April 2, 2019
Fr. Constantino Bogaio, Provincial of the Comboni Missionaries in Mozambique, tells us about the current situation after the destruction caused by the Cyclone Idai.
The arrival of Cyclone Idai, with winds reaching 120 to 220 kmph and vry heavy rain, left in the city of Beira and its surroundings a trail of destruction never seehn or experienced before in the history of Mozambique.
In a short time the city was left deserted, ghostly, in a desolate situation. Walking through the avenues, the streets, the roadways one could see the houses destroyed, hospitals torn apart, the ruins of the churches, fallen trees, light and telephone poles thrown here and there.
The city of Chiveve had a blackout that affected 95% of its buildings, except for the airport that was turned into a shelter for the locals and for the foreigners arriving to help. In neighborhoods such as Munhava, Muchatazine, Vaz, Chota, Ndunda and others, besides the destruction of homes, there was extended flooding.
While the second city of the country was beginning to estimate the damage done by the cyclone and raise from its wounded pride, it started to receive bad news reaching one bit at the time, because the only land connection was cut off by the fury of the waters of the rivers Pungue, Búzi and Muda and their tributaries that flooded over their banks in the district of Dondo, Búzi, Nhamatanda, and Chibabava in the province of Sofala.
This is the only land connection between Beira and the other cities. Thus the suffering of the people became even worse. For almost a week they were almost totally isolated on the ground. Basic products were getting scarce and the constat rain made people’s lives very miserable.
The international community, arrived to give help, chose as its top priority to save lives in the surrounding districts, moving people to Beira. Thus a number of shelters were set up around the city.
Some preliminary general data from the affected areas
We must emphasize that no one knows the exact numbers:
Classrooms destroyed: 3140
Students affected: 90,756
Homes destroyed: 19,730
Dead: The dad in these areas are more than 500, but the numbers of missing people is not yet known.
The Comboni Missionaries
In the city of Beira we work in the suburb of Chota where more than 70 thousand people live. At the moment, 270 families had their homes destroyed and we have 170 families in immediate need of support, food and other necessities. So, in this first phase, our job will be to support these people.
The second phase will be to rebuild the homes, build a school as well as a youth center in the parish so that children and young people will have activities, because what was there before was built of wood and clay and the cyclone destroyed it completely. We want to build this youth center to give hope to the children, adolescents and young people who survived, but it must be a solid and resistant structure. We also want to create a support group for the mothers for health and nutritional education.
The area of Chota is the continuation of the largest neighborhood of Beira which is currently already being attacked by cholera. There are rumors of 200 people already ill, but this number can increase. A vaccination campaign is already under way. The neighborhood of Chota is in a high state of alert. It is hoped that it will not reach this part, because it would add another disaster since the river waters that flooded it have not yet receded.
Malaria is also an immediate concern. Fifteen days after the cyclone, the stagnant water and the puddles are a great source of incubation for the mosquitos that bring this disease.
The situation in Muxúngue
The parish of Muxúngue is about 350 km from Beira. The areas worst hit were Nhahápua, Goonda Madjaka and Gurudja crossed by the Rivers Muda and Búzi. The missionaries think that about 120 home have been destroyed. On the average, each family has about six children.
In this area, our intervention will be complete after all the people will have returned. We will help them rebuild their homes. Currently the local authorities are giving support at other levels. Our missionary experience tells us that, after this avalanche of support, it will be necessary to put together a support program of reconstruction of all that was lost and help people to get back to a normal life.
We need your solidarity and support in order to give people hope. Your support in this immediate phase will be to buy food and our basic products. In the next phase we will support the reconstruction of the infrastructures to bring the life of our brothers and sisters back to normal.
Already now we wish to thank those who already sent their donations to support these brothers and sisters and we hope you will continue to help in the next and more painful phase.
(you may join the solidarity campaign of the Comboni Missionaries in Mozambique).
May God bless each one of you, through the intercession of St. Daniel Comboni.
Fr. Constantino Bogaio, mccj
I professed my temporary Commitment as a Comboni Lay Missionary on 10th May 2015 and now I live as a Comboni Lay Missionary, in the Ministry of Healing. I work in Reach Out Mbuya, an Organization under Mbuya Catholic Parish that provides Holistic Care to People living with HIV/AIDS, Cancer and their individual families. I am a specialized Nursing Officer in Palliative Care working as Clinical Specialist, Trainer, a part-time Palliative Care Facilitator in Makerere University College of Health Sciences, School of Medicine. I love teaching and I enjoy working with adults, children and adolescents/young adults living with HIV/AIDS and Cancer. In them I see full hand of God at work in these young people. What these people want is just a smile and understanding, coupled with a hand touch on them regardless of what their physical condition is like, no wonder the women who had a bleeding for 12 years only said if only I can touch the cloak of Jesus I will get well Mtt. 9:21. We have witnessed people wanting to get blessing from the Pope, Bishop, and Priests and if you are working with the sick, rejected and abandoned, touching them is very great relief to them emotionally.
