by Caitlyn Sargent

Fr. Martin Ritsi recently returned from a visit to Colombia where he was able to visit two new Orthodox communities with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico. The communities are led by two vibrant priests who are sharing the Gospel and working to create thriving self-supporting parishes.

Fr. Martin stayed with Fr. Raphael, who was ordained around two years ago and has been steadily sharing the Faith in a small village outside of Montería. Fr. Raphael holds church services on his father’s farm in the family’s small home. His father uses crops from the farm to feed his family and other members of the community.

While there, Fr. Martin gifted the small parish with a beautiful epitaphios depicting Christ. They previously had been using a cardboard cutout, and to view Christ in all his glory was inspiring for the parishioners.

Around sixty children attend the church. There was so much hope for the future of the growth of Orthodoxy in these young faces. It is with great promise that we are trying to plan short-term mission teams to Colombia which will be focused on youth outreach.

Fr. Martin also visited with Fr. Juan Pablo, who serves a parish in Copacabana. He has started a very interesting small business—buying plastic and recycling it into small pellets to be made into bottles. Fr. Juan Pablo employs people who are going through drug rehabilitation, providing them with a means to care for themselves and their families, while using the money earned by the business to help support the Church. Fr. Juan Pablo’s wife also makes jewelry, which she sells at a small shop attached to the parish. Fr. Juan Pablo has been working hard to share the Faith with people in rural mountainous regions of the country as well.

We look forward to learning more about the Church’s growth in Colombia. Please pray for these emerging parishes and for the priests who are sharing the Orthodox Faith and developing ways for the Church to be self-supporting. We look forward to exploring grants and other opportunities to help encourage and grow these self-reliance initiatives.

The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) is the official missions agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States dedicated to fulfilling Christ’s last command to make disciples of all nations.

Image Caption: OCMC Executive Director Fr. Martin Ritsi recently visited tow Orthodox communities in Colombia and saw opportunities to send future mission teams and support self-reliance programs. Please keep these initiatives and the Orthodox faithful of Colombia in your prayers.