Missionaries' travels to India lead to tsunami aid
by Jean Blum
Source: Lemont Reporter/Met, January 28th, 2005
When the Rev. Andrew Harrison and his wife, Pat, of Lemont traveled to
India last fall, little did they know their experience as missionaries would lead to
another calling - raising funds to assist victims of the devastating Asian earthquake and
subsequent killing tsunami on December 26.
Father Harrison is pastor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Luke the
Evangelist located in Cook County forest preserves in east Lemont. He is an active member
of the Lemont Christian Clergy Association.
Harrison said, "The Lord Jesus Christ promised he'd be with anyone
serving on a mission. Indeed, Pat and I always felt God was with us during our journey
working with the Orthodox Christian Mission Commission (OCMC) in India."
"Returning home I kept asking myself what did I learn as a missionary?
Am I applying my vision as a missionary priest in America? Would my caring and generous
parishioners be willing to increase their philanthropic activities and publicize them?"
He soon found answers.
"I shared my missionary experiences with St. Luke's congregation who
are always willing to serve others with their talents and treasures. Yet in early January
I was overwhelmed by their generosity donating $2,500 in a special collection to help
victims of the destructive Asian tsunami. They did not know the people they would be
assisting but wanted to help because they cared."
Fr. Stephen Callos of Ss. Constantine and Helen Orthodox Cathedral in
Cleveland traveled with the Harrisons. The two pastors taught seminars attended by 455
Christians. Fr. Stephen's centered his lessons on the feasts of the church emphasizing
the significance of Christ's life while Fr. Harrison focused on theology of the creed.
Pat Harrison said the Orthodox Philanthropic Society in Calcutta feeds
street children every day and approximately 1,000 adults each week. During her mission she
worked in an orphanage caring for 183 girls, finding it heartbreaking to see how needy
The orphanage appeared to have administrative difficulties, the nearby
community in great need of housing for the poor. Two projects had been started in the
area - a girls' vocational school and a school for the visually impaired and the blind.
She prays the projects will reach planned goals.
"Our days started with 7:00 a.m. Matins (morning prayer), breakfast,
then teaching until stopping for a late lunch," Fr. Harrison said. "Classes continued till
Vespers (evening prayer) followed by a period of questions and answers. Bengali linguists
translated our discourses."
His Eminence Bishop Metropolitan Nikitas of Hong Kong visited India
during the time the Harrison's were there, a highlight in their missionary journey. As
head of the Southeast Asian diocese the Bishop is dedicated to missionary outreach.
"His Eminence pointed out that the world's largest population is in his
diocese but it has the smallest presence of the Orthodox Church. He would like to see
missions and churches established in Pakistan, Thailand and Singapore needing clergy and
catechists to staff them," Harrison said.
Bishop Nikitas also heads OMHKSEA (Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong
Kong and South East Asia) an outreach relief service organization.
OMHKSEA has set up a special relief fund acting as an intermediary
between those who have suffered great loss from the Asian tsunami and those wanting to
help them recover. It is the organization St. Luke's chose to send their donations.
Comparing his experiences working with the struggling Orthodox mission
in Calcutta, Fr. Harrison felt he was walking through the pages of the Acts of the
Apostles as well as the Epistles of St. Paul in the Bible - learning lessons the early
apostles had to learn.
"One thing I realized is that missionaries do not cause conversions -
they cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit. Pat and I found it hard to leave behind
the friends we made and the work we were doing."
"But we also had a mission at home - St. Luke's."
Fr. Harrison said all missionaries provide "a candle of light in the
darkness of human suffering". He feels blessed to be to be pastor of the Greek Orthodox
Church of St. Luke the Evangelist, very aware all his parishioners are Christ-minded