Below is a recent report from Fr. Silouan Benedict on his mission work in Bangladore, India, concerning some hardships that they face in spreading the gospel, and how an Orthodox Christian ought to respond in the face of adversities:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we are sowing the seed of holy Orthodoxy in India it is a time of unrest for me and several others, as in the last 2-3 years we have struggled much and we continue to struggle in establishing the true faith. If any of you my beloved readers are serious about your relationship with Christ and is willing to partner with me in preaching holy Orthodoxy in India, please do let me know. As I write these few words I encourage you all, and I have focused this article on attributes necessary for us Orthodox to remain faithful to Christ:
- I try to learn from the buffalo. It is a strong animal and it has a very adamant personality (I mean this in a positive way). Whether you throw dirt on it or water on it, it doesn’t react. So we must be in the midst of persecution; we ought to be adamant in matters concerning the faith. Strive to be faithful to Christ in the midst of the persecutions we face from our families, friends and people known and unknown to us. Be humble, but be adamant in your faith.
- What is the value we give to our faith if we fall and grow tired and weak? The more people hate us for the right reasons the better for us, for we are learning to be like Christ. If we really value the truth of holy Orthodoxy we must be willing to bear whatever comes across our path, like a good and faithful soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- During such times, when we see almost everyone working against us, the best quality to have is silence. Come what may, do not retaliate. Do not strike back word for word, but resist in peace, keep calm and stay quiet. Remember that God is with you. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances and situations are. God is with you!
- I have also noticed that it is better to pray and read the Gospels than to respond to arguments from those who haven’t yet accepted holy Orthodoxy. If a denominational Christians asks you a sincere question for clarification of a doubt regarding the Christian faith then please answer in complete honesty, with all possible examples. But if you find the questions from these denominational Christians to be asked with a rebellious mind then no matter what you answer back it will be of no use. Only a listening heart can understand the Orthodox faith. Do not judge them—silence is better. Praying that God opens their heart is a better response than any form of argumentative teaching.
- We are present in India but we are not in competition with anyone. Yes, we ought to take our job seriously and preach Orthodoxy whether we reach merely the low hanging fruits or whether we can attain also those hanging higher. Maybe someone after us will reap the fruits of our sowing. The sower must sow the seed and leave everything else to God so that we give enough time for people to consciously come close to the faith. In the midst of sowing and reaping we ought to keep both feet on the ground and wait. We ought to wait patiently, and never ever give up. No city on the earth was built in a day; we should just be faithful. Stay strong!
- We should be joyful people. What I take the most joy from is that before we came to Christ nobody bothered us, but when we try to come close to Christ it is as though everyone around us, both those we know and those we don’t, put some kind of obstacle in front of us to try to stop us from living our faith. Let me give an example. Because we are Orthodox when we began the mission in 2012 no one was willing to give us a place to bury our people in case they died. I remember back then in 2012 that I prayed for a long time asking God to give us all long life because we had no burial ground. I worked very hard and it took us ten months of going from pillar to post till we finally got the approval from one cemetery to bury our dead. Thank God no one died in this period and I thank God that all my people are alive. But in this phase, I had a few sleepless nights, not knowing what to do. Yet, back to my first point, I learnt from the buffalo, I was adamant and did not rest until the goal was accomplished.
- I shared with Vladyka on February 8, 2015 that we are doing well and by that I meant that we are faithful to Orthodoxy and we will continue to be. My goal for myself this year will be to bring the Orthodox faith to one more person and I desire to inspire another adamant Orthodox person to carry the gospel with me to South India. I have given the same goal to everyone in the community in Bangalore, India. I hope that at least a few of us can fulfill it. Each of us has accepted to try to make one additional disciple for Christ this year.
What does our Holy Father St. John Chrysostom have to say?
- I do not say these things to console or to comfort myself, for I have made up my mind, as long as I breathe, and as long as it shall seem good to God that I remain in this present life, to fulfill this ministry, and, whether any one attends or not, to do the work allotted to me. But since there are some who weaken the hands of many, and who, besides that they bring forward nothing useful for our present life, and relax the zeal of others, by derision and ridicule, saying: “Cease counselling; leave off warning; they do not attend to you: you have no fellow-feeling with them;”—since there are those who say such things,—purposing to expel this wicked and morose idea, this satanic counsel, from the minds of many, I address you thus at length. I know that such things were said even yesterday by many who, when they saw certain people spending time in taverns, said, laughing and deriding: “Are these fully persuaded? These are they who never enter a tavern! Have they all arrived at wisdom?” What dost thou say, O man? Is it this that we undertook to do, to enclose all in the net in one day? For if ten only were persuaded—if only five,—if even one,—is not this sufficient to console us? For my part I can even go beyond this. Suppose that none were persuaded by our words, although it is impossible that the word spoken to so many hearers can be fruitless—suppose, however, even this,—still the word would not be without profit.
