Douala, Cameroon: The Challenges and Joys of Youth Ministry
I am Fr. Placid Elia a Mill Hill, missionary, working in Douala arch Diocese, Cameroon. I’m now going on my fifth year in the ministry here in this Douala diocese and so far I’ve been working with the IDP‘s, young people especially the vulnerable and the neglected, the poor etc. Of course, the fact that I’m in the parish means I’m also involve in the parish activities.
I thank God for give me the grace and energy, I thank my parish priest Fr. Innocent Akum Wefon who allows me to to involve myself fully with youths activities and Fr. Adolf Pöll who helps me a lot and always with finances and words of encouragements.
I am also the youth chaplain and I’m involved in different parishes. I find my joy working with youths though it’s challenging as many might know and some avoid this ministry because the youth are facing many challenges: as many of them feel not understood, not appreciated; in short they’re like they don’t belong in this society. They are in transition from childhood to adulthood. There are a lot of changes in them: of feelings, emotions, financially not stable, not working, especially our case here in Africa.
All these challenges contribute to their problems. Most of them who are not accompanied well by their family members, friends or peers, are more vulnerable to the realities or problems of the world.
All these challenges make me more humble and makes me to become more closer to them by having much time to hear from them and to be with them. And I am also invited to become more rooted in prayer and reading more spiritual books so that I can recommend most of those spiritual books, articles and movies to them.
Their experience too makes me to do more research on how I can help them better. (Nowadays I try to read a lot and I attend seminars about the youth ministry and I watch YouTube too just to seek for more appropriate knowledge on how to accompany them well and professionally).
One of the challenges I face personally here is working with the youth who are from different backgrounds. Anglophones and Francophones. As we know, Cameroon is a bilingual country. Working with Francophones has its own challenges, as walking with Anglophone youth does.
With the Francophones they are active and willing to participate as long as they are not interrupted, they like their way or ideas to be accepted and done; once it is opposed or rejected many can easily withdraw from everything. Some also find it difficult to welcome others and learning from others, since they feel like they are the owners of this Douala. Of course, they have a lot to offer to the groups, they are very committed, their number is just encouraging and they can easy attract others to join them. They are also encouraged by their parents which is very good thing and many can pray well.
With Anglophones we have two categories.
1. those whose parents came here in Douala a long time ago; Maybe to work or doing business and their children are those youths who I am working with. They are very easy to work with. They can express themselves in both languages and they can fit in any side. They are very active, humble and ready to learn from others. Though their challenges are: they are very busy with their own activities, most of them are absent in different gatherings, programs and they contribute little since they are rarely there.
2. those who are here as IDPs (Internally Displaced People) – refugees from the ongoing crisis in Northwest and Southwest of Cameroon. These are the youths who are more delicate to deal with. They are many here, they are more than those Anglophones youths born and raised here in Douala. Many of them are facing a lot of trauma and financial difficulties.
The majority of them have been separated from the family members and some of them have lost their dear ones and all these contribute to their challenges. This group of youths are very committed in everything they do, even though they are limited in many ways.
I work with them in two different levels as the IDP’s and as our Christians. The difference is when I receive any support like food stuffs or material support (things like clothes, school fees, etc) I first think of them. For some of them I go extra miles to rent for them places to live and others depend on our support totally.
In all this I still find my joy by being with them, I feel more active because these youths find their joy in serving the Lord and in joining different groups and movements or associations, which we have here in the parish.
All these the challenges which the youths are facing make me to be more committed in what I am doing.
One of the challenges I face is the language, whenever I am addressing them I must speak both languages French and English. That means if I say one thing in English I must translate it into French. Or if one of them says something in French I must translate into English. This makes our gathering more interesting and makes our meetings much longer than usual as you can imagine.
We started some activities like sports, cooking, Writing poems, drawing, dancing, seminars and recollections. In all these my joy come when I face all these challenges and I see in their faces natural smiles and their words of appreciation that makes me really feel fulfilled and happy.
Saturday, 13 August 2022. we had a recollection that’s also one of my points I emphasize on their spiritual life and their faith. The recollection was to take place in the neighboring parish (Bomono). Unfortunately we did not make it to that place since the means of transport we arranged did not turn up as we agreed. We ended our recollection here in the parish.
The Recollection went on well, we thank God for that. they responded positively. The number, which contributed were around 130; at the end those who came for recollection were over 250. I thank really Fr. Innocent for allowing us to hold this recollection and I thank also Fr. Adolf Pöll for his continuous support and help.
I called two facilitators who came to talk to those youths. One of them was Pa Kamaha and Mr. Kimah. Pa Kamaha talked about the kinds of friendship basing on the love of oneself, love others as oneself and love of God.
Pa Kimah talked about the school how to prepare for a successful year.
Funny enough, whenever we are giving a talk like this we must prepare ourselves in two languages, English and French because if you use only one, you will leave others out.
We also celebrated 58 of those youths who passed their official exams. All this made our recollection enjoyable. We had three cakes and some drinks. Thanks to Fr. Adolf who continues to support us in many ways.
The recollection went on well. It’s my joy to see young people, smiling and praying well. I wish to share this experience maybe it will touch someone and it may encourage someone also try working with a young people.
It’s an excellent ministry I really find my joy in it for now I’m really happy working with young people, especially with their different challenges. It makes me work harder on myself; to do more research on how to humble myself in order to fit in their shoes. Working with the youths has made me happy and it has helped to work on myself and create more time to listen to them, though most often I don’t have solutions to their problems but the listing ear makes a big difference in their situations. I call upon other missionaries to try this ministry, it is challenging but enjoyable. I wish to be sharing more more stories with these our youths.
Fr. Placid Elia Batondobi MHM, Douala, Cameroon.
Good work out there. 👍 It will be awesome if our MHM journalists proofread articles before publishing to avoid ‘Petits’ grammatical errors. Shalom!!!
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