On August 17, my seven companions of the group Faith and Mission and I left Lisbon for a long journey to the airport of Nampula, Mozambique. It was not a vacation, but the beginning of a month-long missionary experience in the Comboni community of Carapira. Now that I am on my way back to Portugal, I can only say that it was an unforgettable month that has placed Mozambique in my heart forever.
The main focus of our mission was the Technical Industrial Institute of Carapira (ITIC), where we took part in many activities, each according to his or her own gift. In my case, being a Math student, I had the chance to help in the revision of the accounts, in teaching and in clarifying students’ doubts during the night sessions. Our mission, however, was not limited to the ITIC, because we were asked also to do some teaching to the girls at the Comboni Sisters’ boarding school and we were also able to take part in various pastoral activities, such as visits to the communities, to the sick and others. Despite the large number of activities, what made this month so significant was not the little I gave, but how much I received and learned in Carapira.
Welcoming and sharing are two words holding much of the magic of this mission month. It is incredible how the missionary community of Carapira – fathers, brothers, sisters, and lay people – opened its doors to receive us, to offer us a cup of coffee or to help whenever it was needed.
In my contacts with the people I perceived that such availability and willingness to share is what better describes the Makua with a rich culture very much at odds with ours… While in Europe life is full of stress and people get upset at the slightest delay, for example, waiting for a bus that is late, in Carapira I met people who do not live in a hurry, who know how to be and contemplate. The truth is that during my first weeks in Carapira I found it rather difficult to adapt to the culture and to its rhythm. But it was well worthwhile, because this slowing down brought me to rethink my style of life and to find this interior silence that helps us to listen to the will of God.
To be part of this community was another great challenge I had to face. During the month we were eight young people 100% joined in community. We ate together, we prayed together, we worked together… It was a routine far different to the one I am used to, because I left home when I entered the university and got used to a rather independent and solitary life… Adaptation was not easy, because in community living there are always situations leading to make mistakes – it is enough to be a little too tired and say the wrong word that will cause resentment. These situations are unavoidable and they did come up occasionally, but we were always able to get over them thanks to the power of prayer, which helped us to be more in tune with God, “to die daily in order to go against our will,” as a song we like a lot says, and to be able to forgive.
For anyone coming from a country like Portugal, it is sad to see how the majority of the population of Mozambique lives in a situation of great poverty. And it is even worse to realize that, for the most part, the mentality of the rich countries is responsible for this poverty. For instance, walking through the barrios I was often surprised to hear, “mucunha [white person], I need money.” In time, however, I realized that many “mucunha” help by giving money only to relieve their conscience, without trying to create the means people need to come out of poverty and stop begging. But I was happy to see right there the great and constant flow of charity and love for neighbor done by the Comboni family, faithful to Comboni’s slogan, “to save Africa with Africa.”
I could say a lot more about this “landing” in Carapira. I could speak of the fantastic beauty I found on our visits to the beaches of the Island of Mozambique, or of the great feast for our departure, or of many other good things. But what is most important is what I keep in my heart, and it cannot be put into words…
I thank God for having had the opportunity to experience all this.
Mozambique, let us keep united in friendship and in prayer.
Rúben Sousa (Portugal)