Cameroon: Reflection on A Deeply Touching Homecoming


Every homecoming or home leave is nostalgic or sentimental or sensational even if regrettable, painful, tragic, or remorseful.  Mixed feelings is the expression for any visit to Cameroon, Nigeria, DRC, Sudan, Israel, Ukraine and more.

The need for a thick skin or resilience seems more inevitable than a bullet proof jacket especially when hijacking or kidnapping is a concern. 

It is almost a given, a cliché, from documentaries to daily expressions that not just the most beautiful smile is from a painstaking person, a terminally ill child, but also the most angelic melodies are the chants of children and choirs in war torn villages and countries, during and post violence.  Indeed, the last thing one can experience in the Anglophone Region of Cameroon or DRC or Nigeria etc is despondency.  It was South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki’s parting speech that despondency has never outweighed adversity.

One can instead talk about the joy of walking on bombshells and eggshells – the already or not yet bombshells of dead, violence, blood, literally and awfully so.  The eggshells of trauma, of battered lives, of broken hearts and of wounded spirits.

Walking on bombshells and eggshells, humbly, joyfully, courageously, albeit anxiously and never hopelessly, never conjures short term memory, arrogance or insensitivity but the inexplicable contagion of faith, music, joy – the celebration that evokes and sustains resilience against fatalism, love over hatred, joy over sadness and courage over cowardice.

Such was my experience on home leave.  So much to learn and celebrate and affirm.  One was in my home parish.  It was a School Mass. A Secondary School.  A Sunday.  Although it was the Sunday of John’s witness to Jesus sent to do the Father’s will, I didn’t know what to preach about to over 600 Secondary School teenagers, between and betwixt to compare and contrast with Secondary School children in England. 

When I praised their angelic singing that undeniably meant good prior selection and rehearsal, they exploded in applauding themselves.  In exhorting them to BELIEVE and BELONG and BEHAVE, I dared them name one of the Ten Commandments – they named all, effortlessly and spontaneously.  When I dared them name the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, they did the same and couldn’t wait to be asked to name the fruits…

Never to be carried away by their vocal, intellectual and catechetical excellence, one cannot forget how wounded or poor or underprivileged most or all are.

When I visited our Mill Hill and other parishes, the Tuesdays and Thursdays of Twelve Hour Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was as breathtaking – how people made time as individuals or groups, to come to Church in the course of the day and kneel before the Lord in Adoration, petition, lament or praise – how teachers or mothers or fathers or grandparents came with their 2-15 year olds to pray for 5-30 minutes before the Blessed Sacrament.  It was nearly an out-of-this-(ordinary)-world we all know and dread experience.

Walking in faith and with faith on eggshells and bombshells was exhilarating.  We watched Pope Francis walk the talk in DRC and Sudan.  It was and also is for the fainthearted, I discovered!  It was and is the beginning of healing, I know and could tell.

God bless, save, and stop all warring nations.  God protect all those walking on bombshells and eggshells, joyfully, resiliently, or painstakingly.                                                               

Emmanuel Mbeh MHM

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