- For, if they did enter a tavern, they did not enter it with such shamelessness as was their wont; but even at the festive table they often thought of our words—of the rebuke,—of the blame; which, when they remembered, they would be ashamed—they would inwardly blush. Neither, though acting in their usual way, did they do so with their usual recklessness. And this is the beginning of salvation, and of the best kind of change—namely, the being in any degree ashamed—the disapproving in some measure of that which was being done. Besides this, another and not smaller gain accrues to us from this our work. What then is it? It is the making those who are already wise more careful. It is the persuading them by the word spoken that they are of all men the best advised, since they are not led away with the multitude. I did not restore the sick to health? But I strengthened those that were well. The word did not lead any away from their sin? But it made more steadfast those who were living virtuously.
- To these reasons I will add a third. I have not persuaded today? But I shall persuade, perhaps, to-morrow. Or even if not tomorrow, I may after tomorrow, or even the day following. He who today heard and rejected the word, perhaps will hear and obey tomorrow; he who spurns the word today and to-morrow, perhaps in a few more days will attend to that which is spoken. For even the fisherman often casts his net the whole day in vain; and in the evening, when he is about to depart, captures and takes home the fish that had escaped him all the day long. And if, on account of frequent want of success, we were to live in idleness, and cease from all work, our whole life would be brought to naught, and not only spiritual affairs but also temporal would be ruined. For also the husbandman, if on account of the once, or twice, or oft-repeated inclemency of the season, were to abandon his work, we all should perish by famine. Again, it the mariner, on account of the once, or twice, or oft-recurring storms, were to forsake the sea, the ocean would become impassable, and in that way also our life would be quite marred. Thus, going through all employments, if men should act as you urge and advise us to do, all would utterly fail, and the earth would become uninhabitable. All men, therefore, having this in view, if once, or twice, or if often they fail to gain the object of the labor in which they spend their time, still apply themselves to the work again with undiminished alacrity.
- Knowing, then, all these things, beloved, let us not, I beseech you, speak in this way; let us not say, “What is the need of such discourses? No good results from them.” The husbandman once, or twice, or often sowing in the same field, and failing to profit by it, labors again in the same ground, and often recovers in one good year the loss of all his previous time. It often happens that the merchant, suffering from many shipwrecks, does not shun the sea; but prepares his vessel, and hires seamen, and spends money again in the same kind of undertaking, although the future is as uncertain as before. And all who are accustomed to engage in any occupation whatever act in the same way as the husbandman and the merchant. If then they show such zeal in the affairs of this life, although the result is doubtful, shall we, because when we speak we are not listened to, immediately desist? What excuse shall we have? Besides, in their misfortunes, there is no one to console them for their loss, no one who, if the sea engulfs the ship, will remove the poverty caused by the wreck. If the rain flood the field and cause the seed to perish, the husbandman must of necessity return home with empty hands. But with us, who preach and warn men, the case is not so. For when thou sowest the seed, and the hearer receives it not, and does not bring forth the fruit of obedience, thou hast the reward of thy intent, laid up with God; and thou wilt receive the same recompense whether the hearer obey or disobey; for thou hast performed all thy duty.
- We are not responsible for not convincing those who hear, but only for giving them counsel. It is ours to warn; to give heed to the warning is theirs. And just as, if they do many good deeds without our giving any exhortation, all the gain would be theirs only, since we did not counsel them; so, if they give no heed when we warn, all the punishment falls on them; against us there is no accusation, but rather a great reward from God awaits us, since we have discharged our duty. We are commanded only to give the money to the exchangers, that is, to speak and to give counsel. Speak, therefore, and warn thy brother. He listens not? Still thou hast thy reward prepared. Only always act thus, and never give up as long as life lasts, until you succeed in producing conversion. Let the termination of your giving counsel be the reception of your warning.
I end these few words with the beautiful words of the holy Apostle Paul to the Philippines: I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus (3:14). Amen.
Through your prayers,
Fr. Silouan Benedict.
St. John Chrysostom Orthodox Church (ROCOR).