March 2007, the regular, monthly, South African priests’ meeting was conducted at a very beautiful, fertile farm in Klipfontein, northeast of Pretoria; friends named Tony and Stephanie Monroe invited us to spend two nights and three days retreat at their "Sanctuary Farm"; the environment was admired by everybody, and His Grace Bishop A. Markos’ heartfelt wishes and prayers of many years- to establish a Coptic monastery- started to come to light...
While driving in the Klipfontein vicinity, we noticed many “For Sale" signs, and made contact with the “Shalom Real Estate Agency”. From a Shalom agent, we learned that the available farming lands were divided into equal areas of 22 hectares, and a totally, undeveloped bushland had an estimated value of a half million South African Rand (ZAR) - ZAR500, 000 approximately equalled US$70,000. These lands’ owners were demanding a disproportionate ZAR 1.5-1.8 million (approx.US$210,000- US$250,000) if the slightest development had occurred.
Negotiations for many prospective lots resulted in a final offer of ZAR 1.3 million (approx. US$180,000), which we calculated to be still too high. Hence, we determined to keep the matter in continuous prayer as, from the beginning, it had always been in the hands of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
May 1, following a call from Ms Babsie - the real estate agent- our Lord’s will towards this project started to become more visible. She was a Christian woman, who had visited Egypt previously, gaining an appreciation of ancient Coptic Christianity and Egyptian monastic life. She informed us that: a suitable property was under Standard Bank’s liquidation, as its owner had died in a car accident in January 2007; each of the owner’s designated, seven heirs had agreed that they were satisfied to receive ZAR 100,000 each; the bank was willing to accept a serious offer from any respectable organization; through God’s provision the proposed sale was at half the normal price and a purchase price of ZAR 700,000 (approx US$100,000) was “not to be missed”.
May 5, Bishop Markos and Fr Abd El Messeh went to inspect the property, only to be convinced that it was the best of all that they had already inspected in the entire locale. It was flat, rockless and fully fenced and gated, cornering two main roads. There were two small houses with two stores, two boreholes of 150 metres depth and a three phase, electric power line.
That Saturday afternoon, we signed an offer in Babsie’s residence in Cullinan, reiterating our commitment to our Lord’s hands’ completion.
During the Cairo, Holy Synod of Pentecost 2007, His Grace received confirmation of the bank’s acceptance of the Coptic Orthodox Church’s offer. The final agreement should have been signed with 10% of the full price payable within a few weeks.
Trusting that "our Lord’s disciples will never lack anything which they need" (Luke 22:35), and His injunction to: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7), Bishop Markos put this sudden need in fervent prayer.
While wondering how to secure approximately US$100,000 to meet the complete agreement, His Grace communicated with charitable Christians in Egypt, who had historically been supportive of the African service’s requisites in critical times. A person from Cairo- author of a small volume on the blessings of tithing- accepted the Bishop’s request for an appointment, welcoming him without delay and even offering to send transport. Within a few hours, this faithful man was face to face in his office with His Grace, who explained the circumstances of his unexpected need towards a holy and noble purpose- establishing a monastic order in South Africa- that would cost approximately US$.35 for every square metre of a total 200,000 square metres.
The Bishop could feel how this fellow Christian was touched by the concept of the whole project, and that he was receptive to the evident Lord’s work in already preparing a suitable venue at half the local market value. The man left the room, and His Grace could see him walking around outside, apparently lifting his heart in prayer, seeking inspiration. He then returned, asking His Grace to write down full bank details on a blank page he gave him.
The Bishop praised God for what He had orchestrated with this meeting, and extended his sincere appreciation to this blessed man for his continuous support for expansion of the Kingdom of God with the efforts of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Africa.