I hope that all our lay people are well and that everything is moving along normally. By the grace of God, our apostolic community is doing well.
We are again in Bangui, this time to bring in a kid who has a spine problem due to bone TB, called Pott Disease, to have him undergo surgery in Dakar under Dr. Omnimus, a French orthopedist who often comes to work in Mongoumba. He will leave on the 12th accompanied by his parents. We will take him to the plane at five in the morning. We are grateful to the Lord for being able to be here accompanying Gervelais and his father.
This was a journey fraught with uncertainties. We had planned to travel on Thursday in order to do our shopping and then return to Mongoumba on the 13th, but the barge that takes us cross the river crashed on Tuesday and only started working again on Friday afternoon. At one point we thought that we would have to call some missionary in Bangui to ask them to take Gervelais and his father to the airport. Yesterday, as we were crossing the river with the barge, there was a moment when we doubted we could continue the trip because a truck could not get off and it was necessary to have it dragged off by another loaded truck. As the saying goes “man proposes and God disposes.” God does everything right! He is the one who knows what is best for us. I pray to Mary to intercede for Gervelais and ask that he may regain his health and be well!
Belvia underwent surgery, they performed a full mastectomy. Still we do not know the results of the biopsies. We hope it will not be cancer… Now she is feeling better, has finished the treatment and now she takes some medications. She is quite happy, because she had been suffering a lot… May the Lord help her.
Ana left for Poland and, according to plans, she will be back in May. May the Lord give her a good vacation.
Cristina is well and in good spirits. She started to learn Sango. She already greets people in their own language and they are very pleased. She loves the mission. May God make her be this way during her entire missionary service.
Next month, our parish will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its foundation and, God willing, we will have a great celebration.
Let us stay united in prayer.
A missionary embrace from our community to all of you.
Greetings to all, how are you? I hope well… this Christmas and New Year 2018 were a little strange, spent in the heat of the Central African Republic, wearing a summer T-shirt and eating Portuguese cod… 🙂
THE NIGHT OF DESIRES
It is NIGHT here! A deep NIGHT that envelops everything! A NIGHT that is not like all the other NIGHTS, because it is a perennial NIGHT! It is NIGHT even during the day! We live in this NIGHT, in an infinite present, we live as if there was not tomorrow!
Our schools would need to be restructured because the bricks are literally eaten up by the termites and, when it rains, they get flooded, and during the NIGHT they are inhabited by bats that make your stomach turn…
Our hospital have no medical supplies, there is no food for the patients, and those who need surgery must provide everything down to the last penny…
Our roads have potholes that look like craters because of the big trucks and the rain, and the average speed on the Bangui-Mongoumba road is around 30 km/h and the trip lasts 7/8 hours…
We would need a bridge on the River Lobaye or a new ferry because the big and heavy trucks of the foreign multinationals that transport our lumber from the forest have damaged it… We would need doctors, pediatricians, teachers, instructors, university professors to take care of the new generations, instead…
…more soldiers will come!
Perhaps I am the only one who does not understand how more soldiers may help us come out of this dark and deep NIGHT in which we live!!
The new year has brought us as a gift a new military base in our diocese of Mbaiki… the bulldozer arrived, it flattened an enormous area, it quickly dug a trench, it raised great dirt barriers and behold… a beautiful, new, secure UN military base… to protect us from whom? The Lobaye is the only peaceful area in the CAR!!!
Perhaps I am the only one who does not understand how more soldiers, more arms, more armored vehicles, more resources to keep them going, can help us get out of this dark and paralyzing NIGHT in which we live! Adding the risk that our NIGHT may become even more NIGHT. We are all like acrobats walking on the wire, risking to fall again in our fears, instead of finding the courage to get out of this NIGHT that seems to be eternal!
There is no money for the schools, for health care for salaries for our teachers, for the hospitals, for repairing our roads…
…but there is money for building a new military base and pay 900 soldiers…
Perhaps I do not understand!
Someone asked me what we would have DESIRED on Christmas NIGHT… and for 2018…
…a little bit of LIGHT…
The people who walked in DARKNESS have seen a great LIGHT…
…for those who lived in the shadow of death a LIGHT has shone… (Mt 4:16)
I hope you are doing well. I arrived in the CAR two months ago and still I have not put away my luggage but my heart is totally taken by Mongoumba.
Emotions here reach an intensity that is beyond us.
At the very moment when I think “I’m leaving” I feel that my life is growing roots here!
It is not easy to manage the unknown, it is not easy to accept what is different, it is not easy to control impotence, the difficulties… But it is in difficulties that we stop being blind, deaf, mute…
The process of adaptation is going “yeke, yeke” which is Sango for “a little bit at the time.” I have turned this expression into an “order” for my head.
On any one day my heart beats in different ways, it cries in the morning, it laughs in the afternoon and at night at times it does both.
