Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Prayers for James Hargrave

Just a quick update and prayer request for our good friend and OCMC Missionary, James Hargrave. James is suffering from a bad case of malaria, which just broke out after he sent his update. It's not life threatening, and he's getting adequate treatment in Nairobi, so he won't have to come home.

Regardless, Malaria is a serious illness and James certainly could use our prayers for his healing.

UPDATE: I just received this via email from James:

Thank you for your prayers. I've recovered well from malaria. It's nasty, but swiftly cured if you have access to medical care. Thanks to your support, I have access to very good medical care!

Continue to pray for James and the work that he does in Africa!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Update from James Hargrave in Tanzania

Dear friends,

Furaha na amani! Joy and peace!

And greetings from Nairobi, Kenya. I have just spent Thanksgiving with old friends after a prolonged stay in this country. I've been on the road since late October, the bulk of this time with the Orthodox Church of Turkana County in Northern Kenya. I had a good visit and saw much of interest. God is at work there.

And I will be glad to get back home to Mwanza! Plenty of work has been waiting during my absence- translations, proposals, budgets, reports. As I work on these tasks I'll also prepare to visit North America in February through April of 2012.

My first term of service as an OCMC Missionary in the Archdiocese of Mwanza and Western Tanzania will soon be complete. Time flies. These first two years have been good, and as a PS I'd like to provide you with a progress report on my development as a missionary in Western Tanzania.

This role I've been given by God- and by you- is a great job and an ideal apprenticeship. I am learning from good local leaders, and I am thriving.

Thank you for this job. Thank you for your prayers which sustain me, your friendship which encourages me, and for your faithful gifts which allow me to work out my salvation in a good place of joy and peace.

I hope to celebrate the Nativity of Christ in Bukoba together with Missionaries Michael Pagedas, Maria Roeber, Felice Stewart and their guests. In this Advent season as we fast and repent in anticipation of the Lord's coming, I pray that Christ will be born anew in your hearts.

By your prayers in Christ,

James Hargrave

PS Here are the aspects in which I am working to grow as a missionary in the Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of Mwanza and Western Tanzania.


My Kiswahili could be better. But after much effort I find myself using this language almost exclusively as I work in our Archdiocese office, conduct business and negotiations on behalf of the Church, provide interpretation in public settings, deliver talks and presentations, and go about day-to-day affairs. Living with a Tanzanian family has helped, although operating 24/7 in a foreign language can be tiring. It is my hope, next year, to begin learning a local language such as Kisukuma or Kihaya.


As my Archbishop JERONYMOS has given me increasing responsibilities I've found myself learning to handle the ins and outs of getting things done in this environment. Even simple tasks require nuance, considered indirectness, visible compassion for all involved, careful listening, and a great deal of patience. In Western Tanzania the norms for politeness, for conversation, for food and eating, for travel, for negotiation and transaction, for shopping, for friendship and for many other things are significantly different than they are in North America. And then there are big differences between rural and urban Tanzanian culture. It may take more than a lifetime to become fully fluent in this culture, but these days I am coping without great difficulty and thank God for that.


As a tonsured reader in the Church I am getting a lot of practice chanting the daily services in Kiswahili every morning and evening. The heartbeat of the Christian liturgical life is a source of stability and strength which I've missed while on the road. My admiration and gratitude for the leadership of my Church- our Archbishop, our priests, our catechists and administrators- continues to grow as I grow closer to these faithful Christians. Their love for their God, for one another, for the faithful and for the unreached- as well as their honest and competent management- are all examples worth following.


My role with short-term OCMC Teams has expanded with every group our Archdiocese has received these past two years. By God's mercy our visitors have consistently had the orientation, food, drink, accommodation, and translation that they've needed. They've had their lost luggage retrieved, their crises averted, their questions answered and their issues resolved, and have made it safely home with money still in the bank and the balance sheet straight. Managing these things is hard work which transforms to pure joy in the presence of worthy people who travel far to share in the life of Christ and offer their talents to their sisters and brothers in Tanzania. Our Archdiocese plans to receive three OCMC Teams next year and I may have a big role in hosting all of them.

Fellow Missionaries

I travel frequently to attend to business in Bukoba, and enjoy the chance to spend time with fellow OCMC Missionaries Felice Stewart, Michael Pagedas, and Maria Roeber. As each of us develops a distinct role in the Archdiocese of Mwanza it's helpful to compare notes, share stories, and bounce ideas off one another. Our separate tasks are unrelated on the surface, but our fellowship and our common purpose is a nourishing bond. Plus, the Bukoba house has a big kitchen and banging pots around is one of my favorite ways to relax. When I was there at the end of October I made a pretty good pumpkin soup, and Maria baked biscuits... mmm.


Archbishop JERONYMOS has asked me to work on developing a youth program for the Archdiocese, as well as a regular newspaper/ newsletter. These are big tasks that have made little headway as I've worked to become competent in language and culture, and have been busy with the Teams and the Turkana assignment. I look forward to working hard on these projects in the coming year. With 99%+ of our Church offline (clergy as well as faithful) we need a reliable paper-based way of disseminating basic information and itineraries as well as reports on events and Christian teaching. And because the workforce of our Church is made up of youth (In Tanzania "youth" means age 18 to 35), we need to support these folks as they collaborate on a local and regional level to support their communities and their fellows.


