Comboni Lay Missionaries

God saves children with our hands

Barkot children

Since our center for street children began to operate, God has helped many children with our hands. I believe our work makes sense even if we change the life of just one child. Meanwhile, I counted all the children we sent to school, providing them with the most necessary clothes, uniforms, exercise books and school supplies and for whom we provided full board or whose families we offered food and cleaning products every month. It turned out that there are exactly 30 of them. We changed the fate of 30 children! 30 children started or returned to formal education.

Barkot children

Overall, we helped more children. There were many more children who came to us, could eat a hot meal, wash themselves, wash their clothes and participate in activities. This is not the end, because our mission is still going on and getting more and more active. Many boys come to us and we continue to try our best to find the best solution for them so that they have a relatively happy childhood and future ahead of them. After all, God has beautiful plans for them … “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jr 29,11

Magdalena Soboka, CLM Ethiopia

Bogumiła and Andrzej – Comboni lay missionaries from Poland

Bogusia i Andrzej

From a young age, we have been interested in the world and people, and during the meetings missionaries have always told us in an interesting way that people in Africa and the world need help, support, and getting to know God.

Bogusia i Andrzej

There has come a moment in our lives that we don’t have to go to work anymore, we don’t have to play with the children, the parents are gone, and we want to give something of ourselves – be useful to people. Why not join the missionaries? Why not go?

We started looking for how and who could prepare us for such a trip. There was an obstacle here – we are “too old”, preparations are for young people.

Meanwhile, Father Dawid Stelmach came to our parish as an auxiliary priest. It turned out that he was responsible for the missions in the Poznań diocese – and it went on…

Everything started to come together. Some time passed by, Fr. Dawid contacted Magda Plekan – a CLM from Poznań (for four years on missions in Ethiopia), who has not been discouraged by our age and would be happy to see us in Ethiopia, but we need to prepare. We were helped in this by the Comboni Lay Missionaries from Krakow – they are MISSIONARIES – who proclaim Christ, not only with words, but above all with their actions, attitudes, love for others, responsible performance of their duties, and in addition their domain is Africa.

We went to Ethiopia as volunteers to two centers run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity – one in Awassa and the other one in Dire Dawa. Both centers are clinics and care centers.

We didn’t feel like strangers there, we had the impression that we didn’t travel far.

The path for a missionary is full of surprises, it is not always as we would like it to be. Sometimes the unexpected can frustrate your plans and expectations.

It turned out to be a coronavirus pandemic. We know that God protects us – He stands behind each of us, supports us and expects us to see it, trust and submit to His will.

Today we are learning the Ukrainian language, because our plans include a trip to Ukraine to Kamieniec Podolski, where we contacted the Polish priest Marcin. In May, the priest will come to Poland and asked us to go with him to Kamieniec Podolski and find out on the spot how we could find ourselves there. We hope that it will happen – it is not only up to us.

The Ukrainian language is taught by the Deacon who is in Poznań on preparation before his ordination in May this year in the Cathedral in Kamieniec Podolski.

He introduced us to the current conditions and the situation in Ukraine, customs, people’s behavior, a bit of history.

This is not Africa but Europe. Ukraine is at war with Russia and this is a very difficult and socially delicate matter for a missionary. This puts the missionary in a special situation where, in a civilized Europe, states fight each other.

Nowadays it is difficult to understand that in Europe there may again be a threat to peace.

Bogumiła and Andrzej – Comboni lay missionaries from Poland

My road to CLM community

Bartek LMC Polonia
Bartek LMC Polonia

I grew up in a Catholic family and I believe in God since I remember. My faith started changing in high school – I have created my own morality, going to church became just a habit and prayer was no longer important.

Then I started studies in Cracow and I felt very lonely in such a big city. This led me to the academic chaplaincy. We had a wonderful priest, who trusted us and gave us responsibility. I quickly got involved – I was leading formation meetings, organizing bicycle pilgrimages, trips to the mountains. During one of the prayers the Lord came to me Himself and changed my heart. I felt the presence of the Holly Spirit and the urge to change my life according to His will.

Because of my community, I have also got to know the Noble Package, where I was a volunteer for many years, and I have found combonians. Once, someone wrote an e-mail about the Lenten retreat led by Comboni Missionaries at Skośna Street. I decided to come and I discovered the close side of the Church. Direct contact with fathers, individual adoration of the Lord during the night, songs in Swahili, prayer with the Word of God, Jesus presented as an African child, a time to share reflections during the Holy Mass… It was all new and delightful. It truly felt that I was a part of the Church.

With time, I started going to the meetings of candidates for the Combonian Lay Missionary Movement, I went on a missionary experience to Gulu in Uganda, where, during intercessory prayer, God opened my heart even more to His Love.

The Lord Jesus effectively leads me by the hand. I can see that all the breakthroughs in my life so far are the result of His tender and gentle touch, which guides a person on the right path. Now I feel He wants me to go on a two-year missionary trip. Lord Jesus, You know everything. I’m yours. Lead, I will follow!

