Today I went to visit one of the IDP‘s family I am helping here in Douala with the support of Fr. Adolf Pöll through Caritas – to pay the rent for them. It is a small single room; there’s no inside kitchen, no toilet only an outside toilet which all the tenants are using. They cook outside and when it rains, like this season, they go inside their bedroom.
There are six children, who are going to school and their mother who remains at home. This family came here to Douala in 2018. I have been going there to visit them regularly. Last Saturday, I went to visit them and what struck my attention was the way they were all in that small room, seven of them. With their few belongings: clothes, shoes, saucepans, plates and few things for themselves. No TV, no smart phones, laptops etc.
Actually, they have the necessary for their daily living. This makes me remember of the prayer our Saviour taught us, the “OUR FATHER”. They have the basics and what is enough for them to survive a day at a time.
This really touched me; they look happy every time I go there for a visit, I see the smile on their faces and I feel happy. It’s a really miraculous smile for me. This experience spoke a lot to me that day; which pushed me to share about it.
Looking at my life; I’m alone in my room and it is very congested with everything and nothing, especially books, clothes, shoes, electronic devices, paper, files ( mosquitos, cockroaches, rats, insects etc. ). With all these I’m still not satisfied, I want more, especially when it comes to electronic gadgets.
This experience made me to think again about my life and my sense of happiness or fulfilment. Is my happiness found when I have more or when I have less (the basic needs when I can use them well)
All of us can learn from others, especially when we work with humility and the willingness to be touched by the life of others like the poor. Most often, me as a missionary I used to think that to serve people means to help them to grow in having more and to be able to acquire more. And most often I forget that my mission is to help them grow in their faith, be happy and self-reliant with their daily bread.
I wish to share this experience maybe it might touch the life of someone who might be thinking happiness is found on abundance or keeping on accumulating more and more material things.
This experience also made me remember the story which I was told by Fr. Adolf Pöll, during my MEP (Missionary Experience Programme) around 2012 in Witu/Kipini Parish/ Malindi Diocese, Kenya. That everything we have occupies the space in our mind. The more I have the more my mind is occupied. He gave the example of having a million dollars in the bank, the mind is occupied by that million dollars. So, when 1 dollar is removed from that amount it creates a space for that one; that is why my mind knows that 1 dollar is removed. Just looking at my life how my mind is occupied with very many things and most of them are not necessary for the mission and for the kingdom of God.
And this also made to reflect again about my ministry with the young people and IDPs. The way I have more gadgets, extravagant devices and properties what message am I giving to these people whom I am working with? Of course, I may not have those extraordinary gadgets as it might sound, since I cannot afford them. But what I own might still be far more than these people have whom I am trying to bring hope to and helping them to meet their dreams. For sure I need the basics which can help me to be updated but not to become a cause of downfall for these little ones, leading them to go and steal or go and put their hands somewhere complicated.
I really find my joy working with the youths and IDPs and I pray every day that I can have the humility and willingness to learn from them as I try to become a model or an example in their life.
Placid Elia Batondobi MHM