I have already started my Sango classes. Simone says that Mr. Dominique, the professor, has already begun to speak Portuguese quite well. In spite of all this, I will let you into a secret I have: I am totally in love with five little Pygmies – Paul, Dimanche, Albert, Pauline and François. By coming to school they also have breakfast and lunch. Theyare myoxygen capsule where I feed my body and my soul. We play, we pray and we converse (truly, we converse). But you will say, how do we communicate? I have lots of fun when I am the object of their study. They investigate me in detail: hands, veins, the mark of an elastic band on my arm, they have regular sessions around my head and my hair is the topics of much discussion. On this las day Pauline discover a hole in my belly – my belly button. It was a great topic of conversation! (Ha, ha)
How not to fall in love with them?
I end by wishing all of you a Happy Easter.
May Lent be a time of deep reflection and conversion, but above all of “humanitarian” action and that this action may be the fruit of our prayers.
Kisses from all of us in the CAR.
May Jesus protect and enlighten us all, in particular the CAR children who are the true diamonds of Africa.
All the members of our apostolic community are doing well, thanks be to God. It has been a while since I got in touch with you because, the roads being so bad, I avoid traveling to Bangui. The trip today, with all the stops, lasted eight hours. It becomes exhausting…
Today a new CLM arrived, Cristina who is from Gueifães, Portugal. She will study French a little more and then Sango, the local language. I pray to the Lord that she will adapt well and that she will learn Sango quickly in order to come to serve our people, especially the most neglected who are the Pygmies.
We brought with us a 17 year old girl who, beginning in 2016, started having a growth on her right breast. She had come earlier for tests, but they did not do anything to her and now it is as big as a football. On Sunday she started having pains on the other side and, since they came to ask for help, we took her along. They will begin with a total mastectomy and I hope it will only be a fibroma and not cancerous, that all may go well for her.
The episcopal ordination of Fr. Jesús went well. Eighty people came from Mongoumba and his two brothers, the sister-in-law, two nephews and four friends came from Spain. Out of his closest family, only his parents were missing because they are already 86, but they will celebrate their 63rd wedding anniversary in February and their son will be celebrating the Mass of thanksgiving. It was an unforgettable feast! A week later it was repeated in Mongoumba. The church was packed and many people stood outside.
For the coming of Jesús we celebrated the novena of the Nativity with a good participation of the faithful.
At the beginning of January we had some very cold nights with temperatures reaching 10C, which is very cold for people who do not have proper houses or coats to protect themselves. I had never felt such low temperatures over here…
Always united in prayer.
A large friendly hug to all from CLM Maria Augusta
I hope all is well with all the people I know. All the members of our apostolic community, including myself, are doing well, thanks be to God.
I am here in Mbaiki to attend the retreat of the Comboni Missionaries, which is turning out well. I hope it will produce good fruits! May the Lord help us to follow him ever better, with the heart, and not only with the head, to be faithful, and never lose our trust in him, because He is always faithful and always stands by our side. In sickness and difficulties we must never doubt about His presence, because there He holds our hand and often carries us, when we feel discouraged.
These beginnings have been difficult with the registration of students, and the selection of teachers which is always complicated, because the level of education is very low. They are parent-teachers who went as far as the 9th or 10th level of education… none of the teachers have diplomas. We gave them admission tests, but the results were very weak and so we cannot put them in front of a class: you have to know a minimum at least. Furthermore, classes have about 50 students, and this further complicates the teaching. I am grateful to God that all the courses are already working. May the Lord help teachers and students to make good progress. He is the one who makes the work of the mission progress and move forward. We are simply servants.
On Sunday there will be the episcopal ordination of Fr. Jesús in Bangui. Do not forget to pray for us and to pray a lot for him. May peace return very quickly in Bangassou, the diocese entrusted to him. I never forget to pray for you, daily. Fast recovery to all who are sick, may the Lord give you strength and serenity.
Here it has rained a lot. The roads are deadly, with many potholes, and make for exhausting journeys. Since arriving, my only long trip was to Mongoumba, while the others were only trips of a few miles. I hope that you already had rain and that the fires have died down. On Tuesday I will return to Mongoumba, God willing.
Hi to one and all, how are you? … Here all is well. I left Bangui in a hurry on August 19 continuing to study Sango directly in the field in Mongoumba… these three months have passed in a flash… here’s another song to help me express the immensity I have lived…
… LIKE A RIVER by the Nomads…
IT SMELLS OF AFRICA, LIKE DREAMS MADE OF DIRT AND MUD, LIKE THE FEET OF A TIRED MAN WALKING, KNOWING THAT THIS LIFE IS BUT A JOURNEY, A ROAD OF WHICH YOU DON’T KNOW THE END, EVEN IF SOME DAY IT MAY LEAD YOU SOMEWHERE, IN THE VLAAGES OF STRANDED HOUSES, WHERE LIVING IS AN ALL OUT STRUGGLE.
