov. At that occasion, Father Pantelejmon offered gifts to all present from Serbian Church in Johannesburg. That same evening, Mr. Mirko together with Mr. Bojan Blagojevic, Mr. Mladen Banovic and others, had organized in Embassy of the Republic of Serbia official gathering with our citizens and faithful, which was very well-attended.

As this gathering was organized for members of Serbian community in order to be introduced to visiting Priest, Father Pantelejmon addressed people present with kind and clear words about importance of Serbian Orthodox Church in preservation of faith and national identity of our people; importance of strengthening our unity; protection of holy land Kosovo and Metohija and co-operation of Church and State for the benefit of the people. All mentioned subjects were of great importance and interest to members of Serbian community in Lusaka. Also, Father Pantelejmon had informed those present about activities and successes of St Sava Church and School Community in Johannesburg and underlined that all the success is result of joint effort, unity and, above all, result of joint prayers and spiritual efforts of faithful members of St. Thomas parish in Johannesburg. At the end, Father Pantelejmon expressed his gratitude to officials of Serbian Embassy in Zambia for their efforts and support.

During Father Pantelejmon's five-day stay he visited twenty four Serbian families in Lusaka: Bezanov, Popovic, Manojlovic, Banovic, Vujicic, Starcevic, Spasic, Domanovic, Blagojevic, Bujisic, Miler, Micic, Maksimovic, Rankovic, Antin, Karaleic, Salipur, Cukovic, Lazic, Perunicic, Maglov, Ristanovic and two Gordic families, while members of families Celeketic, Delic and Saban were present during joint visits. Homes and water were blessed and other prayers were served, as required in certain families. All families were presented with gifts: Church calendars, icons, postcards, magazine "Svetosavsko Ognjste" and spiritual booklets. Kind Serbs from Lusaka welcomed their Priest with traditional Serbian hospitality and, what was even more important, he was welcomed into their homes with love and open hearts. Orthodox faith and spiritual life were discussed and Father Pantelejmon with his advice and spiritual messages lifted hearts of the people hungry for the Word of God.

On his last day in Lusaka, Archimandrite Pantelejmon was invited by Ambassador of Russian Federation, Mr. Boris Malakhov, to pay a visit to the Embassy, where he met entire staff. Russian diplomats and officials expressed huge interest in situation concerning Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija; churches of Serbian Orthodox Church and Father Pantelejmon's extensive experience as monk in Kosovo and Metohija. Father Pantelejmon addressed all questions in detail. At the end of the visit, Ambassador Malakhov presented Archimandrite with a gift and expressed how pleased he was with his visit to the Embassy of Russian Federation in Lusaka.

On the very same day, at the Bishop Ioakim residence chapel, Archimandrite Pantelejmon, at mid-day, served first Orthodox service in Serbian language in this area. Despite it being a work-day, service was attended by majority of Serbian community in Lusaka and several families (Celeketic i Saban) had arrived from distant provinces of Zambia, which caused joy among those present. Such huge attendance was a result of conversations, socializing, joint prayers and spiritual atmosphere that was present in Serbian homes in Lusaka during previous few days. During service everyone was taking part in blessing and turning holy bread and after service and joint address, His Grace Bishop Ioakim presented Father Pantelejmon with beautiful icon of our Lord Jesus Christ.

After service Bishop Ioakim organized reception in His residency where Serbs from Zambia presented Archimandrite with a gift to remind him of this first pastoal visit of Serbian priest to this African country. At the same time, it was underlined that large number of Serbs is assisting, in many different ways to Bishop Ioakim and Orthodox Church of Zambia, which is under jurisdiction of the great and old Alexandrian Patriarchate.

Father Pantelejmon's visit was conducted in spiritual atmosphere and was welcomed by Serbian community in Lusaka. It was very emotional to see Serbs, with tears in their eyes, love in their hearts and true gratitude, as they were parting ways with Serbian priest. Father Pantelejmon, as he was about to depart, offered spiritual advice to his hosts in Lusaka, hardworking and honest Serbs - to attend the Divine Liturgy in the Church of Alexandrian Patriarchate in Lusaka in which Bishop Ioakim serves; to continue to pray to God; to fast and confess; to receive Holy Communion and live Christian life that will lead them to salvation and that will bring God's Blessings in this as well as in future life. In joint assessment of this successful visit it was concluded that the visit was useful and needed and it was agreed that future visits by Serbian priests to Zambia should be frequent - at least once per year.

Let there be glory to God for this victory of good, love, unity and faith and let these visit be for spiritual benefit and strength, blessing of God and eternal salvation to all Serbs in Zambia!

Members of the Church Committee at the Serbian Parish in Johannesburg
and Charge d`Affaires of the Embassy of Serbia in Zambia, Mr. Mirko Manojlovic