This experience has made me to realise that we are called to discover and reveal God’s love to all and reveal God’s Love for all whose source is in the open heart of Jesus. This requires us to be Contemplative in spirit, generous and educative in mission and passionate for justice, peace and integrity of creation. Jesus is the only one leading us in this journey and this journey is both exciting bewildering to me. I find it very hard to reveal God’s love to someone who has a broken heart, believes God no longer cares for him/her, if so why is it he/she has the incurable disease and the rest of the agony words the patient can pour out. Persisting with such a person and bringing Sacraments such as Crucifix, Statue of Mother Mary, Holy Eucharist and so on to him/her at home, with introduction of praying Rosary by the bed side of the sick person is a wonderful joy I will always remember in my life. Many of these people know they will die soon and so they all want to reconcile their past to God and their families, friends and people who matter in their life. What gives me courage and joy in this challenging Ministry of working with the sick is having faith and believe that I see the face of Jesus in the suffering as St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta tells us during her life on this world, especially tearful faces of the patients and their family members. Some of them have already given up on life as all their hopes are crashed with the terminal sickness to the extend they need help to make a short or long call of nature which makes them totally to depend on their children, leave alone the shame of African/Tribal Cultural beliefs where a child is not supposed to see the nakedness of the biological parent or of a care taker who becomes the real parent to such a child. Taking these people the way they are makes them understand that they still matter to other people and also there are still people who value them despite all their physical disability for daily personal care.
Sign of compassion, students of Missionary Club of St. Kizito Secondary School in Bugolobi Kampala, shocked to see people still living with such a condition in this world, alone in the house, no children, careless person she stays in the same house with. They all cried tears at the site and problem this very poor elderly women is living with HIV/AIDS, they gave all that they had to help her and promise to keep her in their individual prayers.
This makes me to believe that in our daily journey as Comboni Lay Missionaries; we need the spirit of creativity, courage and commitment so that God’s immense, tender, strong and merciful Love may shape our future. This we can only be achieved through prayers as Jesus said there is nothing the Father can fail to give us if we put it to God in prayer Mtt. 7:7-12, I also realised this is the only way we can attract more people to our group as they will be touched by the way we care for the sick, abandoned and the needy which is an open way for us to do apostolate in our local communities we live in. You do not need to be a Nurse or a Medical Doctor to visit patients, what they need is only company but not your professional skills. They have over seen medical professionals during their good moments in life and they need only friends, people who can listen to them, talk to them, encourage them and bring them so closer to God at such bed bound state. You don’t even need to think of loading with gifts to take to them, they no longer have appetite for food or your expensive gifts; they only need somebody to sit by their bed side, hold their hand, look them into their own eyes and talk to them as a friend. This will further require us through the moral values and confidence we show to the group through the work we do and how we serve the needy, abandoned according to our Charism of reaching out to the poor and most abandoned as Comboni Family that we value our call and we will do all that can please St. Daniel Comboni so that he can intercede and pray for us from Heaven so that his light will continue to shine through us in this world among the needy people of this world. We all have individual gifts, experience that we can use for this call such as our smiles, dreams that we can freely express to the people we interact with on daily basis to bring hope and love for our beloved group as Comboni Lay Missionaries. We should always remember that what we do always should promote communion and vitality of CLM in the view of all our missions so that all our actions bind us all as CLM into one big Comboni Family.
There are a lot of challenges that we may face in the process of doing our daily work, but interaction with our Spiritual Directors on these holistic challenges we face is helpful and it is very vital that we all have spiritual directors who help us to move with hope, faith, love and courage in all that we do. Inputs in our routine recollections, retreats, daily personal contemplations and sharing experiences with our senior colleagues in the different religious congregations and consecrated people is something that we all may venture into to find out our ability to withstand the wave of the Satan that wants to drift us away from our goal to serve the Lord in the needy we meet every day. Our Satan may not be the snake or that very black something/image we are aware of and not our enemies we know but this can be a person so dear to us in the family or community and so asking for the will of God to be done in our life is paramount just as our Mother Mary said at annunciation Luke 1:38.
Father Richard Rohr Franciscan Priest, an online Evangelist and Founder of Center for Action and Contemplation from USA, from his Falling Upwards: a Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass:2011), 44-45 has this very touching story titled “Discharging Our Loyal Soldier” for us to learn from in order to be committed CLM, hope it can touch you as it did to me:
A story from Japan at the close of World War II illustrates how we might support ourselves and others in transition to the second half of life. If you have ever been to Japan, you will know that its culture is rich in ritual, with a strong sense of the importance of symbol, aesthetics, and ceremony.
