This is a followup to my last posting in the category of Orthodox Missionaries. I highlighted the FFA (Fund for Assistance) operated by ROCOR since 1959. It led me to reading about the Orthodox Church on Bukasa Island, Uganda.
“I have almost come to the end of the wall. I sometimes can’t afford to buy the church wine. This means I have to miss the Holy Liturgy… I trust in the Lord for everything,” wrote Fr Christopher Walusimbi in an email to the FFA. Fr Christopher is the first African priest ordained in ROCOR.
Bukasa Island overlooks Lake Victoria, and is the second largest of the 84 islands in the Sessee archipelago. It is a remote and dangerous place to get to. Poverty is rampant, and there is no health care or electricity. Most people survive by growing and selling produce.
Here, in the midst of Africa, stands a beautiful Russian Orthodox Church, complete with multi-coloured Russian style cupola, built by Fr Christopher, who is not only a priest, but a representative to the District Educational Committee, a Board member at two other school committees, is considered an elder in the community, and is a popular person to consult within any family crisis.
Despite being over 60 years old, Fr Christopher is very active. He is involved with helping children orphaned by AIDS. For the past 25 years he has run an ambulance service from the island to the mainland. Besides serving every Saturday and Sunday, hearing confessions, and taking care of his parish and other duties, Fr Christopher has to take care of his own large family; he has a wife and ten children. The family survives on their own produce and donations from people who know his difficult situation.
Even though the parish comprising of over 100 parishioners has never yet been able to pay him a salary, Fr Christopher feels responsible for their financial as well as spiritual well-being. He continually looks for ways to help the mission’s financial situation. Because in his thinking, when the mission gains strength, so will the members.
Recently the community started planting orange trees with plans to sell juice and wine in order to sustain the mission. They also raise chickens and make charcoal to take to the mainland for sale.
Despite many difficulties, the parish continues to grow. Sometimes whole families convert, sometimes individuals. All of them need help.
Although there are many needs, Fr Christopher considers education as the most urgent, as it helps people to understand their faith. Contrary to most of the Ugandan population who think that women do not need an education, Fr Christopher believes it is especially important to educate girls. “We need to collectively fight this way of thinking if we are to expect developed society”.
“I feel so blessed that we have God’s people coming for us at all times, I thank everybody for all the love not only to us sinners but to our Holy faith” wrote Fr Christopher.
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