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OCMC News - Bringing the Healing Power of Christ to Kenya from Romania

by Floyd Frantz (Posted 11/9/2017)

OCMC News - Bringing the Healing Power of Christ to Kenya from Romania
OCMC Missionary Floyd Frantz has worked with Kenyan clergy to bring substance abuse counseling to the Kisumu diocese. Floyd was joined by Romanian priest Fr. Iulian Negru. Together they taught about some of the spiritual aspects of addictions recovery, including a biblical approach to the "12 Steps" to treating alcoholism.

Arriving in Kisumu on a Monday afternoon, we were greeted by representatives of His Grace Bishop Athanasios (Akunda), of the Western Diocese of Kenya under the Patriarch of Alexandria, His Beatitude Theodoros II. Fr. Iulian Negru, whom I work with in Romania, accompanied me.

The first thing that they did was to put us in the back seat of Fr. Athanasios's car, an old Toyota. Very comfortable, and built like a tank. He told us to sit back and keep the windows rolled up. The windows were all tinted so much that people could not see who was inside the car. Well, I was sort of wondering about this until we arrived at the first group of protesters. They had set up a road block so that all the traffic had to slow down and stop. After stopping, Fr. Athanasios gave them a small "donation" to their cause, and we proceeded. He said that if they knew white people were in the car that the donation might be a little higher, so we kept a low profile as much as possible. We only had to make a couple of these donations, as during the entire trip we were either in very rural areas or traveling through the troubled zones very early in the morning. We did see evidence of the outbreaks of violence, and the news reported as many as 5 people being killed during the political unrest preceeding their elections. We left the day following the elections and had no issues with the protestors or the police, other than the police coming to the hotel to question us about our visit.

Our work with the clergy went quite well. In all we visited three localities to do the training courses, and we were well received by the priests. They were open about the need for information about pastoral counseling, especially regarding alcoholism. They told us about the problems that homemade alcohol is causing in the families in their parishes. It is an old story; the alcohol is not well made and so is unsanitary and causing all sorts of physical, mental, and social problems. We spoke about some of the spiritual aspects of addictions recovery, including a biblical approach to the "12 Steps" to treating alcoholism. It was all very well recieved by the clergy, but what we did was only an introduction; there is much work to be done in this area.

In our conversations with the clergy, something more came into focus for us, that is, the need for better educating their children. We visited one of the local primary schools, St. Luke's, which is associated with the nearby St. Luke's Orthodox Church. At this school there were more than 70 children, students in grades 1-8. The government pays salaries for two teachers, and the others are volunteer teachers. The school has no windows, the classrooms are made of mud, and they have dirt floors. There is no running water at this school, and they have to walk two miles to bring water for hygiene and other needs. Thanks in part to a donation from the OCMC, we were able to put in a water line from a government well located about one mile from the school. This was, of course, done with the blessing of His Grace. There will be some photos sent, once the water is connected.

The priests all have large families; 4-6 children is a norm, some with as many as 10 children. Many of them have lost children through early deaths. Rural health care is not very good in Kenya, to say the least. I am sure that is due in no small part to the difficulty in getting clean water.

The clergy don't have the money, about $70 per year, to send their kids to secondary school. It is a very big struggle for them to educate their children. Sending a child to college is nearly impossible. It costs about $1,200 per year for books, lodging, and tuition at the colleges, and more at the universities. For the clergy, this is an immense amount of money.

There are other areas of need, but education seems to be the most important. If the Orthodox Church is to thrive in Kenya, it must educate its children. Otherwise it will remain backward and poorly developed. The Church is made up of its people, and the better educated these people are, the better they can care for future generations of Orthodox Christians. Uneducated people are more likely to sustain the poverty already found in their communities, as they would have no other opportunities than what is in front of them, and in Kenya that is not very much opportunity.

I will close with a statement and a question: I don't believe that any of what I am saying is unknown about, or very new information. What is new is today, and with each new day, is a new responsibility to live a Christian life. The question: What is our reponsiblity as Orthodox Christians in regards to our brothers and sisters in Kenya, especially to our Orthodox bretheren?

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God of truth and love: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Hear our prayer for those who do not know You. That they may come to a saving knowledge of the truth, and that Your Name may be praised among all peoples of the world. Sustain, inspire, and enlighten Your servants who bring them the Gospel. Bring fresh vigor to wavering faith; sustain our faith when it is still fragile. Continually renew missionary zeal in ourselves and in the Church, and raise up new missionaries who will follow You to the ends of the world. Make us witnesses to Your goodness full of love, full of strength, and full of faith for Your glory and the salvation of the entire world. Through the prayers of all the missionary saints, Have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
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