Help Fulfill BT Swami's Desire for Africa
Posted December 11, 2008
ISKCON missionary activities has been slow in taking off in Franco-phone African countries for the obvious reasons that preaching has become more and more difficult in France since in the 80's when the society's image suffered from being black-listed as amongst undesirable sects.
Up till the year 2002, there was just only one center, in the whole of French speaking West African countries. As usual, when Gurudeva was about winding up his tour of the continent, he asked his senior disciples who were with him how they would continue their Guru's mission whilst he was away. I was the first to speak, I told him I would like to develop the preaching in the French-speaking countries. He nodded approvingly and he commented that he was particularly happy that I have taken up this task and more so to see that in such a short time I have already started communicating in French.
It was in October 2002, that I visited Togo for the first time and with the aim of implanting an ISKCON Center in the country. Five good years have since passed and that lofty dream has been achieved.
Within these five years there has been a remarkable developments, which I will briefly highlight here:
We have registered about 120 members, more than half of which are actively participating in devotion.
There are sixteen new initiates in the country, from which three of them are aspiring for brahmin initiation in the nearest future. One of them, Ramapriya Prabhu, a doctor and a retired medical officer from the State Hospital. He is an avid reader of Vedic literatures with an equal passion for preaching. Amrta Krishna Caran Prabhu, a retired Director of National Statistics and Atma Tattva Prabhu a designer artist by profession. Amrta Krishna and Atma Tattva Prabhus are my assistant Pujaris, even though they are family men with lots of responsibilities, they render daily service to Their Lordship Sri Sri Radha Govinda Madhava, and if I travel they take care of the deities and the Temple programmes.
There are many other highly qualified devotees who are equally devoted that I cannot mention all here. But it is just to say that without these devotees there can be no Temple in the real sense. With the assistance of these devotees and the Indian Community there has been a host of other developments.
There has been daily prasadam distribution from the back of a Food For Life van which roams the city and serves free hot meals to hundreds of people queueing up for prasad. Our Food For Life program has expanded in to the University and the past three years we have been serving about 300 plates of prasadam - lunch thrice a week at the Campus.
A Higher Taste Restaurant was launched this year in the Temple courtyard. This is the first and only Vegetarean restaurant in the country. For this reason, a lot of effort was made to make sure, that the restaurant service should be first class.
There are three Govinda Boutiques, one in the Temple premises and the others are in different locations in the city. One is owned by a devotee, who is also an expert Numerologist and the third one belongs to the Temple and is situated on a land which was donated to the Society.
We have since participated on a number of National Conferences with official invitation from the government. ISKCON TOGO is a member of two National Commitees and a member of Inter Religious Alliance against AIDs. In this latter Committee of six major religions and three multi National NGOs, the ISKCON representative, my humble self is the Vice President. These are but a few highlights of the activities of ISKCON since its inception five years ago in Lome-TOGO.
It has indeed being a story of success for our preaching endeavour in this country. The ripple effect has created another center in a neighbouring country Benin Republic. Now where we need your invaluable contribution at this point is in the acquisition of the property on which the Temple is situated. Right from the time we rented the property we were informed that the property was for sale. We had shown nominal interest as of then as we were just starting and purchasing property was not our priority as at that time. But as of now, things have changed, a lot of developments have taken place on the property that has even enhanced its value and besides ISKCON also needs to consolidate its headquarters for expanding the mission further. After years of discussion and negotiations, the proprietor of the property wants 80 million cfa, equivalence of $200,000 USD. Our donors here are willing to contribute to the purchase of this property, which everyone seems to agree that 'tis well situated near the City center with a big lake just across the road.
The proprietor has sudenly become impatient to sell off the property and he has given us up till the end of this year 2008, to commit ourselves or else they will give it over to property dealers who will publish the property sale in public places. I have since been trying to get our local donors to commit themselves towards acquiring the property. Most of them think ISKCON as a society, needs to make its financial contribution first. It took me long time to explain to them that each Temple is autonomous and there is no central fund for financing other projects which are non priority project for the society. Finally, with the help of one influential member of the community who is also a member of the Trustee Board, we have been able to collect 20 million cfa, equivalence of $40,000 USD I have been asked by the board of Trustees to do some fund raising from ISKCON members world wide. This is why I have come knocking, please kindly help to fulfill Sripad Bhakti tirtha Maharaj's desire to see Krishna consciousness implanted in every town and village in Africa. In one of his last letters to me, he had written:
"It is most important that the devotees realise how I gave my life in trying to help them . Now whether I live or die, they must allow me to live on through their unity and potent preaching spirit." 27 August 2004 There is obviously some potent preaching going on here and more to come as we strategise to put the right infrastructure in place, what I am hoping to achieve through this appeal, is that we can allow Gurudeva to live through our unity of purpose, unity of strength and of vision to carry on with the mission of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Thanks in advance for your generous response to this appeal to acquire the
first legal property for ISKCON in the franco-phone zone in Africa.
Just in case you want more clarification on how to help or verification of
whatever I have said in this message you can please contact my GBC, HH
Kavichandra Maharaja, our Trustee member, MR KUMAR SABNANI at Kumar@white_ways.com, or
me at my address Varaha.BTS@pamho.net
Tel:+228 902 87 93
+228 221 74 77