Time seems to go by slowly in Africa even though there is so much to do in one particular day! It may be the intense heat mixed with high humidity, the overcrowded city noises and smells, the working day seems to start late morning and the constant reminder of poverty all around you!
Sierra Leone was all abuzz last week with the arrival of His Beatitude Pope and Patriarch Of Alexandria and all of Africa, Theodoros II. I felt so blessed to have had the opportunity to have met His Beatitude, an experience I would never have dreamt of in my lifetime. My immediate impression of our Orthodox Pope of Africa was one of a pious man and one of love. When I received his blessing I still remember that sincere and loving smile that made me feel warm and safe in his presence. We were also blessed with the presence of the Archbishop of Accra, Ghana and the Representative and Director of the Pope and Patriarch in Greece, His Eminence George. His Eminence escorted His Beatitude on this historical trip, the first time a Pope and Patriarch has ever visited West Africa, specifically Sierra Leone.
The five day stay was crammed with visits to all the different buildings in Towerhill, Syke Street and Waterloo. More precisely His Beatitude consecrated the buildings and unveiled the plaques of the Teachers’ College, the three churches and the school in Waterloo. Both His Beatitude and His Eminence ordained two priests namely Fr Theodoros Sho-Sawyer, a Sierra Leoneon and Fr Markos Ondigo, a Kenyan. As well as three Sierra Leoneon Deacons, namely Deacon Pavlos Tonki, Deacon Vaias Hanciles and Deacon Dionysios Johnson. His Beatitude also presented special awards and recognition to those who have assisted in the development of the Orthodox Church and its mission in Sierra Leone.
He awarded the Lion of St Mark to the President of Sierra Leone, His Excellency Ernest Koroma, he also awarded medallions and certificates to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Foreign Coorporations, Joseph Bandabla Dauda, the ex-Minister of Lands, Benjamin Davies, Mayor of the city of Freetown Albert George Williams, Assistant Secretary to the Ambassador of Sierra Leone in Kenya, Abdul Kargbo and to an Australian friend Anthony Sklavos for the work he has been doing in raising money for the Orthodox Mission of Sierra Leone. I was present at all of these occasions and each time tears were brought to my eyes with the sincerity and humility the award was offered and in turn received by the recipients.
His Beatitude appeared very pleased and praised and thanked Father Themi for the works achieved thus far. It was obvious that His Beatitude had a very special connection to all the children he met and consistently mentioned that they were the future of Sierra Leone. He always asked for the children to sing and their voices would bring a very special smile to his face every time. It truly was an extraordinary visit and everyone in Freetown young and old, was swept up with the magnitude of the events and the presence of His Beatitude. These are the moments that I will never forget as I was so touched by the love that was shared by everyone present. Many “Wow” moments were felt for different and special reasons!
On Monday His Beatitude and His Eminence with Father Themi and Father Markos left to go to The Gambia for a visit and to plan the next project to be taken by Father Themi with the Blessing of the Pope. I will be leaving for the Gambia tomorrow to join Father Themi and Father Markos for a few days and look to see how can assist in this part of Western Africa. All I can possibly say is I just cannot believe that I am here and being blessed to be amongst such wonderful people around me. Praise be to God.