St Nikitas in the slums of Medan
In December 2014, with the blessings of His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos and His Eminence Metropolitan Konstantinos of Singapore, nine men from the Greek Orthodox Christian Society travelled to Medan, Indonesia, on their second missionary visit there at the request of Fr Chrysostomos Manalu, an Orthodox priest of Indonesian background.
Fr Chrysostomos established the primary school of St Nikitas about 10 years ago. We visited the school, spent time with the children and performed medical, dental and physiotherapy clinics in the classrooms.
Close to the centre of Medan, our minivan left a busy road and entered the narrow lanes of the slum. There was hardly enough room for the minivan to negotiate the lanes. The ram-shackled dwellings were scattered amongst open sewers and canals. It was hot. On a windless day, we were blanketed by the pollution of the city. Sporadically, people were lighting fires to burn the household rubbish. To our eyes, it was a portrait of despair.
When we arrived at St Nikitas, there was no hint of despair. The children and parents greeted us with excitement and enthusiasm. We were surrounded by faces full of hope and joy!
The three doctors set up examination couches and treatment areas in one classroom. In another, the dentists and our physiotherapist set up work stations on school desks and chairs. The children and parents waited outside. We saw person after person, more than 150 people. Many of the children had impetigo, or school sores, a type of highly contagious skin infection. Other common conditions were asthma, upper respiratory tract infections and malnutrition. We were all struck by the poverty and lack of material possessions. People were able to deal with difficulties with dignity and showed great resilience. They did not have their hearts set on the things of this world.
By the end of the day, everyone was exhausted by the heat, pollution and noise. The people were grateful for the smallest help and kindness shown to them. They challenged our notion of poverty and despair.
Source: December 2015 – January 2016 Lychnos Edition