My name is Jean-Michel. As you won't guess from my name, good Belgian mixture, I come from Flanders, but live in Wallonia. I speak French, Flemish and English, a little German, and college souvenirs from Greek & Latin are sometimes possible.
I have been 16 years in the Belgian Navy (first class petty officer, electronic warfare & telecom), am decorated of Military Merit, Gulf War 1988, Kuweit Liberation Medal (Gulf War 1991) and a "long term" service medal, and a commemorative one for the Balkan war naval blockade (not my pride, we were at the wrong side..) and several others (yearly military fieldmarchings). Also 5 years in Police as intervention brigade (K9).
My first steps with Orthodoxy where with the Eastern part, at the Greek parish of Charleroi, in january 2000. It took 2 more years for the conviction, and on wednesday 4 june 2003, I was received in the Communion of the "Unam, Sanctam, Catholicam et Apostolicam Ecclesiam", via h.g abp Simon, Moscow Patriarcate, in Bruxelles. Deo gratias. I have never been willing to be forced to submit culturally to any particular "ethnic" parish : "nor Jew, nor Greeks" is important today also. If I entered via the "MP", it was because my work of the time brought me several times a week in the surroundings of the Russian cathedral. For week-ends, we were in the Greek-Orthodox parish. Afterwards, we went in family to the French-talking parish Saint Martin de Tours & saint Silouane l'Athonite, in Bruxelles, up to january 2010. From then onwards, due to distance & costs, we joined the parish of the Saint Anargyres in Péronnes-lez-Binche, totally bilingual parish, Greek-French. Sometimes also the Russian parish of Charleroi or Leuven, or whenever possible at my spiritual father's parish, the MP cathedral in Bruxelles.
On 12/feb/2006, I was ordained in Rocor Western Rite as acolyte, thus Reader for Eastern Rite, attached to the (now vanished) tiny Metochion sainte Catherine d'Alexandrie et saint Feuillen in Philippeville, kingdom of Belgium. I was responsible for its website, under supervision of the father abbot/higoumen, and Reader Services when priest not available. At Pentecost 2007, my 2 eldest children asked to enter the Ark of Salvation. Pure blessing. My youngest was already Orthodox, almost since the begining, received in the Russian parish of Charleroi, about which she often speaks as "my baptismal Church."
But lots of severe health problems arose end 2007. And my now ex-wife had led a "double life" (...) since years, something we discovered too late, so she finally went "her own way" early 2009. Very hard years up to 2013, and still problems with her actually..
Happy news, in summer 2008, the belgian Navy took me back in active Reserve (similar to "national guard" in the USA) for promoting the jobs & operations, and my 2 eldest children asked us to join the Sea Cadets, where they were truly active. My middle daughter specialized in navigation, and my oldest daughter was the only female candidate maritime electro-mechanician. My youngest successed to get the basic degree in sailing on an Optimist summer 2009, just aged of 7, in a week with heavy winds & lots of shaggy waters. Early 2010, my 3 children joined the Sea Scouts in the nearby town of Couvin. May saint Nicholas of Myra protect my 3 children.
Summer hobby, I was years long member of the Velosolex Club of Belgium - my old black "mopette" is as old as I am, but works much better now. Had to sell it away, cash problems. Pictures show me also with my Czech wolfdog, and at the sport shooting range, sports I practice in both cases when health allows. With my children we have been regular members of a folk/traditionnal dance group from here (quadrillas, jigs & reels, ...). It's a great blessing to do all this in family!
As our Lord said that to have long days on earth, we have to honnour our parents (Exode 20,12) : I am involved in the veneration of all what our Church Fathers and Mothers from the Orthodox West have brought to the hole Church. And till recently, liturgically too, but now of course it's all over! As Reader, I have the joy & chance to serve at the closest Greek-Orthodox parish, the one thrugh which I was introduced to holy Orthodoxy, when I have not my children. And when the youngest is here, we go to our parish of Agioi Anargyri, where we both sings in the choir.
Life is full of blessings, and some crosses sometimes bear beautiful flowers we didn't expected: it required just more time to bloom!