More important than projects and programs (they are important!) is my identity and role. First, of course, is my identity as a member of the Body of Christ, living out our common salvation together in mutual love and worship of the Holy Trinity. And then as a member of the local Church, and as a member of that Church's administrative staff. The more I am immersed in the prayer life of the Church and in the daily life of Tanzanian culture, the more I become fully alive in this place. And the more fully alive I am here, the more I am able to contribute meaningfully to the life, witness and growth of the Body of Christ in Western Tanzania.

The need is great and the resources are limited. So I'm learning to manage money carefully, to make each shilling go far and to report even tiny expenses with transparency and accuracy. I'm learning to negotiate, to do business, to make deals so that we can get the right people to the right places with the right support behind them. And more important by far I'm learning to just be with people, to share in their lives and identify with them. To listen carefully (hard in a foreign language!) and speak sparingly (easy in a foreign language!). To make my dwelling here, as Christ taught us to do.


From this place arise opportunities to support local faithful and local leaders as they grow in Christ and as they bring the good news of the Resurrection of Christ to their neighbors and beyond. And there arise opportunities to be directly involved in the evangelistic task of the Church, in carrying the Gospel to people who have never heard. As an Archdiocese we are responsible for a large territory, much of which is unreached. I've visited some of these places, and in the coming years I look forward to seeing where God will call us, and what role he may give me.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Church that Held the 7th Ecumenical Council at Nicea to be Turned into Mosque

Original source here.

Hagia Sophia in Nicea, where the Seventh Ecumenical Council was held in 787, is about to be declared a mosque by the Turkish authorities.

As the Turkish press reports, the call to prayer was sung from the Muezzin last Thursday, for the first time since the founding of the Turkish Republish in 1923. The minaret was added to the church in the city that the Turks called “Iznik” in the Ottoman age. Last year it was restored. With the prayer to be said at the beginning of the Islamic feast of sacrifice on Sunday morning, the former church will be ready for Islamic religious ceremonies.

The decision by the office of the Administrative Council, the competent authority, has sparked fierce debate. Selcuk Mülayim, of the University of Marmara, an art historian, underlined the building’s importance in the history of Christianity and warned that the move would mark the beginning of protests from all over the world.

Iznik’s chamber of commerce criticized the move as lacking any sense, since the small city lives off tourism. Equally controversial is the issue of whether it is the Council’s duty to explain how the former church was changed from a museum into a mosque. The office explained that the building had been marked out by the community “unjustifiably” as a museum, since it had never been used as a museum before. Last year, a sign was posted in front of the restored church building, with “Museum” written on it; a guard made visitors pay for an admission ticket.

In Hagia Sophia, the bishops of the Roman empire gathered in 787 to decide over the Byzantine iconoclastic controversy, and to approve the veneration of icons. Nicea was also the meeting place of the First Ecumenical Council, in the year 325. The palace where the Council took place no longer exists. Hagia Sophia was transformed into a mosque by the Muslims in 1331, when they conquered the city.

After a fire, it was restored by the architect Mimar; it was later destroyed in the battle of Bursa in the Turkish war of independence in 1920. The ruins were restored in 2007 and have attracted Christian religious tourism.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Update from James Hargrave in Tanzania

Dear friends,

Furaha na amani! Joy and peace!

Greetings from Mwanza. It's good to be home. I've been on the road most of this month and will be so again next month. For the past few days I've been resting and catching up on desk-work from the quiet of my own desk in my own office. It's a gentle pleasure.

As I plan for November, I'm also processing the events of the past several weeks. I'd like to tell you about what's been going on.

On Wednesday, 5th October 2011 the Holy Archdiocese of Mwanza received our very first OCMC Medical Team. This was the culmination of months of preparation and planning by His Eminence Metropolitan Jeronymos, the OCMC Teams Department, the clergy and faithful of Mwanza Region, and all four OCMC Missionaries in Tanzania. It was brand-new for me. Although we'd never seen a short-term medical team in operation before, OCMC Missionary Michael Pagedas and I found ourselves responsible for logistics. The communities we were interfacing with had also never seen a medical team before.

Thank God, we had good counsel. Missionaries Felice Stewart and Maria Roeber provided insight from medical teams in other countries, and I was able to consult with folks who have facilitated medical teams for other groups in Mwanza Region. The team leader, Dr Cheryl Johnson from Nashville, had a good sense of necessary medicines, so we were able to put together a program that looked lovely on paper.

But no matter how pretty the model is you don't know what it will be until you start. It was a whirlwind.

The team was first-rate. Dr Cheryl worked with Dr Michael Datch from Baltimore, Dr David Balyegwera from Bukoba, and Theresa 'Doctor Fupi' Mellas- a physicians' assistant from Buffalo- to provide care for thousands of patients over the course of eight daily clinics, each in a different community. Many patients came with serious and even life-threatening ailments, but even more came with minor complaints such as backaches or poor vision. So the nurses- Meagan Homsey from Oklahoma City, Stephanie Pappas from Cheyenne, and Daphne Cunningham from Vancouver, BC- spent nearly every day doing triage on the "front lines," assessing patients under the guidance of the physicians to provide immediate treatment for those with simple complaints, and identifying the seriously ill to be seen by a physician.

