“Baptized and Sent”
“As the Father has sent me so I am sending you, Jn, 20:12.” Faith in the Risen Lord who sends and accompanies us in the mission enables us to listen and to respond with a renewed zeal to participate in the mission. We discover God’s power molding and shaping us in different ways to be authentic witnesses of his saving presence. It gives enlightenment that each missionary too is a “mission.” For me, this is an invitation for us the baptized, to go deep in our hearts, lives, families, churches, work, jobs and nations to rediscover various ways in which the Lord has graced us and reach out to others through prayers, love and generously share our graces as a sign of gratitude.
My missionary service in Cameroon ended in early March 2019.The ongoing war claimed the death of a missionary companion (Fr. Cosmas Ondari mhm , Nov 21st, 2018), women, children and old men whom I was serving. It compelled me to stop my missionary service and return to Kenya to cool off the head from the experience of war.
Five months of resting was a healing and renewing experience. It was a time to look at myself as a “mission” and to reflect on the two years and seven months of my priesthood and missionary service, to find ways in which the Lord of the mission has blessed me and go for mission again among the Basotho of South Africa.
South Africa has a small number of Catholics. The communities of faith entrusted to my pastoral care live in locations that are linked by good roads. Unemployment is one of the major problems in these locations. People live in temporary houses walled and roofed with iron sheets (shacks). They are extremely cold in winter and hot in summer. The township dwellers sit along the main roads and streets to wait for the local council or farmers to hire them for a day’s work but they fail and return home empty handed. Due to lack of jobs, there are those who survive on one meal a day. Some youths have resorted to alcohol and other related drugs. Diabetes has increased among the elderly parents in the locations, there are diabetics who have lost their eye sights and legs. Life seems difficult for the township dwellers but they are friendly and welcoming. Reaching out to them is always a learning experience. I witness the presence of Christ, his love active and alive in the mission. The good medical care given to the patients by their government suggested the healing hands of the Lord at work. It was a moving experience to meet a daughter who sacrifices to care for her diabetic father, her two children and a brother from the little income she gets from selling vegetables in the streets. Although the flock entrusted to my care is facing many challenges, I am not discouraged from reaching out to them. And I am aware too that the Lord of the mission is with me and accompanies me in the missionary efforts. As a family we assemble in different locations to listen to the word of God and to be nourished with the Eucharist. Besides that, I visit the sick every week to listen them, to pray and to give them the Blessed Sacrament. Those in great needs also receive some food after prayers to sustain them. Visiting the people of God strengthens their faith and shows the compassion of Jesus. These culminate in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration in different mission stations under the parish.
Like other countries of the world, South Africa is not spared by secularism and its effects which dissociate people from God. Sunday masses are attended by the elderly and a limited number of youths. Bars and streets are crowded with youths on the days of worship. This calls for the missionary presence, a humble service of love and mercy that emanates from our rootedness in the Lord of the mission. Besides celebrating the sacraments, there is a need for catechesis to deepen the faith of Christians and to reach out to the least brothers and sisters of Jesus who have fallen on the wayside through charity to help them to rediscover the love, mercy and the presence of Christ in their life challenges. May the Lord bless us and our missionary vocations.
Fr. Lawrence Otieno MHM