Monday, October 3, 2016

what's next for Meg Photini

Dear friends,

Since returning to the States in late June, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many of you as I’ve traveled around the New England area and the West Coast. The amount of enthusiasm for missions that I encountered in the parishes of North America was tremendously encouraging to me. Those with whom I had the chance to meet face-to-face were able to discuss what I’ve done in Kenya, by your support, during the last two years. Much progress has been made in the liturgical translation project for the Orthodox Church in Africa allowing an increasing number of Kenyans to experience the Liturgy in their own tribal languages. I also worked on the Priest’s Service Book as a resource for the Kenyan clergy. These should all contribute to the ongoing growth and strengthening of the Church in Kenya.

Now we look to the future. I shared with some of you that I was thinking about not returning to Africa immediately. I have decided, in fact, to spend several years in the States pursuing a different vocation and discerning the ways I can best be of service to God and the Church over the long term. My support account will be held for me until I return to service with OCMC.

Thank you to all of you who have donated to support my work during the past few years,  those who have shared hospitality with me, and to those who continue to pray for me! The work would not have been possible without you, and I hope you will be able to continue offering your resources for the Gospel to be proclaimed to all nations.

Until I return to active service, you can continue supporting Orthodox missionary work in Africa by donating to Dr. Bill Black, the new deputy dean of the seminary in Nairobi, or to the Hargrave family, at seminary preparing to continue serving in East Africa (I served with them previously as an intern in Tanzania in 2011).

I will keep you informed as God’s path for me continues to unfold.

With love in Christ,

Meg Photini Engelbach

Monday, July 4, 2016

Essex monastery: How to get there, and why

1. Book a bed in the monastery's guest quarters either by writing to Sister Paula or calling her (between 5 and 5:30pm, London time; you may have to try several times to get through) at +44 1621 816471. Book well in advance. They are used to having pilgrims there, so don't feel embarrassed.

2. Arrive London Heathrow airport and enter the UK.

3. Buy an Underground ticket to London Liverpool Street. This means buying a single ticket "by destination" which cost me six pounds. Take the Piccadilly line to Kings Cross St Pancras and transfer to the Metropolitan line to London Liverpool Street.

4. Take the National Rail to Witham. This cost me 22 pounds.

5. Take bus #91 to the monastery, or take a taxi. Gary's Taxi charges a flat fee of 16 pounds.

6. When you reach the first gate of the monastery, you'll notice that the monastery grounds are on both sides of the road. Men's quarters on the right, women's on the left. Ask for Sister Paula and she'll take you where you're supposed to be.

The church services might bug you a little at first. You show up with the best will in the world, and spend two hours in a dark space with too many people, listening to someone repeat "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us," again and again and again. Go ahead and try to quiet your mind and pay attention. It's worth it. Enjoy the singing, too.

Start talking to your fellow pilgrims. You can meet really interesting people and make friends. Help the monastics in the kitchen or cleaning the grounds. They'll talk to you too. At least in your first few days, no one will assign you work. Take advantage of this to have quiet time, go for walks, buy things in the shop, etc.

Elder Sophrony's grave is there, in a crypt which is open every day for private prayer.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Meg's update from Kenya: Almost home

Dear family and friends,

Christ is risen!

Two years and four months ago I left home to come to Kenya. Now I’m leaving home to go to America. “Home” will be a new experience. My world has changed, and probably yours has too. Friends and family members have married and had children, and I wasn’t there for that. Please forgive me and bear with me as I share my stories and listen to yours, and please keep me in your prayers as I return for my first “furlough.” As I visit New England and the West Coast, I’ll be in touch with my supporters, who have sacrificially made it possible for me to be in Kenya. Do keep in touch as well! I reach Boston on June 22, and I’d love to see you anytime thereafter! I haven’t made any appointments yet, so please contact me to make sure I visit you. As it takes shape, my schedule will be available on facebook or through contacting me. During this visit, I will also take some time off for rest and reflection on my next steps.

Archbishop Makarios prepares to lay the foundation of a new building for an old parish

Latest news from Kenya

As always, we have been hard at work entering the texts into the AGES database. I have been working particularly with texts in Spanish and French, and also assisting with the proofreading of the English texts for the priests’ service book.

As I mentioned, last December Kenya was divided into three dioceses. In February I and Fr. John Wanguru and OCMC missionary Dr. William Black had the opportunity to visit the new Diocese of Kisumu to meet our friend, the new Bishop Athanasios. His diocese is the largest in Kenya, with almost 150 priests and even more parishes. The bishop is struggling to wean them from a long habit of dependence on foreign funds, and instead to make the Church self-supporting through the practice of stewardship. In a day and a half, we went with him to four parishes where he was introduced to the parishioners and they had a chance to see their new leader and tell him their goals for their churches. We had just enough time for a dinner in a restaurant of which one end opens on to Lake Victoria, and then we traveled back to Nairobi to resume work on Monday morning.
With Bishop Athanasios and my friend Eunice

In April we were blessed with the visit of an iconographer who works in Finland’s Valamo Monastery. Sponsored by the organization Filantropia, Antti Narma led a three-week course for ten seminarians and chose the two best students to do an intensive summer course at Valamo, with the hope that they will continue producing icons for the Kenyan Church.

We were also blessed by the visit of Sister Sarah, a young Tanzanian novice nun who is being trained by Romanian nuns who are establishing a convent in Iringa, near Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She came to Nairobi to apply for a visa to stay at the mother convent in Iasi for six months to learn more about monastic life in preparation for her tonsuring in October.
With Sister Sarah

As I accompanied her to the Romanian embassy, I glimpsed the U.S. embassy for the first time. It is in a prosperous suburb called Gigiri, the home of ambassadors, diplomats, U.N. workers, and the wealthiest of the wealthy. I met some ambassadors at the birthday party of a Greek friend some time ago, and although they asked me where I lived, none of them had ever heard of Kawangware. My neighborhood is poor, but, since it is not as poor as the famous slums like Kibera and Mathare, it is simply unknown. Portraits of Kenya tend to focus either on the unbelievably wealthy men at the top or the poorest of the poor, ignoring the vast majority in the middle. This is a challenge for foreign workers, as they are placed in a class that makes it difficult to form real relationships with ordinary people, especially if they choose to live in a way that reflects their status.

With love in Christ

Meg Photini Engelbach

The iconography students about to finish their course, and their first icon
The iconographers with their icons, each one titled “Gate of Mercy” in the student’s native language

Monday, February 15, 2016

Some pictures of the bishop of Kisumu

We went to Kisumu this weekend to greet His Grace Athanasios Akunda, who was elected this past December, and see the progress he's made in his diocese of Kisumu and western Kenya. It was encouraging.