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OCMC News - Fr. George Lakony: SAMP Priest in Uganda

by Theodore Theodorou (Posted 10/12/2008)

Fr. George Lakony is a young Orthodox priest in Gulu, a town in northern Uganda about 50 miles from the border of the Sudan.  I had the opportunity to meet him as part of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center Health Care/Catechism Team that was in Gulu to meet the physical and spiritual needs of those who had lived in International Displaced Persons (IDP) Camps.  During our trip, Fr. George became our guide, our host, and our friend. 

Many who have traveled to East Africa have witnessed the hospitality and kindness of the Ugandan people. Uganda is a beautiful country with one of the most effective national responses to the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the African continent. Though a brutal civil war ravaged the country during the 60’s and 70’s, Uganda is home to a growing Orthodox Church served by 30 Priests that receive financial support from donors through the Support a Mission Priest (SAMP) program of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC).

Fr. George is one of the many priests in Gulu who receives support from the SAMP program. Through SAMP he is able to devote himself full-time to serving his flock. Priests who receive SAMP funding are able to maintain the sacramental life of the Church and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ among the Ugandan people through the prayerful support of Orthodox Christians in North America.

In the developing world, the resources available to priests and the communities they serve are vastly different than those here in America.  The economic situation for most Africans is challenging at best and in Gulu, for example, it is common for one priest to be responsible for the spiritual needs of several parishes.  He may have to travel by bus, bike, or foot for many miles to reach these communities in order to perform the Divine Liturgy, baptize the newly illumined, or teach the faith.

What is often forgotten is that SAMP is more than just financial assistance; it is a true sign of Orthodox solidarity.  SAMP priests view donors in the United States as their brothers and sisters in Christ who stand beside them in their ministries.

This solidarity is echoed by St. Paul who in his first letter to the Corinthians talks about how Christians are united with Christ, and each other, through baptism: For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).

It is for this reason that I believe Father George welcomed our Team to Gulu with such tenderness: as members of his family coming home. Through prayer and the Sacraments of the Church we are inexorably joined as one family – one Body of Christ. As fellow members of this Body, they served and guided our Team and we in turn offered our support and assistance – all for the glory of God.

Support A Mission Priest (SAMP) is a development program of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center that offers monthly support to priests serving around the world. If you, or your community, would like to support a mission priest, call us at 1-877-463-6784 or e-mail samp@ocmc.org.

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God of truth and love: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Hear our prayer for those who do not know You. That they may come to a saving knowledge of the truth, and that Your Name may be praised among all peoples of the world. Sustain, inspire, and enlighten Your servants who bring them the Gospel. Bring fresh vigor to wavering faith; sustain our faith when it is still fragile. Continually renew missionary zeal in ourselves and in the Church, and raise up new missionaries who will follow You to the ends of the world. Make us witnesses to Your goodness full of love, full of strength, and full of faith for Your glory and the salvation of the entire world. Through the prayers of all the missionary saints, Have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
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