Orthodox monk, Rev Themi, talks, about how he is progressing with his missionary work in Sierra Leone and his commitment to improving the basic living conditions of the people he ministers to.
In his three years in Sierra Leone he has made significant inroads in the local society. “The secret of the mission is to respect the Africans, the locals and to understand them” he says with unshakable conviction.
The word passionate takes on a different meaning when listening to Rev Themi.
Listen to him explain about poverty and the money economy and you wonder what he would have been if he hadn’t chosen to become a missionary.
Listen to him talk about Africa and you realise that, for Rev Themi, injustice is the face of sheer evil.
Rev Themi doesn’t talk like a priest – he is in fact a monk – or even a missionary, he does talks differently than most, he uses words like Jesus, Salvation, Soul, Heaven and Hell, but differently, it’s hard to explain, its hard not to be mesmerised when he opens his mouth.
He talks about poverty, survival, war, devastation, corruption, people living in the fringes, the gutter, the dispossessed, the wretched, the abandoned. In short, he talks about justice and the hypocrisy of our so called civilised world and suffers for it as if he was looking through the eyes of Jesus of the Bible.
Rev Themi lays down the facts about the place he calls home: 11 years of brutal civil war, often fought with child soldiers, has left the country in utter devastation, the almost total absence of infrastructure in one of the poorest countries in the world despite its incredible wealth in natural mining resources.
He explains that although the country has been peaceful for the last seven years, the wounds of war dominate the country’s daily life: thousands of orphans, amputees, disabled, homeless and unemployed.
Life expectancy is around 41 years for men and 44 for women. Children are left with no schooling, millions live in inhuman conditions, health care is virtually non-existent.
“Their daily concern is survival” says Rev Themi ” you can see for yourself just by looking at any of our PK4A DVD’s”.
Rev Themi’s presence dominates every room he enters, his energy takes over, his words are measured, the tone of his voice is balanced, his gestures are smooth and powerful, and his gaze is penetrating as he makes eye contact with everyone in the room.
One is thankful that he uses his charisma to help the needy.
Healing the Wounds is Fr Themis’ priority in Sierra Leone; Born in Egypt to Greek parents and raised in Melbourne, Archimandrite Fr Themistoklis Adamopoulos has been heading the Orthodox mission in Sierra Leone since 2008.
The path, however, has not been always clear for him. He has been an atheist, a rock’n’roller and a radical Marxist in his youth.
One can argue that, in some ways, he has not strayed too far from those days: he stands up for justice, helps the disadvantaged and rocks Africa – only this time as part of a Christian Army (as he puts it) rather than a band!
He studied at Melbourne University and he could have been a brilliant academic and a much quoted ‘expert’ had he stayed in his chosen field of political science.
In the 1960s he was a founding member of the band The Flies and their concerts attracted thousands of fans -screaming women not excluded – and Themi Adams, as he was known back then, became a celebrity.
But neither his academic studies nor the music circuit gave Themi Adams the answers he was seeking. He turned to Christianity and went back to his cultural and spiritual roots, Orthodoxy.
The teachings of Jesus not only appealed to his restless nature but totally captivated him.
He chose to become a monk, then a priest and then a missionary.
Working among the poorest of the poor became his purpose in life. He went to Africa and worked in Kenya and then Sierra Leone. Mother Teresa was his inspiration; Now he has become an inspiration to others. Rev Themis provides the people of Sierra Leone with services that we in US & Australia take for granted.
His main support comes from the Charity in the US, “Paradise 4 Kids” and in Australia, “Paradise Kids 4 Africa”.
With support from these two Charities and others from Greece, his team of local staff have created (some 20 miles outside Siera leones capital city Freetown), the St Moses the African Orthodox Village with housing for the disabled, a school, a guest house, a church, a priest’s house and a Medical clinic.
In the heart of Freetown, these charities have built a Mission headquarters known as the “Paradise Kids House” in the area known as Tower Hill. Surrounding the Mission Headquarters is a small Chapel and a College of higher education teaching Early Childhood, Computer Studies, Communications, Journalism, Media Studies and Teacher Education.
Further into the city center he looks after a primary and secondary school in Syke St with some 2000 children; At the Women’s Jail he conducts a Tailoring School to help rehabilitate women for their future outside of jail and if that’s not enough for one man he also sponsors a small Hospital called the Good Shepard Clinic.
In his three years in Sierra Leone he has made significant inroads in the local community, government minister know him by name and the President of Sierra Leone is just a phone call away. He is well respected and is known as the “Priest that Forgives”.
“The secret of the mission is to respect the Africans and to understand them,” he says with unshakable conviction.
“The war has left so many people disabled” he says “and because of the war there was no vaccinations in the 80s, the polio cases had reached catastrophic proportions. That has contributed to the high number of disabled in the country”.
Rev Themis says that one day he got a phone call from the government asking him to do something for a group of about 150 disabled squatting in a run down building in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.
“We found temporary housing for them and started building permanent housing for them and their families. When I return the housing will be ready” he says.
The focus in Sierra Leone is education and training. But Rev Themi does not stop here. His long-term vision is for a prosthesis clinic to give a new lease of life to the amputees.
“We’ll need a lot of money for this, but with God nothing is impossible” he says and it is obvious that he already has a plan.
He says that with the continual sponsorship of Pk4A, P4K and other foundations the clinic can become a reality and improve the lives of thousands of people.