My beloved and blessed brethren, “Christ is not here for He is risen” (Matt 28:6). As a result, I would like to congratulate you and reflect with you during the feast of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Despite of the doubts and fears of the disciples, Christ has risen from the dead; in celebrating the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we also celebrate our own. The resurrection of Christ is victory over everything: over death, over the world, and over fear: thus, we greet each other during the Holy 50 days saying Ekhristos Anisty, Alithos Anisty (Christ is risen, truly he is risen). This is not to commemorate the resurrection of Christ but rather to remember that Christ’s resurrection is also our own, because we can find a lot of people living who are actually dead in Christ. Likewise, the prodigal son was living in death but rose again. The angel said it to the Mariams when they came to the tomb and now he is also saying it to us; he has risen to give us life. So why are we then holding on to death and looking for Him amidst the dead? Why are our hearts attached to the world and why do we tire ourselves in this world?
He is not here for He is risen! We should look up to heaven for the resurrection is a change in our lives because Jesus Christ has removed from death and given us life. So why, after all this, do we return again to death, to darkness and to slavery? When St. Augustine repented from sin, one of his old friends came to St. Augustine asking him to join her in her sinful ways to which the Saint replied: He is not here for He is risen! Not only has He risen, but he has also left for us His holy body on the alter and while telling us, “I am the bread of life, whoever eats my body will live with me”. This is why during the procession we proclaim that we are against the world by following the cross that goes counter clock wise: against time and against the world. Usually on the headstone of peoples’ graves we write, ‘here is the tomb of so and so’ but on the tomb of Jesus Christ they wrote, “He is not here for He is risen.”
By the help of God we were able to successfully carry out multiple projects in the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Bolivia:
- A cathedral named after St. Mary and St. Mark in Santa Cruz (meaning the Holy Cross)
- A medical clinic named after Pope Shenouda III, which has been running for 5 years with further plans for its expansion with a dental clinic, X-Ray facility, testing labs, a pharmacy, and examination rooms.
- The expansion of this medical clinic is critical as we get many volunteer doctors from Canada and the U.S and other countries with no places to accommodate their services. We often have to send patients to the hospital, as we have a restraint on the size of the current clinic. We ask you to pray for this project.
- The establishment of St. Mark’s Center: A 21,000 m2 project to build homes for the homeless in Valle Sanchez, a community near Santa Cruz. The land will also be used as a project for pig farms to provide work for the local families. A project is currently underway with the intent of building a health center, an orphanage, and a vegetable farm in the near future. Finally, a church named after St. Mark has been established in that area to serve the population in this area
- In the village of Paquio, one member of the community donated 9000 m2 worth of land. This allowed us to start the construction of the Archangel Michael church. We are now in the final phase of the construction.
- Also in the village of Montero, one member of the community donated 2500 m2 worth of land where a small church will soon be built to serve the locals.
- The same person donated another 1000 m2 in another village called Santa Rosa where services will soon be starting.
- In Santa Cruz we also purchased, thanks to Our Lord, a piece of land that is 2850 m2 where we will start the construction of St George’s Church, a day care center, and a dental clinic by the end of this year.
- We also established two daycare centers. One named after the Anba Abram near the Cathedral in Santa Cruz to serve families that live in that neighborhood, and another state of the arts center that is considered the best of its kind in Bolivia; we are currently in the process of establishing an elementary school attached to this center- we ask you to pray for this essential project.
- In October we hosted three youths who are part of St Mark’s group for translation in Egypt. They will host a Coptic conference and spiritual retreats throughout the city of Santa Cruz. Also, through God’s love, the church has received many groups and individuals throughout the years from all over the regions for evangelism. Their services are badly needed, especially those who can commit to long-term services because of the amount of work to be done, “for the harvest is lots but the laborers are few.”
- We are also very happy to announce the arrival of Tasony Youanna from Egypt to serve with us in Bolivia.
- Verena Program: The Medical society of St. Verena started a program where they provide donation grants to pay for the education of university students within the Diocese
- Coptic Children of Bolivia: Through this sponsorship program all of the children in the village, Paquio, have been sponsored! We also started sponsorship of children in the village of Santa Rosa.
Services in other countries in South America:
- Coptic Church in Dominican Republic: this is where the Coptic Orthodox church is formally and officially recognized. And this is where we have St. Mary and St. Mark church.
- We also have a piece of land 3000 square meters in the city of Santiago.
- We also purchased a piece of land 1900 sq m in the city of Puerto Plata, which is a tourist visited place. It is close to the ocean and busy neighborhood, we are now in the planning stage to build on this land
- Coptic Church in Peru: since there are few Egyptian families, we started the liturgy one a month in the capital Lima, we are now looking for the land and studying the process to officially register the church. We need you prayers for this project
- Coptic Orthodox Church in Ecuador: By the Grace of God we are now progressing with the development of a Coptic Orthodox Church in Ecuador. On February 1, 2015, H.G. Bishop Youssef celebrated the first Liturgy in Quito Ecuador.
- Coptic Church in Argentina: on April 19, 2015 H.G Bishop Youssef will pray the first liturgy in San Pablo
As we offer our thanks to our Lord, we offer, in addition, many projects from healthcare, to social work, and educational services. This is our church as our Lord Jesus started it, handed it over to the disciples, and trusted us to carry it over. May we all be joyful with the resurrection of Christ and may he reside in us and us in Him through the intersession of St. Mary and St. Mark the apostle and H.H. Pope Tawadros II.