Tragicomic chronicle from West Pokot, Kenya: first episode!!!!
Why “tragicomic?” Because, even without meaning to, I already know that it’s going to be a bit like that…and so, here, I would like to share with you the joys and sorrows of my being here!
– the Kenya Comboni Lay Missioners (CLM) group is a lively and welcoming group, I am glad to be a part of it.
(Father Maciek and some Kenyan LMCs, my first Sunday in Nairobi)
– For about 3 months I will be a guest of the Comboni Fathers in Kacheliba. I need to learn the local language, Pokot (I will have class every morning), and try to get a good understanding of how things work here. Later on, together with another Kenyan LMC, Josephine (who is also already here), I will move to the new house in Kitelakapel, 15 km from here, to start our full-time activities.
– Our house is almost ready.
– During this time we will also be engaged in these activities:
1) Tamarind juice production: there are many tamarind trees in this area. We have put some ladies from Kitelakapel Chapel to work to collect these fruits. A small amount we have already sold in Nairobi, now we have to prepare everything so we can then continue to produce the juice. It will be a way to self-finance ourselves a little bit as a group of Kenyan Comboni Lay Missionaries.
(our lay people selling tamarind juice, peanut butter and honey after Mass in Nairobi)
2) Participation in jumuiyya/parish groups/associations: we will go around among the various groups in the parish, especially in the Kitelakapel area, to get to know people, make connections, get a good understanding of the various realities of the parish, and see what needs there are, so that we can also understand what kind of activities we can fit in, or possibly what new activities to propose, especially in the pastoral area.
3) Activities in schools: we will meet with the directors of some schools near Kitelakapel, to see if the possibility of giving some part-time classes can be materialized, perhaps in exchange of a small contribution (so that we have a little something extra to self-support ourselves)
4) To establish the foundations of our community, preparing our ” charter” and other necessary documents.
– We may become three! Another Ugandan Comboni Lay Missionary may join us in July. For this in particular, we rely on your prayers (because it would be a huge help, given the mountain of work ahead!).
IN MORE DETAIL:
“Polepole ndio mwendo” say the Waswahili (Swahili speakers). It means, more or less, “he who goes slow, goes steady and goes far…” And so, I wish I had great achievements already to list, but unfortunately, or fortunately, things move very, but very slowly here. I have just arrived and I am asked, rightly, to tiptoe into this reality, polepole, because no matter how much experience one already may have–and I have very little–every reality is different, and here, by the way, everyone is rightly very busy, so I really cannot expect everything to be explained to me right away, or to be immediately involved in every possible and imaginable activity.
Upon my arrival, I was greeted with great affection and enthusiasm by the Kenyan Comboni Laity, who immediately made me feel at home. It is good to feel that I am not alone, but that, together, we are walking toward a common goal.
From Nairobi I moved to Kacheliba, about 15 km away from where I am going to live, Kitelakapel. This is how it works here: the main parish office is located in Kacheliba, but the parish covers a very large area full of outstations, that is, small chapels (sometimes they look like tiny houses, and they are actually “churches”!), often far away. There are currently two fathers, and one deacon. And they cannot be multiplied like the five loaves and two fish (unless the Holy Spirit intervenes…) so the work is really a lot. Kitelakapel is one of these outstations, but the fathers would like it to become, sooner or later, a parish, and so, in addition to the little church (larger than the little chapels I mentioned above), there is a house where the fathers stop to sleep sometimes, if necessary, and which could become, in the future, the home of the fathers of the new parish. Not far away, on the same “road” (if you can call it that) the construction of another house is now almost finished, where we Comboni lay people will stay. It’s quite a big house (we trust in the arrival of new lay missionaries!), with lots of space around it, to build a hospital as well (and, I hope, on the other side, also a playground to organize activities with the kids. How to deny my Salesian origins?).
(our little church in Kitelakapel)
(Mass in the chapel in Mtembur)
(Our house inside and out, almost finished! It looks like a Grand Hotel, but then thankfully inside is much more sober than it looks heheheh!)
Joining me on this adventure will be Josephine, the Kenyan Comboni laywoman who, like me, has given her availability for this mission, and so together, on April 29, we practically founded this new international community of Comboni Lay Missionaries. She is just originally from these parts, and she speaks Pokot, and for that I am really grateful, for the help she will be able to give me in understanding not only the language, but also to avoid possible mistakes or misunderstandings or figureheads related to my ignorance of the local culture.
(Josephine in traditional Pokot skirt, the “loruà”)
(the new LMC international community in Kitelakapel!)
When the construction of the house is fully completed, Josephine and I will move to Kitelakapel for good. At the moment, however, we are in Kacheliba, both because the house is not yet ready and because we need to take the Pokot course (in my case) and experience some community life here with the fathers.
Hoping I have not bored you, I send everyone a big hug and warm greetings.
Ah, important: THANK YOU!!!!!
I sincerely thank all those who have contributed with their donations to start this new community. It is very embarrassing to find ourselves living off the charity of others, it is a new situation for me, but for anything, our own survival, expenses to start the community and any projects/activities with people, we now depend on Providence. The “beautiful” aspect of this is the fact that this somehow means that the flourishing of this new Christian community in Kitelakapel will be the fruit of a shared effort: by me and Josephine, with our direct presence, and by those who support us, through their indirect contributions. It becomes a team effort! Thank you very much!!!