Bartek Tumiłowicz, CLM Poland

To be missionary at all times

LMC Polonia
CLM Poland

This March Ewelina and I were supposed to go to Peru. We planned to help the poorest in Arequipa – one of the biggest cities in Peru. The day before our fly, Polish and Peruvian borders were closed due to pandemic, so we needed to stay.

At the beginning I thought it wouldn’t take more than two weeks and it would give me more time to practice Spanish and spend more time with my family. But the situation haven’t changed till now. I realized then that NOW is not a waiting time but this is my mission already. We don’t become a missionary on the day of our departure and stop being them the day we come back home. We are a missionary all the time, no matter where we are and what we do. I have always known that but in this days it became more real for me.

I think it is even harder to be a missionary in my own country, because when we go on a mission, we go to places where people don’t know our God, or just have met Him. Do our families, colleagues or friends need a missionary? Most of them know truths of faith, go to the church every Sunday and celebrate Christian holidays. But in fact, some of them have never met true God and have never experienced His Love, or they have met Him but didn’t realize that it was Him.

Our mission is always the same: here in Poland, in Africa or in Peru. We bring God everywhere we go and share His Love with everyone we meet. It is much easier to talk about Him and His Love, than being witness of faith. But before that we need to know Him and the only way to know someone is spending time and talking to them. The same way we build our relation with God: by reading His Word, adoring the Blessed Sacrament and take part in Holy Mass. True knowledge and conversion are not a matter of one retreat but of a lifetime. I hope we would never try to show to people someone we don’t know at all. We should remember that not only the person who is going on mission is a missionary, but each of us, no matter where we are and what we do. I learn how to be a missionary every day and I make some mistakes, but I believe that my power is made perfect in my weakness.

CLM Poland

Agnieszka Pydyn, CLM Poland

The epidemic of coronavirus as an impulse to act!

LMC Etiopia

I would like to tell you about how God works when Satan tries to destroy on the example of my mission.

As we know, coronavirus is slowly reaching everywhere. Some people believe that God wants to punish the world for sins or has sent a plague on us to convert us. I do not believe that. However, I believe that God can bring good out of every evil. The epidemic obviously destroys, kills and is generally bad, but I think everyone will admit that it also has many advantages – it unites us, rebuilds relationships in the family and more. We could definitely multiply the examples. And this is God’s work. Not the epidemic, but all the good that came from it.

LMC Etiopia

The coronavirus reaching Ethiopia pushed us to action. Last year, I founded “Barkot” Children of Ethiopia Foundation. Together with my husband, we have been running a children’s center in Awassa since October last year. The project assumes the gradual rehabilitation of children and the pursuit of their reintegration into family and society. From the beginning we run open activities to which we were inviting street children. We hired a few employees who were going out into the street to encourage them to participate in it. And in fact a lot of them came from the beginning. We organized recreational, sports, educational, psychological, artistic and other classes.

The next step was to choose regular participants, contact their families and extend the program especially for them, including meals. The third step was to receive the most persistent ones into the center with full accommodation, to prepare them directly for returning home and to school.

But … there was always a but. We were worried whether we would have enough funds for this. In addition, I went to Poland to give birth to our daughter. Except of working for our organization, my husband has another job and, apart from coordinating the work of the center, he could not sit there constantly. In addition, he was going to Poland for a month. So we waited until I returned to Ethiopia. Then more problems – sometimes the police catch the street children at night and place them in collective shelters. If we start the second step, it is not known if our children will disappear overnight (which unfortunately has already happened). Our budget still seemed insufficient to provide some stability for a long time. So how could we work? I noticed that even among the employees there was a certain resignation, lack of motivation, they did not work with such commitment as at the beginning …

And finally the coronavirus appeared in the country. The government closed schools and began to introduce restrictions. For us, conducting classes for children coming directly from the street, especially from the most crowded places, all our activities were put into question. Many organizations stopped working. What to do? Shall we close the center until it’s all over? Then we would have to pay the house rent and workers’ salaries. We would not avoid constant costs that are not so small.

Then we got the idea (I believe that it was from the Holy Spirit) to choose the children to whom we would give shelter during the epidemic. We started preparations, shopping, searching for funds via the Internet. We have become active on Facebook, people have started to be interested in us again and make donations. We have already received seven boys and of course we do not want to keep them only in the center, but work with them so that after some time they can return to their families and start school. Everyone has regained their willingness to work. We have set weekly program and specific plans on what to do with children. A positive change can already be seen from our boys. In total, we are preparing to have ten of them. The coronavirus was still not found in Awassa (and we hope it won’t!)

LMC Etiopia

We have overcome this transition step and I think it is better like this. We needed such an impulse as in this case coronavirus to trust God again that He will lead us and give us what we need to implement His plan. We don’t have money for a long time, but we believe in God’s action and human goodness. After all, our foundation is called “Barkot”, which in English means “He blesses it”.

Magda Soboka, CLM in Ethiopia