The following is an interview with Fr. Adrian about his own conversion to Orthodoxy and his work in Pakistan. There is also an active Facebook page for the church here, and their website is here. (Incidentally, the EP church has their Facebook page here, and their website here.)
On September 18, 2012, the Missionary Department of Moscow Theological Academy hosted a meeting with Priest Adrian Augustus of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, who is ministering to an Orthodox Christian parish he founded in Pakistan.
Path to Christ. Priesthood.
My conversion to Orthodoxy was not easy. Until my conversion in 2007, I was an Anglican deacon in India. When I began to seek Orthodoxy, I sent many letters with questions on the faith to the only person who would provide detailed answers, Vladyka Hilarion, who was then Archbishop of Sydney. I hail from a very poor family, my mother was a school teacher, and life proceeded in a strict Catholic spirit. When Vladyka suggested that I enroll in seminary in Jordanville, NY, my mother fell very ill, and I found myself in a difficult situation—going to America was practically impossible for me. Three months later, Vladyka Hilarion wrote that he could receive me in Australia. Vladyka and I then became like father and son. Everything I know about Orthodox Christianity I learned from him. I wished very much to become a priest, but did not ask Vladyka to ordain me, expecting that the Lord Himself would make it happen. When I was finally ordained, I did not wish to limit my ministry to a parish: I wished for our true faith to be accessible to everyone. Many people in Pakistan and in India would like to learn about Orthodoxy and become zealous Christians, but they have little opportunity to do this.
It is very difficult in Pakistan today because of the Muslim government, and it is unsafe for white people to live in the country, so missionaries don’t wish to go there. True, Pakistan is not a safe country by any means. One must note that this country is dangerous not only for white people and foreigners, but even for its own citizens: within the country, Muslims fight with other Muslims, Muslims kill other Muslims. Pakistan is divided into three big groups. In the north are Pashtuns from Afghanistan, the Punjabs live in the middle, the Sindhis live in the south, and within Sindhi itself is a small group of Indians, and these populations are all in conflict. A Pakistani simply does not know when he leaves his home in the morning whether he will return that night.
A Voice from Pakistan.
There were two people in Pakistan who left the Catholic seminary and, as did I some time ago, and e-mailed letters with questions about faith, seeking to find Orthodoxy. Vladyka Hilarion forwarded these letters to me, since I know the mindset of these people and could determine whether these were genuine believers or if they were sent by people who have no desire to find Christ. The population of Pakistan is very poor, and this could simply have been a scam. When I read these e-mails, though, my heart was moved. I didn’t think twice, and asking Vladyka’s blessing, headed for Pakistan.
When I arrived, I was very surprised: instead of the two people who wrote the e-mails, I was greeted by some fifty people. When I settled into my hotel room, I was not allowed to go outside. The problem was this: It is still dangerous for me to come to Pakistan, because I have lighter skin, being Indian. There were four wars between Pakistan and India, and when I arrived, I was viewed as a spy. But a local member of Parliament gave me permission to leave the hotel for twelve hours, deeming me a missionary and not a spy. The press reported that some priest arrived, and even more people came to see me, and, praying to the Holy Spirit, I began to preach. At first I tried to talk about the time before the Birth of Christ. Then I told them about the Nativity itself, the creation of the Church, the period of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, and the roles that priests and deacons play. I tried to explain that accepting Orthodoxy in not that simple, that a person must be transformed first. The only normal reason to come to Orthodoxy is to become a saint in the Church, because the human soul unites with God after death. And the role of the priest is to give a person a nudge to begin this effort. There is no easy way of doing this, prayer is needed, and fasting and the fulfillment of all the other Orthodox methods. After a two-hour sermon, many questions were raised by those who sought the true faith, there were representatives of agencies who tried to find something suspicious in my sermon. That night, about 110 Catholics joined the Orthodox faith. The next day I was also able to baptize about 74 people from 10 Pakistani families. I asked people why they were so interested in my sermon, and they said that they were touched that I, as an Indian, came to them to preach Orthodox Christianity to them, and that I did not look at them as some kind of bad people, I did not judge the way they looked—these Pakistanis are poor, simple peasants. In the church, and during our discussions, I do not take a chair when they sit on the floor—I sit beside them. These people are in special need of pastoral care, for they have no one who will listen to them: neither in the mosque or the Catholic Church. We must keep in mind that in Pakistan and in India, the Catholic Church is a very large, powerful organization. Catholic seminarians are often sent to work as directors of local schools immediately upon graduation, schools that every child aspires to be accepted into. As school directors, Catholic pastors forget that they are first and foremost pastors, not school directors. I explain to the people who come to see me that my task as a priest is to serve people towards their salvation, to love and care for them.
Vladyka was happy to see me return alive…
My next challenge was to preserve the community of one hundred converted Pakistanis. When I returned to Australia, I told Vladyka right away that we must hasten to organize a mission in Pakistan. Vladyka Hilarion gave me his blessing to establish the Archangel Michael Mission. I asked people in Pakistan why they invited me instead of other Orthodox priests who already serve in Pakistan. They answered that those priests belong to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, while I belong to the Russian Orthodox Church, and since the Russian Church is the largest of all National Churches which consists of many different peoples, they hoped to receive care from the Russian Church. Considering all the saints who glorified the Russian land, seeing that I belong to this same Russian Church, the Pakistanis believed that I, too, could love them and care for them. I also asked Vladyka Hilarion to appoint more priests so that Divine Liturgy could be celebrated there soon.
My second trip to Pakistan lasted 10 days. This time my chief mission was pastoral care. I met with people, trying to understand their needs, trying to let them “spread my wings” over them.