This past week I was lucky enough to get the chance to spend some time with Father Elias at the Monastery of the Descent of the Holy Spirit; located on a farm about 20 km outside of Pretoria, on land that was formerly used for torture during South African Apartheid. (See this video for a bit more information about Vlakplaas, the farm's location.)
Father Elias currently oversees the monastery and is highly involved in the development and planning of what is to be called "New Sion."
New Sion is the area that is to be built up around the current chapel and Monastery of the Descent of the Holy Spirit. Once completed, it will include a visitor's center with a museum to explain the land's history, chapels from many different nations that comprise the South African Orthodox landscape, theological schools and a missions center. There is still a lot of work to be done to bring this vision to life, but paperwork has been submitted, plans have been blessed and construction is set to begin within the month; I'm excited to be part of the process!
Our visit to the site last week was just a brief introduction, but it was filled with all kinds of coincidental pleasant surprises for me. Going into the day, I knew that it would be a bit special seeing as the monastery is celebrated on Pentecost and that is the day on which I was chrismated almost 2 years ago. But as I was escorted around I also stumbled across a room that was completely dedicated to my patron saint Xenia within an old storage area.
I have plans to work with Father Elias on some evangelistic endeavors as well as informational and promotional materials for the developing site. I hope to share more as things progress, but as for now I have plans to visit the site (and surrounding areas - including an adjacent children's home) once a week as time allows.