Sunday, October 22. THE ROAD LED ME TO MOLABAYE, only seven miles from Mongoumba, like Emmaus to Jerusalem, in a two hour walk: 6:15-8:15 AM! It isn’t that the houses are built along the ROAD, but rather the ROAD meanders through the SCATTERED HOMES, made of DIRT AND MUD, WHERE LIVING IS AN ALL OUT STRUGGLE! It’s only 6:15, but everyone is awake and life begins. Some grind manioc to prepare a bit of food, others weave bamboo to be sold for some cash, others yet make bricks of DIRT AND MUD to build a house, some are bathing the children with a little bit of water in a pail, the barefooted children play with a ball made of woven leaves! The rhythm of the journey is slow… LIKE A RIVER, because everyone comes to greet me and from a distance, as soon as they see me, the children start jumping and yelling: “BWA, BWA, BWA (father)” or “MUNGIU, MUNGIU, MUNGIU,” which I think comes from “Bonjour, White man, and line up, shake hands, smiles aplenty, greetings left and right… There will be many JOURNEYS on this ROAD and in the LIFE of these people, because I have been given the pastoral care of the Southern sector of the parish… four chapels: Molabaye, Gouga, Ikoumba 1, and Ikoumba 2…
MANY TIMES I MET HIM DOWN AT THE MARKET, WITH THE FIGHTING SPIRIT THAT POSSESSES HIM, WITH THE WARRING SPIRIT OF A SOLDIER, WHO GETS UP 100 TIMES WHEN HE FALLS, KNOWING HE WILL RISE WITH A HUNDRED MORE, WHOM IN THE FIELDS HE SAW BEING BORN AND DIE, JUST AS A GUST OF WIND IS BORN AND DIES, HOPE AND THE YEARNING TO TELL THE STORY.
Here it’s a STRUGGLE. Fr. Alex Zanotelli would say that it is the STRUGGLE between the God of life and the System of death oppressing the Republic of Central Africa! Our battlefields, where we experience our human limitations. There are five Health centers spread around the parish, small clinics and pharmacies we try to visit regularly. One of them is in Safa Tavares. Moms arrive with their undernourished babies, we weigh them, measure them, make the PB test (measuring the girth of the arm, give them an appetite test with a little bag of PumplyNut (looks like very nutritional peanut butter), prescribe medicines and evaluate whether the child is slowly and with all our efforts is getting better. On paper, these operations are easy and simple, but the babies squirm, scream, yell with all the FIGHTING SPIRIT THAT POSSESSES THEM, they show all their SOLDIER’S WARRING SPIRIT, as a sign that they are full of life, they want to fight and struggle!
IT HAS THE LOOK… OF THE WIVES, OF THE MOTHERS WHO EVERY NIGHT AWAIT WORRYING THE MORNING, AND EACH MORNING AWAIT FOR THE EVENING AND NEVER KNOW WHETHER TO LAUGH OR TO PRAY TO SOME GOD WHO’S LOOKING THROUGH THE WINDOW, FOR AT TIMES GOD DOESN’T KNOW WHAT TO LISTEN TO, AND DECEITFULLY MOVES ITS HEAD.
THE MOTHERS’ LOOK speaks… even though our languages are different! Often the MOTHERS’ LOOK screams “my child is sick… do something, please!” By the MOTHERS’ LOOK we already know the result of our struggle! Here the cold statistics of infant mortality take flesh, have a name, a face! At times at night we hear the screams of inconsolable mothers echoing from the hospital… “A cry was heard, a great cry and lamentation: Rachel crying over her children and does not want to be consoled…” (Mt 2:18) What words can bring consolation to a helpless mother who sees her child die?
There are mothers praying from morning to night… the refrain of the song sounds like the cry of the women to God… “TO THE LORDS OF WAR WE GIVE BLOOD, BECAUSE IT IS A BLOOD THAT WILL FLOW FAR, LIKE A RIVER CROSSING A CONTINENT AND INVADING THE OTHERS EVER SO SLOWLY.”
OFTEN I HAVE MET IT IN THE SLUMS, IN THE ALLEYS IN BETWEEN PALACES,
LIKE A BEAM OF LIGHT TARGETING THE BAREFOOTED CHILDREN, AND THERE ONCE AGAIN IT TIGHTENS ITS FISTS AND AGAIN IT RUNS TO FIGHT,
IT HAS A HORSE FASTER THAN THE WIND, A WIND WHICH IS ABOUT TO CHANGE.
The children provide the rhythm of our day… they are our clock… after morning Mass you here their chattering in the yard, time to finish the tea and start school at 7:30… silence: everyone is at school… cries of joy: it’s recess at 10:30… silence: everyone is in school again… cries of joy: school is over at 12:30, time to eat! After a time of silence, tiny heads and inquiring eyes POP UP at the window, you raise your head and they are gone, FASTER THAN THE WIND, and you hear them RUNNING BAREFOOT down the verandah whispering “Augustaaa, Annaaa, Simoneee.” Then everything disappears and it is time for night prayers and the mothers’ prayer becomes our own… “TO THE LORDS OF WAR WE GIVE BLOOD, BECAUSE IT IS A BLOOD THAT WILL FLOW FAR, LIKE A RIVER CROSSING A CONTINENT AND INVADING THE OTHERS EVER SO SLOWLY.”
… because God KNOWS WHAT AND WHOM TO LISTEN TO!!!
Let’s hope the WIND WILL INDEED CHANGE!!!
Greetings, hugs, a kiss, a prayer and THANK YOU… I almost feel like wishing you Merry Christmas, because I don’t know when I will be able to get out of Mongoumba again!
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