From the window of
the Boeing 737 I could see the equatorial jungle
below, shrouded in its misty cloak like a green, endless sea.
I brought to mind all of God's beautiful creations -
rational and irrational - that live inside it.
After about a one-hour and fifteen minute flight we
landed - almost brushing against the tops of mighty,
tall trees - when the Impfondo (Republic of Congo)
airstrip suddenly appeared before us.
Among the crowd that
was waiting I could discern a tall figure wearing a
cassock: it was the Deacon Sergius. At the
temple we were welcomed with flowers by several of
our faithful. I enjoyed some wonderful hours
of prayers with them, during the Great Lent.
Theirs was a lively
daily participation in Matins and Great Vespers.
During the Divine Liturgy of the Annunciation and
the Veneration of the Cross, the house we had rented
was filled with the neophytes, inside and out.
Their souls were likewise filled with the truths of
our Faith that pertained to our Holy Mother and the
Precious Cross, during the catechesis that followed.
Whatever the Lord inspired us to say, they heard in
three different languages: in French, for those who
went or were going to school; in Lingala, for many
of the women and the illiterate, and in the language
of the Baâka Pygmies, as the locals call them.
Pygmies are numerous among our faithful, and are
very punctual churchgoers. They are many in number
among the inhabitants of Impfondo, having created
two districts at the edges of the town.
In mid March, the
government organized a different kind of forum for
the Pygmies. Camps and gathering spots were created
outside the city, as well as an amphitheater for the
official events. Many visitors arrived and
huge expenses were made. The theme: the
recognition of the rights of the Pygmies and their
acceptance as equal members in local communities.
They were also allotted a section of the jungle next
to the river, where they built their huts. In that
way their position amidst the Bandu, the other
Africans, was officially ameliorated, however, not their
finances, as nothing was left over from the money
that had been plentifully dedicated. They
continued coming to Church wearing dirty rags.
That was the reason we organized a committee of the
faithful and purchased and distributed (intact,
albeit second-hand) garments from the bazaar. They were the
clothes that they wore to their Baptism also.
On the 26th of March,
on the banks of the River Ubangi, I performed the
third group Baptism at Impfondo. Among the
catechumens, twenty-seven were prepared, of whom the
twelve were little children. The seventeen were
Bandu, of which the ten were Pygmies - four men
and six women.
Once again, a pirogue
was used as a platform, so that the water would be
deep enough at the point of Baptism (immersion).
Quite a number of faithful had come and several of
our Pygmy catechumens were also present, observing
the Baptism Sacrament and rejoicing together with
those being baptized. They sat under the shade of
the huge trees on the banks of the river. We,
however, were being observed by the scorching hot
gaze of the equatorial sun, as well as by the fishermen
who passed by us with their pirogues.
The group Baptism
lasted more than two hours, and the hearts and faces
of the newly-baptized shone, like their white
candles and white shirts - as many as we could find
in the market. The angels had also embraced them
joyfully, protecting them from the fury of the
demons: on our departure, we heard a loud crashing
sound behind us, as a huge branch broke away from a
gigantic tree, falling exactly on the spot where -
only three minutes before - were seated the families
of the Pygmies who were observing the Sacrament.
When we arrived near our Church, a scooter hit
little Rebecca as she was crossing the road.
She too had been watching the Baptism together with
her mother, both of them being Orthodox. We
took her to the hospital immediately. Thankfully,
she only had a few bruises on her feet: her Angel
had been holding her by the hand...
During the Divine Liturgy of the Veneration of the
Precious Cross, the twenty-seven newly baptized took
Holy Communion first, and afterwards, almost all of
the faithful. Refreshments were offered, and a
homily on the Precious Cross was delivered.
The Pygmies sang their joy and danced, in their own
However, my own joy was
made complete with the postponement of my flight the
next day, giving us the opportunity for a further,
4-day stay in that traditional African town, where a
primitive bicycle helped me to
become better acquainted
with it, but also for conditions to mature
for the purchase that same day of the property on
which the church of Saint Mark will be erected.
protector-Saint, the Evangelist Mark, will hereafter
look after the new Orthodox community, securing its
continuity and ensuring that the dreams of our
brethren there will be materialized.
Translation: K. N.