Father Daniel Sysoyev and the Foreign Mission

On Father Daniel Sysoyev’s birthday, January 12, Pravoslavie.ru published an article about his foreign mission, prepared by his friend Priest George Maximov, which we present here in translation.

Father Daniel (Sysoyev) in Kyrgyzstan Father Daniel (Sysoyev) in Kyrgyzstan

I would like to tell you about Father Daniel Sysoyev’s participation in foreign missionary work.

Father Daniel made three missionary trips overseas: two to Macedonia and one to Kyrgyzstan. Archbishop John of Ohrid invited us to Macedonia to support the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric of the Serbian Orthodox Church that was persecuted by authorities and local schismatics. Father Daniel had discussions and even open debates with the schismatics, but even though they didn’t have any compelling arguments, they remained in their schism because some of them were afraid that they would lose their positions if they join the persecuted canonical church; some really believed in their ideas and others simply did not care. I remember that Father Daniel said that such work with schismatics wasn’t effective and that if he comes to Macedonia for the third time, he would try to do missionary work among the Macedonian Protestants. He believed that such mission would be more successful. Besides, he encouraged the clergy of the Ohrid Archbishopric to start missionary work among the local Albanians and at least one of the priests became interested and started learning Albanian.

Father Daniel (Sysoyev) in Macedonia Father Daniel (Sysoyev) in Macedonia

I spoke about this, to be frank, unsuccessful mission to show that Father Daniel did not always know in advance how to do everything right during the mission, especially when many things were not clear and he had to try many different approaches to find the optimal way.

Father Daniel (Sysoyev) in Macedonia Father Daniel (Sysoyev) in Macedonia

Father Daniel went to Kyrgyzstan with a group of missionaries from his School. The trip was authorized by Metropolitan Vladimir of Tashkent and Central Asia. His Grace asked Father Daniel not to preach to the Muslims but focus on various Protestant sectarians. And that was what he did. During the ten days of the trip, the missionaries under the guidance of Father Daniel visited about three dozen assemblies, including the Charismatic sect of V. Kuzin, Pentecostals, Baptists, Presbyterians, Calvinists, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. They baptized two Baptists, and several Baptist and Pentecostal pastors started preparing to quit their communities and convert to Orthodoxy. I remember that after returning to Moscow, Father Daniel kept receiving calls from Kyrgyzstan telling him that people with whom he started working had converted to Orthodoxy.

I also know that when Father Daniel was in Egypt, he was preaching to his Muslim guide (who was fairly radical in his views, by the way). After discussions that lasted for many hours, the Egyptian acknowledged that Christ was God, but, as far as I know, stopped short of receiving baptism. This wasn’t a missionary trip, it was simply a pilgrimage, but Father Daniel found the person who needed to be preached to about Christ.

A Church in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand A Church in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand

A church was built in Chang Mai and a graduate of Father Daniel’s School will be serving there as a priest.

Although Father Daniel did not get to visit faraway countries with the mission, he had a great desire to do so. A few months before his death he asked me for an English audio course so he could learn the language specifically for this purpose. Father Daniel planned a trip to Thailand in December 2009. He had received the Patriarch’s blessing for it, and people were waiting for Father Daniel in Thailand. He wanted to go to the north of the country to preach to local Protestants. Though he did not get a chance to go there, there is an Orthodox Church in Chiang Mai now, and a graduate from Father Daniel’s Orthodox Missionary School under the Synodal Missionary Department will be serving there as a priest. The teachings of Father Daniel reached Thailand also. One of his books (part of the Law of God) was translated and published in Thai.

A Parish in Papua A Parish in Papua

A letter was sent to overseas schismatic groups inviting them to join the canonical Church.

Father Daniel managed to participate in missionary work even without going to other countries. For example, once he and I decided to send a letter to various overseas schismatic groups and invite them to join the canonical Church. Father Daniel wrote the letter, I translated it, found the e-mail addresses and sent it. We received a surprisingly large number of responses; in fact there were so many of them that we could not even correspond with everybody who responded. We decided to focus on one of the respondents. He was the head of a diocese of one of the schismatic jurisdictions in the USA. He was willing to join our Church and bring with him the diocese that included several parishes and a monastery. Father Daniel persuaded them to join the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and to facilitate this conversion we went to the meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion of New York. This group joined ROCOR after Father Daniel’s death.

Father Daniel’s Book in Thai Father Daniel’s Book in Thai
As a spiritual father and a member of the St. Serapion Kozheozersky Orthodox Missionary Society, Father Daniel actively participated in its first initiatives aimed at supporting Orthodoxy in non-Orthodox countries.

I remember that after receiving the blessing of Hilarion, the Metropolitan of New York, we started collecting donations for construction of an Orthodox church in the Papua province of Indonesia. I collected most of the money needed, and when we met again, Father Daniel made a donation that made the amount almost complete. Without any ulterior motive, I said, “Very good, now we need only one more person to donate and we’ll have the full amount.” Father Daniel smiled, took his wallet out and added the missing amount, saying, “No, I won’t give that pleasure to anybody.” Later this money was used to purchase a land plot and build a small church for the St. Nicholas parish of ROCOR in Jayapura. Priest Chrysostom Haspers is currently serving in that church.

Another initiative included regular financial support to Orthodox children from poor families in Zimbabwe.

Another initiative included regular financial support to Orthodox children from poor families in Zimbabwe (authorized by Metropolitan George of Zimbabwe). People from Russia would sponsor a specific child and receive full information about the child and his or her photograph. The sponsorship covered the expenses for sending the children to school. Even though this required fairly modest amounts at that time, this allowed us to contribute to the future of the Zimbabwean Orthodox community. Our society sponsored a total of ten children, and Father Daniel sponsored two of them—brother and sister Cosma and Maria Muchakanakirwa. Father Daniel paid for two years of their education. Then Father Daniel passed away, Metropolitan George was transferred from Zimbabwe to another place, and that project was discontinued. We hope that soon we will be able to resume it in Kenya, and I have already had preliminary negotiations with the Secretary of the Kenyan Archdiocese of the Alexandrian Patriarchate.

Father Daniel’s Book in Chinese Father Daniel’s Book in Chinese
At the invitation of Father Dionysius Pozdnyayev, Father Daniel went to Irkutsk to support the pilgrimage of Orthodox Chinese and strengthen their faith. It should be noted that recently Father Daniel’s first book (a portion of the Law of God) was published in Chinese.

The most important thing was that Father Daniel encouraged others to think about fulfilling the commandment, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Mt. 28:19). He told his students in school to choose the country where they would like to go. He regularly proposed this to his friends, as well. When Father Daniel was alive, many thought that this was a joke or a whimsy, but later his friends, students and followers personally participated in missionary work in India, Mongolia, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Mexico and Kenya—and this only took six years! Some went beyond the temporary trips and permanently moved to the Republic of Tuva and to Thailand to spread the light of the Gospel.

Father Daniel, a simple priest, a young man with poor health, managed over a short period of time to change the perception of mission in the entire Church. I remember well that in the 1990s, the idea of direct preaching to people of other faiths and heterodox people was thought to be unrealistic, and nobody believed that overseas mission was possible. Father Daniel made everybody see that this was not just a dream, but that it can be achieved in reality. It is a wonderful example showing how one person can make such a significant change.

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