26 April 2023 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
[Bishop Ogles, Bishop Isaac Mokena, Bishop Thomas Karikkuzhi, Bishop Ernest Jacob (left to right)]
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. 17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” James 5:16-18 (KJV)
Many moons have passed over the sky since I was honored to share fellowship with one of the most honorable friends, and spiritually deep men of God, I have ever known. He was Isaac Mokoena, Bishop of South Africa, and co-consecrator at my consecration in October of 2000. Though a graduate of Oxford University, Isaac was unpretentious and preached in such a simple manner as to be understood by all, including children – much as our Lord taught.
Having arrived in Statesville, North Carolina, in the Autumn while the temperatures were still moderate, Isaac was always uncomfortably cold. I had to loan him a jacket to wear in 80 degree temperatures. He was a kind, compassionate, and considerate fellow who won the hearts of all our gathering at St Peter’s.
Bishop Isaac had a dry sense of humor. On one occasion during his visit to St. Peter’s, Bishop Isaac and I drove down to Charlotte to meet Dr. James Phelps, a medical doctor and minister in our Church of St. Luke’s. As we neared Dr. Phelps’ home, we passed by an imposing structure that attracted Bishop Isaac’s attention. He asked, “What is that, Bishop Ogles?” I responded, “That is the Presbyterian Hospital, Bishop Isaac.” He sat for a few seconds in seeming deep thought and then replied, “But still it doesn’t work?” “What do you mean ‘it doesn’t work’” I asked. He answered, “More than 50% of the people who come out of that hospital are STILL Presbyterians.”
Bishop Mokoena was a great man of prayer. Our bishop of Pakistan had recently deceased, and we needed to consecrate Ernest Jacob as bishop in his stead. But we had been unable to get approval of the embassy in Pakistan for his visa. We contacted our senior Senator Jesse Helms, Hillary Clinton, and several people in the US State Department to no avail. Bishop Ernest had been to the embassy several times and had been rejected each time for a visa. It was Wednesday afternoon and nearing the deadline for Ernest’s consecration on Friday. Ernest had just informed us that the Embassy had, that morning, rejected his request again. It looked hopeless. We were sitting in the fellowship hall of St. Peter’s lamenting our failure to get a visa for our elect Bishop of Pakistan. Bishop Isaac very quietly asked who had contacted. When we told him, he said, “Well, we have contacted every one who is unable to get the visa approval, so, now let us contact the One who is, indeed, able.” What a quaint idea! So, we went into the sanctuary and prayed for God’s intervention.
Honestly, within thirty minutes of our prayers, we received a call from Pakistan. Bishop Ernest was all excited in telling us that the embassy had just called to inform him of the acceptance of his visa application.
Ernest said he was surprised at the call and could not understand the change of heart of the American Embassy – but we understood, thanks to Bishop Isaac.
Isaac was also a very humble fellow. He shared a church apartment with Bishop Thomas of India while in Statesville. Bishop Thomas could not cook, so, often at midnight, he would awaken Bishop Mokoena to cook his breakfast which he did.
Bishop Thomas wore an elaborate purple cassock with full sleeves. Once, while we were eating breakfast at Shoney’s, Bishop Thomas was reaching for something on the table unaware that his sleeve was hanging down in a strawberry syrup. Bishop Isaac said, “Bishop Thomas, your cassock is also drinking.”
Bishop Isaac passed away a few years back at a good old age of 93. But his blessings of faith are still forefront in the minds of those of us who forgot to contact the One who is always able!
The world is less joyful at the passing of such men of God.