I used to think that a pharmacist was the guy who sold me cough syrup at CVS. Was I wrong. Our pharmacist, Andrew Bersu from St Augustine, quickly proved to be the center of the whole operation. Along with Maria Miller from Austin and Missionary Maria Roeber, Andrew worked diligently to provide each patient with medicines prescribed them by the physicians. Even when crowds started to thin out at triage or in the physicians' waiting areas, the pharmacy was always packed. For several days Andrew worked without any rest or reprieve, but kept a joyful countenance and sincere love for every patient he met.

Sarah Edquist, a nurse's assistant from Milwaukee, managed wound care. We saw patients with major wounds that had been infected sometimes for months. Along with the nurses, Sarah cleaned and dressed these wounds and lovingly taught the patients how to continue cleaning and dressing them on their own. The team had brought funds to rush the worst cases to the nearest hospital. For many people, the cost of transportation to the nearest hospital is more money than a family might see in a month. So this assistance was of critical value, and probably saved a few lives.

Pons Materum from San Francisco and Evan Bernick from Chicago served their teammates by getting them food and water, by managing crowds, and by interfacing with local leadership and assistants to bring order to the clinics. They were always available to do any sort of work that would help the team do their jobs better. Evan's and Pons' hard work, good insight, brilliant ideas, and humble approach were invaluable to Michael Pagedas and me as we four worked together on daily logistical issues.

And then there were the locals. Missionaries Maria Roeber and Felice Stewart organized the daily packing, counted heads on the bus, prepared medicines, and counseled team members as they confronted new and unexpected things about Tanzanian life every day. Translators Alfred, Laurence, Tambua, Sosthenes, Michael Pagedas and myself worked hard to facilitate good interaction between Kiswahili-speaking patients and English-speaking nurses and providers.

Translation was a stretching experience for me, as I'm sure it also was for Michael. On the second day of clinics, I translated outdoors in triage with Meagan. Several times a patient would describe a complaint to me and I'd look at Meagan in terror. "I can't do this. I don't understand him." But there was the need, and there I was. I couldn't just flee. So I'd question the patients carefully in my best Kiswahili, using lots of gestures, until I was confident that I got their meaning. Then I'd jot down the new vocabulary on a note card and use it with the next patient. Meagan needed to know whether each woman was pregnant, so that she could give the correct worm medicine. Again, I panicked. I didn't know the word for pregnant! So I asked these poor mamas, "Do you have a child in your belly?" And they would laugh, and all the women around them would laugh, and then they would say "Yes, I have a child in my belly," or "No, I don't have a child in my belly." That night, I looked up the vocabulary for "pregnant," and now the query "Una mimba?" is burned forever into my brain.

The team was great. They all worked sacrificially, stretching themselves far beyond their limits and depending on God to sustain them. It was a rare treat to just hang out with people from my own culture. Greater still was working together with my fellow long-term missionaries in support of such a good project. But, with apologies to these fourteen amazing folks, my favorite part was the communities.

Many of these were communities from which we had drawn participants for our 2010 youth camp in Geita. So every time we pulled up to a church in a village where I'd never been, I found myself greeted by familiar faces. I got to meet our good priests and see them in their full pastoral roles, guiding their faithful and their neighbors through a strange and unavoidably complicated process. In some communities there was no infrastructure other than the shade provided by a few trees and maybe a tarp. But the faithful gave everything they had and more to ensure the team had as much support and comfort as possible. In moments of downtime, I was able to visit with the priests, to hear their stories of their faithful and of their outreach. Watching our Church's leaders in action, and learning from their words and deeds... nothing cooler than that!

Now I get about ten days at home to work on budgets, reports, proposals, correspondence, paperwork. This will include three days of retreat. Thank God! Then I'm off to Bukoba to spend time with my teammates, and by early November plan to head onwards to Kenya for almost a full month. My leadership at OCMC has asked me to visit our Orthodox Church in Turkana, an immense semi-arid region of northwestern Kenya where the Orthodox Christian faith is expanding rapidly among nomadic and pastoral communities who had previously practiced traditional religion. I grew up in a different part of Northern Kenya (called Marsabit), and have great love for the people, traditions, and landscape of this beautiful but difficult region. I don't know what to expect. But I'm excited. I ask for your prayers.

Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your love, friendship, correspondence and encouragement. These past days have been straining and exhausting. I am all tuckered out. But I have experienced joy beyond measure, and suspect I have found relationships that may prove to last a lifetime. Thank you also for your faithful, sacrificial and consistent financial gifts which allow me to work out my salvation in this place of joy and peace. I am here because of you.

By your prayers in Christ,


James Hargrave
Orthodox Church in Tanzania
Holy Archdiocese of Mwanza
PO Box 1113
Mwanza, Tanzania

+255 782356 817