Ghana / Diocese of Accra
By grace of God and with the blessing of His Beatitude Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria, on January 13 I arrived at the capital of Ghana, the seat of my new diocese, after a long journey starting from Athens to reach the Western African shores of the Atlantic. Leaving a frozen Athens and getting off the airplane, you are received by a 33°C heat and 90% humidity and forthwith you understand that you are somewhere else.
With your first contact with people, at once you see how dignified and naturally peaceful they are, which is reflected on their eyes. They love foreigners and their first word is Akooaba! Welcome! Everywhere around people working. I didn’t notice any beggars in the traffic lights, on the road junctions, anywhere. This I confirmed the following days. Early in the morning they rush to work, whence it is regarded as one of the most rapidly developing countries in Africa.
Arriving at our missionary center, where lie the see and the Transfiguration cathedral, immediately I perceive that I was preceded by persons who have labored there a lot, so that I can find this organized missionary unit. Afterwards followed prayer and veneration at the church, a short tour of the place and my settlement in the bishop’s residence, which obviously looks like it was built to become a clinic, not a house to live in. My first care was to settle in my place and adjust it to my own needs and my daily life schedule.
On the second day, we planned our first moves: a clerical assembly, where I and my direct associates could meet each other, a meeting with the Orthodox youth groups and the arrangement of the enthronement. Phone calls, briefings and a lot of procedures, residence permit, telephone contracts and some initial matters. Finally, it was an important priority for us to be informed of and prepare the annual retreat for our Orthodox communities that takes place in late January. This retreat is a four-day program, when the Orthodox from all over Ghana join in Fomena village, where there is a big lot of our Church with the Annunciation chapel on it and the place is configured much like a summer camp in Greece. There gather the Orthodox faithful of all ages to attend a program of worship, sermons, evening prayers. Each group presents a musical or dance performance. The youth, the children, everyone participates. Of course, all the priests of our diocese are present. Generally, this retreat helps to strengthen relations between the Orthodox communities around the liturgical life and the spiritual nourishment which our Church offers and they tremendously need.
I cannot hide my satisfaction and joy I felt seeing their piety and devotion and great faith. Maybe this sign we meet everywhere in Ghana is no coincidence: Gye Nyame, “nothing except for God”, which is a symbol of God’s supremacy. This unique and beautiful symbol is ubiquitous in Ghana. It is the most popular decoration denoting the deep religious character of Ghanaians. Gye Nyame, “nothing except for God.”
Then I gave praise to God for the missionary work, because it has been done systematically for many years by all my predecessors, and I realized that these efforts should be continued, for they bring forth such fruits for the glory of God’s holy name.
However, it is necessary to stress that, though it is important to create a structure by raising a church, a school or a clinic, it is even more important for all these buildings to be glorified in a durable operation, which needs constant help and support for the proper functioning of these facilities. Unfortunately, in case that this support is absent, we lose what we earned by investing in the construction and we cannot operate them in the long term. Here comes the most difficult aspect: functional expenses. It is matter that few people pay attention to, namely only the people who can see more than their eyes, who have a vision and insight and are not confined in a picture, but this picture becomes the occasion for reflection and action.
Dear members and supporters of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, you are people of reflection and action, which is why you came to be involved with the Orthodox Missions. May our good God bless and give grace to you! I am grateful, for many times you have delivered us in your own way from problems we face in our ministry, hence I thank you.
Your brother in Christ’s love
Narkissos of Accra