It is said that experience is the best teacher and for us as candidates undergoing formation to become Comboni Lay Missionaries, this was and is part of our learning process. The experience had been planned months prior with the selection of two candidates (Beatrice Imali, a nurse, and Angeline Njeri, a teacher) as the first of the group to experience missionary life and work in mission territories. The experience was to be led by our formator, Fr. Maciek Zielinski. The journey from Nairobi to Amakuriat Mission in West Pokot County started on the night of 2nd December 2019 with a slight detour to Kacheliba Parish for breakfast and little rest the next morning. We arrived at the Mission at around 1:30pm to a warm welcome from the entire community (both MCCJ and CMS) and the Provincial Superior of the MCCJ in the Kenyan Province, Fr. Austin Radol.
After a goodnight’s rest, we embarked on our duties the following day as scheduled in the MCCJ Amakuriat Community’s calendar prior to our arrival. Beatrice started work at the dispensary in the mission ran by an amazing and hardworking Sr. Gabriella. Angeline embarked on a journey of youth formation and pastoral work in Amakuriat and other outstations within the Parish. The missionary experience meant to last for about three weeks had already began. This was later followed by the sharing of meals and hearty laughter with the community later in the day. Even on our first days there, we knew that the experience would be a wonderful one.
Josephine (joined us later) conducting youth formation at Kaakow, an outstation of Amakuriat Parish
It was important to not only be fully engaged in the work of the Comboni Family in Amakuriat Parish but to also observe and interact with the people and try to learn as much as we could about them. The intricate workings of a society and it’s culture serve as a great teacher to an aspiring missionary. In our engagements with them, we not only were able to pick few words here and there, but also got to experience their enriching faith and community as a people. The Mass was celebrated with joyful singing and it felt like everybody knew everybody.
Nevertheless, there never lacks challenges that one observes even on a day to day basis. Due to limited health facilities, the dispensary is always having patients streaming in. Some patients so sick that Sr. Gabriella has to rush them to Moroto, Uganda. The heaviness of the workload could be seen in the face of Beatrice, who though tired always expresses the joy she feels in serving the sick.
Youth formation not only enables you to engage with the youth, but also opens one’s eyes to the need for youth sensitization on personal growth and development, especially through education and spirituality. However, the society has still yielded great young men and women who have and are still working towards the betterment of themselves as individuals and as a community. This can be clearly seen by the youthful young men and women working in the dispensary, the youth and young children in schools and the various professionals within the schools and churches. The work of the Comboni Missionaries in this area can be clearly seen and continues to grow daily. But even then, a lot remains to be done. It is as the Lord put it, “The harvest is great but the laborers are few”. This puts into perspective the need for Comboni Lay Missionaries in not only Amakuriat Parish but in other missionary territories here in Kenya and the world as a whole.
Our formator, Fr. Maciek, has always insisted that it is important to also experience community life, albeit even for short periods at a time before basic formation is completed. In our short stay, we were able to see the beauty of harmonious living among community members, and the joy it brings to the mission. We felt at home and social interactions between us and the MCCJ and CMS community in Amakuriat were something we will live to treasure. We even got to celebrate Fr. Maciek’s and Beatrice’s birthdays, and our first international CLM Feast Day with the community!
With the end of the experience drawing near, we knew that this was an experience we would relate to our colleagues once back in Nairobi. There is guaranteed nostalgia, and the desire to serve as Comboni Lay Missionaries has only been strengthened by this experience. We hope that our experience also inspires other CLM candidates to keep discerning and aspiring to engage in such rewarding and blessed work. We hope to be back someday. Until then, to the amazing West Pokot community, Keriama! (See you again).
By Angeline Njeri
Comboni Lay Missionaries, Kenya