Nov 1, 2008

Coptic Missionary in Africa

In the year 1976, His Grace Bishop Antonios Markos came all alone to Kenya, zealous to spread the kingdom of God. Similar to St-Mark the evangelist, Bishop Antonios Markos came to Kenya with a big heart, and relied on the Lord to lead him. And because of his zeal and faithfulness, the Lord blessed the seeds which he planted. Within a relatively short time, numerous churches were built in several African countries, and many Africans were ordained as deacons and priests.

As the service had grown to more than seven African countries, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III ordained also H.G. Bishop Paul as Bishop of Mission in 1997. Today, some countries are assigned to the care of H.G. Bishop Antonious Markos, and others are assigned to the care of H.G. Bishop Paul. The countries that are listed below are the ones under the care of H.G. Bishop Paul.

The first Coptic Orthodox Church was established in Kenya in 1976. By the grace of God, it has grown tremendously year by year. Today Kenya has 29 churches, shepherded by eight priests and 160 deacons.

The churches in Kenya have numerous projects and ministries, including a Coptic Hospital and Hope Center in Nairobi, an Orphans Project, a Street Children's project, a Theological School and much more.
Nairobi Parish

The Nairobi Parish is served by two priests, namely Fr. Michael (ordained in 1994), and Fr. Moses (ordained in 1997), both ordained by H.H. Pope Shenouda III. They are serving at St-Mark’s Church, which was the first Church established in 1976 by His Grace Bishop Antonios Markos.
Tala Parish

The Tala Parish has three churches, served by Fr. Joseph, who was ordained in 1998 by H.H. Pope Shenouda III. There are also two new churches in the area, for which buildings have not yet been constructed.
Nakuru Parish

The Nakuru Parish has three churches, which are served by Fr. Michael, ordained in 1994 by H.H. Pope Shenouda III. Fr. Michael also serves in Nairobi with Fr. Moses.
Kaluo Parish

The Kaluo Parish has three churches, served by Fr. Timothy, ordained in 1996 by H.H. Pope Shenouda III.
Maseno Parish

The Maseno Parish has nine churches, served by Fr. Bishoy (ordained in 1996) and Fr. Elisha (ordained in 2002), both by H.H. Pope Shenouda III.

The Coptic Orthodox Church in Zambia was established in 1987 by His Grace Bishop Antonios Morkos. By God’s grace, it has grown to include 3 churches, a hospital, a Hope Center for Infectious Diseases, and several other projects. It has a very unique mission service in the area of Mongolee, a bush area 40 km deep from the main road.

The three churches are currently being served by Fr. Mark, who was ordained by H.H. Pope Shenouda III in the year 2002, and Fr. Abraham, ordained in February 2007 by His Grace Bishop Paul.

Democratic Republic of Congo
The Coptic Orthodox Church was established in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the year 1997. Today, there are 8 churches, served by 4 Congolese priests, namely Fr. Shenouda, Fr. Angelos, Fr. Theophilos (all ordained by H.H. Pope Shenouda in 1999), and Fr. Paul (ordained by H.H. Pope Shenouda in 2002); there are also 80 deacons supporting the fathers.

The D.R. of Congo has many services to cater for all age groups; two of the unique services are: a widows project, and three credited Christian Schools run by the churches.

The Coptic Orthodox Church was established in Tanzania in 1997. Today there are two churches in the province of Mara, served by Fr. Joshua and 12 deacons. There is a unique service in Tanzania, which is the service of the leprous people.

Fr. Joshua has been a member of the Coptic Church in Nairobi (Kenya) since his childhood. He was a deacon for 15 years, of which he was a disciple of Fr. Moses in Nairobi for 8 years. He was ordained in April 2006 by H.H. Pope Shenouda III.

The Coptic Orthodox Church was established in Nigeria in the year 2005 in Lagos. Another one was started in 2006 in Calabar, where most of the members are Egyptian Copts working in Nigeria. Neither of these churches have permanent buildings yet; believers are renting places that they can use to meet and pray until they can build or buy a church. Presently, it is being served by visiting priest Fr. Moses from Nairobi, Kenya, and 5 deacons from Nigeria.
Churches under care of H.G. Bishop Paul

The Release of the Spirit, by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

this a chapter from one of the greatest books written by H. H. Pope Shenouda III, first published book by him and also the first book I've read for him..

About The Book
The book is a collection of articles entitled, "The Release of the Spirit" written for the Sunday School Magazine from the year 1951 . Pope Shenouda was then the editor of that magazine before starting his monastic life.
These articles were published in the form of a book in the year 1957 including some of his poems which were published in the magazine as well..
The fourth edition included some meditations and poems which he wrote while still a monk before his ordination as a bishop of Religious Education

Ch.3: THE RELEASE OF THE SPIRIT : The release from bonds

It was seven O'clock in the evening, and silence {surrounded} every-thing when my father monk and I be-gan to set our feet on the sand of the desert. We walked from time to time contemplating on matters beyond human utterance. A long time passed without our being aware until we stopped at the gate of the monastery to discuss together.

Impressions and bonds:
I do not mean by the 'release of the spirit from the body' what Simeon the Elder meant when he said: "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word.." .. What I mean is the release of the spirit while still in the body; its release from any bonds encompassing it. Only then, one can experience complete peace and live the free life of God's children.