At the end of the war, some Japanese communities had the wisdom to understand that many of their returning soldiers were not prepared to reenter civil, peaceful society. The veterans’ only identity for their formative years had been as a “loyal soldier” to their country, but now they needed a broader identity.
So the communities created a ceremony whereby a soldier was publicly thanked and praised for their service to the people. After the soldier had been profusely honored, an elder would stand and announce with authority: “The war is now over! The community needs you to let go of what has served you and us well up to now. We now need you to return as a parent, a partner, a friend, a mentor—something beyond a soldier.”
I call this process “discharging your loyal soldier.” As Ken Wilber suggests, we need to “transcend and include” as we grow, recognizing the value of what has come before while shedding old skins and identities that no longer fit us.
With tenderness, notice how at various times in your life you’ve fixated on different priorities, different measures of right and wrong, different sources of meaning and belonging. Give thanks for the lessons you learned at each phase that helped you survive, succeed, and become who you are today. Ask yourself what beliefs you may be ready to lay to rest, ways of thinking and acting that no longer serve your maturing awareness of reality.
You might wish to explore your journey in one or more of these ways:
Journal or write a poem.
Draw, paint, sculpt, or create a collage.
Find a piece of music that illustrates changing moods and move to it.
Talk to a friend, spiritual director, or therapist.
Design a simple ceremony to discharge your “loyal soldier.”
When we apply this story to our own life as CLM, I strongly belief there are still so many Loyal Soldiers in us that we need our elders like Spiritual Directors and our leaders at all levels to help us discharge. Using the last part of the story, let us ask the Lord to help us to overcome our old self that prohibits our new identity as CLM to express itself in line with the will of God we have committed our self to do.
In Guatemala we, the local CLM, started this year 2019 asking God to enlighten us on where we were going to serve this year. In Santa Caratina Pinula we are continuing with the program of child nutrition of Chispuditos. However, we are temporarily leaving behind the monthly day of mission experience there and we are ready for a new location… to bring joy… faith, hope… peace… consolation, in solidarity with the injustice and deficiencies suffered by other Guatemalan brothers.
Now the Lord is bringing us to the municipality of Chinautla, in the Guatemala department.
Its center is Santa Cruz. It is located in the northern part of the department of Guatemala, only about 12 km from the capital. They are famous for their hand-made pottery. The entire population is indigenous and they are ethnic Pocomam.
They have been suffering under a lot of political abuse and corruption, because the mayor’s office has been monopolized by the same mayor since 1985. He has always supported whatever government has been in power, until he was arrested for corruption in 2015. In spite of the arrest, this individual was able to have his own niece elected mayor for the 2016-2020 term and got out of prison a few months after his capture, the gravity of the accusations facing him notwithstanding.
The people are poor and abandoned… the municipality of Chinautla does not allow the garbage trucks to drive over there, because they want to discourage the people so they will leave and then they will be able to exploit the village construction material. So the locals throw the garbage here and there, especially in the river that crosses the village, because they do not know where to put it, or how to take it to the main dump. They live in extreme poverty, have no place to go… nor will they want to… it is their land… all of them are owners.
That is where Jesus has guided our steps… all for his honor and glory. Fr. Roberto Gómez Palma is the pastor of Chinautla, people are mostly Catholics and the evangelical sects have not done much of anything. We have been there a couple of times, on February 23 and March 16, and we already see that the people are friendly and trusting. They send their children to our activities. Both the older and the younger ones come on their own, very independent and sure of themselves.
We ask the Lord to give us all we need to proclaim the Kingdom and share the joy of the Gospel. Also that he give us light to identify the needs where we can cooperate as Comboni Lay Missionaries. We place ourselves in the hands of Providence and trust in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, in the style of Comboni.
“Holy and Capable, making common cause with the poorest and most abandoned”
“Here I am sending you some tidbits on mission life.” With these words our dear friend María Augusta embraces us and writes on what is going on in the mission of the CAR.
Ana [CLM from Poland] had a problem with an elbow. X-rays were taken and then we went with her to the military medical center in Bangui. People there were very kind and helpful. God willing, we will have lunch with them tomorrow.
Gratefully, the rest of us is doing well. We had news from Fr. Samuel, who is also doing well, taking advantage of his vacation to rest and to visit family and friends.
This week a mother with twin girls came to us. She had already been here other times to ask for milk, because she did not have enough for both babies. They were already undernourished. We took care of them and they had returned home in good shape. Now she came with one of the babies being very skinny, and weighing only 2 Kg at 9 months… I was very stressed by it and immediately I went with the mother to the place where we treat those who are undernourished, to have her admitted. I do not know whether she is going to make it! May the Lord do what is best for her.
