In third world Sierra Leone for example, life is altogether different. Trudging through the slums of Freetown, the capital city of this impoverished West African nation, Andrija Radan is shocked. "I had always conceptualised a slum as a place of impermanence, a temporary living circumstance from which people would be able to leave. That is far from the reality. People are born, live and die in unimaginable conditions, without hope of things ever improving".
Andrija, Dijana and Simeona are currently in Africa. His Grace Bishop Irinej gave them his blessing to spend time at the Orthodox Mission in Sierra Leone, an oasis of hope in a country struggling to survive the horrors of an unimaginable civil war and its crippling consequences. Under the auspices of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, Greek-Australian Fr Themi Adamopoulos founded this mission ten years ago, which provides food, water, health services, education and spiritual nourishment to those in need.
Much of what they are seeing, the three young Sydney-siders find enormously confronting. But they have also experienced indescribable joy and the local children have captured their hearts. "It's impossible not to fall in love with each and every one of them, especially Theodore (pictured). Such happy kids, such a sad story." Simeona Radan tells us. "There are so many children in Sierra Leone, all of whom greet us with such excitement and joy, that it makes you forget about almost everything else. They grin from ear to ear, fascinated by the colour of our skin and hair and of course our cameras. 'Snap me' they all call at you. They jump for joy, hold your hand, hug you and follow you everywhere. One day a little orphaned girl climbed onto my back and went to sleep African style. I want to stay in Africa," writes Simeona, who was delighted at the opportunity to teach in one of the two schools the Mission operates in Freetown.
The mission also operates a medical clinic and a respite centre hospital for the disabled in Freetown. Dijana Macinko is a registered nurse who volunteered at the clinic. "The need for medical attention and supplies is paramount, given the prevalence of physical disability. The brutality of the civil war left thousands without limbs, not to mention the high incidence of poliomyelitis. The physically disadvantaged are marginalised within the society, and it is only the Mission which extends them opportunities, offering them hope in a country that is paralysed with adversity," says Dijana.
Delivering food to families in the slums was particularly disturbing for Andrija. "Seeing children going to the toilet in a river of garbage and coming to the realisation that this is how they will live indefinitely is heartbreaking." But he is quick to add that, "the care and concern these same people in such dire need show for our wellbeing, is truly inspiring."
His Grace Bishop Irinej, sees the personal experience of Andrija, Dijana and Simeona as pivotal in delivering this tragic yet inspiring story to us in Australia. Few of us know anything at all about the missionary work of the Orthodox Church in Africa. Sadly, fewer still support her efforts. "After spending so much time with these children, one thing that is so clear is that these innocent little ones hold the future of Sierra Leone in their tiny little hands. They need a helping hand. A hand which the Orthodox Mission of Sierra Leone extends," writes Simeona.
The Orthodox Mission is Sierra Leone has earned the respect of everybody in Freetown. 100% of every donation coming from all over the globe goes directly to the mission. A few dedicated volunteers, rather than a costly funds draining humanitarian organisation make it possible for every cent collected to be delivered to the mission. A Church has been built, daily services are conducted, Sierra Leonians have been ordained to the priesthood and under Fr. Themi's spiritual direction all strive to be the ones that Christ spoke of when he said – "For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me" Matthew 25:35-36.
Support the Orthodox Mission in Sierra Leone by completing the PDF attached. Hear the Lord's call and "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" Matthew 25:34.