OCMC– April 2016
In the face of 100 degree heat, the shade offered by the large tree we approached was welcoming, but would the 90+ people already gathered beneath the tree be as welcoming? We had traveled by truck for more than four hours, a group of students from Holy Cross Seminary, a priest, a former missionary to Albania, several OCMC staff members, and the newly-ordained Bishop of the Kisumu Diocese, His Grace Athanasius, to share the Orthodox Faith with people in three villages OCMC had never before visited. We’d learned from experience that these first meetings can go many different ways, from joyous celebration to suspicious hesitation.
The people of the first village we visited knew we were coming, but we could tell that they had questions about who we were and why we were there. Thankfully we also had three Turkana Orthodox priests with us as well to help with first introductions. We greeted the elder men first, then the women, and then the youth and children, as is customary in Turkana society. We shared about ourselves and where we were from. Common bonds like the fact that we had children and that we were people of faith helped us open up to one another. These bonds, however, were sealed in the most beautifully Turkana way imaginable – through song and dance. That is where it all began!
The Turkana teach through story. We came with the story of Christ – His life, death, and resurrection. We presented what we could from the Gospel in the form of skits. Some of them elicited laughter, others fear, and still others questions. Each skit was followed by a time where the stories could be more fully explained. More questions followed, we enjoyed a meal together, and slowly the idea of Christ as God was shared – an idea further planted by the showing of a movie about Christ’s life translated into the Turkana language.
For three days to the people of three villages, nearly 400 in all, we planted this seed, and we saw our prayers answered. We are Orthodox. We know that coming to the Faith is a journey. We were not expecting to convert these people. We just wanted to invite them to embark on a journey toward Christ. Thankfully, as we prepared to leave, each village asked that we return to continue sharing about this Jesus Christ!
With this invitation, the Turkana Orthodox priests said they would come again. Over time, a year or more, those who want it will be catechized. The richness of the Orthodox Faith and its fulfillment of their own beliefs will be revealed. Then through the sacrament of Holy Baptism, they will join our Orthodox family.
This is how it has happened in more than 15 Turkana villages since 2007, and it has seen more than 1,500 people come into the Faith. The work must continue! Each team, each missionary, each donation, and each prayer plays its part in welcoming people into the Church and transforming lives forever.