Little Andrés, the orphan I met in November 2015 and to whom we gave milk, has Pott disease (vertebral tuberculosis). He was taken to the pediatrician in Bangui and now he is being treated for it. Later he will undergo surgery like Gervelais*, who up to this point was not able to walk, but after two months of this TB treatment, has already started to take a few steps and it is clear he has a lot of inner strength to make him want to learn how to walk in a hurry.
At the school we have started two remedial classes** of 90 minutes each, twice a week. In the early years we concentrate on reading and writing. And then later we add Mathematics. May the Lord give our students strength and good will so as not to fail, but may improve their chances. By God’s grace we have some students with a lot of will power… this is what gives us the encouragement to continue. We are grateful to the Lord who gives us good health, happiness and the will to keep on with it.
I wish all of you a Lent filled with Quiet and Growth in the love of God and our brothers and sisters.
Always united in prayer and mission! Thanks for your prayers.
María Augusta Pires, CLM in CAR
* Gervelais is the name of a “little one” María Augusta referred to earlier on April 13 and June 11, 2018.
** Because the results of the students are not encouraging, as she explained in her last letter.
Comboni Lay Missionaries of the Province of Central America, Guatemala
Chispuditos is the name of the food given only to children taking part in the program, between the ages of six months to six years. The purpose of this product is to provide vitamins and minerals necessary for the integral development of the children, helping to strengthen their immunological system, and to avoid anemia and malnutrition. In Guatemala the program is working in various places, it is free, and it is sponsored by foreign benefactors.
How is it that we, the CLM_PCA of Guatemala know about Chispuditos?
This is the story as told by Ana Cris de Camey, who is currently a missionary in Brazil:
“The month of February, 2017 was the first time we reached the village of la Salvadora and, as part of our missionary activity, we started home visitations with the idea of getting to know the families and their needs. That is where we met María Mercedes and Walter. She was 24 and he was 37. They had seven children, the last two being twins, a boy and a girl, Fabián and Tania, who were severely undernourished, pale, without hair, with spots on their heads and with a severe rash. The worst part is that they could not sit up even though they were already one and a half year old.
María Mercedes said that she was taking them to the national hospital Roosevelt once a month, where they were being treated for chronic malnutrition, were giving them some milk products, but it was not enough for them. For certain it was a precarious and difficult situation for the mother, who had problems finding food for the children since her husband did not have a job and was not even looking for one. On top of that she was the victim of physical and verbal abuse.
On that same day in the afternoon, we talked with the community to find a way to help them because their situation was beyond deplorable. Miriam, also a CLM, commented about the Chispuditos program held at the clinic St. Daniel Comboni, run by Sr. Sarah Mulligan, SC.
Miriam spoke with Sr. Sarah and they allowed us to take up this nutrition program. Then several of us went to learn about the program to implement it at la Salvadora.
At first they lent us the scale to weigh the children and the ruler to measure their stature. After that and with the help of the parish of Santa Catarina Pínula, we were able to buy the equipment for our children.
On July, 8, 2017, for the first time we brought in the Chispuditos. On that same day we weighed 40 children, several of them healthy, while in others with malnutrition visible through their frail state and others too fat. By then we had already learned that this, too, was a sign of malnutrition.
We kept up the visits on the first Saturday of each month to measure and weigh the children, give them the Chispuditos, and giving encouragement to the mothers, besides teaching them some recipes to include protein and other ingredients that children need in order to grow.
Tania and Fabián:
Three months into the program, on October 2017, Fabián died. It was very tough because in all possible ways we were fighting to help these children escape malnutrition. They say that he gave a deep sigh and died. This was certainly due to the general weakness of his body and the heart gave up beating. We stayed close to María Mercedes and her family. She went to live with her mother and on various occasions we brought her the Chispuditos so that Tania would not stop taking it. Between the Chispuditos, the increased attention, the support of her grandmother and uncles, after two months we could already see the difference. She was a different girl, had a good color! She was a dark girl, with black hair, a great smile and a lot of energy! She was sitting up and was beginning to take her first steps. On that day I cried to see the mercy of God through this little girl. Unfortunately, her brother had to die, but it was not in vain. Today it gives us great joy to see the attention given to Tania, to be a different girl, that she may walk and grow.
As CLM we make every possible effort to help these women to grow spiritually and to better feed their families, and also that the children may escape malnutrition and have a better life. It involves years of work, but we know that already today we are beginning to see some fruit.”
Currently the program still works in the village la Salvadora, after one year and eight months, even though, having started with 40 children, we only have 12 still in it. Last Saturday, March 2, 2019, 11 new ones arrived. We rejoiced in our hearts, thanking God for all this. We have earned the trust of our community, and we hope these children will persevere and that the number of children benefiting from the Chispuditos will increase.
“Holy and capable, making common cause with the poorest and most abandoned”
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