Sunday, September 18, 2016

It has been roughly two years since my last entry on this blog.  It's okay ..

Sunday Afternoon Fiji Time 

We were kind of busy ..  We had some things going on ..   Our 2nd daughter moved to a monastery in Greece. She's a nun now. Her new name is Philothei. Most of us were at her tonsure.  It was wonderful to have seen Greece again. Nicholia graduated University with a bachelors in classical studies and ancient Greek.  That was fantastic.  Georgios got taller than me.  He's in his 3rd year of high school according to NZ standards.  I'm still getting used to that, but it's good.

Father Paul stayed relatively active in Mission work.  Some significant things are going on there.  If you want to follow some of the stories, you can read this other blog. It is quite well done.

The Other Blog That Has Photos Of Father Paul     There's great photos in there from Tonga and Samoa, and Fiji. . . . I think.  It was mostly last year and he really enjoyed it.  His Eminence Archbishop Amfilochios is in Tonga now.  They are building a new church dedicated to the memory of Saint George.  His visit there has been both fruitful and controversial.  Newspaper articles have emerged letting the people of Tonga know that our clergy are not muslim.  Some Tongans' say they don't need any new religions in Tonga.  They are finding out slowly that Orthodoxy is the oldest Christian tradition.  They already have their priests lined up so to speak. His Eminence is connecting to these people like he does everywhere he goes.

Proud of their Olympic Gold in Rugby Sevens! GO FIJI GO! is their happy cry. 

In August and the beginning of September,  I had the delightful and spiritually edifying experience of going to Fiji again only this time on my own.  With the prayers and direction of His Eminence Archbishop Amfilochios, and the support of Father Paul, I went to see what I could do to help at the orphanage dedicated to Saint Tabitha, and also to encourage the faithful there through catechism.  I was not at all feeling fit to that task. It seemed more for someone who had been there more recently as well as for someone who had more notes and books and preparation.  His Eminence called and asked me to go.  It was less than a week, and I was off.

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Saweni, Fiji Islands 

The First Priest and Presvytera of Fiji with their youngest children 

Our Most Holy Panaghia, the Theotokos and her guidance and prayers made the experience unique and memorable.  I was feeling her answered prayers while I was there.  I stayed at the monastery in Saweni,  just a 5 minute walk from the Holy Trinity Church, and this was a real treasure for me. The quietude gave me time and room in my mind to contemplate the life and love of the most valuable woman in history.  I was relying a lot on my insight, on her insight too, but also on my experiences of what I had learned in these past two years.   I am convinced that our Panaghia is with us at our request almost all the time.  I felt compassion as if it were in the air and I could breathe it, as if the word itself had taken energy, and as if the Fijian people were inspiring me towards a more compassionate understanding of their lives, and their hearts, and their faith.  I get a very warm welcome when I go there, and the ladies especially are very much in my heart.

Presvytera Sophia, Taxiarhia and I preparing for the next snapshot.  

After 3 weeks in Saweni. .  saying "BULA"when greeting people,  taking LOUD MUSICAL bus rides to shopping districts, walking the muddiest roads I have EVER walked, and eating CASSAVA, and Ginger, and Dalo nearly everyday, I took a small plane to another island to the town of Labasa, where I met with Fr Barnabas and his Presvytera Maria, so that we could do some volunteer work for IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities).  Although it was months after Cyclone Winston, we had a rare and beautiful opportunity to find some people who still needed help to rebuild their homes and their lives.

Father Barnabas with one of his little parishioners 

We had to travel a little further to the town of Savusavu, where the cyclone had hit the area quite hard.  Some of the residents had fallen through the cracks of the systems that were put in place to help their people recover.  We offered financial aid to ones who were in the greatest need according to both the word on the street and the city officials who were concerned for them.  God was good to us in our giving.  We felt we had encountered some of the most forgotten people. I also felt very blessed as our expenses were very small because of various benefactors, and that made me feel even more a part of a greater community.

The whole trip took 4 weeks, and I plan to return again in a couple of weeks so that I can distribute the rest of the gifts from IOCC that need to go to the small island of Taveuni, God willing,  and to do a little teaching of our Liturgical music to the faithful in Labasa. We have a plan to bring women to the church during the week and to go over the hymns until they feel really comfortable.

After Liturgy with the faithfuland Presvytera Maria (holding child) in Labasa 
Georgios is going to stay in Saweni while I am in Labasa to get reacquainted with his friend Moses and some others that he had met a long time ago.

We are closing in on our 6th year here in NZ. It is hard to comprehend it.  Auckland is a wonderful place to live, and Panaghia has brought some amazing friends into our lives, so we are comforted by them with great gratitude.

In the past 3 years, I have taken up writing as a serious hobby. I am in a group of international women writers and we are dedicated to enriching ourselves and each others' lives with the written word.  We encourage each other to get published because I guess that is what one does with their writing.  Poetry is where I spend a lot of my free time.  I am in love with it, and I find it both soothing and redemptive.

We miss the USA a lot. It has been 4 years since I have been home: another surreal experience.  I miss my family and extended family and my friends.  I often think of how blessed I am that Father Paul has shared such a rich life with me.

Nicholia says last time she was in the USA, she heard more than a few people say "I miss your mothers blog"  Thanks for thinking of us, for your love and prayers. I will be writing here again.

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