Sunday, July 1, 2012

Various Difficulties and Hidden Blessings

There are times when you know that you are not the same person you were before. Parenthood comes to mind as one of those times. There could come a time when you know that you are more truly a person, or at least there has been a change in the exact or the kind of paradigms you follow.  Usually this comes to us as a feeling.  It can also come to us as an experience.

It came to me when I was blessed this past week to read the Epistle of Saint Paul, his letter to the Corinthians 2Cor 11:21- 12:9 where he "boasts" of his sufferings in the flesh. It was his Feast Day.

with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

It was as if Saint Paul was saying to me "if you think you are too weak to do this..." you can fill in the rest.  In hearing Sain't Paul's words as a sort of calling to us all, my appreciation for our Archbishop suddenly sky-rocketed.  He, like Saint Paul, hard pressed on all sides, presents the Gospel as one who is filled only with love.  There is a video on YouTube where you can see his tenderness and humility in his ministry, the degree to which he takes on the role of whatever needs to be done to not only to be an example,but to portray to the newly baptized in Fiji what we need to look like in our actions. You can see what value he gives to the little ones who assist him, and how he is not above being their Sunday School teacher of these families.  His heart overflows as he brings up from it lessons and treasures of Orthodoxy.

The people who are with him appear so patient with his speaking Greek. They patiently wait for translations.  This video makes me more eager to go to Fiji again, and to see the work there as it has progressed; not in the utilitarian sense, rather more how the people there move and flow with each other, what things are they learning, and in what order do the learn these things.

Happy Birthday Georgios
Georgios had another birthday in NZ. He got together with his friends from the soccer team and school and I think I had more fun than he.  The boys are very energetic and creative at this age, and they seem to feed off of each others creativity and intellect. They went bowling and came back to the house for an overnight party and food.  They were introduced to "sloppy joes" here at our house. I was impressed with their appreciation of American diner cuisine.

It is quite an international bunch. All are from different countries.

This winter is going by much better than last.  Last year it all seemed so dreary.  We have yet to experience July 2012 with the anticipated constant rain.  June has been a time when we have been acutely aware of the struggles of others.  A Greek man was murdered near his restaurant.  Father did his funeral. We saw a family whose son was ill with seizures and there was no effort to diagnose. The mother was keeping him in the hospital just in case the doctors should change their minds.  When Father Paul anointed the little boy he immediately said that God was on his skin.  Later that day, one of the doctors offered a diagnosis and treatment.  We were relieved.

The Battle of Crete, and the 50th anniversary of the women who came from Greece in 1962.

We had two beautifil events here. One to honor the women who came from Greece 50 years ago at the invitation of the New Zealand Governement, and the other a rememberance of the Battle of Crete WW2.  We heard first hand accounts of people who harboured Kiwi soldiers at the risk of the death of their own families.  One of our parishioners, a very faithful man, had 8 relatives killed via firing squad for housing soldiers from the New Zealand Army who had retreated to Crete. In Liturgy, Father Paul said a memorial for those relatives of his and all who struggled and lost their lives.  As he lit his 8 candles for his 8 relatives he ha dour undivided attention.

They received Certificates from the Hellenic Community
 Over a decade after the battle.... demographically speaking, NZ still had more men than women.  The idea that women perhaps could be brought  in from Europe was being discussed. An officer who had been cared for by a Cretan family during the battle of Crete petitioned the NZ government that if women were to be brought they should be from Greece, and especially from Crete.

It was agreed and an invitation was sent.They were educated, transported, and presented.  They were young and they had no idea where they were going. Throughout their long journey as they reached out to each other on the airplane, all they knew was that they had each other.

The recognition meant so much to each and every one
Each  one of these young women, now grand mothers,  has a story that would make an epic movie.  How they encouraged each other through tears and doubts taking turns to be the comforter and to be comforted! How they met their husbands and settled.  In those days there was no thought of going back.  People just didn't travel like we do today.  They have a bond that few can understand. Even their husbands take a step back when they get together.  There is a deep respect amongst them.

The event was lovely.  a movie was made in their honor, which depicted their curcumstances and their joys and sorrows.  They were given certificates fro m the Hellenic Comunity.

Nearly all made it to the celebration

It is hard to describe the kind of friendship these women feel.

Here with their teacher in the Green Sweater
who taught them English and how to get along in
New Zealand

I think that they are inspirational to me because they lived through all of this exile with faith, especially these women who were photographed on this day.  They are much of the reason why there is still a church community here in Auckland.  
There are at least 3 sets of sisters in this group.The 3 women who are depicted here married Kiwi men. 

The Floods in Fiji and the endurance of our mission team and His Eminence

Shortly after my last post we heard of the devastating floods in Fiji.  Our mission house was flooded for several days, and we had only one worker there at the time.  Tragedy had struck many homes but also the family of our visiting priest Father George.  While they were visiting NZ, presvytera's nephew's body was found. It was weeks after the flood.  Father and Presvytera had to leave suddenly to attend the boys funeral.

His Eminence is there now with a team of monastics and helpers.  There are always so many unknowns.  When His Eminence first heard about the flood, he was in Wellington. His first words were something to the effect of " mission work is not easy"  Saint Paul's letter to the Corinthians 4: 7-18, how vividly I think about Archbishop Amfilochios and what he endures so that the rest of us can live a more abundant life: a true kind of life.

 " But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.   We are hard pressed on every side, yet not cruched: we are preplexed but not in despair..... " 

It is all hard to explain with words. You really have to see him in action to ever know that anything is happening.  It is encouraging to see when people from all around the world, and especially Greece come to help, to spend some time with him and to learn what mission work looks like up close. 

The homes made of scrap wood and corrugated aluminum.
Families are constantly exposed to the elements.
 His Eminence encourages us all.  He solves problems as if he has two minds, one for this world and one for the spiritual one.  So perhaps another hoop must be jumped in order to obtain another permit. That requires patience.  Or it could be that there is a deadline to get a job done before he has to leave for Greece or New Zealand. No matter, vespers and orthros and Divine Liturgy will be read, as well as compline after the meal.  Whatever the circumstance, he is vigilant in prayer first. 

He demonstrates how patience and prayer go together to help the right things to happen at the right time.  Always his trust is in the Lord for us, for the mission, for His Archidocese, for his travels.. and the list goes on.  We rely on him more than we imitate.  If only we could imitate a fraction of his example.

The mission house has two, 2bdrm units and the chapel of Saint Paraskevi is the wooden structure on the left.

The 25th of March events inspired a few young adults to join us in a little Greek dance lessons .  I have the privilege of being their teacher.  We research dances on the WWW and just go for it.  I hope that by the summer we might get to perform somewhere.  

Back to the task of staying warm in NZ.  Until the next time....    +K

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