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!
Today we put the conclusions of our meeting into solid concrete steps on the way forward as Comboni Lay Missionaries working on this beautiful continent of Africa. We all have different realities within our communities. Some have found it easy to collaborate within our communities, some have found challenges. There are communities that communicate well and understand the expectations of our family and the greater Comboni community, others have just understood how it all fits together.
This meeting has closed now, but through the Holy Spirit it has opened the eyes and hearts of all of us. We are all stronger together, as one Comboni family. Our time in Anchilo has brought a continent of people all working to help expand the kingdom of God closer together. It has shown us our strengths and our weaknesses. We have put forth resolutions to make our paths more clear for all of us. These resolutions will help us all to understand deeper our vocation, our responsibilities, and the way forward in the spirit of St. Daniel Comboni.
Our meeting has brought forth the realities of our missionary vocation to the group.
We have discussed topics like communication, vocation, economics, formation and much more. Through these discussions we have found where we have met our goals, areas that we need to improve and the challenges we face in doing so.
Much like St. Daniel Comboni we have all found some difficulties in expanding the Kingdom of God. With the charism of our founder and intercessor, we find the strength to carry on in our mission and find the path to do so.
Like the palm tree bearing the coconuts fruit, it is not easy to share the sweet taste of salvation but we find the strength to climb, through our faith and our community.
The 24th of July we have started the 3rd African Continental Meeting of CLM in Anchilo, Mozambique.
We have come from all over the continent to meet as one Comboni Family to discuss and collaborate on our missionary vocation, our experiences, and our struggles following in the footsteps of our founder St. Daniel Comboni.
We ask for your prayers to the Holy Spirit to guide us through this time of community and reflection.
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