Do you know, dear brother, that a child, after being baptised, has his spirit free, in the original condition in which it was created..? Do you know what happens to it afterwards? The world, the customs and the environment implant in it many impressions. Many bonds bind it and hinder its movement towards God to be united with Him and abide in Him. What God's children seek is to be freed from all this.. to have their souls released from the bonds of the world and the environment and from the bonds of the senses and human wisdom...

At this point the father monk said: 'Perhaps some think of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, "unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 18:3). that they mean, "Unless you become as young as children.." No , He wanted to say, "Unless you become as great in spirit as children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.'

The bonds of the senses:
St. Macarius the Great once met a monk who was fought with self-righteousness, he thought he had overcome adultery, love for money and anger.. St. Macarius began to ask him about his feelings on seeing a woman.. The monk replied that he would discern that she was a woman but would fly away lest he should feel lust.. St. Macarius asked him again what his feeling would be when he saw some money in the desert.. The monk said he would be able to distinguish money from stones but he would abstain from the love of money.. The saint asked him a third time how he would feel if someone insulted him.. The monk replied that he would feel that he was insulted but would not let anger remain within his heart.

Here, St. Macarius told the monk that he was still frail and needed to strive more and the saint began to teach him..

The bonds of the senses, dear reader, make a person discriminate between a man and a woman, between an old woman and a young girl, and between a beautiful girl and an ugly one.. Such bonds also make one discriminate between money and stones..

What about praise and insult then?
Once a monk asked St. Macarius for advice.. St.Macarius ordered him to go and praise the dead. He did so but no one replied to him. The saint then ordered him to go and insult them, but when he did no one replied either. Then St. Macarius said to that monk, 'You also must be like the dead since you have died to the world.. You must not be affected by anything whether this be praise or insult'.. Once a rich man brought some money to the monastery in order to be distributed among the monks.. the abbot wanted to teach that person a practical lesson, so he put the money aside and rang the bell. When the monks gathered the abbot asked them to take their need of the money as an expression of their love for the rich man. But the monks looked at the gold as if looking to stones and took nothing of it in spite of it. Their behaviour had so great effect on that person that he asked to be a monk..

The world and the flesh, dear brother, have many impressions on our senses. This makes us look upon the worldly and material things as being more beautiful and attractive than they really are and as having a deeper effect. However, when the spirit is elevated and released partly-from the bonds which hinder its way, the senses will be elevated accordingly . In other words , they will be released from the worldly feelings and you will have a new spiritual understanding of matters.

You can feel this if you were away from your family for a long time, and on you return they embraced you in excessive love and longing.. You felt overwhelmed by their love, but would you, amidst this love, feel that the person who embraced you whether your father or mother, your sister or brother was a man or a woman!

The same is the case of the person who rescues others in fires or drowning accidents. If such a person felt that whomever he was rescuing was a man or a woman, a girl or a boy, he would expose himself and that person would be in danger of death.

I think this demonstrates that the spirit is superior to the senses. There are even times when the senses are partly or completely suppressed because the spirit is engaged in things which are greater.

So in your spiritual life, you have to get rid of the bonds of the senses . Then you will have a different view of things, you will not be overcome with lust: whether the lust of the flesh, the

eyes, the lust for money or women or the pride of life. You will be like the angels of God in heaven, and see everything as good as the Lord Jesus Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount, "If therefore you eye is good, your whole body will be full of light" (Matt. 6:22).

These were not the only thoughts which my father monk and I discussed, for we talked about things more profound. We discussed the attitude of the senses `when one tries to understand and meditate on theological matters. The senses are physical and limited and thereupon are not able to approach God Who is unlimited . The senses are also fallible and often mistake between what is wrong and what is right.

Even the apostles were mistaken when they returned to the Lord joyfully saying, "Lord even the demons are subject to us in Your name", the Lord replied to them, "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this." (Luke 10:1 7,20).

Likewise, the murderer who kills for revenge or honour, feels content as if he has done a great deed. It is a wrong feeling certainly.

You also, my beloved brother, may have various feelings during your prayers, fasts, seclusions and meditations. Examine them well for they may be unsound human feelings . Try to free your spirit from the bonds of the senses. Another point which I like to draw to your attention is that when one is completely involved in meditating on theological matters, one becomes unaware of the world and of the things around them.

For example Hanna was in the temple praying in bitterness from her soul before the Lord . She was not aware of anything around her. Eli the priest thought she was drunk and reproached her saying, "How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!" (1 Sam.13,14). If you are completely involved in your prayers and meditations, you will not be aware at all of anything that may take place around you. There may be some people talking near you or there may be some noise or various scenes but you will not be aware of anything because you are absorbed in spiritual matters.

Your senses are partly passive and it is your spirit which acts. I think some consider that the spirit in this case is caught up! I remember an example of this - St. John the Short who used to spend long times in meditations during which people talked to him but he never heard their voice or knew what they were saying. Some tried to repeat what the they said but he only exclaimed what the thing they wanted was and the more they repeated their words, the less he heard . "the reason is that his spirit at times was involved in other matters which were more important, far deeper and nearer to the hearing and the memory. Sometimes people asked him certain questions but the saint used to reply to them with theological meditations which had no relation whatever with what they asked. In fact, he did not hear what they were saying, because his spirit was released from the senses..

Read the complete book "The Release of the Spirit", by H. H. Pope Shenouda III